As an embroiderer, it’s often difficult to find shops that stock more exciting thread than just the standard DMC/Anchor floss ranges. It can even be difficult to find places that stock embroidery-suitable fabrics that are more exciting than 14 count Aida in white. This is why it’s always so exciting to find a place like The London Bead Co., which while formally being a shop for all things small and shiny, has one of the most beautiful thread collections I’ve ever seen. I think only Old World Designs comes close!
Located conveniently close to Kentish Town tube station, The London Bead Co. is a narrow adventure through bead and thread wonderland. The first section of the shop is devoted to beads, sequins, buttons… and lots of other embellishments like sets of feathers or pre-made flowers for attaching to projects. If Swarovski’s bling is your thing, are metres of glass cabinet glinting with such treasures and if you’re fond of Miyuki beads (their Delica and seed beads) there is a lot of choice here. What is really impressive is the range of stock they have. It isn’t just a few sparse colours, but nearly the full range and in a variety of sizes too. I’m very happy to see more places stocking Miyuki beads, I started working with them in Japan and they’re just delightful for everything, bead weaving, embroidery, shelving decoration.
Prices are reasonable as well, particularly for the bulk packs of 100 g, but there are a lot of options not just in which beads you buy but the weight options too. There are a few assorted sale bins that might be worth a rummage if you want some kind of spontaneous bargain!
Alongside this are all the many kind of beading wire, jewellery fixtures and assorted needles you could possibly want. The shop is an excellent haberdashery in general, so if you need cutting mats or fabric scissors, there is plenty on offer as well as zips and other notions. There’s a nice collection of solid colour cottons (you can see the navy blue being used for this monogram) which are thinner than I’d like for embroidery to use as a single layer but hold together well under stitching and all have good vibrant colours. For a shop that’s nominally not a fabric shop, the collection is quite good, with some quilting cottons, counted fabrics and plenty of miscellaneous very interesting things too.
Just in case, there are wools and knitting needles too. There’s a lot of colour choice in your traditional acrylic DKs but there are a few more interesting space dyed alpaca yarns and cakes of lovely, colourful things in search of a new home. They stock different needle types too, so if you’re after circulars or something like that, there are a couple of different options.
The shop continues to be a treasure trove of absolutely everything you could want from beading boards to storage and organisers, tapestry kits… but where it gets really excited is when you get to the walls of thread at the back. There’s an outstanding range (in fact, I think they stock all of every type?) of Edmar’s Brazilian embroidery threads (Rayon threads with the opposite twist to cotton perle) which you rarely see stocked. Ribbonwork people will be very happy with the diverse range of silk ribbons in different sizes, with some excited variegated pieces too.
Then there’s Maderia floss, plenty of Au ver à soie, with what I think is every colourway available for their fluffy menace Soie D’Alger floss. A brilliant amount of Kreinik threads – which I get very excited about as their metallic threads come in a fantastic range of colours and thicknesses and are beautiful for doing either hand embroidery or tambour with. If you like metallics but hate all the unique miseries they come with when you work with them, then it might be worth giving Kreinik threads a go.
I could go on and on about all the exciting threads they have (and plain old DMC cotton is around too if that is your thing) but I think the pictures speak for themselves here. I did end up leaving with some of Weeks Dye Works ‘Merlin’, an overdyed thread which has some deliciously subtle colour variations in it and a skein from the Rachelette collection from Caron (who also produce the magnificent Watercolours collection that is also stocked).
I have to say, the needlepoint community seems to get all the exciting threads! The Rachelette stuff looks very interesting to stitch with, all mixtures of shiny things and bounce. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays when I get around to testing it but the skeins look just fantastic.
As I always say, shops like this are such a precious resource. Sample card collections are great but it’s not nearly as fun as being able to see the threads live and it gets expensive if every time you want to try a new type of thread you have to buy the sample collection as well. It’s much nicer to be able to see things live and let all the colours and sparkle wash over and inspire you.
London Bead Co. is an amazingly multipurpose shop, whether you’re after the daily essentials of some zips and needles, or you’re after something more special for a piece of design work. Most collections were well-stocked, with a small amount of the Soie D’Alger colours not being available when I went in, but the website has a good selection of most of what can be found in the store. Definitely a place worth a trip to see!
Address: 39 Kentish Town Rd, Kentish Town, London NW5 2TJ
Phone: +4420 7267 9403