I’ve been a naughty girl, and been on a huge fabric splurge these last two weeks. I’ve bought some gorgeous pieces, all destined for Baby E’s summer wardrobe, but I didn’t really have any method to my shopping and needed some nice plains / co-ordinates to complement the prints I’ve bought.
So when my mum suggested that baby E and I venture out of London for a three-generational visit to The Cheap Shop in Tiptree, I jumped at the chance. I was really looking forward to spending a day browsing through a real fabric shop in an actual bricks and mortar store; quite a different shopping experience to buying online. I know I was only at Liberty’s last week, but somehow that’s not the same: there’s something about the traditional fabric shop, with all sorts of fabrics crammed together in quite random fashion in to a tiny space, that is really appealing. You never know quite what you’ll find.
And The Cheap Shop is definitely a surprise. Despite it’s rather dodgy name, it is a complete Aladdin’s cave of crafty goodness! From the outside, it doesn’t look like much at all and you’d be forgiven for driving right past it. Especially as it’s situted in a village with a population of just 8,300. The last thing you’d expect to find here is a crafting shop, but they’ve been here for over 40 years.
Even stranger is that when you walk in the front door, you’re in a newsagents. Very bizarre. It’s only when you go to the back of the newsagents that the shop opens up and hey presto, you’re in a craft shop. And it just keeps going. There’s papercraft supplies, painting, dolls houses, beading, wadding, felt, fur, cushion pads, embroidery, not to mention a whole host of other crafting goodies.
There’s also a whole room dedicated to wool. It beats the Liberty Great Wall of Wool, hands down – the room at the Cheap Shop has four Great Walls of Wool ! It stocks Rowan, Sirdar, Sublime, Stylecraft, Debbie Bliss, James Brett, Noro, Louisa Harding, and Amy Butler.
Then, once you’re past that, you’re in the large fabric section. Again there’s huge variety here – I just can’t believe how much they cram in to what looks like a tiny shop from the outside. There’s a decent choice of quilting cottons as well as dressmaking fabrics, with small sections of oilcloth and fleece as well.
You could easily spend a whole morning or afternoon just browsing. Luckily for my wallet, we were a bit tight for time as baby E’s lunchtime was approaching, so I was quite focused and went straight for what I was looking for, which were some nice plains / co-ordinates to match other fabric I’ve splurged on recently.
Not the most exciting purchases, but I was very good and resisted the urge to go for more yummy prints (except for the strawberries – I just couldn’t resist those, especially as they’re on dressmaking fabric not quilting fabric, and had a beautiful drape). The top fabric was also a bit of an impulse buy – it was in the remnant bin and I just knew I could use it for a baby dress. So maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought, but I did resist lots!!
I also bought some buttons as they had a great selection. The only small disappointment was that they didn’t have a huge selection of bias bindings or ribbons. The bias binding was only in solid colours (no prints), and it was a poly/cotton mix – no 100% cotton. I wasn’t inspired by the ribbon selection either, but both of these are pretty minor complaints.
The Cheap Shop must draw people in from quite a wide area – it’s clearly doing something right as it’s situated in such a small place and yet is still going strong after 40 years. I was there on a Friday afternoon and it was very busy. And whilst you’re here, it’s also worth stopping off at the Tiptree Jam Factory – we didn’t have time, but were told it has a very nice cafe.