Fabric Shops: The Cheap Shop in Tiptree, Essex

March 7, 2011

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.

The Cheap Shop has a whole room with its walls crammed full of wool

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.

Just a small section of the fabric department at the Cheap Shop

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.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Julia March 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Oh my god, I was in Tiptree on Saturday (well, passing through) and I didn’t know about this shop. These photos are literally killing me!


Ursula March 8, 2011 at 10:56 am

Now you just have to find the time to stitch for Baby E!
This shop has served as an Alladdin’s cave for me since we moved to Essex!


kerry November 8, 2011 at 10:41 am

Well feel sorry for my purse – I live just up the road :-) )


Lauren March 4, 2012 at 10:51 am

my mother in law has bought some lovely material for a cot quilt for my little one due in July. I can’t wait for a free day to go – pity they’re not open sundays or we’d be going there and to the tea room (very nice scones – with or without currants – all served warm) instead think we’ll just stick around Writtle today! thanks for the post! :-)


Michelle May 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Hey I come all the way from Norway to buy my frabric from here!
I have loved this shop for the last 20 years!


Nancy Barrett July 11, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Oh my gosh! What a great store, I wish I was closer, I am in California, USA.


thora oliver November 6, 2012 at 8:06 pm

having looked at your web site I found it difficult to look at your materials and prices for quilting and wonder if I the journey would be worth while, perhaps you could show some of the fabrics and essential tools for quilting.


emma January 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm

thankyouthankyouthankyou. i have been looking for somewhere that sells dressmaking fabric i live in tilbury so this is not too far

have you tried charity shops or 2nd hand shops for buttons i find lots of odd dressmaking pieces there xx


hewlen evans April 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm

on visiting my sister in essex last november . i was very impressed with your wonderful display of every craft imaginable. i just wish we had a store in scotland as well stocked as your alladins cave.


Mrs Sharp May 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm


Do you sell Simplicity patterns? I am looking for 2290. Please let me know if you have this pattern and what the price is.

Thank you.

Mrs Sharp


Laura wiffen January 19, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Hi, my name is Laura WIffen and I am the daughter of the owner and next in line to take over the shop. I love reading the reviews people leave for us to read and it gives hours things to work towards! I’m so glad that you all enjoy our shop and we really appreciate your feedback. Hope to see you soon!


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