fabric stores travel

Fabric Stores Vienna + Budapest

Visiting fabric stores while traveling has been one of my hobbies for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, my mom and I would pop into local shops wherever we went, during beach vacations or while visiting family. When I visited France for the first time in 2014, I decided before I left that, while I felt like I needed a whole new wardrobe for traveling to Paris (don’t we all?), it was more important for me to dedicate most of my disposable funds to purchasing fabric. And I don’t think this habit is unique to me; I think most Sewists shop for fabric while traveling and end up putting more of their “play money” towards sewing than they even maybe realize. I mean, what’s better than a souvenir you can create something with and proudly wear?

Since I’m currently in a phase of my life where I find myself traveling more than normal (and I find myself in a small town with no fabric store to speak of), I realized it’s a perfect time to build an on-going mini-series of posts revolving around fabric stores in the cities I travel to. These guides are by no means complete; I’m not a local and I usually only have a few hours over the course of a couple days to visit some specifically blocked out shops. But hopefully they’ll help you in finding shops to pop in to if you happen to travel to the same place. And on the same note, if you are a local to any of these cities, I’d love to hear what your recommendations are for your favorite fabric stores, both locally and abroad.

I only visited one shop in Vienna, which had probably the best selection out of all the fabric stores I’ve been to in Europe (outside of Paris), but I was most impressed with Budapest as a whole for textile lovers; there were so many fabric stores scattered throughout the city that we came across them unexpectedly during our sightseeing. Even when you google maps search “Textil (or Méteráru) Budapest”, you’ll come up with a list of fabric stores as long as your arm. So before I left for Budapest, I narrowed it down to a short list of ones that sounded nice and had good reviews. But in the four days we stayed, we found two stores by accident, and, not surprisingly, every time we walked past a shop with “Méteráru” in the window, we made time for a quick pop in.

Budapest also holds quite strongly to it’s historical culture, which is real fantastic in terms of textiles. While it’s still a tourist moment, there are often elderly women who lay out all of their hand-embroidered goods at sight-seeing destinations to sell for quite cheap, and I’ve come across woven rug vendors on the sidewalk as well. We did not purchase anything from these women because I fear I’d be party to underselling their handwork. But the cost of living in Hungary is lower than many Western European countries, so it’s marginally possible that these women were pricing their goods appropriately.

 


 

Vienna

Komolka Stoffe

Mariahilfer Str. 58
1070 Vienna, Austria

When I had done my research for Vienna fabric stores, only a couple popped up and they were so far away from the area we were staying in that I wrote off the idea of visiting a fabric store. But I (somewhat last minutely) asked Instagram if anyone had any recommendations in Vienna, and Monica Grossmeinhart came through! She recommended Komolka, so we hopped on the underground on our way out of Vienna and paid a visit.

The storefront is deceptively small; the shop actually has one of the largest selection of fabric I’ve seen in Europe spread out over two floors. Most of the store is apparel and fashion fabrics; you won’t find much here for quilting cotton or upholstery. There are a couple of walls covered in any color of wool you could possibly imagine, a floor half dedicated to various types of silks (including many beautiful and unique prints such as this flamingo bolt shown here), and a few sales tables piled high with bolts priced at 6.90€/m. The first floor seems to carry mostly every-day apparel fabrics and coating/outerwear (though this may change seasonally—we visited in early November), while half of the second floor is dedicated to special occasion silks and laces, with a few shelves of Liberty cotton lawn as well.

One interesting thing to note is that they cut your fabric and hand you a ticket before they take it to the cashier to be bagged. When you’re ready to pay, you hand over your ticket to the cashier and he’ll retrieve your bag(s) of fabric from behind the counter. In essence, you never actually handle the cut cloth. I’d never seen a system like this before!

The prices range from 7-30€ for rayon and start at around 50€ for silk. The wools are priced at around 40€. I walked away with several meters of a 100% linen knit that was on sale at 6.90€/m (but it’s already developed a twist to the “grain” after one prewash), as well as some rayon and mid-weight cotton at the same price. While I’m regularly able to find better deals in Portland on decent quality fabric, I think the fabric here is priced pretty standardly. This is absolutely the fabric store to visit while in Vienna, and it’s only a few steps away from the Neubaugasse metro stop on the U3 line.

 


 

Budapest

I Love Textil

Budapest, Szent István krt. 2, 1137 Hungary

This is one of the shops we ran into while traveling across town to have lunch. I had read about I Love Textil while doing preliminary research on fabric shops, but I wasn’t too keen on visiting as it seemed to be a chain—there are four other locations in Pest alone—and a discount store, which doesn’t always have the best in terms of quality.

This shop was surprisingly satisfactory; the shop itself is quite tiny (no bigger than a bedroom) and the majority of its offerings were synthetic, but the pricing could not be beat at around 200 forint (less than a euro) per meter. And while the attendants spoke very little English (we communicated just fine with my English numbers and hand-motions) and some of the fabric itself was dirty (think spots of dust and debris, but no staining), I was able to walk away with a few meters of yarn-dyed cotton shirting for 390 forint/meter, which is around 1,30€.

I would not call this a destination shop, but there are many locations throughout Pest and a wonderfully delicious Indian Restaurant around the corner; perhaps you could pay I Love Textil a visit after lunch.

Punjab Tandoori Indian Restaurant
Budapest, Pannónia u. 3, 1133 Hungary

The other locations:
Budapest, Vámház krt., 1093 Hungary
Budapest, József krt. 60, 1085 Hungary
Budapest, Teréz krt. 3, 1067 Hungary
Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 12, 1073 Hungary

 

Special Textil

Budapest, Petőfi Sándor u. 18, 1052 Hungary

Walking into this shop is like walking backwards in time; it’s exactly as you would imagine a fine fabric shop to look and operate in the heyday of home dressmaking. Behind every cutting counter stands a wall lined from floor to nearly ceiling with built-in shelves of fine fabric. The shop isn’t extraordinarily large, but it was still staffed by multiple older women who looked like they were all dressed in their own hand-tailored clothing.

The way to shop here is a little different from your regular fabric store; rather than having aisles of bolts and rolls, the fabrics are carefully displayed and organized behind the cutting counters. You tell the staff what you’re looking for, just as you would in department stores of the past, and they pull down bolts for you to peruse. It seems to be the kind of place you go to with an idea in mind; there is no browsing or fondling fabrics for fun, and it’s harder to go in with the notion that you’d just let something pique your fancy.

I’m definitely the kind of fabric shopper that goes in without an agenda—I’d rather let fabric speak to me and go from there—so this was a rather difficult store for me to try to shop in. I was most attracted to a camel cashmere that ran at 100+€/m (a standard price for cashmere from my experience, though definitely still outside my price range), but I had a difficult time communicating with the woman who was helping me that I was perhaps looking for something with the same color but less fancy (i.e., expensive). I left empty-handed.

With all of that said, this place is quite gorgeous, both in the fabrics and the services they offer. They had a hand-written book of reviews from prior customers, mostly in English and all raving about their experiences at the shop. They also offer custom-clothing, made in house, in just a couple of days. And the fabric here is quite beautiful, high quality, and offered at average prices for what they are. If you’re in the market for a very fine textile, this is absolutely the place to be.

On a related note, there is an outlet version of this store which I only learned about in hindsight, so I can’t speak to what’s available. It’s just down the street from the previously mentioned Indian restaurant. The address is XIII. dist. Pannónia u. 15th

 

Villányi Import Méteráru

(Some extensive googling yielded no results, so here’s the address to the HummusBar next door:
Budapest, Wesselényi u. 14, 1075 Hungary)

This was, by far, my favorite fabric store I visited in Budapest, and we only happened upon it by accident. We were on a hunt for lunch after visiting the Dohány Street Synagogue*, when my Fabric Radar went off. I noticed a sign across the street that read “Villányi Import Méteráru”, and even though I was so hungry that I was on the verge of becoming a monster, I skipped across the street to check it out. Through the half-shuttered windows that looked like they had been wiped down never, I could make out some hanging scraps of fabrics and flat-folds. From the outside, the store seemed quite unwelcoming to the random traveling Sewist: no English, barely any indication of what the store sold (other than the word “Méteráru” which for all I know could also mean “rabid puppy slaughterhouse” or something), or even a hint that it was open to the public. Despite this, I very hesitatingly opened the door and waltzed in like I was confident in what it was I was doing there.

As it turns out, this tiny shop—run by an older couple, a photographer husband (with very limited English) and textile loving wife (who spoke enough to understand exactly what I was looking for)—is actually a wholesale fabric store specializing in natural fiber fabrics from all over Europe. However, unlike most wholesale shops, there is no minimum purchase requirement to cash in on the deals. They display their fabrics in an unconventional way; samples and random cuts of the fabric they offer is hung from the ceiling and from garment racks, and when one suits your fancy, they pull out the bolt.

Once they had an idea of what I was interested in (mainly wool, silk, natural fiber velvet), they excitedly pulled me around the entire length of the store showing me what they had. While their selection is a bit hit or miss, here’s the clincher for me: all of the fabric (as far as what they shared with me) was top quality, European made, and none of it ran over 13€ per meter. None. of. it.

They carried a beautiful salmon and sage colored herringbone wool that I’m still kicking myself over not getting because I couldn’t imagine adding yet another coat to the queue (and because the color way was just a little too weird, though now that I’ve dreamt of this fabric for a couple months, I feel like this fabric and I would have eventually made a wonderful communion). They carried a silk print I only grabbed a meter of because I didn’t want to be overindulgent (a lesson I have since learned is not worth holding on to, especially at 13€/m). They carried cotton velour and rayon velvet. They carried a luscious yarn-dyed blue and white cotton at 4€/m that, once prewashed and hung to dry, I realized would make the perfect drapey curtains for our bedroom (or really any room in the house). Is it obvious yet that this tiny, dusty, unassuming shop has instilled in me more fabric regrets than I ever thought possible?

At the end of our trip, a Saturday, we had some 8000 forint (25+€) leftover and John suggested we go back to that little fabric store to pick up that salmon and sage wool I had been swooning over for days. Unfortunately, we found out that this shop is open only on weekdays (as it seems most fabric shops in Budapest are). To assuage my disappointment, John made a promise that the next time we find ourselves in Budapest, we will absolutely pay this shop a visit. I can only wholeheartedly recommend that you do, too.

*The Dohány Street Synagogue is a must-visit, by the way, but be prepared to digest some really heavy stuff during the free-with-admission guided tour. The Synagogue and accompanying tour gives you an extremely humbling idea of what the Jewish Quarter was like at the end of WWII, and it changes your perspective on the highly decorated Ruin Bars scattered throughout the district.

 

Máthé Textil

Budapest, Baross tér 4-5, 1087 Hungary

I will be honest and say that this was not one of my favorite shops we visited, but the reason for this has nothing to do with the range of fabrics or the pricing; plainly put, their offerings were just not to my taste. However, I do think it’s worth including on this list because I think this fabric shop might be worthwhile for others. The shop itself is quite beautiful; with a wrap-around staircase and built-ins, the decor seems reminiscent of a handsome library.

They offered affordable, moderate quality synthetics or synthetic blends in a variety of colors, including more unique textiles like printed velvet and a solid range of pre-quilted outerwear. They offer sweater knits with unique textures as well. If they had offered any or most of their fabrics in natural fibers, I would have been much more likely to walk away with some fabric.

While this shop is a little further east than the rest, it’s easy get to with the Keleti Pályaudvar Metro station just around the corner.

 


 

I hope this mini-series will be helpful to some of you who find yourself traveling to these cities. If you have any additional recommendations (or even traveling recommendations for a fibers-obsessed human like me), please send me a note or leave a comment! Additionally, here are two more blog posts with recommendations for fabric stores in Budapest; one from Sewing in Athens and one from Jodi Made. Have a great weekend, everyone!

xoxo

 

3 Comment

  1. Oh I used to love going to the Villányi Import shop years ago! I didn’t think it was still even open! I have a coat that I want to finish this winter (finally) made from a cashmere and wool blend from there.

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