Friday, 11 October 2013

... Immanuel, redeem thy captive ...

Going into Immanuels is not like entering a normal fabric shop. 
Main entrance to Immanuel Fabrics, showing door leading to narrow corridor
The main entrance of Immanuels. 

To gird my loins and give me energy for the decisions I would soon be facing, I stopped in at a local bakery, Oddies, when I got off my bus. Odd name, delicious bakes! 

had one of their delicious pies and a gooseberry tart. While there, I could not resist a ginger-and-lemon cupcake, too. Delicious combination!

Can you see the rolls of plastic just inside the doorway on the photo on the left? 

Narrow corridor just inside the entrance door, packed full of rolls of PVC and similar fabrics
The front corridor, lined 
with roll after roll.

This is an entire corridor, going the width of the building, stocked with roll after roll of plastic, PVC, leatherette and the like, with only a passage sufficient for one person between the rolls.

Bear in mind this is just the entrance. I'm not actually in the place yet.

Then I entered Immanuels. It's like entering a strange combination of a mad church jumble sale, the crypt of Scheherezade's dressmaker's storeroom, and a warehouse. 

A small side room inside Immanuels, filled very untidily with rolls of fabric
Mad church jumble sale?

There is sense and logic behind the visual confusion,  but it's hard to grasp on your initial visit if you are unprepared - and impossible if you're in a rush! 

A wall inside Immanuels, totally lined with horizontal rolls of fabric
Entire walls of fabric

There are entire walls of fabrics separating the main 'church' into different areas - areas where the suitings are stacked, areas where it's all dress fabric, areas full of very heavy upholstery fabrics. 

There are shelves with nothing on them but roll after roll of lace, and other shelves carrying organza in all the colours of the rainbow ...

A happy proprietor with a welcoming smile holding attractive well priced fabric.
A cheery face is always an encouragement to buy.

The friendly owners and staff always have a word of greeting for you however busy they are. There are usually only two, sometimes three, people working at one time, with three, sometimes four, on the busiest days. There is no 'customer service' in the sense of the sort of customer service you would get in a 'top people's' shop - you need to look for what you want and find it largely by yourself - but they are always more than willing to get fabric down off the racks for you, and to fetch and carry rolls and bolts. They have a very good idea of what they have in stock if you know what you want, and can usually give you a general idea of its location within the building - as long as it's not been moved by a customer of course!

This photo shows the staggering amount of fabric in just a small part of the room in which everything costs £1 per metre.
Just one small section of the pound-a-metre room
Venturing deeper into the building, there is a wonderful room where even more amazing things can be found. 

This room is known as the pound-a-metre room, and  everything  in it is, obviously. £1 per metre. 

It's not a small room, and it's not sparsely stocked, either. It's a big parish-hall type of room, with a high ceiling for the racking, and all sorts of well-concealed treasures up there among the spiders! First-timers find their way to this room, and stand, blocking the doorway, gazing into its distant recesses and asking 'which is the pound-a-metre section?' as they simply cannot believe the sign in front of them which reads 'ALL FABRICS IN HERE £1/m' in fluorescent orange. 

Whether it's cafe nets or canvas strong enough to mend your roof, it's all £1/m. I bought my curtain fabric in that room. I've bought many, many fabrics from that room, and made all sorts of lovely things to sell at craft markets and bazaars. I made almost £100 for the World's Biggest Coffee morning MacMillan fundraiser having spent less than a tenner in that a couple of reels of thread. 

I've found exquisite plain cotton there, of a quality that just must be Egyptian. It was from a clearance at an old mill; goodness knows how long the stack of fabric had waited for the light of day. Another time, I bought what I thought was a 45" wide cotton to use for lining aprons - on getting it home it proved to be a 90" wide pure cotton voile. Exquisite! 

I've also bought some odd stuff there, for curiosity value really. Well, why wouldn't I, at a pound a metre? Weird spongy stuff (it might come in useful for fancy dress construction one day). Amazingly heavy roof-mending (or perhaps boat-building, or road-making) canvas. Rude ironing-board-cover fabric (believe me, it's very rude. Indeed.). 

The thing is, though, the stock at Immanuels goes beyond curtains, cottons and the pound-a-metre room.

Far beyond.

More tomorrow. 

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