Saturday, July 24, 2010

San Diego - "The Spirit of Cloth" review and more!

I'm in San Diego for a few days while DD2 and her friend (hereafter known as the Teen Units) enjoy Comic Con 2010. I've been seeking out textile shops and worthwhile clothing boutiques to pass the time. San Diego doesn't seem to have as many "must see" textile-related destinations as one might hope for in a large metropolitan area, but I have managed to find some worthwhile spots to visit.

I dropped the Teen Units at the San Diego Convention Center at 7am today, so I had some time to kill before most businesses opened up. After breakfast at iHop (where I ate, just to say I did), a little trip to Walmart, and an aborted trip to Joanns, where the two employees left the store three minutes before it was to open and hadn't returned several minutes after it was supposed to open (so I left), I started by visiting the Yardage Town Warehouse in National City, which, conveniently, opens at 9am on weekdays.

The outside of Yardage Town, located in an older strip mall, is not impressive. But when I walked inside, it was as if I had been transported 30 or 40 years back to the old New York Fabrics chain of my youth. Inside is a large room, a really large room, filled with... wait for it... FABRIC. Fabric on the walls, fabric on round islands, fabric on flat fold tables, home dec fabrics on giant rollers. I hadn't realized how much I missed a giant room full of fabric to explore. They also carry the big 4 patterns, as well as Kwik Sew, all at 40% off. I picked up several KS patterns I've been eyeing. While I'm not saying that you will find cutting edge fabrics at YT, or luxurious, decadent fabrics, they have some nice selections and I picked up a few pieces, on sale. I found the sales staff to be very nice and helpful, and those I dealt with, know how to sew and are interested in sewing, which is always refreshing.

After a lengthy visit to Yardage Town, I set the GPS in my car to the Old Town of San Diego. Old Town is the historic part of San Diego, a tourist destination full of shops, restaurants, and the odd mariachi band. A friend had told me about the fabric store, The Spirit of Cloth and I wanted to check it out.

Sally Hickerson, in front of her fabric store in Old Town, The Spirit of Cloth

Ensconced between two really nice bead stores on Juan St, The Spirit of Cloth is a small, but well appointed fabric store owned and run by Sally Hickerson. Many sewists know Sally as the former owner (for 25 years) of the well loved independent fabric store, Waechter's Silk Shop in Asheville, North Carolina. I've never had the pleasure of visiting Waechter's, but I know several sewists through Stitcher's Guild who have frequented that shop for years. Sally opened The Spirit of Cloth about a year ago, and it's a jewel.

It's not a large store, but you see beautiful fabrics, carefully selected, everywhere you turn. Inspiring sample garments of Diane Ericson patterns, Sewing Workshop patterns, and other independent patterns decorate the room. A wall of great independent patterns, such as La Fred, Kayla Kennington, Loes Hinse, Sewing Workshop, is near the register. She offers classes from time to time on the second floor (over one of the bead stores). I recognized several of her fabrics as those carried by Marcy Tilton, Britex, and some of the nicer offerings from Fabric Mart, and her prices were reasonable. A rack of antique kimonos, and pieces of kimono fabrics are for sale.

I had never met Sally before, but we had great fun chatting and I bought one piece of beautiful striped cotton (destined to become a SW Hibiscus top) and a single gorgeous button. I could have easily picked up some of her Tencel denim, or her Ikat denim, or her beautiful striped rayon, but I was feeling the need to watch the fabric budget... for now. I may be phoning her later to pick up a piece or two. Heck, if I lived closer, I'd be there all the time. I might even work there occasionally. :)

Me in Fabric Heaven! Don't I look at home amongst the silks from Vietnam? I'm wearing my test Plaza jacket, over a Mimosa top. Not shown are my cream linen/silk/rayon Trio pants. Hanging from the ceiling is a sample Plaza jacket made from a sheer fabric.

After visiting Sally, and getting many recommendations for places to see in Old Town, places to eat, and other places to visit in the San Diego area, I left to pursue her suggestions. Old Town is a nice place to explore, so I wandered around for awhile, enjoying the beautiful day. (Did I mention at home it's been in the 50s, chilly and cold? San Diego has been in the 70s - very nice!)

Scenes from Old Town

Next, I set my GPS to Little Italy, near the Convention Center.

Sally had told me about Carol Gardyne's Boutique. Carol does gorgeous fabric painting, and she also sells beautiful, Paris-inspired clothing with interesting silhouettes and made from beautiful fabrics. Given that the best I could find was a 15-minute meter for my van, I didn't have long to check out her boutique, but she did have some beautiful pieces, including some attractive, reasonably priced jewelry, and her silk painting is gorgeous.

After a quick dinner at Landini's Pizzeria, and buying some Canoli and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries from the bakery deli at Trattoria Fantastica for the Teen Units (another recommendation of Sally's), it was time to pick up the two exhausted Comic Con-ners and head back to the hotel.

All in all, a great day. :)


  1. Waetcher's, in Ashville, also has all the Indy patterns made up that you can inspect, try on, and even discuss with the lovely ladies there. They'll hunt down the seamstress that made the garment you're interested in.
    I agree, it looks like you had a fabulous day.

  2. Oh, I so enjoyed this "fabric tour" of San Diego. It has been sooo many years since I visited there. Now I want to go back! What a fun read on a Sat morning while sipping coffee! Thanks!

  3. I have enjoyed reading your blog for several months and want to say thank you for all your great advice. You accomplish more in a weekend of sewing than I do in several months. If you have the time visit Taboo Studio while you are in San Diego. It is a great Jewelry store. One of the owners is a very accomplished seamstress and fellow fabric addict. (
    If your driving back to San Francisco via Santa Barbara be sure to check out Fine Fabrics. Not easy to find so set you GPS, but definitely worth the stop.
    Mary E

  4. What a great post, Shams! It's great to see the stores of San Diego. You do look at home in Spirit of the Cloth-you are wearing your appropriate camouflage outfit. Question--the teen units in costume? I've been following the con via and other sources. It sounds like everyone is having a fun time.

    Rose in SV

  5. Thx for the great reviews, Shams! I absolutely love San Diego and hadn't planned to move, and I wouldn't have if not for some life circumstances. It's really a great place. Did you happen to go to the Whaley House? It's reputedly the most haunted house in America and is very cool.

    Gail D.

  6. I was just at Old Town last week while visiting family. Since I go about every other summer, I have just a couple of shops in Old Town I go to. I didn't realize a new place was there. I did go to Yardage Town's Warehouse and picked up a few things.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  7. It sounds like your trip was fabulous and I loved following along. Thanks so much for sharing this info with us.

    Karen aka Karendee

  8. What a wonderful day. Good for you.

  9. Bravo for your fine reviews. I also adore the National City Yardage Town and the staff there. I've spent many a happy hour going through the bolts! And I'm especially glad that you visited Sally and spread the word about Spirit of Cloth in San Diego. San Diego does not have much by way of nice apparel fabrics. Quilters come from far and wide to visit Rosie's Calico Cupboard, but Spirit of Cloth is a wonderful addition for those of us who make clothes! Thanks again!

  10. wow! your blog is an answer to my prayers to be able to go back to the kind of sewing i used to do. ufortunately i had just ordered the marcy tilton pants patterns ( the vogue club BWV sale)two days before i found you ! i love your blog as you have a great sence of humor as well as style, as well as the willingness to share all you have learned from your sewing. i am not tall and not thin, even at the right weight i have trouble wearing standard RTW clothes. i have been a fabriholic since the age of ten when i got my first machine(a singer featherweight which i still have and treasure) and now that i will turn 60 next year it will be my golden sewing anniversary! i now have hope that with the your help along with the others in this astounding network of blogging i will once again both enjoy the process and results of sewing for myself and others. thank you!

  11. c bell here wishing you a belated happy birthday! i forgot to do so in my comment. i wish you many many years od happy sewing!

  12. Love your blog and San Diego commentary. can you tell me more about the photo of the striped fabric jacket/wrap top pictured near the pattern rack? love the fabric and the style... thanks much.

  13. Thanks, everyone, for your nice comments on my first day in SD!! Wouldn't it be nice to do something like that professionally? Travel to cities and report on garment-related experiences?

    @Anonymous, Sally has more of that wonderful striped fabric, which I almost bought - I still may order some from her. It's a very drapey rayon. That pattern was a Diane Ericson, I believe. You can email Sally at for more info. She would be happy to ship! :D

    @Sally, if you happen to read this, can you give us the details on that pattern? I did look, but I can't remember.

  14. I've been to Yardage Town! (last summer) Isn't it fabulous! I only live 2 hours away, been thinking about driving down one of these days!

  15. Oh yeah, and believe it or not, the Walmart in San Diego has a nice selection of fabric....and also Beverly's.

  16. Ordered some of that gorgeous striped rayon fabric before closing time today. Sally was incredible to talk to, and I believe that top pictured was a Kayla Kennington pattern-the "crossover top"? thanks for the recommendation-can't wait for the day to see her shop in person.

  17. Yes, Bonnie! That's it! The Kayla Kennington Crossover top. Thanks so much for following up!

    My memory is like a sieve these days. :)

  18. I was fortunate to meet Sally Hickerson when I moved to Penland after John passed away - that was 10 years ago and I even since been happy to call her a friend. She has impectable taste in fabrics and I was sad when she sold when she sold Waetcher's and thrilled when I got an email that she had opened her store in San Diego. I love to see that you 'vacation' like I do, find the fabric shops first, then the boutiques that carry your favorite designers. Sounds like you had a great trip!

  19. Opps - sorry for all the errors in the above post but I have a kitten laying across the keyboard who is impinging on my fingers - like biting them and they type!