OVER the years, many shops and sewing departments dedicated to selling fabrics, patterns and haberdashery have disappeared from the Geneva-area landscape. Those that remain largely stock fabrics for home and hobby and less for couture creations, as well as basic sewing notions (thread, seaming binding, scissors, etc).
It’s been a sad process to see the winnowing of quality and diversity, but I’m encouraged that a few courageous entrepreneurs have bucked the trend and opened online and even a few bricks-and-mortar shops, some offering unique patterns from small labels, as well as basic supplies and occasionally sewing classes.
Below are the names and contact details of shops that I’ve come across in the past, though I haven’t checked in with them recently. As some do not have websites, I cannot verify that since writing this post, they still exist or have not changed their address. So I suggest you give them a call before heading out.
Fabric, Patterns, Notions, Knitting supplies – Shops
- Textiles Acacias SA at 45B route des Acacias (1227 Les Acacias) stocks moderate and high-quality fabrics (including Liberty) for all sewing projects in addition to notions and patterns. Tel: 022.342.21.89
- For moderately-priced clothes, hobby and home fabrics stop by Alja, which has 43 locations across Switzerland including Geneva’s Rue de Grenus 2 outlet (near Manor) and in Nyon (in an apartment block) at Rue de la Gare 45. Alja Geneva offers sewing classes on Wednesdays.
- Manor department store at rue Cornavin 6, 1201 GE, stocks fabric for home creations. It also sells sewing notions and small equipment, knitting wool and crochet hooks, thread, ribbons and zippers, etc. Small branches of Manor also sell supplies but in smaller quantities and with less choice.
- Bernina has an outlet at the LaPraille shopping center selling their sewing machines, which they also service, and also haberdashery supplies and when I was last there some time ago, some quilting fabrics.
- Excellent haberdashery or notions (mercerie) stores in Geneva are Mercerie La Médina, at 5, rue de la Flèche (1207 GE), and Mercerie de la Madeleine, at 11, rue de la Madeleine (1211 GE).
- Catherine B. is a lovely shop in Geneva’s Old Town that is largely dedicated to embroidery and tapestry materials and kits, but also stocks useful items for sewing including ribbons, gorgeous tassels and thread, etc. Embroidery classes are offered on a regular basis.
- Larger branches of Coop grocery stores stock sewing notions as do Coop City outlets.
- In Lausanne, at 4 Langallerie, 1003 LA, at the corner of Rue Marterrey is “A Propos”, a small store that sells couture fabrics and a small selection of clothes. Closed on Mondays. Tel: 021.312.87.04. Tip: have a good idea of what you want ahead of time as browsing and taking your time is discouraged.
Elsewhere in Vaud Canton
- At the Signy Center above Nyon in Vaud canton I like the handy notions shop Wooly Tricot located on the first floor. I always find my buttons there from among a wall-full of choice and it also has thread, tassels, zippers, and ribbons. However, it’s first and foremost a knitting supply store and here you’ll find wool, needles, knitting books and catalogues and a ‘café tricot’ knitting group and a selection of courses in knitting, crocheting and making handbags (some of which incorporate crochet).
- In Morges at Grand Rue 14 is the lovely shop L’Atelier Mercerie belonging to Béatrice Rietsch. She stocks a small but nice array of cotton fabrics as well as Liberty cotton bias tape, ribbons, thread and other notions. She also offers courses on her Bernina sewing machines for 9-13 year olds and for adults. Tel: 021.801.81.82 and email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tissue & Co. in Rolle has a shopfront just opposite the train station in Rolle. Please see below under “Ordering fabric online”.
- At 4, Passage des Bains, 74000 Annecy (tel: +220.127.116.11.96.14) is the lovely, large Mercerie Loisirs Créatifs, specialising in fabrics, yarns and notions for patchwork, embroidery and sewing. Closed Mondays.
- Mondial Tissue Annemasse in France has a large stock of fabrics for home decor, crafts and couture, but from I’ve heard the quality is not on par with elsewhere (I’ve not checked it out myself). Still, it might be worth a try: 16 Rue de Montreal La Combette, 74100 Ville-La-Grand.
Ordering patterns online
Some Swiss fabric shops stock US and UK patterns, though not always with English instructions included so do check before buying. Some shops will order English-language patterns for you. Check that European-sourced (non-UK) Burda patterns that seam allowances are included if you prefer that.
You can also order online from US, UK and France; ordering your patterns during sales promotions, which happen regularly, can help offset postal shipping costs. It’s also worth ordering several patterns at once as shipping costs for two or three patterns may be the same as for one.
Sites I order from include:
- Sewessential (UK) offers patterns and also fabric, notions, sewing machines and gadgets, and patchwork and quilting supplies.
- Sewdirect in the UK, offering all the big-name brands (including Burda patterns with seams included)
- From the US, I order on SomethingDelightful, that carries Vogue, Butterick, McCall’s, Quick Sew and C.R. Gibson patterns. Also in the US, is Simplicity, that carries patterns, sewing trims and accessories, and supplies for needle crafts and also arts and crafts.
- To order Burda patterns to download in pdf. format go to BurdaStyle. Regarding seam allowances, the website says: “Seam allowances are not included in Burda Style patterns, but the instructions may indicate that seam allowances have been included. Be sure to read the model instructions.” (NB: Selling patterns without seam allowances makes no sense to me at all, but there you go, I’m sure there are some of you prefer them, so vive la différence!
- The French sewing site Patrons de Couture offeres an eclectic mix of patterns, sewing and needle craft supplies. I haven’t ordered from this site, and it appears the patterns are in French.
- If you’re a vintage fashion fan, check out Wikia Vintage Patterns, where more than 83,500 vintage (more than 25 years old dating from the 1920s onward) patterns are viewable and in some cases for sale. Enjoy patterns featuring glamorous movie stars from the ’30s and ’40s.
Ordering fabric online (Swiss online shops)
I haven’t yet ordered fabric online, but there are some enticing websites with a diverse selection of fabric. As noted above, the UK site Sew Essential, sells good quality fabrics. In Switzerland:
- Tissue & Co. carries pretty fabrics from top brands, modern sewing patterns (Colette, Sewaholic, etc.), sewing notions and tools, and even kits for adults and kids to learn to sew. The site is in French and English and you can also follow owner Ana’s sewing blog. She also has an outlet of Tissue & Co. in Rolle, just opposite the train station at Ave. de la Gare 18, 1180 Rolle. Please email her in advance to confirm her opening hours at: email@example.com
- I found Roth Lila Blau, when searching online for a local source of the lovely US-made Art Gallery Fabrics. Owner Sue offers a large selection of fabrics for fashion, home decor, patchwork and quilting. Orders from CHF100 have free delivery within Switzerland. All orders up to CHF100-worth of goods will be billed CHF10. for packaging and delivery. Online orders can be picked up by you in the shop (located just outside Zurich) if you wish to do so. The website is in German and English — Sue speaks both languages. She is happy to help if you want to get in touch. Click here for info about payment and deliveries.
- Cotton & Color in Riehen, an outskirt of Basel, also offers a variety of vibrant fabrics, sewing and quilting supplies, books and patterns. Order from a minimum of 25cm. Shipments from CHF100 are delivered free.
Sewing classes in Geneva and Vaud Canton
- Nathalie Underhill of Naver Couture in Aubonne gives sewing lessons for adults on Thursdsay mornings and evenings in small groups and also children’s lessons on Mondays after school, in addition to offering regular workshops and private lessons. Naver Couture is an official reseller of Elna sewing machines and offers a repair service for all sewing machine brands. You can also find elna accessories and haberdashery. Find Naver Couture on Facebook and also on Instagram.
- Sonia Castejon has been teaching sewing to adults and children for more than 20 years. She offers sewing and pattern making lessons at her home in Anières for 1-to-2 persons at a time from Monday to Friday in the mornings; Wednesdays from 3pm; and on Thursday and Friday afternoons. Lessons are available in English, Spanish and French. She also sews and sells clothes and costumes, makes alterations, and undertakes sewing projects for the home. You can contact her via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Leather goods and accessories maker Tobias Milse offers sewing courses at his shop in Geneva’s Quartier des Bains at 63 rue des Bains. Check out his website for details, stop by the shop, or contact him for more details.
- Also offering classes is Béatrice Rietsch at her shop L’Atelier Mercerie – Les Toiles Fileuses on the main shopping street in Morges.
- Professional seamstress Caroline Miles offers sewing classes as well as doing alterations and taking commissions for fashion and home sewing projects. Her HQ is in Mies village and she has an outlet for dry cleaning and sewing classes in Coppet. Contact her at Caroline Miles Atelier de Couture.
- Alja, near Manor at Rue de Grenus 2, offers sewing classes in French.
- The Grand-Lancy branch of Ecole-Club Migros Genève offers a variets of sewing classes for different levels. On the homepage in the left menu enter “couture” in the search window (“chercher un cours”) and choose from among the locations (for e.g., Genève) listed under “Entrer un lieu”.
- Elna Swiss Design: sewing classes are offered at the back of the Elna sewing store at the Balexert shopping mall. At the moment, classes of two hours each are offered on four Mondays (CHF 120.–), four Tuesdays (CHF 120.–), and four Thursdays (CHF 140.–), and a single, 7-hour course is offered on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month for CHF 120.– . Stop by the shop or call elna Balexert at 022.796.00.51 for further information.
- Atelier Mode / Ingeborg Hänsel-Pasquier; courses/private courses in dressmaking, cutting and getting to know fabric. Tel (Geneva) : (022) 345.52.26 / 079.203.45.32. Email: email@example.com
I hope this info will help get you started on your sewing or patch working project. Please add your tips and contacts in the comments box below or contact me with your insights and I’ll happily add them to the list.