Helsinki fabric shopping

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently visited Finland, and I wanted to share with you one of my fabric experiences while in the country.

I had the chance to visit a few small places in downtown Turku, but it was the huge Eurokangas store in downtown Helsinki that really got my creative juices flowing. Approaching the shop I mentioned to my travel companion that “oops, I forgot to bring my backpack” so I didn’t have a bag in case I bought very much.  I then went on to say that I didn’t imagine I’d be buying too much – thinking of just a piece of quilting fabric like I had bought when I was in Hawaii back in February.  I didn’t anticipate spending much time in the shop either, since we still had two other places to walk to on our itinerary during the day.

When we entered the shop, my companion said something along the lines of ‘I think we’re going to be here a while…’

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki – one corner of the store with bridal and fancy fabrics.

The first notable thing about the shop is how large and bright and open it is – for a downtown location this seemed extraordinary! (I only hope for the sake of the silks that the windows are UV protected!) We approached from the main street and had to enter a hallway and go up the escalator, but there was also a street-level side entrance from the looks of things. We also entered directly into the bridal/fancies department, where there were large tables with rolls of satins, silks, laces, and sequined fabrics attractively arranged by colour.

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki – looking from the fancies area into the sportswear section.

The English side of their website is pretty sparse, so visit the Finnish side of their site at http://www.eurokangas.fi/ for a bit more content… if you can read Finnish that is!

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki – just some of the plaid and suiting fabrics

Erokangas is a family-owned company founded in 1991. According to their website, they are the largest chain retail outlet for fabrics in Finland, and they also import fabrics for Finnish customers. The website goes on to share that the company has 32 shops in Finland, though one of the two Helsinki locations is the largest. The chain also has two stores in the nearby city of Espoo, two in Vantaa where the Helsinki airport is, and two in Tampere. There is also one location each in Turku and Savonlinna, two of the cities/towns we visited – though we didn’t get to their locations in those areas. There are also locations in other towns and cities throughout Finland.  (Looking for locations? Check this page: http://www.eurokangas.fi/myymalat – it’s easy enough to read although in Finnish.)

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki – really neat displays

Another thing that I LOVED about the store was their displays. Most fabric stores have clothing displays showcasing the fabrics and offering inspiration for home sewers – usually the store clerks sew up the items, or in large chains they are made off-site in bulk and sent out to the shops as part of the display materials. In Eurokangas, the ‘clothing’ being displayed wasn’t sewn at all… rather it was plain yardage, artfully folded, bound, tied, and pinned to resemble clothing.

In the photo above, the black and white zig-zag skirt has a folded waistband, and then the band is just pinned to the fabric of the “skirt”.  The mod black and white dress has folded tucks for bust darts, and the halter-style dress with the pleated leopard skirt and the tie front black and white striped panel is actually a trompe-l’œil effect created with a printed fabric panel.

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki – the trompe-l’œil ‘dress’

Here’s a closer photo of the  trompe-l’œil ‘dress’. It was interesting to see it from further away, up close, and then see the yardage on the roll as well.

Below are two other examples of the draped fabric displays, each made only by pinning, folding, tying, or otherwise manipulating flat fabric.  It reminded me a lot of fabric oragami (which reminded me a bit of Pattern Magic and Pattern Magic 2).

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki

Eurokangas isn’t a discount shop by any means (like Dressew in Vancouver) or an exclusively super-high end shop (like Estee’s in Edmonton); instead there is a wide range of fabric options.  While the majority of the bridal and fancies are higher-end fabrics (I fell quickly in and out of love with some 69 Euro/metre heavy grey lace) there are also lower cost alternatives mixed in.  In the sportswear I picked up some gorgeous silk jersey (at 23.90 Euro/meter along with some super cute printed rayon jersey for 3.90 Euro/meter.

There is also a substantial home decor section, with all of the kinds of home decor fabrics you’d expect, and also a fairly wide range of kid-friendly prints, and some very Marimekko-influenced bold, colourful, simple prints.  (Maybe they are Marimekko fabrics? I never checked the lable.)  They also had a VERY small selection of yarn for knitting, and a small selection of notions which I didn’t look at too much – the selection at first glance wasn’t intriguing enough to keep me away from the fabric.

They didn’t have very much to offer in the quilting section (mostly Amy Butler – which I love, but can reasonably easily get at home) but then did have an awesome ‘per kilogram’ bin section.  In there were loads of amazing fabrics.  Apparently some of them are  designer & industry remnants – which I can see because after going the first time, I think I saw two of the fabrics that caught my eye when I was out and about on the streets of Helsinki.

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki

Silk Jersey label from Eurokangas

First time?

The first time I went, when I had two other places to go that day, I picked up some of the silk jersey and some of the floral (black, white, yellow and a slight silver) print rayon jersey.  I kept thinking about the silk jersey though – I’ve never been able to find it locally so I really was quite smitten with it despite the hefty price tag.  I knew that because it was silk, that it would take dye beautifully, and silk is such a gorgeous fabric to wear.

On my last day in Helsinki, I headed back to Eurokangas, and picked up more of the silk jersey, and then found the floral jersey as well in other colour ways.  I first went for the purple, and then found a red, black, and white print (with a slight silver outline) instead and got a few meters of that.

On my second trip I also headed to the bins of fabric by the kilogram, and found a piece of black and grey swimwear that I really liked as well.  Apparently you can get these fabric pieces as-is, or have them cut to the length you need.  (Which is awesome – usually these pieces are only sold as-is locally.)  The sales people were very precise in cutting the fabric, and they have a computerized system which prints out not only how much fabric you bought and what it cost, but also prints out the care instructions and contents. (All in Finnish of course!) I love this! I took these photos of the fabric labels before the fabric was cut, not knowing they would be printing something out for me, but this is a fantastic system that I really would like to see adopted by chain fabric stores (erm.. Ok. store, the only one left here is Fabricland) here at home.

Eurokangas fabric store in Helsinki

Not the greatest photo, but the label from the floral printed jersey

If you’re interested in seeing any of my other Finland experiences, check out the Finland tag link, where I still have a few things to share! I’m also blogging about music and travel on Throwing Horns Abroad and about the culinary experiences on Happy Sushi Belly.  I wasn’t able to find many other bloggers writing about Eurokangas, (in English at least!) but a Cosplayer shared an experience here.  There are a few posts with photos of dresses made from fabric from the shop on For Those Who Love Dresses, and The Selfish Seamstress also visited Eurokangas after a meeting. She has some great shop photos, a few fabric purchase photos, and a few comments about Marimekko as well (which I mentioned in a previous post).

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