Craft City: Manchester 20130803_144923 Full view

Craft City: Manchester

I visited Manchester a few weeks ago with my husband and daughter. While my husband was busy with work, my daughter and I set off to see as much of the city as you reasonably can with a toddler in tow.

Manchester made a strong impression on me. There are a lot of interesting things happening there. Our visit coincided with a local food festival, and the area around Dean Street was full of independent shops and cafes, with a strong retro flavour.

But, just a few blocks away, and the streets were deserted. There were a lot of boarded up shops and to-let signs. I got the impression of a place bustling with activity, but not quite enough activity to fill the available space.

Just off of Dean Street, a shop called Junk caught my eye. Like many of the clothes shops on Dean Street, Junk has a lot of vintage clothes on sale, but unlike most other shops, its main emphasis was on altered and updated clothes.

IMG_3929dressesA friendly shop assistant told me that everyone on the Junk staff works on altering and creating clothes. Although I loved their eclectic selection and creative displays, I was left with the feeling that I was never cool enough to wear the clothes Junk sells. Try as I might, I will never be able to pull of a Batman dress.

batman

However, they also offer lessons in how to alter your own vintage wear at Junk. Perhaps if I had taken a class along these lines, the ill-conceived vintage forays of my early twenties would have gone a little better.

The next day, my husband was able to join us, and we spent a lovely morning in the multi-warehouse Museum of Science and Industry, which has a strong emphasis on the textile industry and interactivity.

20130803_100302The displays included textiles created by the visually impaired, in collaboration with a textile artist.

20130803_100426The industrial-scale spinning machines and looms were impressive.

My daughter, who was almost two when we visited the museum, loved the space set aside for young kids, where there were lots of fabric and cushions to play in.

20130803_100723We all enjoyed seeing the old trains, planes, and cars on display over two former warehouses. Older kids (and their parents) were having a great time playing with exhibits throughout.

That afternoon, my husband treated me to an afternoon off. I took a book to a cafe for homemade iced tea (bliss!) and a warm cinnamon scone with jam. And then the fabric shopping, chez Abakhan.

They have an impressive selection of discount fabrics downstairs, but I found it a little overwhelming and had a specific project in mind, so I headed upstairs.

It wasn’t much less overwhelming up there, but I managed to keep my head and left with a few metres of slubby beige linen, some blue and red checked cotton, and a purple wool-rich blend with a herringbone pattern. (I don’t know what the first two will be for, but you’ll be seeing the purple wool again soon.)

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Despite spending too much time (and money) at Abakhan, I managed to get over to the Manchester Craft and Design Centre for a half-hour. I didn’t have time for an in-depth look at each shop, but took a quick peek in at their workshop space.

 20130803_144923 20130803_151047I wrapped a few inches of yarn around a community project sitting in the cafe area of the MCDC.

photo(22)And I did manage to leave with a tweedy patchwork cushion and a tiny K-for-Kate cushion from Quite Contrary Designs.

Manchester was an interesting place to visit, but a few days there left me feeling like I had seen most of what it had to offer a craft-loving person. Maybe I’m wrong, though–is there anything we missed?

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