I have a dear sister Caroline who lives a very long way away in New Zealand, our family are really fortunate to see her most years and, in the build up to her arrival, we make lots of plans. This year, very high on the agenda was a visit to the Merchant & Mills shop in Rye.
It's a bit of a drive from Chichester, a four hour round trip when the traffic is kind, which thankfully on a bright July Monday morning it was, but it was worth every mile.
Caroline and I are have two other sisters (I know! How lucky are we?) and a mum who has sewn from childhood - because 'that was what you did back then'. Mum is a really talented dressmaker and went on to have her own sewing shop after raising us girls. So we were really fortunate to be raised in a home where making and fixing was just what you did. Caroline & I have both had long periods of not sewing, but we are both now more than a little bit obsessed, and Merchant & Mills is definitely part of the reason for that. For those of you unaware of this great British brand, M&M produce simple, flattering patterns that are straightforward to sew and make up into clothes you just want to wear and wear. They also sell fabric and haberdashery all with their distinctive branding, and the overall aesthetic is pared-back & timeless.
The shop in Rye is small but perfectly formed, in an airy semi-industrial building not far from the high street. There are sooo many fabrics to choose from, but the really wonderful thing about visiting the store is seeing all the patterns made up and being able to try them on. Sewing is not a quick or cheap process if you are using a good fabric, so it's great to know that something will suit you before you go to the effort to make it.
I think it's fair to say that Caroline & I were both a little overwhelmed at all the creative possibilities that lay before us, and the decision making over what to buy and what we could bear to walk away from was more than a little stressful. I am sure we probably stayed there for longer than is actually polite, but the team, including Carolyn the brains behind the brand were so friendly and helpful, it was just a very lovely place to be.
Finally after managing to squeeze the purchasing decisions out of our excited brains, we paid and left with our beautifully wrapped fabrics and patterns, grinning like Cheshire cats and instantly decided we needed lunch to restore ourselves after so much sewing-related stimulation.
On a top recommendation from my lovely pal Sarah from Goose Home & Garden, we went to Fig Cafe at the top of the High St. It was a great place for sustenance and thoroughly deserves all the praise on Trip Advisor!