Fabric Shopping in Tallinn and St. Petersburg: Looking for Linen and finding Silk
This almost sounds like it’s too good to be true, right? The Baltic States, Belarus and Russia are linen producers and well known for good quality linen. So, it made sense on my recent trip to St. Petersburg and Tallinn to increase the stash – and go fabric shopping in Tallinn and St. Petersburg.
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Why Fabric Shopping?
I don’t write much about here but I like to sew in my very spare time. I don’t have a lot of spare time, so I don’t sew a lot, but I recently made my own wedding dress – in two weeks! Because I did not dare to step into the green Ghost dress I had bought for the occasion fearing I am too fat. Well… I did step into it when the other dress was finished, only to find out it was snug but fitted… The pattern is the much-maligned lace wedding dress from Burdastyle 3/2015, the fabric whatever I could find at Hueco that felt nice and did not break the bank…
Sewing makes a lot of sense to me because firstly, I am overweight. The only clothes that fit me well and that I really like are by Margaret Howell, Marina Rinaldi and my old Ghost clothes. These can all become a bit expensive. When sewing, I can fit the clothes better, choose high-quality fabric, and I also am much more attached to them and care for them well. Do I throw any of my home-sewn clothes away? No bloody way. Anything I have sewn in the past has been extremely resistent and everything has been recycled into patchwork stuff, shopping bags or lavender pillows.
I have always had linen clothes, and although they crumple, they are great! Super comfy, sweat absorbing, cool, and extremely long lasting. The only trouble is when strong colours fade, but buy something in a bleachy colour and you have it forever. I can get things like decent linen bed Sheets in IKEA and excellent dense linen mangle cloths to make gift wrap , towels and cushions, but they are not so good for clothes.
Flax linen is more durable than cotton, requires less water and pesticides than cotton and is therefore greener than Cotton Right from the start. It washes beautifully, is easy to sew, and linen garments usually keep their shape… if you can live with the creases.
I very much like the aesthetics of anything from the Volga Linen Company but they sell mostly home furnishings, towels, and some upholstery fabric, and 78quid per metre wasn’t really what I had in mind when looking to sew up a few jolly simple summer dresses. So… time to go fabric shopping in Tallinn… and St. Petersburg!
So, off we go fabric shopping in St Petersburg!
I had high hopes for this. Charlottenburg, where Hueco is, is an area where many Russians live, and Russians populated the vast store. I believe sewing clothes is pretty popular in Russia and neighbouring countries.
I learned that the main linen producing Region in Russia is along the Volga River around Kostroma a few hundred kilometres North-east of Moscow, and that Russia is the second largest Producer of flax linen world wide (after Canada and before Ukraine). However, China, Italy and Lithuania Export most flax linen.
So, I thought, thinking of the great fabric shopping in Thailand, India, France and the UK, I am gonna get myself some top-notch linen fabric.
An ask on a TripAdvisor board came up with a Suggestion that I visit the Belarus (another flax linen Producer) and a shop in St Petersburg called “Lino Russo”, part of a small chain.
Oh how wrong I was!
After a fair bit of walking round the less touristed Areas of St. Petersburg, I went into a few fabric shops, which were… okay but unexciting.
I made it the the “Russian Linen Shop /Lino Russo” in Pushkinskaya Street.I believe the linen is of high Quality, but they had no fabric whatsoever. There were tablecloths, bedsheets, and clothes but none necessarily in the simple style that I like. And let’ snot even mention the Dresses which, were a little too 1980s housewife and cost around 100Euro.
Okay! St Petersburg was a bit of a dead loss for me when it comes to fabric shopping.
Let’s go Fabric Shopping in Tallinn!
So, the Baltic States, especially Lithuania, are famous for linen, too, but you don’t find too much online.
So, moving slowly on to Tallinn by boat, I hoped for better fabric haul from Tallinn. On my first day, I excitedly set off by tram to Tallinn’s largest fabric shop called “Kangadzungel XXL”.
Fabric Shopping in Tallinn Stop 1: Kangadzungel
It is a little outside the centre. Trams 2 and 4 go there, the shop is Right outside “Keskturg” stop. Although Estonia has superb infrastructure, high incomes and is considered less “cheap ” a destination than other Eastern European countries, I found accommodation and restaurant prices reasonable, but fabric was sooo expensive. In Kangadzungel, I strolled past rolls and rolls of uninspiring rather synthetic fabric, to a small linen section with Prices like… 60 Euro per metre. Fabric shopping in Tallinn didn’t start well – or so I thought.
Then I spotted their outlet one floor up, which was altogether more manageable in size. I set headed for a shelf full of single natural looking colours, only to find they were all cotton or cotton-Polyester, without a single roll of linen in sight.
I was about to give up when I had a rummage in the bins full of pre-cut pieces, more out of frustration. Deep down in the bin, I touched smooth fabric, like silk. I pulled and pulled and unearthed About 5 metres of blue and white abstract design print. I think it was meant to be silk carees in a former life. There was a little smudge here and there. So it ain’t Hermes, but… cut on the bias, this would make a number of floaty summer dresses or tops for me and my friends. 10 Euros per KILOGRAM! Almost attached to it were 2 metres of blue and white cotton lawn of really nice Quality. I put both on the scales and paid 8 Euro for the lot.
Almost ecstatic and somewhat concerned About the size of my hand luggage I retreated to my hotel, please to have found a moderately sensible souvenir.
So, what about Linen, then?
With the pressure off to find “something else” , I saw several shops selling linen housewares on my stroll through Tallinn Old Town. Almost every Souvenir a shop sold linen tea towels and tote bags as well. There are two good shops at the lower end of Pikk Street 100-200m before it joins the Town Hall Square.
Fabric Shopping in Tallinn Stop 2: Pikk Street, Old Town
One of them is called Veta. Apart from the usual slightly kitsch linen print they had some solid coloured linen of different thickness for about 15 Euro/metre.
The other one, just across the street, sold wonderful small linen items in great colours. It is called Lina Classic.
They also had a sale on and I got too many linen tea towels in different colours and structures. Can one have too many tea towels? Possibly? But they can also be small gifts, gift warp, place mats and hand towels.
Fabric Shopping Stop 3: Hansa Lina, Old Town
I also had an address of a shop called Hansa Lina, which can be found around the Viru Gate on the edge of the Old Town. There are actually two Shops close to each other. They had the usual small linen items you find everywhere else. In contrast to many Old Town shops, they has the largest selection of linen fabrics I found in the Old Town. There’s even more on their website. The address is hansalina.com but it does not always load. The saleswoman told me pretty openly that the fabric I intended to buy is Belorussian, but I don’t care as long as quality is good!
I much prefer touching fabric before buying if ist not a quality I know already (like Liberty Tana Lawn) . I don’t think it’s organic or natural dye, but at About 14 Euro per metre, it was reasonably priced.
So with a bulging suitcase, I set off for the ferry back to Helsinki, and on to the airport via one of the Marimekko Outlets – but this is a story for another day!
What if you do not sew?
If you do not sew but want some modern style Baltic linen clothing, Linenfox, sells reasonably priced beautifully simple linen garments in some stunning colours. All their models are tall and a Size S, meaning most things look good on them. This doesn’t represent average sizes at all and you get absolutely no idea how a garment in Size L would sit. A similar store, also based in Lithuania, is Ode to Sunday, which makes similarly super simplistic clothes presented on 5’10” models wearing Size XS. Good styles, good prices, but not quite my size range. However, take three metres of linen and a couple of Patrones magazines and sew a dress in a day is my opinion on that.
This trip was entirely self funded.I have received no monetary or non-monetary rewards any links in this post. I will only review and recommend places that I have stayed in myself unless otherwise stated. You can trust me for the whole, unbiased truth.
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