Searching for fabric

Do you know what a Pavlovo Posad shawl is?

I’m searching for fabric to make one of the final samples of the three sewing patterns I’m finishing up. The sample for the photo shoot. There is a particular print I can see so clearly in my mind’s eye. The only problem is that no fabric store on the face of the earth seems to carry it. It’s a wildly floral, feminine, soft, drapey woven wool fabric in bold colors, folksy but somehow elegant too. Kind of like this print:

PEPIN series : fashion, textiles & patterns

These designs were often printed on wool challis, and people in Central and Eastern Europe wore pleated, wide skirts made of it, in bright, loud colors. In Hungary this fabric is called kasmír. (Not the same thing as cashmere though I suspect there’s some connection: the types of textiles that became the earliest mass-produced fabrics in Europe did knock off Asian, primarily Indian techniques and designs, like blue-dye cloth). Kasmír cloth often featured cabbage roses (as you know, I love cabbage roses), and exuberant patterns and colors.

I thought it would be the perfect fabric for one of the patterns in the upcoming mini-collection but I can’t actually seem to find it anywhere. At this point, I’d be happy to pay for shipping (and the requisite bribery) from Hungary, except – they’ve got nothing either. And I can’t seem to let go of the idea so I have to make it happen somehow!

It all began with the Viennese designer Lena Hoschek. Well, actually, it all began with a sewing pattern I’d been working on off and on for the past two years but that’s not as dramatic. Just look at this dress:


Quite dramatisch, no? Take a look at the rest of the Russian Rose collection. I kind of want all of it. (Especially the boots.)

Last summer, while we were visiting my family in Budapest, Andy and I took a short little trip to Vienna. It’s about 3 hours by train, very easy, with some weird déjà vu moments because Vienna and Budapest are currently sporting identical subway cars.

(OMG you guys, it was the first time we were alone together since we had children, the girls hung out with my parents in Budapest. It was amazing! And really, really strange. Apparently, forever and always we will automatically wake up in the morning at the moment Eszter gets up. Whether or not she’s actually there. But I digress.)

While temporarily not in a museum we went by a sweet boutique that carries Lena Hoschek. I’ve been a fan of hers for years now, her designs embody my absolute favorite style: a mix of folkwear and retro silhouettes and biker chic. A little rebellious, absolutely timeless, and always feminine.

I took a good long look at how her garments are made. (I’m pretty sure the owner of the boutique was not so thrilled with me doing that instead of, you know, buying them. But I digress again.) The designs are not overly complicated but they are beautifully shaped and tailored. And like the dress above, they often incorporate some kind of traditional folklore motif, whether it’s fabric, or trim, or even a bit of embroidery.

It gave me the idea to do something like that with one of my own designs, and make it using kasmír fabric, which seems really hard to find. On the other hand – see the headscarf the model is wearing? Scarves and shawls like that can be found, and some of the shawls made in that style are quite large. Large enough to make a whole garment out of.

This wasn’t my idea. See, in one of the fabric stores I went to looking for something similar to kasmír fabric (B&J, where they also didn’t have anything quite right) a clerk I talked to suggested I just use shawls to get the look I’m going for. It turned out she’s a costume designer and had done a show where they wanted exactly the kind of fabric I want now, and couldn’t find it so… they went out to Brighton beach and bought a bunch of traditional Russian shawls. Like the one the Lena Hoschek’s model is wearing. Isn’t it amazing how one comes by information sometimes? These shawls are still made in a factory called Pavlovo Posad that’s been in operation since 1812 in a town not far from Moscow.

So… that’s how I wound up searching for Pavlovo Posad shawls. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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5 Responses to Searching for fabric

  1. Ginger says:

    Szia Kati!
    I know exactly the fabric you’re talking about. My mother made me a dress in blue of this very fabric, many, many years ago. It’s not exactly soft, yet it’s not exactly scratchy either. I think they are often made of a synthetic or wool synthetic mix. There might be some older Hungarian, or Jewish textile merchants left here in Toronto, (which is where we would have purchased the stuff). If so, at the very least maybe we can find the source. Surely, it’s still being manufactured somewhere. I’ll keep you posted!

    • kata says:

      Oooh I can pretty much see that color blue in front of me… I know what you’re saying: the newer versions of this fabric were more often than not synthetic or a wool blend. Fabric merchants in Hungary have mentioned it’s even hard to get the synthetic kind these days, they said there may be a place in Moravia (Czech Republic) that makes it, but that’s as far as I got. How awesome would it be if you found some in Toronto 😉

  2. TinaD says:

    The Hoschek Anatevka dress is to die for. Boots too. I have seen ditsy-floral challis online which might work…I want to say Denver fabrics, but I’d have to go double check…but it won’t necessarily be accurate patterns. (Or cabbage roses. Sadly. The world and I don’t see eye to eye on the value of a good floral.)

  3. Thewallinna says:

    I know Pavlova Posad shawls! My grand mother used to have one! I am not mad about all of their patterns (some of them I find kind of granny-looking) but I do admire some, just like this dress you posted!

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