Emporia Goes to Germany


For three whole days last week, the shop was (wo)manfully manned by the lovely Melissa from Aye Aye and the delightful Nicky whilst Clair and I skipped off to Europe for some serious fabric shopping. We weren’t simply browsing the shelves of a local fabric emporium, like the German twin of our very own beloved store, oh no – we spent the day oohing and ahhing over a whole three floors of various lovely designs as we wandered the corridors of the Swafing factory in Nordhorn.


The Riverside Hotel

If you haven’t heard of Swafing Fabrics, you will soon be able to see their delights for yourselves, as we filled our trolley with plenty of exciting designs that will be appearing on our shelves very shortly. Having been invited by Mr Swafing himself, we obviously couldn’t refuse the opportunity of heading off to his factory to take a closer look at all the lovely fabrics he makes. And we were not disappointed in the slightest.


Snowy boathouse down by the lake

We headed out from home at 4am last Wednesday, into the dark and frosty morning, before catching a plane to Amsterdam, as the factory is very close to the Dutch German border. Arriving at the airport, Terry the Swafing rep handed us our train tickets to Hengelo, (making us feel like we were on a very special school trip) and we sped off in the direction of Nordhorn on our very fast, efficient and smooth European train. Making sensible use of the time, we held a very brief merchandising meeting, consisting of getting excited about what we might make with the new fabrics and put in the window, before reality kicked in and we alternately looked at trashy magazines, did a bit of knitting and snoozed – 4 o’clock in the morning is a very early start for anyone you understand.

Sunset from the bar

Sunset from the bar

Once we arrived at the final train station, Hans arrived to collect us in his enormous four by four, and whizzed us off to the hotel Riverside just over the border in Germany. The Riverside is a gorgeous contemporary four star hotel (only the best for us!) located by the beautiful river that runs through Nordhorn. Lakeside views, a gorgeous boathouse, plenty of moorhens and pretty fairylights in the hedges were all on show through the windows, and inside there was a roaring fire, comfy cushions and blankets, and heated benches in the restaurant; there couldn’t have been a warmer welcome unless Mr Swafing had wrapped us up in the big rolls of fleece he sells and rolled us over to the fireside himself.

Roasty toasty fire

Roasty toasty fire

Having settled in and collapsed briefly on our respective big comfy beds, we headed downstairs for dinner, beer and to catch up with all the other fabric shop owners who had come to see what the Swafing factory had to offer. Meeting up with the likes of Tracey from Eastbourne’s Owl and Sewing Cat, Paul from Fabrics Galore in Battersea and Kerry from Just Fabrics in Chatham was fantastic fun and we had a good old chinwag about all our shops and what we could expect to see in the factory the following day. Being one of the youngest shops in the gang, it was fascinating to hear how the others run their stores, and we got plenty of inspiration for new projects in the future, from patterns and classes to trade fairs and suppliers.

Nordhorn Church at dusk

Nordhorn Church at dusk

After an enormous pizza and some ice cream puddings with sparklers in (these German fabric manufacturers know how to live) we finally gave in, and headed to bed, full of anticipation for visiting the fabric factory the next day. Come back next week to hear more about the factory itself and what amazing designs we decided to bring home with us …

Insanely excited by the fabric

Insanely excited by the fabric


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