Sunday, 16 November 2008

For the Love of Liberty

Rolling on from Wednesday's extravaganza at Loop and the Country Living fair, on Friday my sister and I made our pilgrimage to the "West End" to go to the most wonderful store in the world, yes, Liberty.  We inevitably go to Liberty every time Del comes to visit as we just love it there.  Not only is it the most gorgeous shop architecturally, it has oodles of the most divine things inside, too.  I thought you might like to see...

Liberty was opened by one Arthur Lasenby Liberty at the height of the Arts and Crafts era in 1875 as "East India House" in Regent Street.   It imported luxury oriental goods (blue and white china, rugs, cashmere, for example,) and began producing its own fabrics and then furnishings and also retailed metalware and jewellery all in the distinctive Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles.  The shop remained in private family ownership until as recently as 2000.    The exterior of the shop would make you think it had been built around the time of the Tudors, being beamed and painted black and white (as was popular in the Arts and Crafts era).  There is a gorgeous Paula Pryke flower concession at the front doors on your way in.  I know, I should have taken a photo; I'm sorry I was too eagerly running inside!  The interior of the store is a sight to behold and a lot of the original details have been retained.  It is a delight that not only does Liberty sell beautiful things, they are housed in such splendour.  There is a fantastic old turned wooden staircase, even some of the lifts are wood panelled, the floors are wooden planked and there are carved stone fireplaces with wooden surrounds and overmantels on many of the floors. There are period light fittings, beamed ceilings and stone mullioned iron casement multi-paned windows.   There is a full height atrium in the centre of the store and each floor has a galleried landing surrounding it.

There is still a department within the store which sells Arts and Crafts antiques, many of which might originally have been retailed by the store.  There is also a very good choice of William Morris and Liberty Arts and Crafts fabrics.

First stop (and the only one if I'm in a rush,) has to be the fourth floor, home to Haberdashery, Rowan knitting and fabrics, Liberty fabrics and housey goodies.  The lift usefully ejects you straight into the Rowan department.  Ahh, what a chore...

They have a good range of fabrics from the well-known Rowan designers: Kaffe Fasett, Philip Jacobs, Amy Butler, Tanya Whelan etc. There are lots of books too, mainly about knitting, and lots of those written by Kaffe Fassett. The yarn selection is very good; at least, to me as a beginner and this being the first time I've paid any attention to the wool, I was very impressed. The Rowan yarn in particular, is very well represented and there is a larger variety than in John Lewis. I managed to add three more colours to my Rowan DK stash. Granny squares here I come! In this area, there are also a lot of tapestry kits, including Elizabeth Bradley and scattered around, lots of items actually made up which have you drooling away! There are also some stunning patchwork quilts casually draped over the displays made from glorious Rowan fabrics.

Moving through into the inner shopfloor (generally feeling a good deal poorer by now,) you are impressed by the sheer beauty of this very special shop when you see that central atrium with its galleries and the ornate carved wooden staircase.  There are some gorgeous eye-catching displays.

If you have a spare £1,850, you can buy your very own Liberty covered mannequin. I'll take two, did I hear you say?!

There was a lovely selection of little haberdashery items: silk flowers, vintage buttons, crocheted brooches.  (I'm sorry some of the photos are really dark but the display units were black which didn't make for great photography, at least not by a rubbish amateur photographer like myself!)

All you crocheters out there, you could be getting £3.50 for one of your granny squares...

And about £30 each for these corsages!!!

I'm hoping Father Christmas has Liberty on his list when he's out and about shopping for my pressies...

There is a very large selection of Liberty print fabrics and lots of shirts ready made up to buy.

Well, I can report I was very restrained on Friday and came away with just one metre of (pink polka dot) fabric and three balls of wool.  Oh, I am feeling very virtuous indeed.  (Then again, I was just bearing in mind that I had to pay for my new sewing machine the next day!)

Upstairs we couldn't resist taking in the awe inspiring Christmas department.  Something about this beautiful old store makes such a sumptuous setting for all that glitz and all those fairy lights.  

The section which housed all the Christmas decorations had been turned into a series of log cabins within a Winter wonderland. I think I might have to return with the Munchkin closer to Christmas.

Throughout the store, many of the original architectural details are still apparent and have also been subject to a Christmas makeover.

By this time, we were flagging although we did rather admire this cosy looking sofa covered in the most lovely soft velvet...

And this one, very Kaffe Fassett-esque. If you have a spare £4k or so, you could snap it up!

There was nothing for it after the exhaustion of admiring all that loveliness than to repair to Pat Val, as it is affectionately called, to top up the sugar and calorie quota!

Well, it would have been rude not to!


  1. Goodness I love Liberty. I spent half my teen years in there buying up printed fabrics to make shirts and line vintage jackets and bags. I just love that place and could spend hours there. Your photographs are really beautiful. Glad you had a nice time.

  2. I just adore Liberty, i did have a good cry when they left King street in Manchester.....i bought so many things in the closing sale....the fabric is personal fave is the strawberry thief......i once found a vintage Liberty bangle in Oxfam...its one of my tresures!

    You have such interesting shopping trips, how i wish i could be nearer to London.....
    Did you happen to see any Magpie and the Wardrobe items? such as the necklaces or the fairies?
    I love her stuff and her house is adorable!

  3. What a fantastic day you had. Those cakes looked delicious. A well deserved reward after such a hard day!

  4. Wow thanks Hen for the great tour... I've never been as my OH doesn't want to hang around London on his own while I'm shopping!! CK is all I get. I really can't believe you can buy granny squares at £3.50 - my goodness how much would it cost to make a blanket!! I can almost hear my late gran having her say on this!! The flower corsages are may have given me an idea there....I let you know if it works. The cake shop looks good as well, I could just do with that now :)

  5. Oh Oh I love Liberty - I have to go there if I am ever in London! Those lovely blue shelving units look new since my last visit - lovely ribbons and buttons!!

  6. Wow what a wondefull looking shop, the sort of place you could get lost in for hours.
    I am on a mission to learn to crochet, my poor old gran, bless her, has forgotten and so I would love to be able to help her to remember.
    Those cakes look fab, hope you had elasticated waist trousers.....
    Take Care

  7. Wow what a great shopping trip, you may need to put me in you handbag and take me along next time :o). That Liberty fabric is gorgeous. xxxx

  8. I certainly learned something today - I've always heard of Liberty of London, and Liberty Prints, but I never knew it was an actual store! I always thought they were just fabric designs.
    Another place to add to my list of places to visit if I ever get to England.
    Thanks for the tour!


  9. Wow, what an amazing store. I am in awe over those chandeliers and lights. I can't believe you didn't buy more! I hope you splurged with a piece of cake. My sister and I would love a day of shopping like this!

  10. What a beautiful store Liberty must be to visit. I just will keep dreaming of the day I might get to visit London!!

  11. Ooh, Liberty is my favourite too and I haven't been for years. It is just so gorgeous isn't it? Sounds like you had a great time Hen xx

  12. Oh Hen, what a lovely few days you've enjoyed. I LOVE the Liberty Store in London but haven't been there for years and years. I remember growing up surrounded by Liberty Fabrics and being dragged along by mum when I'd rather have been in Hamleys!! things chance! It's my daughters now! Imogen would much rather have curtains in her play house with horrible 'Bratz' on, instead of the gorgeous vintage Liberty fabric that hangs there that I found in mums 'stash'!!!
    Thank you so much for transporting me back to the store...a trip to London is a must for the new year!!
    Jane. x

  13. Oh Hen, how funny to read your post, i alos spent a long time in Liberty on Saturday and one of my photos (of the lights) is almost identical to yours!!!! I'll try blog my version later, and will link to your post if thats ok cos actually you took far more (better) photos than I did.
    Thanks so much, you've made me smile =)

  14. Oh...I don't know if liked more Liberty or the cakes !


  15. I don't visit London very often, so its been lovely having a private tour of my favourite shop. Thanks


  16. Looks like you had a fantastic time! When I was seveteen my first job was in the West End actually round the corner from Libety's - guess where I spent my lunchtimes?

  17. I just found your blog and oh my those pictures. Wonderful, I've died and gone to heaven...

  18. Lucky lucky you. Two of my favourite places, Liberty and Pat Val all in one day *sigh*. You were also lucky to get photos inside Liberty as I have always been told that I wasn't allowed to take photos, maybe I shouldn't have asked, hehehe. Lovely images, delicious colours, thanks for sharing :-)

  19. I love Liberty too, it always transports me back to another time. As I work in London i'm lucky enough to be able to jump on the train after work and pay a quick visit although I haven't been for a while.

    Victoria x

  20. Goodness but you've been having a wonderful time! I love Liberty - it is such a beautiful shop.

  21. I was there last Thursday myself - I bought some lovely fabric, although I was tempted by most of it! It's such a shame that the staff in the haberdashery department were so rude, I hope that they were nicer to you!!.


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