Valerie Dressmaker

The Village, Charlton, SE7

A tiny, hidden gem today, nestled in the shadow of Charlton House. I don’t get to go east instead of south or north as much as I would like but I noticed this curious little store during a night-time visit to The Big House and have taken this long to get back during daylight hours to check it out when the shutters are up.

It’s a quaint, old-fashioned wool and haberdashery shop – Andrekabu – sit up straight at the back there – which sells all manner of fabric-y frippery, knitting nonsense and novelty notions that are nigh-on impossible to find in this neck of the woods.

There’s a lot of wool. The whole of one wall is covered in shelves full of different types of knitting yarn, patterns pinned and pegged around the edges, jostling with printed tapestry kits. Actually, there isn’t a spare spot of wall left, after all the drawers of buttons, boxes of trimmings, trays of greetings cards, wheels of glass-headed pins, racks of ribbon and spools of thread. Tiny tubes of ribbon rosebuds, minute buttons for dollies’ clothes, cards of elastic and piles of Vilene. Not much of any one particular thing, but a wide range of types of thing. And following the long tradition of these shops stocking wedding and party paraphernalia, nestled among the reels of cotton and lengths of lace, lie satin gloves and diamante tiaras. By the door, in between the knitting patterns for bootees and lengths of bobble-trimming for 1970s lampshades hang several garish feather boas.

Do you know that bit in Alice Through The Looking Glass where she visits the sheep’s shop? she can see through her peripheral vision that the shop is choc-a-bloc, but when she tries to focus on any one shelf it seems to be empty. I sort of get that feeling in this place. As I write this, in my mind’s eye, it is jammed with glass cabinets full of fake flower corsages, bargain bins full of remnants and shelves-to-the-ceiling full of intriguing-looking brown cardboard boxes with ageing tissue paper-wappings peeking out from their lids, but when I try to think of any one specific place, the vision becomes hazy.

What isn’t hazy is the middle-aged lady in a nylon housecoat sitting at an ancient sewing machine at the back. This, I presume, is the titular Valerie, and although she will stop her sewing to help you, she doesn’t immediately do so – you are left to browse, something I appreciate. She tells me that she does alterations and makes clothes to order – a handy little thing to remember, though she is adamant she is a dressmaker, rather than a tailor.

I was surprised to find this little place – somewhere well worth remembering when you need those funny little things that nowhere else will sell. More like something out of Wallace & Gromit than a London suburb, its just the kind of store that needs to be cherished. It’s right in the middle of Charlton Village, which means a bus ride if you don’t drive, but worth it just for the novelty value – and a chat with Valerie…

2 Comments to “Valerie Dressmaker”

  1. Bernie says:

    This shop is lovely and so is Valerie.She will help with any problems to do with knitting and whatever you need help with.BUT the shop is to close at the end of June 2010 and she will be missed.Not just because of a lack of places to buy wool but because of Valerie.

  2. [...] now that the wonderful Valerie Dressmakerhas ceased trading I’m a bit stumped for truly marvellous alteration tailors. The guy who sits [...]