A visit to Merchant & Mills in Rye

merchant and millsWe’ve written about the wonderful haberdashery and sewing brand Merchant & Mills before, but last week while on a trip to Rye I got to visit the shop and readers, Middleagedad nearly had to throw a bucket of cold water over me I was SO excited by it. You may think this tragic but if you are a sewer, finding a shop that is stylish, inspiring and drop-dead gorgeous to look at is almost impossible. (There are some exceptions)

Many fabric and haberdashery shops have yet to move out of the early 1980s with their products, which is not their fault as we all started buying fast fashion rather than fabric so it became very difficult to survive as a business and many closed. Founders Carolyn Denham and Roderick  Field spotted a gap in the market in 2010 for timeless, stylish patterns around the time we all stopped fashion-binging -either because the funds had dried up or because it dawned on us how the clothes were made and why they were so cheap (talking to you, Primark) .

Now there’s a big Maker Movement happening all around the globe with a resurgence of interest in sewing and knitting and Merchant & Mills now finds itself in stylish sewing departments such as Liberty in London, as well a trendy shops such as Corso Como in Milan (chicest shop on the planet) and Love Adorned in New York, to name a few. Their extensive selection of every type of pin and other essential-but-hard-to-find bit of sewing equipment is carefully sourced from mostly quality British manufacturers (some of the fancy pins are from France) and repackaged in beautiful boxes (designed by Roderick) to make them extremely appealing to people like me.

merchant and mills 07The lovely graphics and generous portions make everything very hard to resist….

merchant and millsThe card patterns are proper tailor-quality standard, lasting forever, although Carolyn told us they are launching paper patterns too, in late August, as these are easier to send through the post and are cheaper. The idea behind Carolyn’s collection of styles is a love of timeless, classic simplicity. Do watch the video below to understand the couple’s design aesthetic, it is a joy to behold. Also, don’t you love her hair?

The styles I saw in the store and immediately wanted to make were the Factory Dress, above left, which is a brilliant easy-fit shift dress, the Top No 64 long sleeved tunic top with pockets, seen below left in a soft wool gaberdine and the almost perfect summer sundress (below below right) which I’m not sure is on line, but is similar to the Panel Dress

merchant and mills 06Although the store is small, it has already attracted a cult following, including actor Bill Murray, who shopped when he was in Rye filming.

merchant and mills 04There are patterns for cushions and bags, such as the oilskin one above, as well as a range of understated, quality fabrics to make the patterns up in. And organic cotton thread.

merchant and mills 01The shop style is ‘industrial sewing chic’, like a factory after All Saints have come along and stripped out all the hand sewing machines, with a good ranges of stationery and notebooks too, I know, they really must have had me in mind when they thought it all up.

Visit the store if you can, it’s a gem and there’s all of Rye to see too. If not then check out the website and keep an eye out for those paper patterns launching soon. Now, where’s my needle and thread?


  • Helen says:

    Lovely!!! With a little bit of *direction*, I had a Christmas stocking filled with Merchant & Mills little boxes of notions – they are beautiful and make sewing an extra pleasure (great stocking fillers too!). Thanks for this glimpse of the shop and it’s inspiring owners.

  • Helen says:

    Ugh – a grocers’ apostrophe slipped in there thanks to autocorrect on iPad – meant to say ‘its inspiring &c’. xx

  • Amanda says:

    Glad you liked it Helen, I had to be virtually man handled out of the store….A

  • Monix says:

    That had me hyper ventilating too! What an amazing place, love the colours and graphics, have put Rye on the weekend away list.

  • Eva says:

    What an adrenaline rush, viewing all this, I’m drooling on my screen right now! especially love the cute factory dress!

  • Amanda says:

    Mon, it’s well worth a trip and you’d love Carolyn and Roderick, Elizabeth, what’s stopping you? get that shop organised! Eva, I loved the Factory dress too, and very keen to make it! A

  • Louise says:

    I was there (several times) last week too while staying with friends in Rye Harbour. I love their new shop space, and Rye itself which is well worth a visit.I have their Factory Dress pattern, but desperately need the time to make it up! And their selection of fabrics are lovely.
    They are working on a very exiting project with The Conran Shop. Shalln’t say any more as it’s not my place BUT you will hyper ventilate with exitement I’m sure when it materialises!!
    Have you been to Hendy’s Home Store in Hastings? Yet another shop on my list of shops I could move in to….. and they allow dogs….

    That part of the coast is well worth a visit. We had the most relaxing, inspiring time…..a week just wasn’t long enough!

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