A guide to all the fabric and bead stores on Queen West
The number of fabric and bead stores may be dwindling in Toronto, but if you have to head anywhere for cotton threads, silk jerseys, or gemstone beads, Queen West is the place to go.
Despite several closures over the years, Toronto's Fashion District—which stretches from Queen past King, between Bathurst and Spadina—is still home to just over ten shops supplying the craft-inclined with the tools they need to turn nothing into something.
The majority of these shops have been there for decades (there are better business investments these days than opening a textile store) but it's clear the landscape of the garment district is changing.
Fabrics and beads usually need to pass the touch-and-feel test before being bought—the advent of online shopping, however, has done a surprising number on Toronto's fabric and bead stores, propped up only by longtime sewers and George Brown and Ryerson students.
"We can feel the pain of online," says Linda Wen, owner of the fabric emporium Leo's Textiles.
Wen's mother, Susie Wong, first bought Leo's from her boss Leo Weinberg in 1989, expanding it from a 2,000-square-foot shop to a 3,000 square-feet, with a second location that has since closed.
Though the shop is still bustling on a weekday afternoon, with dress-makers digging through piles of bolts for the perfect material, Wen says a dip in new blood in the sewing industry has affected business too.
"Luckily, we still have very loyal clientele," she says. "But I think it will be no more after this generation."
The bead industry has taken a bit of a beating as well, thanks to Esty, says Emily Lau, whose family has owned Bling Bling for more than 15 years.
And Leo's Textiles isn't the only store to have down-sized in recent years: Arton Beads, a staple for BOGO deals, recently closed it second location, located next door, though one of the salespeople tells me with confidence, "Don't worry, we're not going anywhere."
Here's a rundown of all the fabric and bead stores still remaining on Queen West.
Located outside the main drag of fabric stores, this huge second-floor shop is a forest of fabric bolts that's been operating for more than 20 years.
This cramped shop has been offering Queen West fabric, thread, and zipper deals for over 45 years.
First opened in in 1955 by Leo Weinberg, this popular shop is now owned by Linda Wen and her mother. It has one of the biggest storefront windows in the area, making it an easy attraction for seamstresses looking for bridal-worthy fabric.
Opened in 1998 by William Wen (Linda's brother) this store focuses on drapery, blinds, and upholstery fabric for your home.
Owner Genady Daniel will proudly show you his wide-raning selection of fabrics like silk and bamboo jerseys, many of them from Europe.
This quiet store offers neat stacks of material, from wedding-friendly fabric to jerseys of all colour.
It's a cramped little space, mostly filled with bolts covered in plastic, but it's been a go-to for many over the past two decades.
Fresh water pearls and gem stones (not the plastic kind) are the specialty of this family-run shop, which has been operating for more than 15 years.
Recently acquired by a new owner, this downstairs store boasts sales on furs, linens, and silks. They also have a budding section of notions and buttons too.
This popular Japanese brand of ribbons and trim first came to Canada in 1987. Try not to buy all the pretty passementerie and lace offered at this pretty store.
If it's high-quality, all natural textiles you're looking for, this shop on the edge of the garment district sells fabrics like cashmere, alpaca, mohair, and angora.
Aside from having a phenomenal selection of quality wood bead strands, and selling owner Claude Abittan's handmade collection of jewellery, this store also smells great—big plus.
There's a generous selection of beads here, but the best part is its backroom, full of discounted gemstones, along with Pandora and Swarovski beads.
Seperated into two stores, you can recognize this store by its oil drums filled with rolls of fabric.
Chock full of pendants, sterling silver, and metal pieces, this popular shop often offers BOGO deals on Japanese cube beads and semi-precious stones.
This store's been selling a slew of machines, notions and fabrics since 1979. It's an authorized Brother sewing machine dealer, but you'll also find new models from Singer and other brands.
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