Uncovering Brussels

Every time I think I have a handle on this city, I discover another part or element to it that surprises me all over again. Yesterday I took a trip up to the north of the city, to visit K°rakol  Patchwork Fabrics Shop, not far from where I used to live when I first moved to Brussels. It’s been a gorgeous weekend here, as if winter was already a thing of the past. (In Ireland, we’re used to spring appearing from the start of February and celebrate Imbolg on 01 Feb. However, in Brussels spring traditionally doesn’t arrive until mid-March (it’s a different climate apparently… So the Belgian tells me…) so it’s very strange to be sitting here in my workshop, in a cardigan and light dress with the sun streaming in the open window!) On my way up to K°rakol, the Basilica looked magnificent on top of its hill in the spring light.

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I was told about K°rakol few times and it seemed like my kind of place – a shop & workshop focusing on patchwork with a range of special patchwork fabrics and accessories. I was not disappointed!! I arrived around midday to an enthusiastically warm welcome from owner and patchworker Sophie. There were a few people in the shop at that point and it was never empty the whole time I was there, with customers and friends popping in to pick up a piece of fabric, use the machines in the central workshop station, or just have a chat with Sophie. The atmosphere was consistently warm and welcoming, which I believe radiates from Sophie and permeates the whole building and surround.

IMG_1380I’m absolutely not exaggerating when I say that Sophie is possibly the most enthusiastic person I’ve met since arriving in Brussels. She’s passionate about fabric, passionate about patchwork, passionate about colour, passionate about Brussels… In fact, there’s very little Sophie isn’t passionate about! And her enthusiasm shows in the shop itself. Finished and half-finished works spill over every surface and the shelves are a riot of colour and texture, every patchworker’s dream!

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Having started working on patchwork projects herself when she was about 11 years old, Sophie is self-taught and continued to develop her skills at home. She has spent quite some time in the US studying traditional methods and styles but is a devout innovator and has no intention of sticking to the rote styles that can be quite limiting in the traditional sector. Her pieces use the intricate techniques but her style is distinctly modern with pops of colour.

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Sophie is determined that everybody can learn even the most difficult techniques and that everybody who comes to her workshops are fans of patchwork, even if they don’t realise it at first! She offers a monthly open evening for people to come and work together in a relaxed environment (second Friday of the month) and also gives workshops during the week and is always happy to share her knowledge and experience at any moment.

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If you are at all into fabrics and textiles it is well worth dropping in and checking out the range and meeting Sophie. Her enthusiasm will leave you with the desire to pull out your cutting board and machine as soon as you get home. Or even sit down right there in the shop and dig in with the other enthusiasts! There are details on the website of upcoming workshops, should you have the time to learn a new technique at her expert hand! My only regret is not checking my camera battery before I left home, so I only have these few photos! D’oh!

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When changing trams on the way to visit K°rakol I ran through a square that I haven’t seen before and there on the corner was the most incredible haberdashery! It was closed at the time, and there was no name on the door, no signs in the window with info, nothing. Shame, I thought. There was a gorgeous little cafe beside it called Kitchenette and I made a note to drop in on the way back. As it turned out Kitchenette was closed when I was on my way home (it looks adorable so is on my list for future visits!), but the haberdashery was open! I stopped in and was presented with a wonderful treasure trove of all accessories imaginable to button and ribbon lovers!

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I spoke briefly to the owner who was friendly and informative – not something that is frequently encountered in Brussels, I’m afraid. Customer service in some of the long standing establishments is something of an afterthought… So imagine my delight when this lady started telling me that they have much much more than what I could see in the shop (the buttons! Oh! the buttons!!) and that if I’m ever looking for something, to come in with whatever piece I’m working on and she will help me find the missing elements. All of this before I even opened my mouth. The place is called Le De d’Or and doesn’t have a web presence but I’ll add the details to my Discover Creative Brussels list asap (that’s it there on the corner in the picture above – totally inconspicuous!)

Oh I love exploring Brussels!!

a x

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