Islington is a treasure trove for lovers of all things Arts & Crafts. From buying the best materials to learning tricks of the trade, Nicola Baird of islingtonfacesblog.com picks out 17 of the very best
Cass Art is an inspiring art shop where the student, amateur artist and professional mingle over three floors at the Islington flagship store. Huge range of papers, how-to-draw books and art materials (such as wooden boxes, spray mount and deco-patch). Cass Art hosts occasional free and ticketed classes (approx. £15 including materials) for kids and 18+, including monthly life drawing classes held after the store shuts. Open seven days a week at 66-67 Colebrooke Row N1 8AB (cassart.co.uk).
Upper Street Hardware has the most basic supplies – from glue gun to paint cleaners. Because it’s for DIY enthusiasts it can also be a good place for tips on how to use what you think you want to buy. Find it at 204 Upper Street N1 1RQ.
If you’re organising party bags, craft activities or child-friendly school events two little-known wonder stores, a little further away, are Galaxy Wholesalers (open every day except Saturdays) at 15-19 Benwell Road, off Drayton Park N5 (galaxywholesalers.com), but call first to check opening times and entry rules (eg, no kids). Wools and Crafts at 169 Blackstock Road N4 is smaller but is crammed with knitting equipment, tapestry materials, marquetry kits and specialist craft tools (woolsandcrafts.co.uk).
The Only Place for Pictures at 216 Upper Street (theonlyplaceforpictures.co.uk) offers framing and the chance to buy your own bit of original art. You can get framing done at the theatrical-looking Frame Factory at 20 Cross Street (framefactorylimited.co.uk), or treat yourself to a quality canvas print at Hanway Print Centre at 102-106 Essex Road (hanwayprint.com). There is also a branch of Snappy Snaps at Angel and Highbury Corner, both open on Sundays (snappysnaps.co.uk).
John Jones by FinsburyPark station (just a quick ride on the 4 or 19 from Angel) often holds jumble sales of art equipment including stretchers. Years ago it used to swap canvases for framing jobs, which is why it is able to display a real Francis Bacon, David Hockney etc. Look out for seminar programme (johnjones.co.uk).
Business Design Centre is a hive of creativity units, but for crafty workshops run for people who might want to set up their own kitchen table business visit their specialist events, such as the Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair (12-16 November 2014) or Country Living Magazine Spring Fair (March 2015) (businessdesigncentre.co.uk).
Folklore is where you should go to remind yourself to keep whatever you make simple. Check out their beautiful wood stool, dyed with squid ink and many other delights at 193 Upper Street (shopfolklore.com).
Candid Arts Trust runs life-drawing courses (Monday–Saturday), and holds fantastic contemporary art and design exhibitions: get yourself on the mailing list. There’s also an eccentric café space at their building at 3-5 Torrens Street EC1 1NQ (candidarts.wordpress.com).
Little Angel Theatre is an atmospheric puppet emporium where you can learn how to make a puppet and move a marionette. Saturday and summer holiday classes for 2-4-year-olds, 5-11s, 11-17s and adults. See course info at littleangeltheatre.com and do visit at 14 Dagmar Passage, off Cross Street.
How about learning to paint castles and roses in the approved canal boat style? The London Canal Museum course starts 12 October 2014, at £30 per person, at 12-13 New Wharf Road N1 (canalmuseum.org.uk).
SMUG is a lifestyle shop, but up its yellow-striped stairs on Sundays it holds courses run by some of the makers whose work is stocked. You could learn how to make a piece of jewellery or develop your gift-making skills – a recent sell out was the guinea pig and pineapple printing workshop for £10 per person. Also has an artsy café in the basement. Open Wed-Sun at 13 Camden Passage (ifeelsmug.com).
Loop is next door at 15 Camden Passage. Enter and at once feel you could conquer any knitting or crochet problem. You might even be tempted to join in conversations peppered with phrases like ‘Aran’ or ‘hand-painted yarn’. Plus the selection of buttons and skeins of wools are begging to come home with you. Loads of classes are held at Loop including beginner knitting, sock knitting and even darning workshops. Open Tues-Sun (loopknitting.com).
Ray Stitch is a modern haberdashery. It has a beautiful range of fabrics, buttons and trims. In the basement join excellent entry-level and specialist courses such as how to use a sewing machine, make soft toys, pattern cutting and quilt making. If the muse strikes you can also hire a sewing machine for £10 an hour or browse the pattern books with a cup of coffee and cake. Open Tues-Sun at 99 Essex Road N1 (raystitch.co.uk).