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About two weeks ago, Dan and I found ourselves with some vacation days to use and nowhere to go. After a quick consultation with our trusty advisor “The Internet” we had bargain flights and posh hotels booked and took off to Rome the following day. (Now, before you open your mouths to complain that Selfish doesn’t deserve the charmed life she leads, I should mention that this was no dream vacation. We were called back home after 3 days due to an emergency followed by a tragic and heartbreaking loss that I can’t even bear to talk about here, and that I wouldn’t wish upon any of my dear readers!)

Rome, as you may know, is home to something really big. Something amazing, huge, epic, and legendary that you can’t see anywhere else in the world. It’s so enormous, it’s monumental. One might even say it is … COLOSSAL.

That’s right, I’m talking about Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti.

Bassetti Tessuti (try saying it five times fast) claims to house upwards of 200,000 bolts of fabric. Selfish, as it turns out, is not good at visualizing large numbers of things. She know that she is 100 times awesomer than anyone she knows, and 1,000 times meaner. But what does 200,000 bolts of fabric mean?  How many bolts are displayed in your average Jo-Ann?  2000?  10,000? What about the big Vogue fabrics flagship store in Evanston, IL?  20,000?  50,000?  What about Mood in NYC? 100,000?  500,000? Seriously, I had no idea.

Well, after visiting Fratelli Basseti Tessuti (NY Times article here), I feel fairly sure that I had never before seen 200,000 bolts of fabric in one place. The place is an endless maze of rooms packed from floor to (very high) ceiling with bolts and bolts of Italian milled fabric. Room after room after room. Need some sweater knit?  Here’s just one of multiple walls of the stuff:

Or perhaps you need some wool suiting?  There’s a whole room’s worth:

And one for cotton shirting:

Just shirting here in this room, by the way.  All the prints and other assorted cottons have their own rooms. And if you need something really posh?

Let’s take a closer look at this, shall we?

Versace, Gianfranco Ferre, Armani, Valentino, and other names I’d probably recognize if I were fancy enough to shop that room of the store.

This should have been heaven for Selfish, but as wonderful as the store is, I found it quite overwhelming. (Though lately I find even Mood and New York Elegant fabrics overwhelming, which is why I seem to spend most of my NY time at the more manageable Metro and Paron.) There’s no junk to be had at Bassetti- this stuff is high quality, and it looked like most (if not all) of the fabrics were Italian. I certainly didn’t find bargains either (though to be fair I only took a close look at about .0001% of what they had.) Wool coating and suiting looked to be upwards of 100 Euros per meter, and I didn’t even go near the silks or cashmeres. Selfish, who usually leaves no bolt unturned, was so intimidated by the sheer number of rooms and volume of fabrics, that she resorted to shopping by gut. If it didn’t catch my eye immediately on the wall, I moved on.

So what did I get? Surely even an overwhelmed and intimidated Selfish doesn’t leave a fabric monument empty handed. I ended up splurging on two pieces of beautiful stretch cotton sateen. Cotton sateen may not sound like a splurge fabric, but Bassuti prices put it somewhere upwards of Liberty fabric, albeit lower than Marimekko yardage. So we’re talking some posh cotton for a vacation splurge. And even though 200,000 bolts were vying for my attention, I did something that I never do- I bought the same fabric in two colorways – fuchsia and aqua. I just couldn’t decide which was more stunning and would make you more envious.

Although cheerful florals are rare in my stash, I have noticed that I have a particular weakness for florals without greenery. I find them somehow modern and edgy in a way that cuts the usual sweetness of floral prints. I just noticed that most of the floral prints in my stash are leaf-free.

The service here is very nice, with plenty of staff around who will gladly scurry up ladders to pull down the bolt all the way up top that you think could be pretty. And they don’t hold a grudge if it turns out that you’re not that into it. Interestingly, you pay for your purchases at this old school bank teller-esque window while a guy at another table holds your fabric hostage:

A mere two blocks from Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti, I also discovered the charming Fatucci Tessuti (try saying THAT five times fast), a much smaller store at Via dei Falegnami 63. It appears they have yet to invest in a sign.

The store is smaller, but it still boasts a lovely selection of high quality Italian fabrics. And the prices are much more splurgeable, as you can see:

Boiled wool coating at 18 Euros per meter, silks for 13 Euros per meter, etc. I love how they have it written up like a café menu. The proprietor was very helpful and I found this fabric shopping experience to be much more comfortable. Here are some of their silks and other offerings:

So what did I come out with?  Surprise, it’s another greenery-free floral cotton!

This cotton is so smooth and silky and crisp it feels like a light taffeta. Using my broken Italian (which is actually better suited to fabric shopping than any other kind of shopping in Italy due to having read quite a number of La Mia Boutique issues) I first asked whether it was rayon because it was so smooth and sheen-y. Nope, 100% Italian cotton. I was drawn to it because these “tribal” prints are so popular and modern-looking right now.  Though I don’t like referring to them as “tribal” because maybe actual tribespeople who read my blog are like, “Pfft. That’s not tribal.  That’s fake tribal.” Hello, tribal readership- thanks for visiting The Selfish Seamstress!

After returning home, I discovered as I often do that the newest fabric in the stash is the most exciting. Out came one of the sateens and Simplicity 2473 (previously made up as the English Tutor Dress). Apologies- they’re not the best photos and the skirt is a little wrinkled from wearing, which I didn’t notice until after taking the pictures:

I wanted the midriff in a black contrast fabric. I found some black suiting remnants in my stash that I think are a poly or perhaps poly rayon blend.  This seemed like a good idea because it had a little bit of a smooth sheen to it that I thought would go better with the sateen than a black wool flannel or other matte suiting.  I’m not sure about it now though because it’s also got a little bit more drape than I was expecting, which causes the midriff to sag a little bit, making it look sort of like a cummerbund.

The slim skirt variation is shaped more like a straight skirt than a pencil skirt- it doesn’t taper to the knees. So I ended up skipping the back vent as there is plenty of walking ease (plus the stretch in the fabric). I also skipped the neck and arm facings and instead went for a full lining in ivory rayon (again, wrinkled from wear- sorry):

Here’s the back view- I used an invisible zipper:

And finally, here’s this shot that I took of myself sitting – I thought it would look all elegant and dreamy, but what it really does is make my *size 5* feet look huge!

I’ve got ideas for the “tribal” print though it may be a while until I get around to it. I’m not sure what I want to do with the aqua version of the floral sateen though, as I want it to be substantially different from the fuchsia version. Maybe something full-skirted and sundressy- something to wear on my next Italian vacation.

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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