An alternative textile tour of Portsmouth

11 March 2012

Which is another way of saying, this is how I spent my Saturday.

Despite the fact that I am having to miss the next C&G event (shibori and indigo dying) because of work, having lots of sketchbook ideas buzzing around in my head, and lots of horrible looming deadlines for the day job, I still managed to find time to accompany designer son on a trip into deepest darkest Portsmouth to find some reference material for his next collection (and we only just seem to have got the last one out of the way).

Portsmouth, and in particular Southsea, has so much going for it.  But I think that the problem is that it is not all in one place and difficult to find if you are not a local.

First of all there is Gunwharf Quays.  Actually, to be fair, Gunwharf has sort of put Pompery - Portsmouth to it's friends - on the map.  Built on what was an old Vosper and Thornycroft site, it is really a discount shopping village - but by the sea!  And it is a fantastic place to be on a sunny Saturday. Unlike many rather depressing shopping venues, Gunwharf does have a bit of pazazz.

Then there is The Royal Dockyard.  It would probably be more accurate to say that the Royal Dockyard, or at least the Royal Navy, really put Pompey on the map. If crumbling ships ( think HMS Victory) are your thing, then you would love this place.

But, the mainstream delights of Portsmouth were not our destination.  Oh, no.  We were headed for the slightly more risque sites of Southsea, and in particular Sabre Sales and the Albert Road.

Sabre Sales cannot be described in words.  I will let the pictures do the talking, but there is just no where else like it.   It is three shops plus the flat above and a warehouse behind on 2 floors stuffed (there is no discernible order) with, well, stuff.  But military stuff!  And not just British, though that seems to dominate.

Here is one of the quirky windows.  (You can just make me out behind).

And here is a pile (literally!) of jumpers and jackets in the warehouse.  It is as if the uniforms from Dunkirk have been dropped into the middle of Portsmouth.

And here is a wonderful set of Arctic Longjohns!

And then on the top floor of the flat, Afghan fatigues anyone?

And then piles of boots and shoes in the cellar, if you are brave enough to go down there.

Plus some random firemens helmets!

Billy cans and gas masks

We found parka jackets, combat trousers, combat shorts, bomber jackets and two amazing bags as reference material for the next collection.  (And we discovered that NATO has it's own sizing!)

And then, for a bit of sanity (and fuelled by carrot cake ), we strolled the mile or so to the Albert Road.

where you can find quirky junk shops (I want those scissors), amazing second hand book shops, and the wonderful Wedgewood Rooms.


  1. Thank you for sharing these photos! The shop with the scissors seems fun. Love the colors of the different buildings. I once lived in London and visited Portsmouth when my cousin's ship came to port there.

    Best, Kyra

    1. A number of American navy ships visit Portsmouth - mostly they are too big to get into the harbour and have to moor out in the bay! The sailors are ferried in by the local Gosport Ferry!

      Thanks for stopping by. I have had a quick look at your blogs - they look really fascinating. I will drop by again.


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