I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong over Easter and have some recommendations for my sewing, quilting and pattern making friends. If you desire a local quilt store experience, forget it. You’ll need to be much more of an adventurer than that, but there are ample rewards for getting down and dirty in the streets of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is like many other Asian cities and unlike my hometown Melbourne in that groups of merchants selling a particular item tend to be grouped together geographically. In Hong Kong, you can find goldfish street, funerary items street and so on.
The suburb of Sham Shui Po is where the wholesale fabric merchants are to be found. It’s an older part of town that’s crowded and gritty and fascinating. Well, it’s fascinating if you like that kind of thing. Hanging out with the fashionably clad ‘ladies who lunch’ in the fine eateries of Causeway Bay and Central is fun, too, but a different kind of fun. I enjoy both grit and glamour so I guess I’m well catered for in Hong Kong.
In addition to Sham Shui Po, other locations where you might find fabric are the Western Market (for silk) and the so-called lanes (Li Yuen Street East and Li Yuen Street West) in Central on Hong Kong Island. I’d recommend a visit to the lanes for the overall shopping experience and for fabric buying, but prices seemed steeper in the lanes. I didn’t visit Western Market on this trip, partially because I had found their silk prices silly on a previous visit, more than ten years ago.
I am indebted to Katherine Yeung for her blog post on where to find sewing materials in Hong Kong and Travellersyarn for her blog post on where to buy fabric, both of which I used to guide me on my journey to Sham Shui Po.
The wholesale fabric supply outlets on Ki Lung St appear to cater mostly to tailors and the garment industry and the minimum purchase is five yards. It’s hard to describe the range of the merchandise because there is simply so much of it. Each shopfront has hundreds, if not thousands of cards with fabric samples stapled to them. The composition of the fabric is written on the card and every colourway has a sample. Surprisingly to me, there wasn’t generally a bolt of fabric anywhere in sight, just the cards.
If you’re interested in a fabric, you take the card to the counter and get the price. I was amazed at how quickly the shop assistants were able to come back with a price, given the range of stock. There was clearly a good organisational system happening, but a very low-tech one, involving stock numbers, fabric samples and hard-cover notebooks. Prices seemed excellent, even including the tourist premium I imagine they apply. I didn’t buy from any of the wholesalers as I couldn’t think of a project requiring five yards of fabric so I am unable to report on whether bargaining is part of the purchase process, but I suspect it would be worth a try.
There were only a handful of shops selling actual yardage on a bolt but I did manage to pick up three yards of polished cotton from a street stall, which I considered a bargain at HKD 15 per yard. I plan to experiment with using the polished cotton instead of using of polyester or acetate lining for garments.
I also bought some wool suiting from a retail type-shop. I was told the suiting was wool, but, on reflection, I rather suspect it’s polyester-viscose. A burn test should sort that one out, and I’m still happy with the purchase. Sadly I can’t tell you the price, as I don’t remember what I paid.
In case you’re wondering about my carbon footprint (as I do), the universe has punished my carbon emitting ways with a dose of instant karma, in the form of an antibiotic-resistant ear infection which has kept me away from the office for the entire week following my return.
Maybe it’s time to cut back on the travel and stay in the relative safety of my sewing room for a while.