Buying Fabric in Hong Kong

A Star Ferry Boat crossing Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour

The Iconic Star Ferry on Hong Kong Harbour

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.

Cards with Fabric Samples for Wholesale Purchasing

Sample Cards

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.

Street Stall with Fabric on the Bolt

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.

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14 responses to “Buying Fabric in Hong Kong

  1. The things I miss while busy with budgets!

    Your shopping trip sounds wonderful! Hoping you are feeling better!

    • That trip to the fabric district was one of the highlights of the trip.

      I am feeling better thank you but it’s been a slow recovery. On the plus side, I am feeling lighter as this illness has helped me shed a couple of kg. It’s not the ideal weight loss strategy, but it’ll do.

  2. How many metres/ yards of fabric did you end up bringing home? Can we have a picture, please? :)

  3. How does China’s and Ja[an’s cultural history affect their choices in fabric? When I think if Japan I think of the silk used for the kimono, and the quilts used in the traditional homes – are there different weightings used at various times of the year for instance? (like there are different tog levels for duvrts?)

    • Tough question. It’s been many years since I was in Japan but when I was there in the 80’s there was plenty of traditional fabric to be had – both silk kimono fabric and cotton fabric for yukata (an informal kimono made with indigo dyes.) I went to classes to learn to make my own yukata and when it was finished I wore it to a traditional festival and in a fashion parade in a large department store in Kobe – my one and only catwalk experience.

      I didn’t see anything in the fabric district of Kong Kong that could be described as traditional. In that area, it was all about supporting the needs of the Western style garment industry.

  4. Thx. Your guidance is of great help. I am a quilter from India. My husband is traveling to hong kong tomorrow. He should be able to pick up some fabrics on your guidance.

  5. Do you have any suggestions on where one might find fabric paint or dye in Hong Kong? Thank you!

    • I’ve seen posts on the internet that indicate Wing On has fabric dye. Other than that, a visit to Sham Shui Po is still worthwhile, just for the exploration fun. If you can bring some pictures of the supplies you want, you can show them to shopkeepers and ask if they either have the items or can direct you to someone who does. You have to be persistent but it might just pay off for you, as it did for me.

    • I’ve been looking for dye too and heard that Artland in Wanchai do fabric dye – 3F lockhart centre 301-307 Lockhart Road. You can check it out online, the dye is listed under “crafts” http://www.artland.com.hk

  6. Let me introduce myself, I am currently representing a few cotton mills locally in Thailand and internationally in Japan. Currently, we mainly produce cotton poplin prints and plain dyeds.

    Recently we just started manufacturing and supplying Jelly Rolls, Fat Quarters, and pre cut fabric with our designs to various quilting groups in United Kingdom, America, and various other locations worldwide.

    We are still relatively new in the quilting society but our designs are fresh and internationally known. If you are interested please don’t hesitate to contact us personally for further assistance.

    Please visit our website http://www.pennycottons.com to see some our latest designs for our Jelly Rolls and Fat Quarters.

    Warmest Regards,

    Karan
    Email: pennycottons1@gmail.com
    Website: http://www.pennycottons.com
    Twitter: @PennyCottons
    Facebook: pennycottons1

  7. did you ever find out if the suiting was real wool or not? im going to hong kong and hope to find wool flannel for a suite and would really appreciate it.

    • I’m reasonably confident my fabric was polyester viscose, though I never did the burn test I’d had in mind to try. Hope you enjoy your trip to Hong Kong and good luck finding the wool flannel. I’m sure it’s available.

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