My Shanghai stash: Shopping at Shi Liu Pu

Ladystitcher Shanghai stash

I brought very little fabric with me to Shanghai, so one of the first things I wanted to do here was to scope out the fabric markets. The more famous of the two biggest fabric sources in Shanghai is the South Bund market, but after some online research, I decided to check out its rival, the quieter and apparently less expensive Shi Liu Pu market, first. Both markets offer made-to-measure tailoring services and sell fabric by the metre.

There seem to be four floors at Shi Liu Pu, including the basement (the place is a bit of a labyrinth). There’s also a large area out the back of the second floor with a wider selection of wool and heavier fabrics. The market has an amazing range of silk, linen and cashmere, and there are several stalls which focus on denim and on jersey/knit fabrics, but there is very little cotton (that I could see).

Ladystitcher Shanghai stash 2

I tried to research prices online to get some idea what I should start from when haggling (I’m a terrible haggler) but the only notes I could find were on a 2011 forum post. So, I’ll include what I paid for the fabric in case anyone out there needs a more recent reference BUT bear in mind that I don’t speak Chinese yet and that really has a big impact on the price.

The plaid wool (medium weight, 40 yuan/Eur5 for 1m) shown in the top photo is destined to become a nice warm Delphine skirt, though I’ll have to source some lining first. The bow fabric beside it(2.5m for 80 yuan/Eur10) feels like a soft viscose/cotton blend and has a lovely drape, so could be good for another Myrtle, once I get a printer up and running for the ol’ pdfs.

The red jersey knit and the rose-patterned heavy ponte were each 90 yuan/Eur12 for 2m, and the floral viscose was 50 yuan/Eur6.50 for 3m.

On the one hand, I’m sure the prices will come down when I can actually negotiate in Mandarin and not just via a calculator app, but on the other hand, everything came in much lower than  I expected and at prices I was happy to pay.

I also made a quick trip to the notions market (one thing about shopping here is that so many stores and kiosks seem to be very specialised – so the fabric stalls generally only sold one or two types of fabric, and they didn’t sell any notions. In the notions market, generally the guys who sell zips only sell zips, or the button guys only sell buttons etc). At the notions market, the white lace and the wide black stretch lace in the photos above were each about 5 yuan a metre, and I bought a mixed bunch of a dozen invisible 22″, regular 22″ and short zips for 10 yuan.

To get to the markets:

Shi Liu Pu is on the corner of Dongmen Road and Renmin Road: take the metro to Yuyuan Garden, exit onto Fuyou Road and go east along that street until you hit Renmin Road. Go south on Renmin Road until you get to the junction of it and Dongmen Road (the market is a huge warehouse and it has a big sign on it at that corner with the name in English). It’s a 15-20 minute walk from the metro.

The notions market is on Renmin Lu: metro to Yuyuan Garden, take the exit for Renmin Road and head east along that road (it’s around 388 Renmin Lu, close to South Sichuan Road). It’s a 10 minute walk from the metro.

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Hold up…! Preparing projects and building a fabric ‘directory’

I’ve hit a bit of a snag recently with my sewing – for the want of materials!

My New Look 6000 project is currently in limbo while I source a matching zip (!). I’ve never had this much difficulty with zips before and thought I had a matching zip before I started sewing, but realised when I went to inset it that it’s quite a strong colour and I don’t want the zip to be so much of a feature. (I went with a blue zip to match the cross stripe, but it’s a bit too bold in zip form.) I haven’t had any luck since in sourcing a cream or nude zip that will sit in nicely against the dress fabric.

Meanwhile, I keep coming across lots of blog posts and articles about how to organise a fabric stash or proposals for ‘stash-busting’ projects to help cull unwieldy unused piles of fabric, but my problem is getting hold of fabric in the first place!

The main issue for me is the lack of good-quality and affordable dressmaking fabric in Ireland. I much prefer to check the fabric in person before buying to better assess the quality, which makes online purchases either pretty risky or really delayed (if waiting to check swatches and samples before buying).

So, in an attempt to tackle this, I’ve decided to build myself an ongoing personal fabric directory so that I can start planning projects a bit earlier and build a better knowledge of different fabrics.

I used myfabrics.co.uk for the first time recently, buying some soft grey suiting that I figured I could find various uses for if it proved unsuitable (no pun intended…) for making clothes. The site gives five free samples with every order, so I ordered five different samples for fabrics I thought might work with patterns I have ready to use. And those five samples led to me ordering some navy gabardine and soft black cotton over the weekend – and another five samples.

The first batch of swatches from Myfabrics.co.uk

The first batch of swatches from Myfabrics.co.uk

By compiling all of these samples and bits and pieces of fabrics that I’ve been working with before, I’m planning to build up a (gradually!) comprehensive personal directory for planning future projects. I think it will be a lot easier to buy fabric online if I have a better understanding of what the different mixes feel and look like.

I’ve already begun compiling notes and fabric suggestions for a bunch of patterns I have waiting in the wings but which I haven’t been able to source materials for via fabric shops in Ireland:

Planning...

Planning…

Sewing resources in Ireland

Fabric stores are few and far between in Ireland, limiting a sewer’s options for finding interesting and inspiring materials. With that in mind, I’m compiling a list of each one that I come across as a resource to come back to later when planning or executing different projects. I’ve spent more time as a sewer in Dublin than the rest of the country so I’ll start there:

Dublin

The Cloth Shop – lovely (though limited and quite pricey) range of fabrics at this South King Street shop. They stock a decent range of notions, especially zips and bias bindings, and lots of lovely Colette patterns. Their website is more of an intro to their business rather than a comprehensive resource for ordering from the store.

Fabric Select – impressive range of fabrics in a rather small shop on Parnell Street. Awkwardly, the prices aren’t marked on anything, which can mean a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the shop staff. They do have a good remnant bin under the stairs though which can be well worth a rummage (the prices tend to be marked on that stuff, alright). Website is pretty rudimentary, but they seem to be quite thorough with phone queries.

Floppy Fabrics – based in Booterstown, this shop focuses on quilting and home fabrics rather than dress fabrics. I haven’t been in store in person, but their website carries comprehensive listings of their stock.

Hickeys – the Stephen’s Green branch closed a few years back, leaving the Henry Street store as their sole Dublin city centre outlet. They also have branches in Galway and Limerick, but I’m not very familiar with them. The Henry Street shop is brilliant for notions as well as all manner of sewing and knitting tools. Their dress fabric range leaves a lot to be desired though, being (apparently) primarily aimed at home ec students and costume-makers. Their website is pretty abysmal.

Murphy Sheehy – Interesting range of fabrics at this small Castlemarket shop (set between the Powerscourt Centre and George’s Street Arcade). Their fabric turns over fairly regularly, so it’s worth keeping an eye on them now and again, and they have really good sales on whatever manages to last long enough in stock. Their Facebook page is marginally better than their website, given that it’s more regularly updated with new fabric arrivals. (Neither is a great reflection on the stock, though.)

Sligo

The Crafter’s Basket – I haven’t been in person yet, but they have a good online resource for sewing and knitting supplies. Their website is a bit clunky, but it’s by far the most comprehensive in terms of listing the store’s wares that I’ve come across in Ireland.

Galway

Hickeys – based in Galway city centre. They stock a good range of notions and a decent selection of wool and sewing and knitting patterns, but, as with the Henry St branch, their fabric selection is a tad grim.