Monday, 14 August 2017

Shanghai & Silk

I recently had the good fortune to visit Shanghai - a business trip, but my sister in law recently moved there so I extended over a weekend to hang out.  To my delight she had done some research into fabric shopping, cue an excursion to the Shanghai Fabric Market.

What to expect?  The place is effectively a shopping mall over many floors (I didn't even go to them all) and basically the focus is on tailoring.  There is lots of fabric and lots of mannequins with tailormade clothes.  Most stalls are offering tailoring services - you pick the fabric and the style and they make it.  But most will also sell you the fabric- so don't be put off.  There are lots of different types of fabric- but suiting/wool and silk are the majority.  I personally didn't pay much attention to anything other than silk.  I wasn't planning on carrying heavy suiting fabrics around with me - but the beautiful silks, thats another matter!!    Just giving you a screen shot of photos from google of it to give you an impression:

The silks there were gorgeous.  Great quality and stunning designs- in lots of different styles. Be warned its not cheap cheap.  But for great silk, I found it acceptable.  I paid 200RMB per metre for most of these 3- which is around £22 p/m.      This is what a typical stall looked like...
I'm regretting not buying the bottom purple one...  I ALMOST did, but decided I'd spent to much.

Tip - have cash.  Across China credit cards are not so reliable (Everyone uses Wepay/Alipay  on their phone).  Tip 2- bargain.  They will be prepared to negotiate downwards a bit- in one place we got it from 260 to 200RMB  (maybe I still overpaid vs what a local might pay but I found it a fair price for the quality). By the way, didn't see any drinks places or anything, so take what you need...

So... onto my purchases!!  I bought 3 silks, all heavily patterned of course...because I just don't really do plains.

This first one has the feel of what I call a regular silk (sorry, I really should have better knowledge on how to describe the different ones!)  but its really quite thick & sturdy for a silk with a matt finish- so I m hoping it will be good to sew with.  I love the colours and little birds on it.  I m planning a skirt.
 This one is so, so soft with an amazing drape. I think it would make an amazing bias cut dress or maybe a blouse.

And finally this one is 97% silk with 3% stretch.  Its more shiny than the other 2 and lighter weight.  I just loved the design- so many details with all the flowers and little bugs in there - do you spot them?!  It looks designer, I feel like I've seen it somewhere... anyway its quite busy so I just bought 1 metre to make a top.

 I was so excited by this one, I cut into it the day I got home!!  After much thought on the plane, I decided to go for just a really straightforward top with a few ruffles.  I used my regular top block to make a simple shape with front darts.  I then made ruffles for the sleeves and round the bottom with what I had left!!    I would have preferred to finish the top with a facing but I didn't have any fabric left so I used a contrast bias binding for the armholes and neck - which works ok actually.

I'm super happy with this top- I m sure I will wear it lots.  The silk feels amazing and actually to my amazement it was a dream to sew! I actually avoid sewing silk- my previous adventures have been frustrating and difficult (silk pulling out of shape, impossible to unpick, pins plucking it...) but this first one was perfect to work with- maybe thats a sign of quality!  

So to round up, what were my overall thoughts on Shanghai?  I really liked it.   It was a short visit, but I found people really friendly and with the help of a smart phone, getting by was much easier than I expected.  Of course it was wonderful to catch up with my sister-in-law and have a guide who had already found some great places too!   We ate some amazing food- they have a great selection of brunch places and all the regular types of food you would expect in such a major city- and some brilliant bars.  It feels a really safe place to walk around and has a real buzz about it.  I found people had a real sense of living in the now- a mindset that anything was possible and felt people really valued and embraced self expression.  Anything goes when it comes to fashion there!  But boy was it hot and humid!  The first day I was there we had tropical storms all day long (hence the amount of time I spent in eating & drinking establishments) and then it was nearing  40 degrees, with high humidity for the rest of my stay- and frankly, I m not designed for that climate!   Hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures with Chinese Silk & seeing my purchases. Any more tips for Shanghai let me know as I'm sure I'll be back there at some point in the future.
Estelle x