Fabric shopping in Bali – Klungkung market and Jalan Sulawesi in Denpasar

Hello everyone! I took a little unintentional hiatus there. I’m not going to apologise, however, because starting a blog post with an apology about how long it’s been since you posted is even more boring than asking, during a monopoly game, ‘what if this money were real’?

I do have a bit of a backlog of makes, which I had initially intended to blog and schedule to go up while S and I were on holiday in Bali a couple weeks back. However, when it came down to it I… just didn’t want to. I’d been doing a bunch of sewing in prep for the holiday, because my summer wardrobe is a bit minimal, and I was also pattern testing (that post to come soon I hope) and I just ran out of steam for blogging. So I didn’t. No need to make blogging a chore, right? It’s a hobby, it’s supposed to be fun. I’ll get to those makes eventually, but I picked up a revolting cold on the plane back and now I’m back at work and not feeling very motivated to blog OR to sew. Honestly it’s nice to have a break, and it will all still be here later, when I feel like it again.

I thought, though, that I would do a quick post and tell you about the fabric shopping I did in Bali, because before I went I looked into it and found other people’s blog posts very useful. I also found that there’s much more from the point of view of quilters, so I thought some garment-fabric perspective might be good. I will apologise for my truly terrible photos in this post, though. I was quickly snapping them while buying stuff and they’re fuzzy and wonky and… well… I was focusing on the buying not the photographing! I’ve linked to the trip advisor pages for both locations and they have more photos if you’re curious, they give a pretty good idea of the places and what there is there to buy.

I hired a driver for the day – we had a day tour earlier and hired the same driver. We were thinking about doing shopping and then maybe something touristy on the way back, time allowing. In the event, S stayed home as he was a little unwell and I went by myself, so I ended up just doing the shopping.

Klunkung market

The first place I went was the Klungkung traditional markets. It’s ostensibly about 30 minutes from Ubud where we stayed but with traffic that was more like 45 minutes. I’m not sure if there is anything particular around the markets but we passed some attractions like the Elephant cave on the way (closer to Ubud), so if you were staying in Ubud and wanted to go, you could maybe fold it in to a trip to look at some temples. The scenery on the way was spectacular, too, frankly the drive itself was a wonderful experience.

The market was just amazing. It was PACKED with gorgeous fabric, woven traditionally (although not natural dyes) for about 1/3 of what you would pay for it elsewhere in Bali – which is again drastically cheaper than in Australia, if you could even find it. The most expensive fabric I saw was 120,000 IDR which is about AU$13 per metre.

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Just stacks and stacks and STACKS of gorgeous Ikat. There was also plenty of non-Ikat fabric. I bought two lengths of ikat, two of solid coloured fabric, and also a large scale gingham. There was also lots of stripes and checks and all kinds of patterns. Mostly shirting weight or a bit heavier.

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Here’s my haul. I had real trouble photographing those solids, the colour is so rich and the photos wash them out. They’ve got a bit of a shot cotton effect.

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I bought 5M of each of these solids thinking that would be enough to make a shirtdress but of course it’s woven on a traditional loom so they’re only 1M wide. I should still get some kind of dress out of that length, it might just have to be short sleeved and not have a giant pleated skirt. Perhaps another B6055? Whatever I make out of this will be glorious, the fabric has such a wonderful hand and the depth of colour is stunning.

The solids were something like IDR 60,000 (about AUD$7) per metre and the ikats were just under IDR100,000 (about AUD$11) per metre. A steal. The woman who I bought the majority of this from had very minimal English, but everyone in the market knew ‘how much?’ and ‘per metre’ and if things got hairy after that they would punch the number out on their calculator. As I was buying these a couple of French women were buying with only hand gesticulations, so language isn’t an issue. You can bargain, but I didn’t really bother because everything was already so cheap – a 50c per metre difference is not much for me but it’s a lot for the vendor. I did get an automatic discount for buying multiple lengths in one spot, which is a standard thing around Bali, so bear that in mind.

The Ikats, hanging out to dry
The Ikats, hanging out to dry. They were a bit stiff but softened up nicely with a wash.

I was actually so overwhelmed by the fabric that I didn’t even look at the other areas of the market! I will just have to go back another time… If you are considering going and you have the time during a stay in Bali, I would definitely recommend the Klungkung markets. Even had I not bought anything, I think it was worth it as an experience. I wish I’d had enough money to buy more of the stripes and planer fabrics because I think they would be excellent ways to work a bit more interest into a handmade wardrobe like mine, where I prefer solids but don’t want to be boring. I also wanted to get some Ikat with a black background to maybe make a shirt with Steven, but without him there I couldn’t find one I was sure he’d like, so I left them behind.

Jalan Sulawesi in Denpasar

The next stop was Jalan Sulawesi in Denpasar – the fabric street. This was about an hour’s drive or perhaps a bit more from Klungkung. If you’re already staying in Denpasar, or going there on a day tour, I would definitely recommend a stop over at Jalan Sulawesi. I spent just under an hour there and got some excellent stuff.

In the Trip Advisor photos it looks quite open and easy but my experience was that it was CRAMMED. The parking is down one end of the one-way street, and there were tonnes of cars. It was very hot and sunny, and the strip of shops have awnings pulled down to protect the fabric and people from the sun so it was a lot more claustrophobic than in the Trip Advisor pics. The shops themselves are just totally filled to the brim with fabrics, so you have to sidle through, the exception being the store selling quilting fabric, which is very open. I did stop and buy a jellyroll as a gift and it was reasonably priced and the fabrics look beautiful. However of course I was much more interested in the garment fabrics.

I found the first couple of stores a bit of a bust, lots of fussy prints and polyester. Some nice fabrics (lots of Liberty knock offs) but not to my taste. But further in there were some real gems. I find it hard, in Adelaide, to find good, solid basics, especially in bottom-weight fabrics. Here I found plenty, as well as lots of shirting weight cottons and linen in every weight and quality you could want!

The viscose I ended up buying
The viscose I ended up buying

I did find I got hassled a fair bit – there was a woman there who I think must be a bit of a broker for some stores because she followed me down the row trying to talk me into buying things at various stores. She did in the end talk me into some linen. She saw I was also interested in the viscose there but at that point I had run out of money and didn’t buy any. However after heading back to the car I decided that I would just go back to our resort rather than stopping for lunch, and that I would regret the viscose so I went back and spent my lunch money on it! The store owners seemed pleased that I was paying them directly, so I don’t know what that woman’s relationship with the stores was or if I did something very rude by not going through her. Honestly I found her very annoying and it made it hard for me to shop like I wanted to. Next time I would be more aggressive about refusing people like that and just doing my own shopping.

Viscose
Viscose selection

I spent the most in a shop a couple down from the quilting store. Partly because they had some really excellent basics, but also because they pretty much left me alone unless I asked a question. They had tonnes and TONNES of linen, and they also had swatch cards so you could flip through easily and then they’d find that one for you on the shelves. There was some lovely patterned linen that I lusted over but didn’t buy because I was mostly looking for solids. I did buy there two long lengths of ‘baby canvas’ – a rich warm beige and a black – and honestly I wish I had bought about 10m of each instead of 3 of the beige and 5 of the black. This is exactly the sort of thing I always want and is almost impossible to find here. It was about AUD$5 a metre. I bought this with my grandma in mind – she has asked me to make her a skirt but lamented the lack of good fabric. ‘What’s happened to gaberdine?’ she wanted to know ‘Where did gaberdine go?’ Good question, Grandma, I wish I knew the answer. Anyway I also got 5m of ‘supernova’ fabric for a shirtdress, although now it’s pre-washed I’m worried it might be a bit light for that. It’s like a very very light chambray. If it doesn’t become a dress it will be an excellent top of some kind. It was about AUD$4 a metre.

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My haul from jalan Sulawesi – plus the large scale gingham from Klungkung markets.  The two on the left are the baby canvas and the middle are linen and ‘supernova’ cotton – or maybe it was a cotton linen blend?

Swatch cards - very handy
Swatch cards – very handy

The store where I tool the most snaps was the one where I eventually caved and bought the linen – again to make a skirt for my grandma, if she likes it. I hope she does like it because it’s a bit too beige for me, but it’s a very lovely heavy, drapey linen. This store had a lot of nice linen also, higher quality than the other store and appropriately a bit more expensive. The linen was more like AUD$12 a metre. This is also where I bought the viscose and they had some really nice prints – a nano iro knock off and some nice botanical prints. I went with the ferns. No idea what it will be, I got 3M so that’s enough for a plain dress or a top maybe. It’s a nice weighty fabric. What would you turn it into?

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Look at all those linens! I am in lust with those stripes but I keep buying shirting weight fabrics in blue and white stripes so I’m not allowed any more until I make something with them!

Anyway. That was my haul and I only got about five stores down! Then I’d spent all my money and went home 😛 Another time I would like to go the whole length of the street before buying anything, which was my intention but then I started getting hassled and got flustered. It was quite overwhelming, lots of things happening and lots of choices, so be prepared. It absolutely was worth it for me because I honestly just don’t have access to those fabrics here, at least not within my budget. I didn’t see many knit fabrics – a few but not many – but who knows what was further down the street!

I was going to go to Alta Moda in Kuta as well, but given that with traffic it’s another 45-60 minutes each way, and that I’d already spent my money, I gave it a miss. I’ve heard it’s a wonderland, although more expensive. I bet I would have found some knits there. Perhaps next time.

Even considering the cost of the driver for the day, this came out at a very good price for fabric – especially for a fussy cheapskate like me! Got some good quality stuff at very low prices. I’ve managed to cram it into my stash but only because my pre-holiday sewing cleared up some room. I really really need to focus on sewing down that stash. I’m helped by the fact that the Spotlight in town has closed, so it’s much harder to get sucked in to sales prices for fabric I don’t really need. I’m hoping this will mean fewer, but better, stash acquisitions. There’s still Lincraft for notions and they have better basic fabrics and zips etc anyway, so it’s not like I’m deprived.

Anyway, I hope that was of use or interest to someone! Now I just have to start planning what to do with my haul…

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8 thoughts on “Fabric shopping in Bali – Klungkung market and Jalan Sulawesi in Denpasar

    1. Honestly, it was the highlight of the trip for me, partly because the fabrics are ones I know I’ll be excited to sew with, and will remind me of the rest of the lovely holiday! I’m glad you enjoyed the post – I always enjoy your travelling posts (especially the parts with the fabric shopping…)

  1. Ooooh…! I have never thought of Bali as a fabric shopping destination before. Now I suddenly want to go. Those ikats are gorgeous – particularly the floral one you bought. And such nice basics too. I’m definitely bookmarking this in case I ever make it to Bali.

    I really admire your attitude about haggling too. So true that the 50cents means so much less to you!

    1. To be honest it is probably almost as cost effective as paying shipping from some places! And to get Ikats that beautiful would be incredibly expensive otherwise. I am so in love with them. I kind of wish I’d bought more but I’m glad I stuck to my budget and also I don’t really need more stash! Is Bali on the way to Hawaii? 😛

      I don’t like feeling that the seller is being sneaky and ripping me off but also there is a lot of emphasis in Bali on giving a good price for ‘good karma’ because it’s a Hindu country. So surely the same should be true for me as a buyer, especially when it makes such a small difference to me. This way I get to feel good about my purchases, that’s certainly worth 50c to me! I haggled a lot when I lived in China and got quite good but to be honest I always hated it. I’d rather reach a mutually agreeable compromise 🙂

  2. Hi and thanks for your post, I enjoyed reading up on your experiences before going to Jalan Sulawesi to shop, although I have been there before. You are right, those ladies trying to get some money out of you by ‘introducing’ you to fabric shops are annoying, and you have every right to bypass them. Just tell them politely you are not interested.

    Thanks also for your write up on Klungkung markets, I have not been there before and appreciate the tip.

    I will be writing my own blog post on my fabric shopping in Bali, I hope you won’t mind if I include a link to your post for further reference?

  3. Very informative, thank you. As a male with zero fabric knowledge but wanting to have garments made while in Bali, would you recommend just skipping Jalan Sulawesi and hitting one of the big fabric shops like Alta Moda instead? Thanks

    1. Hi Jon, thanks for the comment! I didn’t go to Alta Moda so I’m not sure, but I have heard that Alta Moda has a clothes making service attached. That might be an easier and safer bet. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were tailors etc around Jalan Sulawesi but I’m afraid I don’t have any knowledge about that. From my experience living overseas in China, if you don’t know the lay of the land or speak the language you are often better going to the bigger places that are more used to dealing with foreigners. You are likely to pay a fair bit more but still much less than you would in a Western country, and you are also more likely to get what you want out of it. Going somewhere where the locals go is riskier in terms of outcome, you’re often just working from different assumptions than the local people are and it can be hard to reach an understanding unless you’re very fluent with the language and culture.

Whadya reckon?

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