Fabric Shopping Extravaganza!

Fabric shopping…boring…I can hear you! But you don’t know that for high school graduation my parents gave me a sewing machine. My sister and I grew up with fabrics. She actually learned how to sew and continues to this day making beautifully crafted outfits, slipcovers, draperies. She even did a stint sewing leather backpacks and handbags for awhile. She’s gifted. Me? I just love fabrics, the colors, the textures and how they work together to create drama.

So when Nina mentioned that Denpasar had rows of shops full of beautiful fabrics and cheap prices, well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!

There was just one problem…transportation. Nina is a motorbike pro, but even she was daunted by the idea of navigating the traffic of Denpasar with me on the back. And she wasn’t certain she could find the place. That’s when our excursion became a family affair. Sudi knows the way. It was decided that Ketut would take me and follow Sudi, Nina, and Dewi (who skipped school to come along). My protests at disrupting the whole family’s schedule were overruled. So this morning, bright an early, we set out.

Ketut, Sudi, Nina, and Dewi

Ketut, Sudi, Nina, and Dewi

It was a beautiful morning in Ubud, but Denpasar, on the coast, is hotter than our higher altitudes so we wanted to get an early start.

Wide open stretches of gold and green paddies under blue, blue sky

The path wound through rice paddies under a blue, blue sky

Sudi knows a shortcut that bypasses the construction snarls around the airport. It was a tranquil stretch of ‘motorbikes only’ paved pathway through the rice fields. I asked Ketut if he would remember how to get here if we wanted to come again. He laughed. I think that was a no.

If you’re wondering why I was keen to buy fabric when I already confessed that I am not a seamstress, here’s another secret. Balinese tailors can take a sketch of a design along with an article of clothing that fits well, and work absolute magic. To say that the labor is reasonable would be a gross understatement. I’ll just leave it at that.

After the rice fields the city came on full force. We were at a stop light and Nina pointed and shouted, “There’s KFC!”

There's KFC!

There’s KFC!

And sure enough, there it was, Kentucky Fried Chicken. In the next breath she had her other arm out pointing to the opposite side of the street. “And there’s McDonald’s!” I suddenly had a McFlurry craving, but it passed.

The Colonel in Bali

r The Colonel in Bali

In spite of many distractions, Sudi drove directly to the shops and Ketut was never more than a bike length behind him despite the insane traffic. That’s when we two gals parted company with the others. With intense focus we made a beeline for the shops. Whatever I might have imagined, my expectations fell far short of what Denpasar delivered. I’ve been in huge fabric warehouses, but nothing in my experience compares with the blocks and blocks of open storefronts with fabrics spilling out onto the streets!


This red Chinese silk was delicious!


The attendants don’t hound you, they are quiet, courteous, and just there to help


Nina goes into trance over magenta…anything magenta!


There are shops that are full of wool gabardines, twills, and lightweight shirt cottons


I think Nina spotted another magenta!


There are rows upon rows of color and pattern


It is endless


Most of these are a blend of Dacron and cotton. That combination seems to take the dyes and hold the color fast through many washings.


A view of the walkway past the shops

Shopping makes me hungry. We had gotten what we wanted and so much more. There was a warung 20 minutes away that featured Balinese fried chicken. It was a favorite spot for Sudi’s family. I told them, “My treat!” and we were off. There were 4 plates of fried chicken, rice, fresh vegetables, and a bowl of cooked greens with a spicy sambal sauce.  My plate had all of the above but  tofu instead of chicken. That and beverages came to $9.87 for five of us. Where I come from, that would buy coffee and a cookie for one, if the coffee wasn’t too fancy, that is.

As soon as I got home I spread out my fabrics and gazed for awhile, visualizing them as garments.  It’s probably a good thing those shops are in Denpasar. If I could walk there whenever I wanted, I think it would mean serious damage to my pocketbook!

It was a fabulous day. Big thanks to Ketut and my incredible neighbors. Could this possibly be real? Somebody pinch me…

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