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buying silk in China

Becky-book | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

My friend’s husband will be in China in Sept. and offered to buy her some silk and I opened my big mouth and offered to sew for her! (she claims to be unable to fix her own buttons!)

What advice would you give to the man buying silk fabric in China? Remember he is the DH of a non-sewing woman so is not used to fabric lingo.




  1. ValerieJ | | #1

    Well, I'd tell him to buy at least 3 yards/meters of anything he gets. That would be enough for almost anything. Maybe his wife should suggest colors she looks good in. It would be a shame for him to buy his favorite color and find out it looks horrible on her.


  2. mimi | | #2

    Lucky you!  My daughter went to China in 2002 and brought me back some silk that was absolutely beautiful :)

    A word of caution:  what she brought back was only 29 inches wide.  I don't know if this is the standard width or not.  I would buy double what I thought I'd need.


  3. woodruff | | #3

    Becky, I certainly agree with everyone about having the woman suggest her favorite color, and about minding the width of the fabric.

    Since the husband does not sew, but since the sales person probably will not only be familiar with standard yardages, but will want to sell plenty of fabric, I'm betting that if the husband says he needs enough fabric to make, let's say, a jacket and pants for a woman as tall as he is, he will come home with enough fabric!

    1. lovestosew | | #4

      Oh, how I wish I knew someone going to China...... Oh, well.. I had a thought about how the husband could purchase the right color silk fabrics for his wife (lucky woman!!!!). She can go to the paint department of a home improvement store and pick out all her favorite colors from the paint "chips" selection. That way, she can be assured that she'll get the right colors for her sewing projects. What fun... :) :)

  4. mygaley | | #5

    Just read in threads that kimono silk is woven in those narrow widths to save fabric.  Look on the back(dance of joy) of issue May 2006 #124.  Also go online to see silks that are not kimono silk, perhaps she would rather have these.  In return for your help, maybe dh will bring you a piece!  Thanks for this page goes to Jennifer Sauer, associate editor.  Galey

    1. User avater
      Becky-book | | #6

      Thanks to everyone for the advice! 

      When I spoke to Mary, to give her some advice to pass along to Tim, she remembered that one of his contacts in China used to be a seamstress in a state run factory before she and her husband started their current business.  So he should be able to get some good help there.  I also found out that Tim has a good eye for color (opinion of wife who is an artist) and has picked out some of her favorite clothes!!


  5. Kilroywashere | | #7
  6. MaryinColorado | | #8

    The family who owns this fabric shop has been to China more than once, adopted a beautiful baby from there.  So they are very familiar with it.   You might try emailing them or going to thier website to see all the wonderful fabrics they have too.  http://www.eQuilter.com    Luanna Rubin, the owner/designer has designed fabrics that they sell, she has designed many quilts that are featured at the website and in many quilting magazines.  How exciting it must be to experience such an exotic country, I think it would be hard for her to send DH and not go along! 

    You may want to check out this website for patterns made with rectangles of silk from a well known artist who has several articles in Threads mag.  http://www.KaylaKennington.com.  She is also a featured artist from the Bernina Fashion Show where she has won many awards.  Your artist friend might like her style? 

    Hope this helps, Mary

    1. User avater
      Becky-book | | #9

      Thanks for the link!  Very interesting designs!  Mary might just find something there.

      I hope this does not turn out to be my "worst sewing disaster"  ...(feeling low today)


      1. MaryinColorado | | #10

        Hey now!  This is supposed to be fun! Remember there are not mistakes, only creative opportunities. I think it will help that your friend is an artist and so understands "artistic license" as my grandkids learned from their art teachers. 

        You are also an artist!  Your medium is fabric and fibers.

         I bet she would love a simple scarf or shawl that would really let the fabric be the star!  That is what I would want to use silk from China for!!! That way it would always fit and never go out of style, a real treasure!

         I have not worked with silk much but love it.  I do have most of Kayla's patterns,  they are so great for embellishing.  I love using Rayon batiks.  They are so slippery to cut out.  I often use Perfect fuse from http://www.palmerpletch.com on the whole piece of fabric, then cut it out.  It keeps its drape so well.  It helped me alot with rolled edges on the serger too.  I use water soluble stabilizer for scarf edges.

        Hope tomorrow will be brighter for you.  Mary



        1. User avater
          Becky-book | | #11

          Thanks, I needed that!

          I have never used stabilizers (yet), guess I should just buy some then would have it on hand to experiment with!

          Well, back to the sewing machine; I'm making very simple charity items (NO FITTING) today!

          God bless,


  7. User avater
    Aless | | #12

    Hi Becky. My husband was in China in April and I sent him with a detailed list of types of garments,the length of fabric required for each, AND the width for each length.(He said this helped him a lot!!)

    e.g. shirt- 4 metres if 90cm wide     3metres if 115cm wide    2.5m if 140-150cm wide

    (These are just rough examples...I did very specific research with basic patterns....I also included non-metric measurements, just in case.We have been metric here in Australia since 1966, but I wasn't sure about China.)

    [A female business colleague of DH's (who doesn't sew) came back from China in 2005 with what was meant to be a jacket length (and it was gorgeous!!!), but because it was only 90cm wide, it is only just enough for a vest!!! As it was meant as a surprise gift from my DH, he was pretty shattered, so I didn't want that to happen again.]

    However, my DH found 6 lengths for me and they are all 115cm wide.

    A tip he got from a guide was to buy at the government sanctioned shops as the quality is garanteed. The prices are a bit higher, but not too bad. Anywhere else and you take your chances. Having said that, he did buy a couple of cheaper pieces at a market. I haven't done anything with them yet, so cannot report on the quality.

    As for colours, I specified in groups and tones, showing him what I meant .Then I wrote all this down too !

    e.g. blue- very pale/navy/cobalt  NO 'dirty' or mid blues (again, I showed him what I     meant)

           red-no 'hectic' red(got some already from a friend-VERY red!)(more examples)

    I also gave some ideas as to designs I would be happy with. For this I found silk fabrics on the 'net and showed him what I did and didn't like.

    e.g. like geometric and repeating patterns

           don't like scenic patterns(bridges etc)

           no cranes or stereo-typical Chinese type scenes/patterns

    This all sounds very demanding, but he really wanted to buy me fabric, and was incredibly nervous of not getting what I'd really like. He said that the list was a wonderful resource and he used it a few times to show to the vendors. The fact that he showed off his purchases before any of the myriad other buys showed that he was pretty happy with what he'd bought me. One piece he'd bought on a whim, then regretted, I absolutely loved!!

    This is a very long answer, but I hope it helps someone.


    1. User avater
      Becky-book | | #13

      Quick thanks, will print this for friend

      DH returns from work now.. must run


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