Please join me in welcoming Asmita to the blog. She blogs at Elephant in the Study. Today she is taking us fabric shopping in India!
When you try to shop for fabric in a country that isn’t your own, you’ll find that sewing terms aren’t easily translated. To help you out, we created the Sewing Translator, which many of you have contributed to and use. We hope it will be useful to you as well in your travels. Sewing Translator is now available in 14 different languages, and if you have an iPhone or iPad you can download it to use the native iOS app off-line as well. We hope you’ll make good use of it! You can find Sewing Translator in the Apple app store, and it’s free.
Welcome to Delhi, today’s fabric shopping destination!
Delhi (or New Delhi specifically) is the home to the National Institute of Fashion Technology, so it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that there would be not one but several fabric shops in Delhi. But they are not the easiest to find, and Delhi is incredibly spread out—which always makes finding the good ones a little bit hard. I am a relative new comer to Delhi (this is only my fifth year in the city), and initially the task of finding fabric shops seemed too daunting especially with a young child and baby in tow. But thankfully the itch to stitch got the better of me, and now I have quite a few favorite ones. Here are a few that I would love to share with you!
So let’s start with Central Market, Lajpat Nagar. Delhi, as it is today, is a conglomeration of centuries-old villages surrounded by urban development. Localities are both a mix of commercial complexes and residential areas. Central Market is one of the largest markets in the residential-commercial area known as Lajpat Nagar. It is known for its clothing shops, especially woolens, but in my recent forays into the market, I found a quiet lane in which there were some nice shops selling fabric.
One such shop is Suryansh Fab (E-33, Central Market). They have two shops next to each other, and the one that I like is on the right.
The place is tiny, not more than that about 200 square meters, but it stocks all kinds of fabric. To tell you the truth, I rarely shop here, as much as I come in just to look! (The salespeople are most obliging and don’t seem to mind.) Their embroidered silk duponi is gorgeous, and I am told that a lot of fashion designers and customers looking for wedding finery drop by.
Sort of diagonally opposite to Suryansh Fab, if you look on the right with your back against it, you will see The Prakaash Collection (E-24, Central Market), which deals with all kinds of laces, ribbons, buttons, trims–you name it!
Like with most other shops in this market and others that I discuss below, this shop caters to wholesale buyers. Well, I for sure have never seen floor-to-ceiling stocks of pompom ribbons. Of late, I have frequented this shop often with my daughter who loves coming here and choosing buttons for her clothes.
Next up, and our final destination in Lajpat Nagar is Ffab Creattions (Veer Savarkar Marg, i.e main road leading to Central Market). Again, I discovered this shop only about six months ago, but since I need to come to Lajpat Nagar often for my daughter’s ballet lessons, this is the place that I end up frequenting the most these days. This shop features a nice collection of stripes and checks in cotton (my favorite), as well as handloom cotton in lovely colors, and printed voile.
Their collection in each type of fabric is not large, but it is ever changing which means that even if you go frequently, as I tend to, you’ll always find new prints. Their fancy fabrics are nice too, especially chanderi, raw silk and my current favorite mashru silk.
Moreover, they also have a small collection of sarees in silk and handloom cotton, and these can always be used as fabric.
How to get to the Lajpat Nagar shops: Lajpat Nagar metro station falls on the Voilet line. At the metro station take the exit which says Central Market. Upon descending the stairs (this particular station is above ground), you will be at the opening of busy looking street. After walking down the street for a few minutes, keep your eye on the right. Ffab Creattions will be on the right hand side of the street, opposite Café Coffee Day. If you keep walking ahead and pass a few more blocks, you will see a Wildcraft shop on your left. The turn on your left, right after Wildcraft leads is a not so narrow but quiet alley with fabric shops on both sides of the road. There is a kind of park/green patch in the middle of this lane. Suryansh Fab is on the right; Prakaash Collection is on the left.
Next up is Shankar Market, a quaint and a relatively quiet market which lies in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi and right on the outskirts of Connought place (CP).
A covered market which essentially runs in one straight line with covered side lanes, Shankar Market houses multiple stores selling fabric.
I remember originally landing here because everyone told me that this was the market to come for fabric shopping, but I also remember that back then I had ended up feeling pretty disappointed. Most of the shops here have the same old prints and the shops smell dusty and old. In the last few years a new shop has opened up which might make the trip to this market worth the time.
Gamthi which is in block 3 of Shankar Market is that shop.
A small, boutique style shop, Gamthi sells almost exclusively vegetable dyed, block printed fabric produced using traditional methods.
The owner prides himself on sourcing fabric from all over India and is pretty knowledgeable about different kinds of printing and dyeing techniques. They have a minuscule collection, but what they do have is beautiful. So if you are in CP, a trip here will definitely be worth it. I particularly love the kalamkari prints (both block and hand painted), the ajrakh prints (on silk and cotton) as well as their ikat.
After leaving Shankar Market if you head back towards the outer circle of CP, there is yet another shop here which is my favorite, and I have often scoured it for simple basic cotton. This is the well-known Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan which sells khadi—handspun natural fiber cotton cloth. Of course, you can also find woolens and silk, but I have never bought those here and cannot speak of the quality. The khadi cotton, however, is fantastic and comes in an array of colors. They have a few prints but the plain ones are better and varied in texture. A word of warning though: what they sell is heavily starched, and may not seem like such a great buy at first. That and the sales people who aren’t the most willing or helpful. But I hope you don’t get put off by either of those things; after the second wash you will have in hand the softest cotton with the loveliest drape and will regret not having bought more! (Unfortunately, I have no photos to offer here because they wouldn’t allow any.) Besides fabric, its also a great place to buy all manner of handmade soap, lotions and assorted grocery items.
How to get to CP shops: Connaught place is basically two gigantic concentric circles, which are referred to as the inner and outer circles. Anybody and everybody will tell you how to get to CP. At the center of it, underground, is the Rajiv Chowk metro station. It’s the central point from where all metro lines radiate. After getting off here, head to exit/gate 3. Walk towards the outer circle. Shankar market is opposite block ‘M.’ Khadi Gramodyog Bhavan is located in the outer circle, in the Regal Cinema building.
And now finally to our last destination for today: Nehru Place, an enormous market place with shop after shop selling electronic and IT related hardware of any kind that you can imagine. The real stuff and the very good fake versions of it abound here, and I am told that this is the place you head to if you are a tech geek. Apparently, this was at one point in the 80s the biggest electronic market of Asia comparable to Akihabara in Tokyo. It is sadly no longer the hub that it once was, and the bad architecture (think dreary looking buildings which needed a coat of paint about twenty years ago), combined with general chaos and mess do not make it a market that one may want to visit, unless of course with a very specific purpose in mind. This purpose is fabric shopping, for at the far end of the market, after you have crossed all the street vendors and electronic shops, there is a large courtyard that opens up and is almost wholly comprised of fabric shops. There is both the high end and not so high end stuff here, with everything between the two, and so for any serious fabric seeker, Nehru Place is a must.
The two big shops here are H.P. Singh and Tessuti Fabrics. First, Let’s talk about H.P. Singh. I like H.P. Singh for the sheer variety of what you can get, and I still remember on my very first visit –just the sheer excitement of seeing fabrics that I didn’t even know existed (for example jute fabric and sweater knits!).
They have three large floors of everything that you might need, and so if there is only one place you can visit, the vote goes to H.P.Singh hands down.
The prices of the regular cotton stuff (printed kalamkari, other cotton fabric) can vary substantially from place to place, and I have found sometimes that what I can find a little cheaply elsewhere (Lajpat Nagar) tends to be slightly costlier here, perhaps by about 10-15%. But I would still come here because the variety that you get in terms of quality and quantity is not available elsewhere.
Indeed, you can end up spending all your money and time in H.P.Singh and not go anywhere else! My current favorite are linen knits and their section of cotton linens which are not cheap but drool-worthy nonetheless.
Also, worth mentioning is on their third floor (what I think of as the fancy fabrics floor) are the kantha quilts, again not cheap but worth at least a look.
It is also one of the few shops which sells online, but prices online tend to be higher than in the store, and the collection seems smaller. You can check it out here.
Tessuti Fabrics which is right next to H.P. Singh is another shop full of all things nice. What I like the most here is the wide array of knits. The large basement floor is almost entirely devoted to a dazzling array, and the names like oscar knit, buttersilk knit, banana knit and omega knit make the trip totally worth it.
While most of these I would be a bit terrified of sewing with right now, I do love their great collection of cotton jersey knit in psychedelic colors. Of all the fabrics I bought home on this shopping trip, N loves these fabrics the most and I can’t wait to make simple t-shirts out of them. Besides knits they also carry the usual cotton, chiffon silk fabrics, but I was most taken by their schiffli embroidered cottons with beautiful patterns (more on “schiffli” later).
The salespeople here are also incredibly helpful in guiding you through the range of stuff they have, and I was happy that the woman who assisted me was very knowledgeable about what knits would work better in winter as apposed to summer, what the fabric composition was—all new and fascinating stuff for me.
Right in the line of the two giants Tessuti Fabrics and H.P.Singh, are two smaller shops Jyoti Exports and Gaurav Exports.
Both shops are perfect if you want to pick up some kiddie prints as well as checks. I was surprised to find that they have something akin to double gauze (called double cloth here). The quality was not great, but I was assured by both that this is a relatively new fabric and this summer they will get tons more of it in different prints.
And, now more about Schiffli embroidered lace and fabric: This refers to a machine embroidery technique from Switzerland that made its way to India possibly sometime in late 19th century. (You can read more about Schiffli here.) There are a couple of shops in Nehru place dedicated to this stuff, and I have to warn you the stuff is gorgeous. First up, is my favorite shop, Hemla.
Apparently one of the older ones of the lot, this small shop is dedicated entirely to lace and embroidered fabric. Fabric is only either white or beige, but can be dyed. The manager however informed me that they only do wholesale dyeing work, so for anything less that 200 meters one has to head to another area called Govindpuri.
Schiffli embroidery is border embroidery, so you will find fabric where either both borders are embroidered on only one, and the most common use is making pants. But of course, the sky is the limit, and on this trip I got a meter of it to make pillow cases for us.
Right above Hemla is a relatively newer shop called Modi Schiffli Embroidery Mills.
This has more of the same, but you can find fabric other than white with schiffli embroidery on it, as well as some beautifully embroidered mesh fabric.
Right across from the aforementioned shop, if you look across the other side of the pavilion there is another shop on the first floor called Shivam Shubham Laces, Lace Fabrics, and Embroidery Patches. This has some more lovely schiffli embroidered fabric, but also an enormous collection of embroidered yokes, sleeve patches, ribbons and other trim trivia.
And now for the last shop of the day to get some everyday fabric, and currently my favorite kind of fabric – knits. Sahni Fabs has several shops in the market, but my favorite one is the one which is slightly apart from all the above mentioned shops and in a very non-inviting looking basement.
Given the amount of leggings and t-shirts my daughter needs, this might be currently the shop I frequent the most. It doesn’t have the fancy stuff of Tessuti both in terms of types and prints, but the variety of colors in cotton jersey, interlock, double knit that they carry is amazing. The knits section of the shop always looks like a bit of a mess, but again the sales people are immensely helpful at pulling out stuff and explaining what is good for what and a trip here is always instructive.
They also carry fabric for making swimwear and leotards, something that I found out on my last trip and I am contemplating whether I should attempt making one this year. And finally, I should mention they also carry stretchable denim, something that I could not find in any of the other shops.
How to get to Nehru Place shops: Nehru Place Metro station also lies on the Violet line. It is a huge station, so when you get out take the exit leading to the market.
You should see several large buildings such as Eros Commercial Centre. What we are looking for is the Inox Movie Theatre. Entrance to the market is right next to it.
Right at the entrance you will see ugly two-four storied buildings on both sides of a huge open pavilion. This is where the tech shops are. The pavilion itself is also crowded with street vendors selling mobile covers and other tech related wares. Walk through here and where this ends make a left, and again keep walking. Over here the street vendors are no longer selling tech stuff but ready made clothes. At the very end of this walk, make a right. The shops we are looking for are at in the last building on the right hand side after the final right turn.
There are two other places worth mentioning that are not in the above mentioned markets. For, vegetable dyed, traditional prints I also like going to Kilol in the N block market of Greated Kailash II (GK2). Kilol primarily sells ready made clothes as well as cushions, bed sheets etc. In their N- block shop they also have a very small section selling fabrics by the meter. If you happen to be in this area the fabric is definitely worth checking out. The quality of cotton is excellent and you will find many traditional designs with a modern twist. (Besides Kilol, the market is also a nice, if some what of a pricey place with some lovely shops, especially a wonderful bookshop and café.) A word of note: Kilol has several shops in other markets across the city; however, I have found out that only the N block market shop sells fabric by the meter.) Apologies again for no photos; the shop didn’t allow photos.
The other place is Dastkar. Dastkar is a NGO set up in the 1980s which exclusively supports small artisans and communities of craftspeople from across the country. At Andheria Mod, there is a permanent space where artisans display their wares at regular intervals. Each exhibition is for about two to three weeks, and each time you can find different artists displaying their wares; it is of course not all fabric, but pottery, handmade items, and several other things, not to mention yummy food. But in my several trips there, I have found that there are always also a few stalls selling fabric and it almost always lovely and never disappoints. It’s also one of the few places where you get fabric from other parts of the country sold directly by its producers with no middlemen. I have no photos to offer, because there was no exhibition at the time I was writing this, but they do have a Facebook page, and a website where you can find see their calendar of events. In short, don’t miss a visit to Dastkar if it is on!
How to get to Kilol and Dastkar: The GK 2 Market where Kilol is located is between Lajpat Nagar and Nehru place markets. The easiest way to get there would be to take a Uber or auto from either of these metro stations. The best way to get to Dastkar, it to get off at the Chhatarpur metro station (yellow line), and take an auto to Andheria Mod.
And now, lastly, a word on pricing: I found the cottons to be priced anywhere around 250 INR per meter and above. Linen is usually not below 700 INR. The fancier fabrics (silk, georgettes, chiffon) is also above 700 or so. The basic cotton jersey knits are around 350; while everything else is above 500 INR. The bigger shops follow a “fixed price” policy, while in the smaller shops you are free to ask if they will giver a better rate; basically everything depends on your bargaining skills. Naturally dyed block printed fabric on the whole tends to be pricier than commercially printed one. In Dastkar, it is usually understood that one doesn’t bargain because the money goes directly to the artisans.
Most shops timings are 11am – 8pm. Lajpat Nagar markets will be closed on Mondays, Nehru place and CP on Sundays. Kilol is open on all days.
That brings us to the end of our Delhi fabric shopping trip. Of course, these are not all of what Delhi offers in terms of fabric shops. There are still some of the older markets like Karol Bagh and Chandni Chowk in old Delhi, but this forms the build of what there is. I hope you visit enjoy shopping here as much as I do!