Other Random China Bits

Helen and Queenie

** Unless I have some crazy revelations, this should be my next to last travel post about China. I tended to write outlines up each night while I was gone (have to do something with all the jetlag and no access to sewing blogs!) and revised and organized on my 14 hour flight back into the US. I probably should have strung my posts out through the week. But, I’m an instant bloggerfacation kind of girl.

One of my surprises about Xiamen is that they too have a fabric ‘mall’. Unfortunately, I know neither the name nor the address. When we got to Xiamen we were assigned interpreters from the local college. They were the cutest things. Sweet and helpful. My first day there I let them know I needed to have my qipao altered, Liz needed a dress made and I needed some garments copied for my boss. We found this mall on the second go round. They were shocked that I made my own clothes. Not that they had stuff made. They just shopped at the mall. Typical teenagers, right?

Again, similar set up as in Shanghai. But, the fabric choices were limited. More suitings and shirtings than fine silks and fun prints. There were also several dressmakers and tailors who operated seperately from thier fabric.

On the basement level I was in search of the quipa pattern book I spotted in one of the shops. Unfortunately I couldn’t find one.

But, I saw this woman making strings of beads and beading fabric in another room. Watching her made my eyes hurt.

This woman was sewing all of the little jewelry bags that we get pieces in.

I did find someone sewing uniforms and was puzzled. I kept thinking, ‘why don’t they just order uniforms?’ But, then I realized that this *i*s where our uniforms come from! It was eye opening.

But, I did stumble upon several supply stores and stocked up.

Zippers were half a yuan each (don’t hate me) about 8 cents each. Yes. 8 cents. I bought two dozen in black and took their assorted package. Oh. Definitely wishing I had bought more of the assorted zipper packs. These are all 22 inches long.

Buttons were also 10 cents each in Xiamen. I exercised great  control I think and bought these plus a gross of plain white shirt buttons. The gross was about $5 US.

And, the things I got which made my heart soar took true trans Pacific cooperation. While shopping in the supply store I saw they had industrial serger feet. Now, we all know that Gigi has been sewing it up in Florida binding any and everything. I  know I want to buy an industrial machine within the next year or two. So, I asked how much the feet were. $4 each. Say *what*?

Apparently, ‘Great Knives’ are made in Taiwan — visible from Xiamen’s shore.

I emailed Gigi that night (her morning) asking her what feet I would want to buy so I could stock up there. To the rescue, she sent me a list of feet to look for and for the binders, she even saved me the mental (well cell phone) calculations and listed the widths in metric! In *metric*

Since I bought so many feet, they sold the binders to me at $2 a each. $2. And the regular sewing feet for the industrial? 50 cents each.

I also bought sewing machine needles for $1.50 for a pack of 10. And, they say ‘Shanghai Shaggong Sewing Machine Company’. I would have bought them for that alone. Not pictured, two of the biggest rolls of elastic you’ve ever seen for little and nothing.

It was also on this trip that I experienced my first squat toilet. My mom warned me. Katharine in Brussels warned me (omg K. Thank you for telling me about the spitting before I got there). But, it’s something to behold the first time. If you think you won’t use one. Then, you just just don’t have to go badly enough. To be honest, in a skirt, it’s far more sanitary that a sit down toilet. But, I was not coordinated enough to work it out with pants.

BTW, it was hotter than hell in Xiamen

The only makeup I wore for ten days was Neutorgena sunblock. Which, sadly, dried white in my eyebrows and no one told me. I only realized it when I started uploading my photos, LOL.


    • The mind reels! I hadn’t even thought of no stalls, LOL. Happily, yes. Which is the funny part. You open the door and the toilet isn’t where you think it *should* be.

  1. Squat toilets are easy so long as they haven’t just been hosed out. I nearly ended up in one in Malaysia after they’d been cleaned. Be careful in heels. I’m very impressed with your purchases. You make me want to go to Asia. We are getting incredibly cheap flights at the moment. A friend of mine just booked a ticket from Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur for $58 each way! From KL I can get to Szechuan province for about the same price again. If I wasn’t studying I’d be booking a flight for myself right now. For now I have to live vicariously through your posts.

  2. I have enjoyed every single China post, I’m glad you did them all together! I can’t get out of my head that wonderful looking bowl of noodles!

  3. Gosh, I have really enjoyed your China posts! What a wonderful experience for you. I just can’t believe you go the feet and binders so cheaply! I am so glad you were able to get so many – you have more than I do now. 🙂

  4. The shopping looks incredible! I am so envious of the machine feet. To buy that bundle here would be so much money.

    I know someone else who went to China and took a picture of their toilets too. She said she was a bit confused as to how to go about things but then a lady walked into the restroom which had no separate stalls, and just whipped her trousers down and did the deed! My friend said she was thankul for the demo even if it did shake up her Western sensibilities a bit.

  5. I’m jealous of your feet, the sewing ones, I mean. Your trip sounds like it was a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing all the interesting tidbits!!!

  6. You’re on a roll. I’m wondering if my friend went through the same thing in Japan with the stares. It does look like u had fun

  7. Great deals/buys C. Are you sure you don’t want to go back when I go 🙂 not even for the squatter?

  8. Thanks for all the posts about your trip. Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Not that I’m envious. No I like paying $5.00 a zipper and $30 a metre for fabric! A sewaholic’s dream vacation.

  9. Your trip to China sounds just wonderful. I went back in the 80s, before things were very westernized. We bicycle toured for 3 weeks – my present to myself for finishing college. Would love to go again.

    Like you, I brought home fabric, some of which I still have. No doubt it’s aged to fine wine status by now.

  10. Ahh the notions look lovely! I like the pastel buttons–they look lovely. Thank you for showing the pic of the woman stringing the beads. Yikes. I will think twice when I buy a hank of beads. Thank you for sharing your posts about your visit to China—it’s great to see how the other half lives.


  11. Thank you for taking us to China with you! I had a conversation today with my Chinese (now US citizen) coworker about how you got stared at. How uncomfortable. And those industrial SM feet – 2 bucks each? Nuts!

    Welcome home.

  12. Maybe the white Neutrogena in the eyebrows is the reason you kept being photographed and pointed at? lol Sorry, couldn’t resist it. You make me want to go notions shopping in China, such prices!

  13. After arriving in the middle of the night in India I got to use my first squat toilet. In pants. Boy is that hard when you’re tired. Took some figuring out, that’s for sure.

  14. I am just catching up on your posts and I’m taking notes! My daughter is going to Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an and Hong Kong for 17 days and I plan on going also lol.

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