Fabric Shopping in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

fabric store ubud

We only had a few days in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, (our other time in Indonesia was spent sitting on a beach in the middle of nowhere on Lombok) but of course I had to buy some Indonesian fabric. We got dropped off in the heart of Ubud at the palace and ambled our way down Kajeng road (on the way to Threads of Life, more on that below) and one of the first stores I noticed was a little sarong store and sarongs = fabric!

fabric store ubud batik

There was a beautiful assortment of different sarongs in a variety of quality of fabrics printed to look like batik, some real batiks, and some ikat. Since everything is sold as sarongs, it means that the fabric comes as ~2 yards. I talked to a driver that we had about traditional clothing in Bali and he told me that both men and women wear sarongs, although they are tied differently and men wear a second sarong on top. Western clothes (pants and t-shirts) are prevalent, but sarongs are considered more formal so they would definitely be worn for any special occasion or going to temple even if someone chose not to wear them on a daily basis.

day market ubud

I found Ubud to be one giant tourist trap, especially the central day market. But stand after stand after stand sold decent quality printed sarongs, even if it was the same selection as every other stand. Expect to bargain heavily (which I hate doing, btw, and very much enjoyed not having to do so when I bought fabric in Thailand) and be offered better deals the more you agree to buy. I saw some stunning examples of gorgeous handmade batiks in a couple art galleries and antique stores, but they came with price tags reflective of the fact that they were works of art.

bali batiks

I did buy a few prints meant to look like batiks and one relatively cheap ikat (definitely not as nice as the maumee I bought in Thailand). I was told that the brown and blue tone “batiks” were more old-fashioned.

Threads of Life Textile

Image from Threads of Life

If you have a love of textiles, a visit to Threads of Life is a must. They are working to help revitalize traditional methods of textile construction and with that comes conservation, fair trade, and empowering women. The pieces in their gallery are jaw-dropping and it was hard for me not to come home with a work of art for our walls at home. I strongly recommend perusing their textile archive online because it is beautiful, inspirational, and educational.

ikat weaving process

They offer classes on Indonesian textiles, but unfortunately for me, the teacher was out of town while we were there. In the gallery they have a small informational exhibit on traditional ikat weaving. I thought it was quite interesting to see the step-by-step process used to get to the finished product. For warp ikat, threads are arranged on a tying frame where adjacent threads are tied together with palm leaf fiber. The tied portions are inaccessible to dye. More knots are untied with each successive layer of dye.

Comments 5

  1. Oh the drool! This is so interesting and makes me want to travel so badly! Love the bits of culture as well as all the fabrics in this series!

  2. My daughter is traveling to Bali and Thailand in April. I would love some cotton batiks for quilting. Any fabric stores to buy yard goods in or just by sarongs? How much in US $ is a fair price? Where is better to purchase Bali or Thailand? Thank you!

    1. Post

      I found much better deals on cotton in Thailand than in Bali. I will say that we didn’t get off the beaten path much in Bali and the whole island felt like one big tourist trap to me – and the prices I paid for sarongs reflected that. I don’t remember exactly what I paid for anything. Expect to pay less than you would at home in U.S., but don’t expect absolute steals.

      1. I’m finding that. Geography is interesting here though, the way neighborhoods are subdivided into long, narrow tracts between creeks and rivers. You might have been 50 meters from what you’re looking for, but there isn’t a bridge, and that wall has been standing for 1200 years, so you’ve got to go around, and it’s 15 km.

        There are a lot of small clothing factories out in the suburbs. They’re actually making the boutique brands sold in stores both over in Seminyak, and back in the states, in 10 man operations with commercial sewing machines and they are sweating, but they doing alright. I’ve been shopping at some very tiny, very personal, factory stores.

        I can’t imagine that the wholesale prices for quality fabrics are any higher than in Thailand if these sorts of operations are going on. Finding batik, or anything intended for the local Balinese market, however, that’s on my to do list this week so I can go to temple in proper attire.

  3. I’ve lived here for 11 years (and finally leaving) and have to tell you that if you want any nice fabric here, you will pay dearly for it. Bali truly is one big tourist trap and the quality of most goods has gone way way down so what you think is a bargain is just junk. Places like Threads of Life are true gems and stand out from all the rest but be prepared to pay for the quality. Fabric quality in Thailand is much better I have found.

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