Monday, December 10, 2007

Patchwork Shopping in Fiji

If patchwork shopping in Australia or New Zealand is a bit different (see my blog entry for yesterday) than patchwork shopping in America, then patchwork shopping in Fiji is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Fiji is a tropical paradise, with the weather you'd associate with a tropical paradise so quilts as they are known in other places are not going to be very common. There are other Pacific Islands that have a tradition of making tiafaifai, applique quilts without wadding used for bed covers, but I didn't see any evidence of that when I was in Fiji.

What to Buy
  • Bula shirt fabric
  • Silk saris
  • Clothing you can cut up to use in a quilt
  • Bracelets and necklaces that you can take apart and use to embellish a quilt
Where to Shop
  • Fabric shops: I never found a proper patchwork shop when I was in Fiji but did find some fabric shops. They mainly have fabrics for making clothes, especially bula shirts, similar to aloha shirts in Hawaii, which isn't a surprise since 'bula' means about the same thing as 'aloha'. Bula fabric comes in both cotton and poly-cotton.
  • Local markets: Most of the hand-dyed or hand-painted fabric I saw in the local markets was polyester or poly-cotton. But there are great bracelets and necklaces that can be taken apart and used for embellishing quilts. Best of all, the larger pieces from the jewellery already has a hole or holes drilled in them, making it easier to sew them on.
  • Sari shops: There are sometimes local stores that sell saris, some of them quite up-market. A sari is a great source for silks in meterage (4 to 9 metres), great patterns and fantastic colours, but you'll be buying clothing as opposed to fabric on the bolt.
  • Tacky tourist shops: I also found some dressing gowns/bathrobes, 100% cotton or 100% silk (according to the label) in a touristy Tshirt shop, printed in the same type of patterns as they use in stenciled bark cloth. But, again, you'll be shopping for clothing instead of fabric on the bolt.
How Much to Pay?
If you find a fabric that you like, you need to be prepared to haggle and bargain over the price. It is common local practice and is expected. Be aggressive. Be ruthless. Be prepared to walk away empty handed or you will end up paying heaps more for things than you should.

What to Watch Out For
As with most tourist destinations, the locals in Fiji are all too happy to sell you souvenirs and promise faithfully that you will be able to get them back into your home country. If you are going to buy anything made from plant or animal products, you need to be aware that it is likely to be confiscated by the Customs Service of the next country you travel to.

Be sure to declare any souvenirs made from plant or animal products, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, including food products like honey. In Australia, our Customs Service takes their job seriously and they look forward to flights of full of tourists from places like Fiji bringing home sea shells and drums and wood carvings.

Declare everything, even if you aren't sure.

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