I had done a bit of research before the trip, but my best resource was a blog post by Sue from Fadanista.
Finding ourselves in Little India early in the holiday, we passed the odd fabric shop and alterations guy sewing on the street in between shops selling phones, fruit, flowers and more phones. It was very lively.
However, Mustafa's on Syed Alwi Road was where I was headed. This shop was an experience in itself. To say that you could buy anything there would not be an understatement. There were floors and floors, packed with people buying everything from pills and potions to designer sneakers. I wouldn't say it's cheap, but probably the prices are slightly lower than elsewhere in Singapore. The lower basement (B2) houses a huge fabric store. One side is filled with rolls of fabric, mostly polyester (below).
Then another section has lovely cotton shirting ($8-26/m) and Valentino suit fabric (didn't see prices)! At the time of writing, Aussie and Singapore dollars are worth about the same. One Singapore dollar is worth about US$0.73.
I didn't buy anything there, but it was fascinating to look around.
Following Sue's recommendation, we spent a morning on Arab Street. This road is lined with little shops selling silk, cotton and lots of dazzly sequinned fabric. At first glance the shops all look similar, but each does sell a different selection.
I poked about in a few shops, while owners looked rather desperate for me to buy. The best shop I found, although I didn't go in them all, was the Mahaco Silk Shop. The man in there was very friendly and helpful. The silks were beautiful but, at $48/m I didn't buy any.
This wall was covered with folded pieces of handprinted cotton. "All handstamped, not machine", the owner assured me. They were beautiful and I bought some for $15/m.
Arab Street is not just for fabrics. There are some lovely Turkish lamps, rugs and ornaments to tempt you, as well as a few cafes for the boys to wait in. One street back from Arab Street, on Victoria Lane, we found a lovely pedestrian-only road with a little market and fabulous Turkish restaurants along it. We had the most delicious lunch there at outside tables covered with blue and white Turkish tiles.
My last stop, also recommended by Sue, was Chinatown. The fabric place took quite some finding, but was worth it. The textile shops are housed on the first floor of this building, People's Park, above the food hall. Confusingly there are People's Park buildings all along the road and this one is set back away from the road.
I'm 90% sure it's here (below) where is says 'People's Park Complex Food Centre'. Mind you, I'd walked up and down the road so many times by that point I wasn't quite sure where I was!
Here's an idea of what it's like inside, lots of little open shops with different selections of fabrics. There was a huge range here and the fabrics appealed to me a lot more than at Mustafa's. The prices were reasonable. I bought some lovely Irish linen for $13/m. I could have gone mad, but restrained myself. It's also worth checking out the haberdashery shops on this level.
Again, there are plenty of eating places for weary boys!
Phew, that was one big day. The whole family enjoyed it though as there was plenty to see other than fabric. After Chinatown, we walked the short distance to Clarke Quay and relaxed with a Singapore sling! Note that these are around $9 each during happy hour at the Clarke Quay waterside restaurants. Better than $36 each at the Raffles!
So that's it for the fabric shopping I managed to squeeze in. I will just mention Universal Studios for anyone planning to visit with their children as I found it difficult to find the information I needed for our visit there. You can buy tickets online but need to print them out. We bought tickets at one of the many tourist information centres dotted around the city. Tickets from there were a few dollars cheaper than at the gate and included $5 food and shopping vouchers. It also eliminated queueing at the gate on the day. Get there at opening time (10am) to beat the crowds a bit. We went on a summer Thursday when local children were at school (I think Friday is a holiday, so probably busier). We headed straight for the big rides where queueing times were 5-15 minutes. After less than an hour the queueing times were 40 minutes. You can buy an Express Pass at any retail store within the park for $50 (single use) or $70 (multiple use). We bought three of the $50 ones for the four of us as I don't like roller coasters. The rides are printed on the back and are crossed off by the operator as you use them. I would recommend these to avoid long waiting times although, by mid to late afternoon, even the express lines had a 40 minute wait. A couple of times I used my husband's pass to go on the gentler rides with the children. The best place to eat is the food court near Jurassic Park. We had delicious prawn laksa for $12 each there. Don't miss the Waterworld show. At mid-afternoon we walked over to the Hard Rock Hotel and had a sneaky swim in their pool. We just walked in as if we were guests. It was bliss to cool off and relax a bit. There's a bar and snacks for sale at the pool. We then returned to Universal Studios for a while. We left the park when it closed at 7pm then waited an hour in the taxi queue. Avoid that if you can! We had a great day there and the boys, aged 9 and 12, loved it. The big rides were a bit much for my nine year old and certainly for me. I brought my knitting!