Sunday, April 27, 2014

Crafty DIYer's Paradise: Dongdaemun Fabric & Craft Market

Imagine a warehouse with tiny booths packed so full they look ready to explode. Imagine each booth fill with fabrics and yarn and beads. Imagine narrow little aisles stretching out into an impossible maze. Multiply this by a thousand and put it into one six floor building. Voila, you have Seoul's Dongdaemun Fabric and Craft Market. It's a total sensory overload of colors and textures and people, but for the crafty DIYer, it's basically heaven.

dongdaemun craft fabric market seoul

Living in Korea, I often miss the giant craft superstores from home. I've always been artsy, and the latest DIY trend that's been facilitated by the likes of Pinterest has kept me busy with dreaming up all the amazing things I want to make. Unfortunately, supplies are limited in my area -- if craft stores exist, I have yet to find them. Stationery stores abound, so anything paper-craft related isn't hard to track down. Art supplies are also easy, so I haven't had to go without good paints or drawing pencils. One thing that was notably missing, however, was any form of textiles and jewelry-making stuffs. I like to tell myself each winter that this is the year I'm going to finish knitting that scarf and maybe learn a fancy (beginner) pattern. Honestly, the lack of yarn availability was really harming my grand daydreams of starting scarves that I never get around to finishing.

Enter Dongdaemun's fabric and craft market, with both of these things (and many others) aplenty.

I'm not exaggerating when I say Dongdaemun's Fabric and Craft Market has pretty much anything craft-related that you'd be looking for. Any kind of fabric (including a massive section just for hanboks), endless skeins of yarn, giant carts of ribbons, all the pendants and charms and beads you could possibly want... That's just the beginning. In addition to all of that, you can buy things already made. They sell clothes, little decorative lace collars, leather belts, blankets, dishes, embellished hats and jackets... It's insane.

dongdaemun craft fabric market seoulSee? I wasn't kidding. They have -everything-.

The last time I went on a craft supply run, we arrived around 11am and the place was already bustling with shoppers and supply deliveries. We had to dodge quite a few delivery men as they plowed down the narrow aisles with giant bolts of fabric on their backs.

dongdaemun craft fabric market seoulNearly all the stalls are packed full like this.

dongdaemun craft fabric market seoul

The prices at Dongdaemun are great -- definitely cheaper than what I would expect to pay back home. I needed fuzzy white fleece for my Halloween costume last year, and when I finally found the right fabric, I was happy to hear that a yard (the smallest amount they would give me) was only ₩7,000 (~$6.60 USD). To make it better, the amount given to me was definitely more than a yard.

dongdaemun craft fabric market seoulNeed to replace any buttons? I'm 99% sure you could find any button ever here.

dongdaemun craft fabric market seoul

The biggest draw of Dongdaemun for me, however, is all the jewelry-making supplies. I used to have a fierce obsession with seed beads and even had a small bead loom for making bracelets. As I got older, I was way more into buying chains and charms and stringing things together. Not only am I able to make basically the exact same necklaces as I would find at Forever21 or Urban Outfitters, but it's a hell of a lot cheaper.

We spent a really, really long time searching through the little trays of charms and beads, carefully picking out ones we wanted. About ₩15,000 (~$14 USD) later, I had everything to make several pairs of earrings and new charms for some chains I already had at home. Not bad! 

dongdaemun craft fabric market seoul

dongdaemun craft fabric market seoulOverwhelming, but awesome.

dongdaemun craft fabric market seoulMy jewelry supply haul! 

To get to Dongdaemun:

Dongdaemun Station, Seoul Metro Lines 1 and 4, exit 9. Walk straight out of exit 9, the entrance will be on your left. See the photos below as a reference: 
 dongdaemun craft fabric market seoul dongdaemun craft fabric market seoul 

Tips and information:

  • Hours: Monday-Saturday, 8:00am-6:00pm, though be aware that many shops start to close by 5pm.
  • Bring cash, as most vendors prefer that / don't accept cards.
  • Shop around -- a lot of the vendors sell similar products, but some definitely offer lower prices. 
  • The building is divided into four sections, lettered A, B, C, and D, so keep an eye on those are you walk around. (It might also help you not get too lost...)

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