This is the second post on shopping for fabric in Toyko and South Korea. My last post talked about the famous Tomato Fabrics and Nippori Fabric Town.
It looks like I’m standing in a fabric shop. However, it is a tenugui shop, a place that sells fabric that is narrow in width, with unhemmed ends. A tenugui is translated as a “wiping cloth” and is used for bandanas, napkins, drying towels, and this place also sells really long tenugui that can be used as scarves.
This shop is found in 2k540, an artisan collective near Akihabara station.
These are the two tenugui that I purchased, and below is the detail of the one on the left, with its subtle coloring. They are about two feet long. I plan to wash them up before using them in my sewing, or maybe I’ll just leave them in the kitchen downstairs for some fancy dish drying.
My husband gave me these a couple of years ago, and I didn’t understand what they were for. Now I do.
If ever I go to Tokyo again, I’m headed here: Yuzawaya in the Ginza area, although I understand they have other locations. I used my Google maps to get to Ginza Core, the tall building in the middle of the photo. I walk in and a young woman all dressed up, even with a hat, is at the “concierge” desk for the building. I show her the name and she says “Oh, yes. Sixth floor.” I keep forgetting that different stores can be on any floor here.
The elevator opens onto this scene. Wow–a real fabric shop. I don’t know if they allow photos, and I don’t have the language to ask, so I kept taking undercover photos as I walked around. They have yarns, embroidery, crafts, magazines, notions, fabrics, woollens for mens’ suits, patchwork (what they call quilting) and so many other things.
You can see the button wall on the upper left in this photo: rows of boxes. I imagine someone might have to help you? but it does look self-service.
There was someone just to the right of me, kind of blocking access, otherwise I would have plopped down and spent all evening looking through these magazines.
Tiaras…just in case. Obviously this was the bridal section.
Fur trim is big here. I didn’t see any mink balls here, though.
Blue and white fabrics–maybe from Japan, but possibly from China.
Quilting cottons and their equivalent of fat quarters in front. 180 yen is about $1.60, and these pieces are suitcase-sized, coming in at about 14 by 19 inches.
Regular sewing fabrics. I wonder if you have the sales clerk pull the bolt for you after you give them the number. This is the real challenge in shopping in a foreign country: you just don’t know how things are done. After being in Tokyo for a few days, it gives me much greater appreciation for visitors to our own country must experience.
Men’s suitings. I had picked up a basket while shopping, but was determined that I would not buy any more things than would fit in the small basket; I got pretty good at packing it in. What did I buy?
I bought this gadget, that will help you make clutch purses without getting your fingers all full of glue (brilliant gadget). They use a string to help tuck the fabric into the frame–all the frame kits and the string.
I bought two sets of purse handles, as they were selling about 75% cheaper than what I can buy in the states, plus the above fabrics. The French fabrics on the lower right are coated, so they’ll make a nice lunch sack. I found fabrics from Japan, France, Scandinavia, and some bits of American fabrics, but not much and all the prices were reasonable.
Next fabric challenge, in a new country: Dongdaemun Shopping in Seoul. Wikipedia tells me that “Dongdaemun Market opened in July 1905 in Yeji-dong whose name means “a neighborhood for learning politeness”, so the market was originally called Baeugaejang (“market for learning”)….The market sells all types of goods but notably silks and fabric, clothes, shoes and leather goods, sporting goods, plumbing and electronics, office supplies, fortune tellers, toys and food areas specialising in Korean cuisine. It also has many pet shops.
“DDM [its abbreviation] was traditionally a night market and wholesalers once operated from 1:00 am to 1:00 pm. Now, the area is open for 18-½ hours a day from 10:30 am to 5:00 am, with some stores open 24 hours a day, although most close on Mondays and holidays.”
We went over in the afternoon, not knowing about their 5 a.m. closing time. We came up out of the subway using Exit 9, and I’d done some research that told me to look for the J.W. Marriott and it would be to the right of that. That white gridded building with the yellow-lit area underneath is the Marriott. But there were also two uniformed, English-speaking guides standing at the subway exit, and they helped us find our way.
This side of the river is the fabric shopping.
I understand that the other side, that massively long building is clothing.
Maya, an IG friend who we’d met for lunch in Seoul, had all sorts of tips for Seoul, and we found her advice really helpful. Basically each stall has a number, led by the floor number (so 5018 is on the fifth floor). There’s also a building number, as you can see.
But truthfully? Once you get inside, give it all up. Just wander. We did eventually find the booths that Maya tipped us off to, as well as about a fifty-thousand others. (There are multiple blog entries about this place–just Google it.) It’s a market made for business, but they put up with the rest of us.
Because I was in love with all things hanbok (their traditional dress), we happened on the booths selling their fabrics. In the neighboring booth, a young woman was being measured for her own hanbok.
The renowned Happy Quilt booth. If you ever want to go here, keep track of the number on the sign overhead.
Booth after booth after booth for as far we could see–this place was huge. Many booths just had swatches of fabrics, and if you liked it, they would call the warehouse, get it cut and deliver it to your hotel. If you got like 60 yards, they would deliver it for free.
I like to bring home a piece of jewelry from my travels, but from what I could tell, the women in these two countries don’t wear a lot of costume jewelry, except for pearls. So we stopped at this booth and picked up some polished stones, another booth (below) had cording, and I’ll make myself a necklace.
Last stop, outside: ribbons.
It’s about now — after walking forever inside, realizing that we’ve only touched the very edge of this area for shopping — that it dawns on us that so much of our fabrics and our clothing must come from this area of the world. Of course we know that, given that America labels all its clothing and purchases, but that is not usual. But from now on when I walk into a fabric shop in America, I’ll remember that much of what I see had its genesis from this area of the world, maybe even represented by one of these little booth sellers in this massive building.
The purchases were few.
Dongdaemun also has this huge plaza with buildings designed by the famous female architect, Zaha Hadid.
Apparently every one of the panels is cut to a different size. All I could think was: quilt design.
This was our last night in Seoul, the end of our Asia trip, and all I wanted was a meal from Shake Shack. I guess you could say I was ready to not have to be adventurous in my menu choices anymore, ready to go home, ready to grab the rotary cutter and explore with fabric some of the designs I’d seen in our travels.
I have one more post from our trip, about our visit to the Quilt Museum in Seoul. Also coming up: the drawing for the zippers (tomorrow morning) and I’ll contact the winners by email. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your interesting comments. You are all a well-traveled group!
10 thoughts on “Fabric Shopping in Tokyo and Seoul”
The purchases may have been few but they are so gorgeous. That ribbon makes my knees weak. I have to ask what is the tan/cream/beige ribbon/tape? I’m intrigued!
I love looking at the architecture!
Despite the challenge of actually shopping in a store where you can’t speak the language, it is always fun to poke around just to see what they sell, what people in that country use, etc. And then the frustration of finding something you can’t live without only to realize that you can’t communicate what you want! I just learned that sometimes people use google translate to speak words into a phone and have google translate and speak them in the other language. That would certainly help me! Fun trip, beautiful photographs.
Thank you for sharing Elizabeth, I’m happy to be home with my Tula Pink and Kaffe Fassett fabric.
I would be positively overwhelmed with all the choices. Looks like you got some nice goodies. I’d love to browse the button wall.
Another great post. Little fish in a big sewing pond. 🐳
Looks like heaven for fabric mavens.
The shopping side of this adventure could certainly be overwhelming –way too many choices! But the architecture is absolutely delightful, at least for that beautifully-curved building! Great adventure!
Such an interesting post, thanks for sharing!
Oh my gosh!!! Talk about visual overload. It’s all so fascinating and kind of overwhelming at the same time. I love how you share your travels with us as I learn a lot about other places by reading your posts. Where will your next adventure take you (and us)?