Imagine a warehouse with tiny booths packed so full of beads and yarn and fabrics they look ready to explode. Then imagine narrow little aisles sprawling out into an impossible maze. Multiply this by a thousand and put it into six floors of a 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.
Living in Korea, I often miss the giant craft superstores from home. Supplies are limited in my area of Incheon -- if better 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. A couple things that were notably missing, however, were jewelry-making supplies and textiles. Enter Dongdaemun 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.
See? I wasn't kidding. They have -everything-.
Our trip to Dongdaemun was motivated entirely by the need for various fabrics to complete our Halloween costumes. We also knew, however, that we wanted to wander aimlessly and get lost in the labyrinth of fabric and ribbon (which we did... twice), so we left Incheon at 9am. 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.
Nearly all the stalls are packed full like this.
The prices at Dongdaemun are great -- definitely cheaper than what I would expect to pay back home. I needed fuzzy white fleece for my costume, 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 -- I have enough left to make a decent small blanket or a scarf.
Need to replace any buttons? I'm 99% sure you could find it here.
After securing our fabrics, we took the stairs to the top of the building and then aimlessly wandered down, floor by floor. My favorite, of course, was the floor with the jewelry supplies. 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!
Overwhelming, but awesome.
My 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:
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...)
I'm already planning another trip to Dongdaemun, this time with a longer list of supplies, like some larger pendants and knitting needles. Winter is coming, and with that, I plan to hibernate and craft away the majority of those cold, icy months. Even if you aren't a crafty person, I recommend walking around this market -- definitely something worth seeing. Besides, Dongdaemun is an entire complex of markets, all within walking distance of each other, so remember to check it out when you're in this area of Seoul!
Between studying Japanese and Asian culture in university and setting her sights on a teaching career, it came as no surprise when Zannah Smreker announced that she was moving to South Korea to teach for Chungdahm Learning. In November 2011, Zannah accepted a position through Aclipse with the Yeonsu branch in Incheon, just southwest of Seoul. When she's not teaching, she keeps herself busy with exploring Korea, eating all the street food, and hunting down strange Engrish shirts. Check out her blog here for more of her adventures!