Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fabric and notions from Tokyo!

We spent Thanksgiving in Tokyo this year and had a really great time. I had a sewing supply buying agenda, as usual, and went out to Shinjuku's Kinokuniya bookstore right after we had dropped off our luggage in the hotel. 

Book 1 of 5
I had been eyeing Bunka College's English translated textbooks for a couple of years now and what better place to pick up the series than in Tokyo at the Kinokuniya's flagship store... If they had it. A really sweet girl named Imee helped us out for about 20 minutes trying to locate these books. They had a few at another location in Japan but it would take a week for transit. That wouldn't work.

In the end we headed to Bunka College on Thursday and found the entire series in their bookstore. I picked up some other stuff too, including pressing hams and blocks, drafting tools, ironing pads, and some other knick knacks for my sewing use.

Hand sewing needles, bobbin holder, Chacoliner refills, pressing and pattern tools

Pressing hams and pads, drafting rulers, fabric from Nippori's Textile town

We made our way to Nippori to check out Textile town, it was easy to find after getting off the subway thanks to the English signs. Shopping wise, Jim spent money on fabric for pocket squares before I found something I really liked. That's the second time my husband has purchased material before I have... this monster is my own doing so I can't complain.

I was pretty disappointed at the selection they had there. Don't get me wrong, it's still a fabulous place to find stuff. I've just been spoiled by the selection, amount, and prices available at DDM. 

Speaking of prices, WOW. Overall we expected Tokyo to be pricey but to actually see the price tag of some things really made me do a double take. Let's just say my shopping spree at Bunka ended up costing a little more than my ticket to Japan, and we upgraded to business class on the way there. EEK. But if we apply shopper's math, I *saved* at least $90 on the books alone than if I had to order them from Kinokuniya online.

Checkout at Bunka College bookstore (my books are on that stand to the right!)
There were a few leather stores along the main street in Textile town. I saw some beautiful pieces of hide that made me want to start sewing purses. I reminded myself I was there to primarily pick up notions and I really didn't want to hoard just to have it sit in stash for years. I don't know price ranges for leather but what I did see felt reasonable.

Beautiful leather pieces big and small

One of the Tomato stores on the main strip
I did buy a few yards of fabric with traditional Japanese motifs, they will eventually become a quilt to commemorate our first trip there. While there were lots of natural fiber fabrics (cottons and linens), there wasn't much that really appealed to my garment sewing interests. Not a big deal, I'm no where near lacking in textiles for my projects.

For those who are visiting the area, the biggest fabric and notions stores in the area are the "Tomato" stores. I remember seeing at least two. One building was two stories (pic above) where they had linens and cottons geared towards garment sewing, and the other store was five stories with a couple of floors for quilting fabrics, a couple for sewing home decor/bags, and one for silks, wools, fancy fabrics for garment sewing. The first floor of the larger Tomato store had a 200 Yen/meter (about $2.40USD at the time) section. Much (if not all) of the bolts were cotton quilting fabric, which could be used for clothing, but the weave on some of these were not as fine as the more expensive stuff. Average prices were $4-15/meter for cottons, depending on the weave. The silks were around $20/meter and wool fabrics averaged $10-$20/meter. The whimsical Japanese printed cotton fabrics started at about $10/meter, most of which were a broadcloth or canvas weight, suitable for making bags and the like.

I looked at some of the notion prices on the fifth floor, Clover brand supplies cost just a little less than online or at DDM, so I skipped on stocking up.

Today is the first day of December, my mega sewing month. I also need to prep a lot of my sewing room to be shipped back to the US. I don't want to deal with packing headaches when I return from my Asia trip. And yes, I will be visiting fabric markets all across the continent starting in January.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fabric shopping in Seoul at Dong Dae Mun, Part I

Seoul is any shopper's paradise for retail goods. Fortunately for me, it's also a place to find raw materials for my crafting hobbies. Dong Dae Mun (a.k.a. DDM) shopping area is where wholesalers go to buy their ready-to-wear merchandise. These malls and markets are also open to the general public and the area is most famous for its night markets (open until 4 am for the hardcore consumer).

My favorite area at Dong Dae Mun is the fabric market. If you want to go by the name on the buildings, it's Dong Dae Mun Shopping Complex. Here's how to get there by subway- you can Google for a full picture of the Seoul Metro system map. I've never driven there and only took the bus once so traveling underground is my usual MO:

Subway Line 4 (light blue)
Dong Dae Mun stop, Exit 9

Do not get off at the Dong Dae Mun History and Cultural Park stop. If you do, exit 13 will be the closest one to DDM and you will need to walk about 5 minutes. Refer to the picture (click to enlarge) for the general direction of where that stop will spit you out in the area.

Once you've arrived:
Coming up the stairs of exit 9, you will find building C of the shopping complex to the left of you after you pass a small newspaper stand and the edge of the surface parking lot of DDM. You can enter from a "main" entrance right next to the information booth, or find one of many other entrances along the buildings.

Navigating the 4 interconnected buildings with floors for shopping:
Building A- basement to 5th floor

Building B- basement to 5th floor

Building C- basement to 5th floor
The only 2 elevators in the market are in this building, the 5th floor of C does not have vendors, follow the signs when you get off the elevators to get to the 5th floor of Building A and B. I think this building goes higher but they are all offices beyond the 5th floor.

Building D- 1st to 4th floor (I'm pretty sure this building doesn't have a basement, at least I haven't been to the basement of D if it exists)

These 4 buildings are interconnected either by a "bridge" or with open walls to each other. If you aren't paying attention you will go from one building to the next without realizing the change. Each vendor has a sign over their stall that includes the shop's name, their phone number, and their identifying stall information. This is the format: the building letter, the floor they are on, and the actual vendor stand. In the picture below you can find this vendor in D-3-1811: building D, floor 3, area 1811 (all on the top left hand corner of the blue sign- click picture to enlarge).

Most of the time these stalls are in numerical order, but not always. As long as you have a general idea of where you are you shouldn't have to walk too far to find where you need to be. In the main aisles of each floor there are usually signs hanging from the ceiling to point to where 2 other buildings are in relation to you. Most of the time they are accurate but in my earlier trips I ran into a few that took me to no man's land. If you can mentally map out the layout of the 4 buildings you shouldn't have a problem hopping from building to building.

There are stairs in the middle of each building, some of the buildings have escalators too.

Operating hours during the week: 9 am -5 pm, 9 am -3 pm on Saturdays, closed on Sundays. On Saturdays the 5th floor vendors stay later than 3 (maybe up to 5 pm?) but most people on the lower floors start packing up around 2:30 pm. 

Things to be aware of when shopping:
-Old men (ajishis) carrying wooden racks filled with bolts of fabric on their back. Steer clear of the way when they are moving up and down the stairs or in the aisles, they will push you if need be. I can't blame them, bolts of fabric are heavy!!
-Space is tight and it's always busy. Bring a backpack if need be and I would wear it in the front for easier manipulation when moving/turning around tight corners.
-Any floor above the 1st floor will be quite warm in the winter. Wearing layers is essential to staying comfortable. The buildings are air conditioned in the summer but it can get warm too. 
-Restrooms are readily available by the stairs on each floor but most are squat style for the ladies, BYOTP- bring your own toilet paper.
-Filtered water from coolers is free on all floors, also usually found by the staircases
-The elevator button pushing ladies have *gorgeous* uniforms!!! I personally would kill myself if I had a job that involved pushing buttons all day long, maybe the cute clothes are supposed to help make it bearable. (I found this picture on Google)

With this information you should be able to get to the fabric market. How to find anything there will be covered in an upcoming entry, along with a quick run down of places to grab some food before you shop. I also want to tell you about the fabric shopping at Gwang Jang market, a great place to find cheaper remnants from DDM.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The final days of my love affair

With Dong Dae Mun and Gwang Jang fabric markets that is.

Just found out this morning we're moving back to the US in May... Damn. Seeing how I don't easily embarrass in public, I'm considering making a spectacle of myself when it's time to leave. I can fake cry on demand if need be, but the tears sliding down my face are going to be the real thing in a few months. Le sigh. I don't want to leave Korea/Asia!!!!!!

Just got back from a shopping trip to DDM this weekend. I met up with some old and new friends and we all had a fun time doing DDM and then going to the lantern festival (I think that was less fun than fabric shopping though). I walked away from DDM with a box of 75/11 home machine sewing needles (100 needles for about $11), and I picked up the last issue of the current Mrs. Stylebook from my vendor in GJ. I was on a self imposed fabric diet so I walked away without any yardages but with the recent news of our impending move that will change, no doubt about it.

I'll be posting a long entry on navigating these two markets soon, along with pictures and diagrams because it can get tricky to explain in words.

On the crafting home front, I started and finished *one* child-size mitten. I'll be knitting its mate very soon, this was essentially a practice run for my own mittens. I know my perfectionist self well enough to know I need to practice my techniques first before starting on the real project. I have been known to un-do knitting/sewing projects in an angry fit when something wasn't right. Even if it took me hours of labor, I'm willing to sabotage it in an instant. I'm not always irrational, I just want my hand-made items to be the best I can create.

No pictures today to upload today but be prepare for a visual feast soon on fabric shopping in Seoul.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Here's to a productive November!

A new month, some new projects! Last week was hectic, we had my birthday party (Iron Chef style!) at a friend's house, which meant I dragged some of my kitchen pantry over to her place for a few days. I am still cat sitting for another friend for three more weeks so I had my sewing stuff at her home. It's hard having daily essentials in three different places. I have my usual sewing set up again back home and expect to pump out some gifts for the holidays and maybe a mini-wardrobe for our trip to Tokyo later this month.

In the mean time, here is Sprout with his quilt! The quilting fabrics have cars/traffic signs on them, the backing is also from the same co-ordinating series but it's a flannel. I only have white cotton quilting thread so the bias binding is ugly- I chose to attach the binding with a machine instead of hand-sewing an invisible stitch. Aren't kitties color blind anyway? I won't tell if you won't.

I like to roll the quilt into a sleeping bag for him

I can piece but I definitely can't quilt to save my life