CONTRIBUTED BY LAUREL ANDERSON
Seoul is the coolest place to shop for yarn. Ever.
I have a yarn problem. We don’t need to go into the details… but finding yarn stores is a *must* for me. I love hand dyed yarns. I love yarn stores. I love to touch yarn. I love natural fibers like alpaca, cotton, bamboo, and wool.
Enter Dongdaemun Market
Dongdaemun is the shopping mecca for fabric and yarn stuffs. Think Michaels, Jo-Anns, Hobby Lobby, and your favorite local yarn store multiplied by 42. There is everything you could possibly want related to fabric, clothing materials, accessories or YARN! <insert gleeful giggle here.>
Dongdaemun is huge and consists of several different buildings which makes it incredibly daunting. Like shopping at a flea market, or Ross Dress for Less, if you don’t have a ridiculous amount of stamina for just browsing – it is easy to get overwhelmed. Ok, it’s easy for ME to get overwhelmed.
Here is my shopping strategy for Dongdaemun: Tune out the stuff that doesn’t matter. You can always go back later and look in another section. Focus on your goal. What is your goal? The Meeting Plaza: Floor B1: Yarn.
Arrive early and on a week day. Unless you like a lot of people, then arrive whenever you want.
Ready to go? Take the subway, line 1 or 4 and exit at Dongdaemun Station. Go out Exit 9, and follow the street left around the corner. Look up at the first building on your left and look for the sign “The Meeting Plaza”. This is the X that marks the spot (maybe the x is two knitting needles crossed?!), the Holy Grail of Yarn Shopping, and the pot of yarny gold at the end of your rainbow journey.
Go into the building. Take a deep breath. Hit up the ATM on the 1st floor if you haven’t got cash on hand and then go downstairs to level B1. Go left at the bottom of the stairs and enter the labyrinthian phenomenon that is the market. Continue left. Keep walking until you see yarn. Then prepare to get lost. Much like Las Vegas Casinos, B1 does not have windows, or clocks. Instead of slot machines and craps tables there are floor to ceiling walls of yarn. Skeins upon skeins upon skeins of yarn. A veritable rainbow of acrylic, alpaca, cotton, and wool fibers. There are no cocktail waitresses giving out free drinks, but here you can find men and women knitting in droves while they socialize and tend their stalls. These stores are varying sizes, smallest being about the size of an elevator car and the largest looking like more traditional stores. Don’t be afraid to go inside the stalls.
The less expensive, lower quality yarns are found on the outside of the stalls. Inside the stalls are higher quality yarns. One interesting thing that I noticed is that really brightly colored, scratchy, acrylic yarn seems to be really popular and could be found on the outside of most stalls. I’ve seen it used to make kitchen scrubbers like these found at Daiso and all over Namdaemun market.
Let’s get shopping. Some stalls only sold wholesale bulk yarn, while others carried only fingering weight yarn. Some places only sold the knit garments they had created. In every stall I had to go in and start looking towards the back for the higher quality yarns I wanted. Almost every stall had examples of knit wear and at least one person knitting. What a great place! I asked some basic questions and in a few places I was able to get an idea of what I was looking for, color, weight, fiber stuffs. I didn’t *need* more yarn, but I mean, since I was there….
I bought two small skeins on sale for only 2,000 won a piece and a set of 4 skeins from the same dye lot were in a pack and cost 15,000 won. I bought the knitting needle 7.0mm (size 10-10.5 US) for 1,000 won. There may be a strategy to negotiating but I’ve never been much into bartering. The prices seemed more than fair for what I was buying. Most people who didn’t speak a lot of English understood my questions and gesturing. For prices they would type on a calculator and show me, or tell me in English.
Enjoy walking around and seeing the sites. If you’re like me though, know much of the yarn is pre wrapped in plastic and you won’t be able to feel as much of it as you’d like. Also you might have to ask questions or bring examples of colors or fibers you are looking for if you need something specific. Next time I’m going to go with a specific project in mind so I know where to focus.
Sidebar: I also bought ribbon to make hair bows for my daughter. I found an abundance of ribbon on the 1st floor. Ribbon was in stalls just like the yarn. Most people spoke a bit of English but it was helpful that I had an example of the kind of ribbon I wanted (grosgrain) and in the width. I shopped in four different stalls and everyone was very helpful. I asked for prices before I selected my purchases and they were all priced by the yard. Most didn’t measure with a yard stick but by hand before they cut. That didn’t matter to me but you could always bring a sample length if you needed it to be exact. My grosgrain ribbons varied in width from 1/2 inch to 2 inches and prices ranged from 700 won per yard to 3,000 won per yard. Most were about 1,000 won per yard.
Some other thoughts:
Be prepared for crowded. Go early on a weekday if you don’t want it to be as busy.
Bring your own shopping bag. It’s just easier to have something larger to put all your things in.
The floors are categorized and there are signs listing what can be found on each floor.
7F: Management / Offices
6F: Telecommunications Room / New Business Headquarters / Offices
5F: Materials / Accessories / Beads / Buttons / Laces
4F: Various Fabrics / Cotton Fabrics
3F: Various Fabrics / Cotton Fabrics
2F: Various Fabrics / Silks / Hanbok / Curtains
1F: Bedding / Handicrafts / Plates / Curtains / Living Essentials
B1: Various Threads / Blankets / Handicrafts / Curtains/ Yarn
There are totally bathrooms in the building and there are signs for the exits, elevators, and bathrooms with English and icons. (Bring your own toilet paper just in case.)
If you arrive around lunch time, don’t be surprised to see people delivering food to the stalls.
If you arrive in the morning, be prepared to move out of the way as people bring and take large bolts of fabric, and other materials in and out of the stalls.
Strollers are feasible if there are fairly narrow – if you have a runner like I do, strap them in!
The subway station exit 9 also has an elevator (Score for strollers!)
There is a food court.
Subway : Line 1, 4 to Dongdaemun Station, Exit 9.
Go Left out of subway exit and see large building on left side called “The Meeting Plaza”
Address and Contact info:
266, Jongno-6 ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul-si
서울특별시 종로구 종로 266 (종로6가)
(Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
www.dongdaemunsc.co.kr (Korean only)
Monday – Saturday: 08:00-18:00
Payment: Credit Cards accepted in some stalls. Bring won just in case. ATM on site.