Hello fellow sewist friends, I just got back from one week’s trip to Taipei, Taiwan! When I bought my cheap Airasia fare to Taipei 4 months ago, the first thought that came to my mind was not Taipei’s famous night market snacks, but the vast fabric selection at the popular Yong Le Fabric Market in Dihua Street! I am sad to say that despite I am Malaysian Chinese, I do not know how to read Chinese (and never bothered to learn over the years, totally my fault!) and my spoken Mandarin (official language in Taiwan) is really half cooked though I converse in Cantonese very well as it is my mother tongue. So, how did I manage to get to get to this famous fabric market? I enlisted the help of a fellow blogger.
My Simple Journals was very kind to find out for me how to get to Yong Le from my starting point, Ximen Bus station (outside Ximen MRT). She charted the correct bus route for me, yes it’s Bus 12 from Ximen Bus Station! She took Bus 52 though as her starting point was different. Read about her Yong Le blog entry here. I took Bus 12 from Ximen Bus Station and it was only 2 stops to ZhongXing Hospital where I hopped off and continued walking straight briefly to my destination. Taiwan’s transportation means (MRT and buses) are very efficient. They even have LED signs at some bus stops informing you Bus No. X is expected to arrive in ‘x’ minutes. I was impressed by Taiwan’s town planning council. The tourist information center and info centers at MRT stations were very informative and the staff were well versed and helpful. Although local Taiwanese do not speak much English, they were always ready to point me to the right way. I must also acknowledge the help of my travelling partner, my girl cousin who’s never been to Taiwan too; who doesn’t read Chinese characters too but can converse better Mandarin than me, and she’s very good with directions and maps (a skill I do not possess!)
Other good sources of reading for Yong Le: (1) Shu Flies: Taipei’s Fabric Heaven (2) Craft Passion: Materials Shopping – Taiwan
Can you tell how ecstatic and excited I was when I finally reached the Yong Le entrance! Thus my victory sign. Behind me is the main entrance to the fabric market.
Oh yeah, did I mention it’s HUGE!!
I couldn’t resist to pose in front of the signs just to show you all ‘in English’ I was actually there!
The famous steps leading to the 2nd floor of the building, a whole floor consisting of 3 or 4 rows of shops selling fabrics, oh fabrics!! I have seen these famous steps before on many blogs, I was proud to be standing on them. Don’t I sound silly here?
The main entrance of the 2nd floor leads to this! The first store sells rolls and rolls of pre-cut and cut-to-order cotton linen blend fabric for patchwork/quilting/zakka/bags. I am more of a dressmaker so I didn’t buy any of these cutesy fabrics, I think most of you must felt like knocking my head here.
In one of the alleyways of cloth and more cloth! I went last Wednesday, which I didn’t know was a public holiday in Taiwan, so most shops were closed! I knew to avoid Sundays as most shops are closed too on this day. But it was still a treat seeing so much beautiful and cute fabric from those shops that were open on that day. I became disillusioned with all those fabrics selection after that I stopped taking pictures and got dizzy trying to choose fabric for making clothes. I had to make my choices fast too as I didn’t want to spend the whole day there and keep my non-sewing travelling partner waiting.
Next to Japan and USA, Taiwan also produces a lot of its own zakka fabric with very very cute motifs which is of cotton linen blend, a sturdy medium weight cloth. The stores there also carry imported fabric. I told the shopkeepers to show me ‘Made in Taiwan’ only because of the pricing. I felt most of these crafting/quilting/patch working/bag making are too cute for clothes, no? I think I am kicking myself now. After much search, I only ended up with 4 pieces of fabric! Oh yeah you can knock my head for the SECOND time now.
The 2 pieces of fabrics with cute dots are Taiwanese cotton linen, sturdy and medium weight, aren’t they just gorgeous?
The hearts fabric is thinner and I got it for a very good price, and the shop lady was such a joy to chat with as she visited Malaysia before!
The yellow beige solid nearly left me with a bad experience from Yong Le Market. My bad Mandarin nearly costed me to pay 7 times the price of this fabric for another piece of purplish ‘deemed expensive and imported’ fabric. I wasn’t sure if was my lack of language understanding or I was nearly been had by the shopkeeper, I chose not to debate on it, but I really do think it’s because I misunderstood the shopkeeper on the price. So I bought this Japanese imported fabric which was on sale as a peacemaker (though the shopkeeper didn’t really ask me to buy anything else to salvage the misunderstanding). I believe I can make a beautiful dress with it!
Are you disappointed with my lack of fabric purchases from this popular market? Perhaps I regretted a bit too that I didn’t buy more. Whilst I was shopping there, I had the following goals (1) Not to purchase fabrics that were too cutesy for dresses, which most craft and zakka fabrics usually are (2) Avoid Buying expensive fabrics whose prices vary too much from the local Malaysian shops as I think I am still an amateur dress maker and will be very sad to make mistakes with expensive fabrics (3) The Malaysian currency is just a weak currency; if you earn AUD, USD or SGD,I think you won’t be as calculative as I was! (4) Avoid Buying fabrics with prints which I can get locally (4) I was just at Taipei’s wholesale garment market WuFenPu the day before, where I was able to buy some tops and dresses (see the cute top I was wearing!) at really cheap prices, which prompted me to think that I shouldn’t spend too much just for fabric when ready-to-wear can be so cheap.
This crafts and notions shops is just opposite the fabric market.
On my last day in Taipei (Saturday), I chanced upon this ‘Simple Sewing Shop’, which is located behind the ‘Breeze’ Shopping Center located near Zhongshan FuXing MRT station. I actually saw this shop from the bus window when I was travelling to Jiufen. On the way back via bus to the MRT station stop, I saw this shop again from my bus window and my heart skipped a beat. I pleaded with my travelling partner to walk all the way and try to locate the shop, I was so happy to be able to find it.
I felt so warm and fuzzy seeing this shop, their window display is gorgeous. It is a quaint shop selling imported designer cottons from USA and Japan and many notions for crafts/bags/zakka. Although the shop keeper knew I wasn’t local, she explained some of their sewing classes to me (and I pretended to fully comprehend with my half bucket of Mandarin conversing skills). I took all their sewing class pamphlets as they were so pretty! This shop made me wished I stay in Taipei! I imagined myself taking their sewing classes and making many friends with fellow sewists. Taiwan is a conducive place to craft and sew as local manufacturers produce their own vast array of fabric (mostly cutesy and zakka) and local bookstores sell many up-to-date Taiwanese and Japanese craft books. Where I stay, I don’t really have any fellow sewist friends and I really thank the worldwide online sewing community for your inspiration and encouragement so far.
It was a dark rainy day, hence the raincoat, but my spirits were not dampened because of this little shop!
I really enjoyed my one week Taipei visit tremendously. The local food was interesting, the sights were endearing, the people were really helpful and courteous and the fashion scene (both cheap and expensive) were really inspirational…The current weather was a really nice change (18 to 23 degrees Celcius) from our hot and humid. I hope I can be back again one day!