Thursday, July 13, 2017

Bangkok Fabric Shopping Guide

Since I lived there until very recently, I receive almost weekly emails through my blog from people asking where to go fabric shopping in Bangkok when they visit on holiday or work travel. I've also met up with lots of sewcialists who've stopped through and people seem happy with the fabric shops I've taken them to, so I've decided to do a little write-up on fabric shopping in Bangkok. And by little, I mean epic. Long post!


Please note, this is not an exhaustive list, by far. Bangkok is a massive, sprawling city with probably hundreds of fabric and haberdashery shops. I am focusing on the major highlights as well as my regular haunts.

I hope this guide is helpful to you! Please let me know if you have questions!

Yaowarat: Sampeng Lane, Chinaworld Mall, Pahurat Market

Yaowarat, which is Bangkok's Chinatown, is the main wholesale and retail fabric shopping area in the city. It's also a major wholesale market for other goodies (think phone covers, fidget spinners, hair accessories, anything and everything plastic) and is a fun, but potentially overwhelming experience, not for the faint of heart. It's hot and crowded and crazy and people will push you and you'll always feel like you're in someone's way, but there are lots of deals to be had on fabrics of all sorts, findings, trimming, etc.

A post shared by Meg (@megret79) on

I'd be remiss if I didn't direct you to the website the originally guided me through the Yaowarat experience when I first moved to Bangkok: Jill's Quilt Site. Jill's site was instrumental for me! Thank you, Jill!

Most of the fabric shops in Yaowarat are on Sampeng Lane, also known as Soi Wanit 1, a narrow "walking" street that parallels the main road. I say "walking" because that just means there are no cars... but it is still bustling with motorbikes and handcarts bringing product in and out, fruit, snack and drink vendors with pushcarts, and so many pedestrians that it's less walking and more shuffling at times...


Jill has a great, downloadable map of Yaowarat that includes business cards for and brief descriptions of many of my favorite shops. I've also drawn a little map in Google Maps here (and below) that you can follow that takes you down Sampeng Lane towards Chinaworld Mall and Pahurat Market. I've put pins on some of the fabric shops I like, although as you walk through the area, there are many, many more worth looking through- these are just some of my favorites. Please note: some of the pins are the official Google pins, but some shops I couldn't find in Google Maps, so I dropped them somewhere in the vicinity of where they are.




Directions to Sampeng Lane via Public Transportation:

Now... how to get to Sampeng Lane in the first place: you can take a tuk-tuk, taxi, Uber or Grab to Yaowarat, but where's the fun in that? Ok, maybe a tuk-tuk would be fun. But public transportation is a good way to get the full experience! Because of where my apartment was located, I often took public transportation, namely the subway (the MRT), followed by the #40 bus. Again, Jill's Quilt Site is how I originally found out how to get there this way, but I've summed it up below and provided a few of my personal tips:
  • Take the MRT to Hua Lamphong Station (it's currently the last station on the line, although more are currently under construction).
  • Follow signs for Exit 4. Take the stairs or elevator on the left to street level.
  • When you reach the top of the stairs, there should be a #40 bus waiting in that general vicinity- you might have to walk a few meters straight ahead to see the bus. It seems to be the beginning of their route, so there is often a bus just sitting there. Hop on! Sometimes they slowly pull away from the curb, but if you wave, they'll slow down long enough for you to jump aboard.
  • The fare (as of June 2017) is 8 baht if you get a non-air conditioned bus. If you catch one with AC, the fare is 13 baht. Someone, typically a woman with a metal tube jangling with coins, will come around to collect your fare and will give you a postage stamp-size ticket:
  • The bus goes right past Wat Traimit, a temple with a giant solid gold Buddha statue, then circles around the Chinatown Gateway and heads down Yaowarat Road. Jill recommends getting off the bus at Mangkon Road, which works well because the bus always seems to stop there. (Warning: sometimes the bus fully stops, but sometimes it just sorta slows down and you literally jump off.) However, I recommend walking on Yaowarat Road (the main road) one more block to Ratchawong Road/Thanon Ratchawong (you'll see a Starbucks in the Grand China building on the corner on the right hand side) because the area between Mangkon and Ratchawong really doesn't have any fabric. 



  • Turn left on Ratchawong Road, walk about 150 meters and turn at the second right onto Sampeng Lane/Soi Wanit 1.
  • A few meters in and you'll start seeing rolls of fabric spilling out into the lane. Belleboo and Fabric Centre/Cotton House are some of the first you'll spot, right across from one another, and they are two of my favorites. More on the specific shops below.
  • If you keep following Sampeng Lane, you'll cross a few major roads with cross walks, some smaller roads, and eventually a canal. Not long after the canal you'll end up at ChinaWorld Mall and Pahurat Market.

Shopping tips: 

  • Most prices are marked pretty clearly either on the roll or on a sign. There is not a lot of bargaining, unless you are really buying in bulk (10+ meters), and even then, it's not a really hard bargaining situation. Prices are quite cheap, so I have never had a problem paying the marked prices. 
  • Some shops have minimum cuts of 1 or 2 meters. My understanding is that wrapped rolls or bolts are wholesale, to be purchased in their entirety. 
  • Most shops only take cash, or will take credit card only reluctantly, so stock up before you go (but watch for pick pockets!). There are ATMs scattered throughout, though, if you find yourself in need.
  • I find that there tends to be at least one person each shop that speaks enough English to talk amounts and prices, and occasionally fabric content, so just ask.
  • Bring something to wipe sweat from your face, a bottle of water and tissues in case you need to use the bathroom. The best bathrooms are at Chinaworld Mall, which is also air conditioned and a lovely respite from the heat. 
Below I've listed my favorite shops. This is just my personal short list, but there are tons of lovelies to see beyond this, so don't hesitate to pop into other shops to see what they have to offer. I tried to mark them all in Google Maps, but it wasn't working very well for me, so I've just sort of put them approximately where I think they are, in order as you walk from Ratchawong Road toward Chinaworld Mall.

G.T.M. Textile

This is one of the first shops you'll see on the left hand side. I haven't actually bought anything here, but they have some nice looking things.


Shin Nguan/Fabric Centre/Cotton House/Cotton Touch

I'll be honest, I have no idea what the name of this store is, as it seems to have a thousand, but it's one of my favorites. This shop has some really nice fabrics. Lots of quilting cotton, name brand and not (RJR fabrics, sometimes Cotton + Steel), on the roll or pre-cuts, if that's your thing. But more importantly, this shop tends to have a lot of gorgeous Japanese fabrics at cheap prices: lawn, voile, double gauze on occasion, shirting. Mostly cotton or cotton blend, as the shop name suggests. Check out the remnants table near the cashier's desk for discounted goodies, the center table for 60 baht/meter deals, and the rolls standing up in the middle area for garment fabric goodies.



Belleboo

Belleboo is a Thai printed cotton company. They have a shop at the beginning on my itinerary, full of their brightly colored, high-quality quilting cottons, but their fabrics are also sold at a number of different shops along Sampeng Lane.


K.K. Siam Enterprise

This shop has all the eyelet you could ever want. Also some really random fabrics like fluffy Muppet-esque fur and metallic Spandex-y stuff. Worth a look.

S.M. Fabric Co.

This shop, which often makes me laugh because the shopkeepers climb up on the thick wall of fabric rolls, primarily sells Belloboo quilting cotton. However, if you look closely and feel the fabrics in the front on the left hand side, you'll notice that some of it is actually really nice quality cotton lawn. You can see all the stuff I've made from Belleboo fabrics here. Lots of florals and cutesy prints. Warning: if you're looking at a fabric that has any words written on it, it would behoove you to make sure it's not nonsense. They need an English language copy editor desperately.




Sampheng Lace

This is the place to shop for lace fabrics: stretch, non-stretch, satin-backed, trims... all sorts! I know a certain someone who stocked up her lingerie sewing shop with goodies from this store when she was in town.


L.GEmini

This is the shop where I buy my knits. They have some really high quality stuff... primarily cotton jersey, pique and french terry, some with lycra, some 100% cotton, but also rayon lycra, poly lycra for swimsuit or athletic wear and some novelty knits, mesh, etc. Not a ton of prints; primarily solids and yarn-dyed stripes. There is at least one fellow whose English is perfect and he is really nice and knowledgeable (I think his family might own the place). He even offered to take a photo of me and my friends once!).



The prices are either by the meter or by the kilo. By the kilo is cheaper. How much you get per kilo depends on the fabric's weight, obviously, but it tends to be 2-4 meters. When I first started going to this shop 4 years ago, I asked how much length was in a kilo and they had to bring it over to the scale to answer my question. Nowadays they seem to know the meterage/kilo for each of the substrates off the top of their heads. I like to think I started something there. Note: many of the fabrics are quite wide- 72"! Some are tubular, with no selvage.

A post shared by Meg (@megret79) on




Giansingh Amarnath (AKA the 3 meters/100 baht shop)

I could never remember the name of this shop, so I always referred to it as the 3 meters/100 baht shop (so cheap! 100 baht, right now, is about US$2.94). Turns out it's not the entire shop that is 3m/100THB, but mostly the stuff in the front. The stuff in the back is still cheap, too, although not quite that cheap! Look for signs reading "3 เมตร / 100 บาท" (thank you, Google Translate). Some of the fabric is really odd, and some of it looks like it hit every pile of dirt as it fell off the back of the truck, but there are some gems to be had. For example, I got this funky striped seersucker for my Classic Shirt there, as well as some nice swiss dot and some high quality double knit. Poke around, for sure!

Ueng Hang Kim

Right after you cross a small road, you'll happen upon this fabulous little findings shop on your left. It's good for buttons, thread, zippers (I bought a bunch of dirt cheap YKK metal jeans/pants zips here), and they also have a variety of denim topstitching thread right by the entrance.


Venezia

I somehow neglected to take a photo of the inside of this shop, but it had some truly amazing imported linens. High quality stuff, not cheap by Bangkok standards, but not expensive by Western standards. 


Chung Thong Huat (AKA the denim shop)

This is a fabulous shop that sells primarily denim and chambray, including Japanese selvage denim, colored denim, stretch and non-stretch. I just stumbled across it once and was in heaven. This shop is where I got the amazing lightweight, maybe tencel denim that I used for my Mitchell dress. It's a little bit difficult to see the shop name because it's hidden behind a bunch of mobiles, but it's there:


S.D. Corporation

The photo I took of the sign is quite blurry, but I'm pretty sure this is what this shop is called. You'll notice it because for each fabric there is a little sign attached with information on content and an inspirational photo, too. This shop also carries this funky, wrinkly pre-pleated fabric, too, which I haven't seen elsewhere.

Watanachareon Button House Co.

This is a small notions shop- zippers, buttons, measuring tapes, pins, bias tape and the like. I bought elastic here often as they have these cards of different width elastics for quite cheap.


Dee Dee An

This is the place to go for ribbon, pompom trim, tassels, fringe... so, so many trimmings. There's more there than it seems at first glance because the wall fixtures slide to reveal another layer of ribbon behind.



Bangkok Thaviwat

After you cross Chakkrawat Road, you'll come upon a grouping of shops selling findings, trimmings, lace, etc. I won't list them all, but you can see photos of a few of them below, including Bangkok Thaviwat.


Hong Garment Accessories

Of all the findings shops, this is my favorite. This shop has so, so many thing you need. Zippers galore, buttons, snaps, bra and swimsuit findings, elastic, thread, etc. A bit overwhelming and often crowded, but quite organized.


After all the trimming shops you'll cross an open air space, which takes you over the canal, which looks like this:

Keep going straight one more short block (that doesn't have many stores of interest, if I recall) and you'll end up at a big intersection with a pedestrian overpass. 


Chinaworld Mall and Pahurat Market

Team up with some other pedestrians to cross the busy, major road (Chakpet Road) and head towards Chinaworld Mall to cool down in the air conditioning, use the bathroom and shop some more (too many great shops to list here with everything from high end denim to bridal lace, etc.). In the photo above you can see the intersection, and I've drawn an arrow showing you where Chinaworld Mall is, hard to miss on the right hand side as the building is bright red. I've also put an arrow pointing to Pahurat Textile Market across the street, which is full of more fabric and is a fun little maze to wander around (although, to be honest, Pahurat smells a bit like cat pee, so it's not my favorite place to shop).



Asoke

If you're pressed for time in Bangkok, you might not have time to go all the way to Yaowarat. Lucky for you, there are a few excellent fabric and findings shopping options that are centrally located in the Sukhumvit area, where many of the major hotels are located, at the interchange between the MRT subway (Sukhumvit Station) and the BTS elevated train (Asoke station).

Hieng Yoo Huat:

Hieng Yoo Huat was my most frequented fabric shop, both because of its convenient location and its quality garment fabrics. Denim, linen, cottons, stretch sateens and bottomweights, silky stuff, both real and synthetic.





Twee

Right around the corner from Hien Yoo Huat (above), just a few store fronts down, Twee is a cute little shop with thread, zippers, buttons, pins, needles, elastics, binding and piping, among others. One of my best finds here, though, was Japanese-made machine needles that work in my Janome... so cheap! Packs of 5 go for about 40 (right now, equivalent to US$1.15), I believe.


At the Mall

I try to avoid shopping malls as much as possible because I loathe them and they make me dizzy, but in Bangkok, it's almost inevitable that you'll end up at one mall or another at some point. Might as well check out some fabric while you're there, right? 

Bonus: if you're in the area already, it's worth a stop by the Jim Thompson House for a tour to see his amazing collection of Asian art and learn a bit more about this titan of the Thai silk industry and his fascinating background in the OSS (the predecessor to the CIA). 

Amarin Plaza

If you want silk and other Thai fabrics, there are lots of tailor shops in Amarin Plaza that will also sell Thai-style fabrics, including silk, mudmee, ikat, indigo dyed fabrics.

Siam Paragon

Indigo House in Siam Paragon is a spot for high-end ikat and indigo-dyed fabrics. Really gorgeous stuff, but pricey.

Central World

Central World is one of Bangkok's biggest malls. It has a few fabric shops worth checking out if you're there:

I haven't bought anything at Nai Chan, as it seemed pricey to me, but if you're already in the mall, have a look. Fabric House has some nice stuff; I've bought a few cotton lawn prints there and some lovely crepey blouse-weight stuff:

A post shared by Meg (@megret79) on

Elsewhere

Chatuchak

Chatuchak (or Jatujak/JJ Market) is Bangkok's famous weekend market. There is some fabric to be found there, although less than I would have thought and some of it expensive and/or low quality.

Two things to look out for at Chatuchak, though:

Thai phakhaoma fabric at Nuala Or, on the outside edge of section 26. You can see my phakhaoma top here!

Cheap and cute buttons! There is a craft/button shop on the outside edge of the market, in the vicinity of Section 9 and 11. Look in the 35 baht bins for some hidden gems:

A post shared by Meg (@megret79) on

Jim Thompson Factory Outlet

The Jim Thompson factory outlet is fun to check out if you have time, very close to the BTS/elevated train. It has several floors of fabric (although most is home decor fabric), as well as a couple floors of discounted gifts, clothes and housewares.

A post shared by Meg (@megret79) on

28 comments:

  1. Not a long post at all! Every time I scroll down I said is over boo, but no, you had more! Love the details, enjoyed the pictures and the videos. Now I must go to Bangkok!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you should! Glad you liked the post!!

      Delete
  2. Thank you SO MUCH for this comprehensive guide with photos. I am bookmarking this for future reference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you like it! I hope you get to use it soon!

      Delete
  3. You are a star for putting together such an exhaustive guide! So informative :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. you are the nicest.

    ReplyDelete
  5. HI Meg! I feel lucky to have been able to go fabric shopping with you and meet up with you in BKK! One additional recommendation if someone comes upon this post and is formulating a list of fabric shops for a visit: Khomopastr fabrics has traditional Thai screen print cottons and a very interesting history connected to the royal family. it's pricey (in the same range as Jim Thompson) but I loved all the prints! And they also have great housewares. I also purchased thai silk yardage at my favorite BKK tailor, Cotton House, at OP Place behind the Mandarin Oriental. Highly recommend Cotton House for quality custom work at an affordable price. They also have a small selection of beautiful silks that are pricier than Jim Thompson but I found to be much lovelier and unique. Unlike other tailors in BKK, Cotton House will work with fabric that you bring yourself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, good call- I forgot about Khompastr! And thanks for the tailor tip!

      Delete
  6. Oh, I love that post! Hopping I will get a chance in the nearest future to travel in this fabric shopping paradise :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fingers crossed for you! Glad you like the post!

      Delete
  7. Hey Meg! I should have consulted you before our last trip there. Although, I may have been to a few of those shops, there are so many that it's hard to know what ones are the best. I didn't realize you had moved. Thanks for this guide that I will use in the future. Not a long post at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Peggy! I hope the guide comes in handy for you next time you're in Thailand!

      Delete
  8. Meg - I always enjoy reading your posts and this one, as usual, is fabulous. I am visiting Bangkok in a couple of months and want to use your wonderful guide but is it available as a document as I am the only person left in the world who doesn't own a mobile or tablet so need to have a paper guide. Is this possible. Suzanne from Australia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lucky you! Hmmm- I don't have this in document form, but I think it would be pretty easy for you to cut and paste the text into a Word document or something and then print it out. Or just print the blog post itself? I hope you enjoy your visit!

      Delete
  9. Bless you!
    Mary in Bangkok

    ReplyDelete
  10. As an enthusiastic reader of your blog and a big fan of Bangkok I was so close to asking you for your favourite shops - and voilà!
    Thank you so much!
    Birgit, Germany

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent! Glad I read your mind ;-) I hope it's helpful!

      Delete
  11. Fantastic post, jammed packed with all the good stuff! So impressed you would take this amount of time to detail and share fabric resources in Bangkok. I especially appreciate the bus info. I've never used a bus in Bangkok, was soft of intimidated. Now I want to take the bus to China Town. Back to you: I was was trying to guess the amount of time it must have taken you to formulate and publish this post. A guess would not probably come close. So, sending out a huge THANK YOU! For the work that you put into this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you like it, Pamela! It was fun to put together. I was going to put one together just using photos I had taken in the past, but right before our move I ended up with an extra day in Bangkok and was able to head back to Yaowarat to take photos and notes more systematically. It was a lovely goodbye to my favorite shops!

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This was woooonderful - thank you. I'm visiting Bangkok in November and was so excited about fabric shopping. I get overwhelmed by choice in the smallest haberdasheries, so this makes me feel armed and ready! I'm staying in Chinatown, so it sounds like I'll be headed for Pahurat!

    Do you know of any fabric shopping guides or tours that happen in Bangkok?

    Thanks x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perfect timing! Glad you like it. I don't know of any guides or tours, sorry. But I think if you're already staying in Chinatown and just pick a few places from my list, you should be fine and not overwhelmed! Just explore and you'll have fun!

      Delete
    2. Brill, thank you x

      Delete
  14. I am too sick to travel to Bangkok. But really want after reading your wonderful special fabric guide. Is there any of the shops that have a web shop you can rekommend?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, I don't know that any of these have webshops. I know some might do wholesale via email or phone, but not webshops, as far as I know.

      Delete