On my recent moderately epic trip through Asia, I spent half the time doing mental calculations of how much fabric I could bring back with me… Typical, I’m sure, for the average cycling sewist.
As it happened, the big opportunity was at the end, when we reached Ho Chi Minh city – still called Saigon by the locals (and henceforth by me as well). I did some internet research and discovered several good potential places, so of course, I went to all of them! I was most sportingly accompanied by my friend Nina, who now knows more than she ever wished to about fabric, although she’s still astounded when I spot fabric I already know 🙂
First up: a fancy silk shop, Toan Tinh (180 Ly Tu Truong Q1) in the center of town. Oh. My. Goodness. I read that this was a great source for fixed-price, high quality, made in Vietnam silks in interesting modern patterns. And it lived up to the hype – rack upon rack of gorgeousness. Was it cheap as chips? Nope. But certainly less than we’d usually pay back home, so I told myself not to be stupidly stingy in the face of such a unique shopping opportunity.
This is the face of fabric smugness
And this is what I bought! It’s a gorgeous multicoloured silk twill, with a beautiful drape. Le sigh. The big challenge will be figuring out what to do with it… (and how not to mess up the pattern placement! I might have to recruit the help of the Crafty Foxes….)
Next up, we went down the poshness scale, and headed north up to the Tan Dinh Market. Opposite the market on Hai Ba Trung, we found a little cluster of fabric stores:
They were remarkably reminiscent of the Goldhawk road and the cheaper stores in NYC. The most notable thing was the plethora of knits: so many! Unlike the stores I’m used to, at least 50% of the fabrics were knits, albeit most of them were synthetic.
There were lots of really unusual fabrics I haven’t seen anywhere else before – observe below: ombre gingham! floral chambray! And…. a blatant ripoff of the Cloud9 voile I bought recently!
We then headed into the market itself, where there were aisles upon aisles of fabric stalls, all neatly folded up in 12 foot high piles. I must say, it did underline the need to pre-wash fabric – I won’t even tell you what we saw occurring on top of piles of fabric….!
There was so much to see, we came back to this patch a second time, and discovered a really cool store that specialized in chiffon with border prints. The traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai for women is a tight fitting silk tunic over loose trousers, and hence there’s a lot of demand for interesting silk chiffon. We saw an incredible range, including the one below of a Cotswold country cottage! They have various look books where you can see all the possibilities including photorealistic apples and grapes…
Our final trip was to the Cholon (Chinatown) district, where we went to Tran Hung Dao St, and Tong Duy Tan which is known as “Haberdashery Alley”. This area appeared to be more wholesale – I suspect that they may have supplied the other market we went to, along with local garment makers. There were various indoor markets with stall after stall of wools, shirtings and yet more knits.
Here’s the alley in all its glory!
The alley was jam packed with notions – here’s a button shop! How on earth they sell enough to keep going, I have no idea…
More sights included a multi coloured burnout ombre silk, polka dot knits in every colour, and polka/floral knits!
As usual, fabric shopping was overwhelming, but I’m a trouper! In addition to the lovely silk I picked up four more fabrics:
– Pre-pleated purple chiffon! I have never seen this sold before and squealed when I found it! Woop! Simple pleated skirt coming up
– Cloud printed lightweight cotton – a summer skirt, methinks
– A royal blue floral border print chiffon – obviously I need another maxi skirt
– And finally, arrow printed “silk” (I think it’s probably polyester)
I love how sewing gives you access into a whole new world, even when you’re traveling. It’s so great to go and explore a non-touristy area of the city and engage with local people – even though they’re always very skeptical that I actually sew! So, next time you’re in Saigon, let me know if you need any tips.
Interested in other fabric store guides? Check these out: