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Posts Tagged ‘Gwangjang Market’

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Hangul print fabric with Chinese characters interspersed.

Regular readers might recall that when I travel I look for fabric to bring home and have something made (or make something myself ) as a memento of my adventures. Last October, while on a textiles tour in Seoul, South Korea I went looking for fabric at the famous Dongdaemum Market, known for many a stall selling wholesale fabrics, notions, and anything one might need for DIY accessories.

I was searching for something unique that reflected Korean culture in some way. I wandered around and around, in circles it seemed, and just as I thought I might not have any luck, turning  a corner I came across a few of the other women on my tour chatting excitedly over a bolt of fabric that immediately caught my eye.

It was cotton with printed hangul, the Korean alphabet that we had learned about earlier in the week on a museum tour. I’m really drawn to the shapes of hangul and I agree with Karl Lagerfeld, who once said that hangul letters are like Cubism. The fabric came in blue with white print and brown with white. I went for the brown.

The fun part of this process is pondering how to use the fabric. I considered napkins and placemats but I wanted something unexpected. Perhaps a dress but the weight is a little stiff for that. What about a coat? I began to picture a longish, slim coat with a touch of Asian flair. That’s it!

Once home I found exactly the silhouette I wanted in a pattern by Connie Crawford for Butterick – slim, no collar, unlined.

The next step was to bring the fabric and pattern to seamstress extraordinaire, Kathy Wharton . We had one fitting and decided on the length and no pockets to avoid any bulk. Within ten days my coat was finished.

 

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I chose dark red thread for the top stitch.

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I couldn’t be more pleased and I look forward to sporting my Korean Coat this spring. In the meantime I’m making a hat out of the same fabric. More on that later.

 

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A recent interest in Korean fashion led me to sign up for the Korea Textile Tour, a ten day exploration of traditional Korean culture and textile art. It was my first trip to Asia and needless to say, I was most excited!

Limited to ten women, our group included mostly quilters and a couple of us interested primarily in fashion. We were based in Seoul, South Korea with three leaders:

  • Youngmin Lee, a Korean transplant to the Bay Area and Korean textiles artist.
  • Mirka Knaster makes her home in Northern California and is a writer and an artist working in fiber arts.
  • Lissa Miner is a quilter who hails from Berkeley, CA but currently lives outside of Seoul, South Korea.

 

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Studio of Kyung Yeal Kim, master craftsman. This is where we took the safflower dye workshop.

The days were packed full but we kept to a reasonable pace. Each day we walked an average of five miles, so no need to worry about getting enough exercise. We took docent led museum tours, strolled neighborhoods, met master artists who led us in workshops, including indigo dye and safflower dye. We stayed in Insadong, which is an older part of Seoul known originally as the neighborhood of calligraphy and paper artists. It was a great place to be, located near two subway stations and within walking distance of many galleries and shops. Speaking of subways – I was very impressed with the efficiency (never waited more than 5 minutes for a train), and how clean the stations and trains are kept. Sure it gets crowded and the older folk will push you out of the way but overall the system was a pleasure to ride.

Our hotel was the recently renovated Sunbee. I’m told that it was bought by a retired pharmacist who handed the business over to her son to run. Each of us had her own room, which are remarkably spacious as are the bathrooms. At the end of a busy day, it felt good to come back to a comfortable space. There’s a cafe off the lobby where we met each morning for the included breakfast. Plus free laundry facilities and Wi-Fi.

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Public Library.

As for language, it helps to know a little Korean, at least hello and thank you. In general, many young people speak English and most older people do not. Traditional Korean restaurants don’t have menus in English but some do have pictures to point to. I was lucky to have Youngmin’s help  – often she checked ahead with restaurants to see what accommodations could be made for my egg allergy.  (Several meals are included in the tour.) Modern neighborhoods have English speaking staff  in shops and restaurants. I found that communication is possible and actually fun with a few words in common and a willingness to try.

Tourism in South Korea is on the rise, so people are used to non-Korean speakers. But Korea is not yet on the American radar and I spotted very few of my follow citizens.

What is on the radar of young Koreans is western food. Especially coffee, bread, and pastries. We saw many a French bakery and cafe. Also health food, such as organic salad, is very popular in the modern neighborhoods.

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Handbag Museum.

Among some of my favorite activities on the tour was the trip to Gwangjang Market. The first permanent market in Korea and the main market for fabric, this place is mecca for high quality rare fabrics such as ramie and silk. It was a treat to see. There’s also a food market on the first floor, offering just about any kind of Korean street food you’d like to eat.

I really enjoyed visiting Ewha Women’s University Museum where we had a docent led tour of the special exhibit – Undergarments from the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1897 (undergarments worn with Hanbok).

On one of our free days four of us visited the Simone Handbag Museum. A few years ago I had read about this museum, which opened in 2012 and displays antique to modern, handmade to designer handbags. The building itself is in the shape of a handbag.

While exploring on my own one day,  I unexpectedly stumbled upon the public library in Bukchon. Another charming historic neighborhood, Bukchon is located near two palaces and is known as a center for traditional arts and artists’ studios.

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Really, I enjoyed everything because it was all new to me. Much of the tour is focused on Korean history and culture, which as Mirka pointed out, gives a context to the traditional art we looked at and talked about. I have come home with a desire to learn more about all things Korean.

This was the second year for the Korea Textile Tour and plans are already in the works for 2019. A list of interested travelers is growing. Click here for more information.

There are lots of photos of my trip on Instagram. Follow OverDressedforLife:

#overdressed4life

Check back for more fashionable adventures in Seoul, South Korea.

 

 

 

 

 

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