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June 2, 2014

Everything you ever wanted to know about fabric shopping in Saigon but were too afraid to ask

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.
Saigon guide graphic vertical-01
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.
Fabric Shopping in Saigon
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 🙂

Cashmerette

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48 Responses to Everything you ever wanted to know about fabric shopping in Saigon but were too afraid to ask

  1. beswingtes Fräulein June 2, 2014 at 6:22 am #

    The arrows are soooo cute! 😀

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 8:54 am #

      Aren’t that! I bought a ton of that 🙂

  2. sew rachel! June 2, 2014 at 6:24 am #

    How cool is that?!?! You were much more restrained than I would be! Sounds like an amazing trip, thanks for sharing a (very very interesting!) piece if it with us!

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      It was very fun! I didn’t have tons of space in my luggage, which imposed a bit more self restraint than I would have had otherwise…

  3. Katie June 2, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    Woweeee. Sights like the Tan Dinh Market pics make my heart flutter! I love the clouds and arrows you bought, and that cloud9 rip off is too funny. Fabric shopping on travels is so much fun, even if you do have to think about baggage allowances and be a bit restrained. I’m just about to post about the fabric I found in Ecuador!

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      Oooh I can’t wait to see what you found in Ecuador! I was in Argentina last year and looked for fabric, but really didn’t find anything particularly nice or unique. Yay for travel fabric shopping!

  4. Laurwyn June 2, 2014 at 7:35 am #

    I love vacations and fabric shopping! I found a cute cotton on the market in Crete. What I always find interesting is that the locals almost never know where you can buy fabric though. Except in Asia. Beijing had the most beautiful silks, I made my husband go back to the store we went to in September a few monthes later when he was on a business trip…

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 8:58 am #

      It’s *so* true that locals don’t know!! I asked a few people who were helping with our cycling tour about it and they looked at me like I was mad. I ended up finding a guide to shopping in the Wall St Journal of all places, and it pointed me to the main fabric markets. Looking forward to seeing what you got in Crete! When I was living in Greece I hadn’t learned to sew yet, so I have no idea what I was missing…

  5. Denise June 2, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    Envy! That pleated purple! Yummy.

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      It isn’t just?!

  6. Megan June 2, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    great buys! I recently went to ecuador and i thought i was going to buy SO MUCH fabric. In the end i didn’t end up getting that much, but i did get some beautiful traditional, handwoven fabric that will have to be used for pillows or recovering some chairs, both because of the weight and because that way i will be able to admire it every day! There were so many fabric stores in otavalo, but the inexplicably almost all sold really cheesy, printed, fleece. It was crazy!

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      Were you with Katie?! Or just sewing blogger coincidence?

      Can’t wait to see what you picked up – I definitely know the disappointment of going to stores only to find cheapy stuff, but I’m glad you managed to get some lovely traditional material.

    • Katie June 2, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

      Ha, weird coincidence! I noticed a surplus of gaudy fleece there too, very odd!

    • Megan June 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

      Haha, hi Katie! Nice to meet you! Can’t wait to see what you found. I was with my sister and her boyfriend (who I met for the first time) and a pretty limited schedule. I feel like if i have gone with a fellow sewer, I would have made a bit more time for fabric shopping. As it was, seeing the sights was really the priority for me!

  7. Nessa June 2, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    So much beautiful fabric there! Almost too much to choose from! I love what you chose though.

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

      I did get a mild headache 🙂 Luckily we found a place that sold “sushi donuts” (that’s donuts in the same of sushi with crazy icing) which helped…

  8. tanyamaile June 2, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    I can certainly see how that would be overwhelming! Soooo many fabrics!

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

      Luckily I’ve been in fabric shop training for a while now 😉

  9. Crab and Bee June 2, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    I went to Saigon a few years ago, before I’d really started to sew my own clothing, and now I’m wishing I’d sought out fabrics!

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

      I know what you mean – I went to Japan a few years back and I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t just raid all the fabric stores! Oh well, it’s a good excuse to go back

  10. Mary Danielson June 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    Such a fun post, Jenny! It’s the perfect intersection of travelogue and fabric love–the two very best things on the internet. Also, the fabrics you came home with are gorgeous. That pleated chiffon is such a fabulous find! Fabric is my favorite souvenir to bring home from any vacation.

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

      Thanks Mary! I’m looking forward to getting on with some projects now although my list is daunting!

  11. lisa g. June 2, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    wow! what great fabric finds! so much to drool over.

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

      Glad to provide a bit of fabric entertainment!

  12. Lauren of Rosie Wednesday June 2, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    I CANNOT wait to see the prepleated chiffon skirt. Oh, I swoon over those border prints. What a fantastic trip!!

    • Jenny June 2, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

      I’m just figuring out how to sew with it…: some research is needed!

  13. Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) June 8, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    I loved following your “fabric” trawls on IG! The pieces you brought home were awesome but I would have been cramming as many buttons of various kinds into my luggage as I possibly could! Thanks for a more detailed tour since I will probably never get to Saigon!

  14. TresBienEnsemble June 10, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    WHOA. I’m saving this post in the off chance I am ever lucky enough to make it to Saigon! These fabric stores look unreal! I imagine I would be overwhelmed and very broke after exploring them.

  15. Ana Malu December 3, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Thanks for this post! I am visiting Saigon soon and hope to put my freshly gained knowledge to practice 🙂

    • Jenny December 4, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

      Oh how exciting! Have fun!

  16. Isabelle Connor February 25, 2015 at 7:24 am #

    Hello, I will be in Saigon in 2 days and I sew too!!! Do you by any chance know the name of the shop with all the knits (picture with green ceiling). I am travelling with my husband and I cannot spend hours shopping. Would be nice if you could help.

  17. Abena Bailey June 23, 2015 at 8:32 am #

    Did you see much rayon or viscose. I’m about to move to HCMC and find it almost impossible to find this stuff!

  18. jam9358@gmail.com August 24, 2015 at 6:19 am #

    i make clothes for a living. my VN holiday is coming up, and i would love to visit the markets you went to, and get some fabrics too, most esp silk. it became more interesting when you mentioned hai ba trung st, as this was the address of my parents when they worked in VN during the war

  19. Farida Lesperance October 21, 2015 at 2:44 am #

    Oh my! Shocked of all the fabrics at the market. And all the accessories! How cheap?

  20. Emily Loh October 29, 2015 at 3:27 am #

    Hi, thanks for the awesome fabric details in Saigon. may i know where is the 12 foot high piles market is? I going there early of December!

  21. Nadduncare December 21, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    Where is the fabric market which sells quite cheap?

  22. Simon April 1, 2016 at 1:08 am #

    Just to update everyone else, the silk shop Toan Tinh at 180 Lý Tự Trọng, Bến Thành, Quận 1 is gone. Vacant with flattened cardboard plastered over the windows. Happy shopping otherwise!

  23. Cheryl Liew May 9, 2016 at 11:24 pm #

    Hi Jenny

    I am sourcing for knit jerseys fabrics for headbands and is HCM the only place selling most of the knits fabrics or I can source it in Hanoi as well?

  24. Missie August 9, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Great article- did you by any chance gone a cross any cotton yarn? For crocheting ?

  25. Emma Horrocks August 10, 2016 at 4:17 am #

    I’m off to Vietnam next week and as a sewer, this is just the sort of guide I’m after. I’m travelling up north too, so looking forward to seeing lovely crafts and embroideries. Thank you for the tips and photos!

  26. joss August 12, 2016 at 5:46 am #

    HI there, random i know but did you see any vinyl/leather type fabric. Like the type you would use for a vintage car interior?

  27. Juliza September 24, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

    I have been googling on where to shop for fabrics and buy in bulk in Saigon but didn’t get much info until i found yr site. Tq for sharing.

  28. Loreta February 8, 2017 at 9:05 pm #

    Thank you very much for sharing places to shop. Today is the day to do my great job in all those places. Starting at high end and if I find what I want, I will skip the overhelming market:)

  29. Loreta February 9, 2017 at 5:29 am #

    I am back from textile shopping in Saigon. As I planed I went to Toan Thinh shop first, with only Vietnamese silk. I have got 8 silks and happy now. First I was afraid that the shop is closed, construction work is in process there. But luckily I walked to other side of the street and found the shop at 195 instead 180. They said they moved two years ago.

  30. Stephanie May 22, 2017 at 12:27 pm #

    I am going to Saigon later this week. I am looking for fabric and yarn so am happy to find these comments. I am new at shopping for fabrics in a foreign country so any hints or suggestions will be appreciated.

  31. Celery July 10, 2017 at 7:52 pm #

    Hi Jenny! Wow! This article is a treasure! I want to explore the vietnam fabric markets but really looking for knits (like modal) and ponte. Which market would you recommend.

    We usually go to Guangzhou, which is also mind boggling. If I get enough research of where to go, I want to go to Vietnam markets.

    Thanks!

    • Jenny Rushmore July 10, 2017 at 10:46 pm #

      There was a LOT of knit fabrics at almost all the places (except for the exclusively silk ones), but I will say that the vast majority of it appeared to be polyester/synthetic.

  32. Lynda July 16, 2017 at 8:21 am #

    Thank you fpr your informative tips. I am currently in Hue. Soon I will travel to Hoi An and then Saigon. I am looking for upholstery fabric to cover teak dining room chairs. Any idea where I might find it?

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