A guide to Seoul for the crafty traveler | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

The anik-anik and craft girlie’s guide to Seoul

Here are some tried-and-tested suggestions for the crafters and anik-anik girlies to add to your Seoul itinerary

Prior to my latest trip to Seoul early this May, my Instagram and TikTok algorithms were feeding me and my friends endless videos about where to shop and eat in the country.

While there was an abundance of Olive Young product hauls, beauty treatment walkthroughs, and pop-up store guides, it seemed like there wasn’t much information about craft-centered/DIY places that could scratch our itch for cute things.       

Koreans love their knick-knacks—a fact evidenced by all the fluffy character keyrings hanging from their bags and the abundance of big and small novelty shops selling the cutest stationery, accessories, and homeware in select neighborhoods.

Since my first trip over in 2018, I’ve rarely gone home without a new sticker sheet, pen, keyring, or washi tape roll to add to my collection. My favorite thing to do on chill itinerary days is walk around the smaller neighborhoods and explore the random stores in the area.

This time, my friends and I decided to be more intentional with the spots we hit up, designating a day specifically for DIY-related activities. Below are some tried-and-tested suggestions for the anik-anik girlie (and anyone in the market for personalized souvenirs) to add to your itinerary.

Make your own charm bracelets and necklaces at Dongdaemun Shopping Complex

Assorted beads in Dongdaemun Shopping Complex in Seoul
Assorted beads in Dongdaemun Shopping Complex

Just 10 minutes away from the famed Dongdaemun Design Plaza and right across a portion of Cheonggyecheon Stream is a building that’s mostly known for its many fabric stores and cheap clothing. Dongdaemun Shopping Complex is composed of four buildings filled with rows upon rows of stalls selling wholesale materials for clothes-making and drapery—already overwhelming for anyone who likes to sew. But take the elevator in building B up to the fifth floor to find the famed bead market where you can shop for all kinds of charms, beads, pliers, and pretty much anything you’ll need for jewelry, keyring, decoden, and resin projects. The draw of the place is that all the options are already spread out in front of you, unlike if you were to buy the materials online and keep clicking to find the charms you like.

Crochet keyrings from Dongdaemun Shopping Complex
Crochet keyrings from Dongdaemun Shopping Complex

While most of the stores sell raw materials (many of which are what they use for the accessories sold for triple the price in roadside shops in Hongdae and Myeongdong), some also sell finished products like those trendy fluffy keyrings as well as unofficial Sanrio and Studio Ghibli merch. If you, like me, already have jewelry-making tools at home, the complex provides a simple (and budget-friendly) way to make personalized souvenirs from the trip. I was able to buy a few components to make a charm bracelet and two pairs of earrings.

Tip: Since the selection is so wide, shopping there can be a bit intimidating. Be prepared with pegs for projects you’d like to make to avoid decision fatigue.

Dongdaemun Design Complex is located at 266, Jong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Shop for yarn at Banul Story

Banul Story has everything you can use knitting needles and crochet hooks for
Banul Story has everything you can use knitting needles and crochet hooks for

Banul means “needle” in Korean, and this store has everything you can use knitting needles (and crochet hooks!) for. The store stocks a selection of yarn and wool from China, the UK, and Korea (among other places). Pure cotton yarn skeins go for 3,600KRW or P153 (at sale price) to 8,000 KRW or P342, while the more premium types like alpaca yarn, mohair yarn, and merino wool go for a much higher price.

If you’re a beginner looking to pick up some supplies, worry not since they have signage showing what to do and labels for the difficulty level of each type of yarn, though they are in Korean. Those who haven’t yet dipped their toes in yarn-craft can avail of their beginner kits, which show you how to make mini pouches, scarves, and other simple things.

Banul Story in Seoul
The store stocks a selection of yarn and wool from China, the UK, and Korea among others

While the product names and prices have English translations, all the instructional signs are in Korean, so it would still be helpful to have your Papago app ready to translate things. Apart from the yarn, they have many sizes of knitting needles and crochet hooks, stitch markers, buttons, clasps, and other materials you might need for yarn-based crafts. Banul also has its own line of products and merch—get a whiff of their special knit shampoo and knit softener while you’re there. If you have the time, you can even drop by the cafe on the second floor to start on a project while snacking on their signature red bean or custard-filled button bread.

Tip: To see the sale options, go to the shelves on the right side of the store by the entrance. They give patterns for each yarn purchase, but you may have to ask the staff for them.

Banul Story is located at 15 Yeonhui-ro 11 ga-gil, Yeonhui-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul

Pick up DIY kits at Art Box

A selection of planners and notebooks from Art Box
A selection of planners and notebooks from Art Box

Art Box might already be a familiar brand for the stationery-obsessed, having had some stores in the Philippines up until 2017. With multiple branches in South Korea, they offer the cutest office/school supplies, stationery, gadget accessories (think: keyboards, mouses, chargers, and more in cute designs) as well as a wide array of character items from Sanrio and other popular character brands.

This is the stop for collectors looking to buy blind boxes for figurines like Smiskis and Sonny Angels or random plushies for Nintendo characters like Kirby. They also carry a generous selection of DIY starter kits that have everything you need to make basic crafts. My favorite picks from the shop were the heart keyring resin kit and photo frame decoden kit.

Art Box has multiple locations around Seoul

Make your own keychains and photocards at AK&

DIY keyring process at AK&
DIY keyring process at AK&

AK& is a shopping center aimed primarily at younger shoppers by the same people who run the AK Plaza chain of department stores in South Korea.

Located in Hongdae near Hongik University, the mall is home to several stores like Butter (a lifestyle and stationery chain with their own character lines), the Cinnamoroll Cafe (self-explanatory), and even a whole floor dedicated to anime and manga.

On the second floor, you’ll find the K-pop store withMuuu, which has a pretty complete selection of the latest K-pop releases and merch (lightsticks included). The highlight for me, though, were the custom keyring and photocard stations. For the former, you can choose your own photos to put in the keychain of your choice, and for the latter, you can make your own PVC photocard with the photo of your choice.

AK Plaza Hongdae is located at 188 Yanghwa-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul

Visit KT&G Sangsangmadang Art Space for a one-stop anik-anik shopping experience

Sticker haul from KT&G Sangsangmadang
The author’s sticker haul from KT&G Sangsangmadang

Walking around small neighborhoods like Yeonnam and Mangwon, you’re likely to come across many owner-run novelty stores with particular themes. These places usually offer items designed by independent Korean artists, and the selection really depends on what type of store you go into.

If you’re looking to shop for these types of items but are short on time, KT&G Sangsangmadang in Hongdae is the place to visit because it carries a lot of these smaller stationery brands alongside bigger ones. The building has 11 floors, including a cinema and a basement where they hold shows for indie bands.

The first floor is home to stationery and other small things, while the second floor carries homeware and textile-based items. I ended up with some sticker sheets from Korean photographer @ming_kit_ and a washi tape by Prelude Studio as well as more sticker sheets from bigger brands Suatelier and Iconic Story. Make sure to spend a generous amount of time here—I guarantee that you will need more than an hour to go through all the things it has to offer.

KT&G Sangsangmadang is located at 65 Eoulmadang-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Photos by Gaby Gloria

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.