The city of Taipei is known for its various shopping districts that are typically areas dedicated to one type of product or a theme. There are areas for bridal gowns, furniture, restaurant supplies, and even crafts. Travelers to Taiwan often love checking out the varying shopping districts to see what unique finds they can bring home with them. The craft district, known as the “DIY” area, is a fun place for crafters and jewelry makers to check out when visiting Taiwan.
What is the DIY Area
DIY stands for “do-it-yourself” and this is an area in central Taipei that is home to a number of craft related and bead making stores. The style of crafts is quite different here than what is commonly found in the United States and there is a definite emphasis on beads and bead making supplies. For those that delve into jewelry making or embellish craft projects, this is an area you can spend countless hours exploring.
While most of the stores will only have Chinese characters in their names, you will often see the “DIY” signs along the streets as well. The DIY area is located just outside the Taipei Main Station on the red and blue MRT lines. It encompasses a two-block radius on Yangping North and Changan West Roads.
Stores in the DIY District
One of the first stops on your DIY tour should be Shuijing Chaoshi which is located at the corner of Yangping North and Zhengzhou Roads. This giant store is a bead lover’s dream and most travel companions’ nightmare as you can spend hours checking out everything here.
Here you will find any kind of bead imaginable and many of them at far lower prices than you pay wholesale in the United States. There are loose beads, beads on strings, and many semi-precious special beads. Jewelry chains, clasps, charms, and more are all available here for very reasonable prices.
One area of the store is devoted to cell phone charms which are quite popular in many Asian countries. While the fad of cell phone charms is lost to most Western tourists, these make great embellishments on scrapbook pages and other papercrafting projects. They range from as cheap as a few cents to a couple dollars and the styles are endless.
A word of warning about this store though — the staff hovers. The first time I visited I thought it was because we were tourists and they wanted to keep a watchful eye. I soon learned this is the way they work here and they will be quick to remind you to be careful with items if you do not handle the beads as gently as they would like. So, if you visit, do not be alarmed by the employees who seem to constantly follow you around as it is just the way they work no matter whether you are a regular customer or there on your fist visit.
Another favorite stop in the DIY area is Mama Bear at 51, Yanping North Road, Section1. This is the closest thing to a Michael’s Craft Store I have found. This is a fun place as they carry more than just bead making supplies. Here you can find beads, but you can also find all kinds of craft embellishments, some rubber stamps and other scrapbooking supplies, and interesting Chinese craft kits. They have a nice selection of metal charms, bells, pom poms, etc. One area of the store is completely devoted to knitting supplies, with several walls of yarn as well.
The Mama Bear store holds craft classes and tends to get quite crowded on weekends and some evenings, so if you want the best shopping experience, try to visit in the middle of a weekday. There is a lot to explore and the aisles are not that big so it makes for cramped shopping during busy times.
If you are visiting Taipei for a few days, or are a frequent visitor, inquire about the member card as it will save you at least 10% on purchases, which is a nice bonus.
Other Craft Supplies
While the DIY area has some ribbon and other craft supplies, do not expect to find fabric stores around there. If you are looking for more rubber stamp and scrapbook supplies, you may find the prices on items available in the United States are actually higher here. Although many of the items are manufactured in Taiwan, they are sent directly to distributors in the United States and then exported back to Taiwan at retail prices.
For those who enjoy scrapbooking and other forms of papercrafting, there are several companies that produce rubber stamps and their own punches and embossing folders. Recommended places to find these stores include the large department stores and malls in Taipei, such as SOGO, Mitsukoshi, and the Miramar Entertainment Complex in Neihu. Most of the department stores have a floor that includes at least one shop that carries scrapbook and papercrafting supplies.
When visiting Taiwan, there are numerous other shopping districts and areas to check out as well. If you have time, try to squeeze in a visit to the ceramics and pottery area. This is the city of Yingge and is located closer to the Taoyuan (Taipei) International Airport than it is to Taipei itself.
To read more about the DIY area of Taipei, please see the Taipei Times feature article on some of the key stores in this shopping district.