TF Notions Market

The Shanghai Notions Market, located in Tang Sheng Xia on Renmin Lu, is a building which houses hundreds of stalls each offering a variety of embellishments and functional attachments, primarily for clothes but not excluding other fabric based items such as drapes and table cloths. Amongst some of the popular items on sale were; zippers, fringes, buttons, embroidered fabric pieces, pockets, beads and fabric patches. Lone salesmen, saleswomen and families gather daily within the confines of this three-story building to get their items sold at the market.

Each stall in the building can be identified by an alphanumeric code identifying the block of stores and the number of the shop. They were generally connected back to back, with little alley-ways between each line of shops so that customers can navigate around them. The crammed together stalls utilized most of the floor space on the first and second floors, with little space being left to form passageways. On the second floor, there were a few shops which were not little sheds, like the majority of outlets, but rather mall-like stores, which were bigger. Perhaps the more affluent, longstanding vendors at the market were able to graduate to larger, more official spaces within the market. Moreover, stores catered mostly to a Mandarin-speaking audience, however, a substantial amount of the stores included contact information in English and attempted to communicate with English-speakers in English. This is unlike othermarkets in Shanghai such as Shanghai’s “Fake” market where most vendors speak fluent English in order to bargain with customers. Similar to other markets however, items did not have formal prices listed, prices could be negotiated with vendors once an interest was shown in an item. Due to the nature of the products being sold and the presence of healthy competition within the market, items were generally quite cheap and could be bought wholesale.

Many items, particularly additions such asbuttons had a shiny, metallic appearance but in many instances these items were actually not conductive.It was interesting to prove that many of the items which one would normally assume to be conductive were actually not. Thus, emphasizing the importance of checking fabrics, threads and embellishments with a multimeter before attempting to use them in circuits. Items which were conductive however presented some interesting ideas about how one could incorporate them into circuits to improve the flexibility, durability and beauty of wearable electronics. The conductive materials such as buttons on sale at the market would be ideal to use as switches while other long, flexible conductive embellishments could be an interesting replacement for wires, to improve flexibility and the overall appearance.

Field Trip-Notion Market (Leah)

Filed trip report
Place: Notion Fabric markets ( Market that selling side material of fabrics)in Renmin Road
Date: February 10th

The notion market of fabrics is a new place even for me as a Chinese. The biggest experience I got is that the market broadens my imagination to fabrics and components of clothes. It is not actually a fabric market but just a market for components, but there are so many choices and possibilities. The limitation of imagination can seriously limit my ability in designing my project later on, so it is really helpful to visit such a place early in the semester.
The market, unfortunately, is not quite open due to the Spring Festival. It is an open space with two floors full of private shops. Most of the owners went back home for the Spring Festival, leaving the door shut and some notifications with their phone numbers on the door. Only some shops were still open, but there are few people visiting the market that day even if it was Saturday. I remember an old lady walked into the market, only to find few shops open. She was disappointed immediately and went away, saying “Oh, they close the shops and went back home”. We are the only team still wandering around the market, which makes the trip new to me. When I was in the market previously, there were so many people and the market was usually noisy. But this trip turned out to be quiet, giving me chance to stay calm and obverse carefully.

One thing I noticed about the shops was that they didn’t completely close the shop. A lot of shops left some of their products barely outside. Like these yarns.

It seems people can just take them away freely. I talked about this with my partner Diego, we thought that it was because that there were so many products and they were so cheap, losing one or two may not cause a good lost. Besides, those products are the advertisement for shops to show what they are selling to attract potential customers when owners were out.

Those yarns also remind me an interesting phenomenon, the conductivity of the materials. We got the task to test whether materials we met in the market is conductive. Some of the yarns look conductive, but after testing, none of the yarns was actually conductive. They were just made looks like metal. Similar things happened to fasteners and chains. They looked shiny and metallic, but only a few of them were actually conductive.

The conductivity of the material is important for designing an interactive fabrics projects. Conductive fasteners can serve as buttons while chains could be wires. On the other hand, the conductive materials can also cause a short circuit if not connected properly, like I did in the circuit assignment. Since our eyes don’t always tell the truth, it is better to test before use.












we found an interesting shop selling some complex fabrics. The owner told us most of the fabrics were connected together with flakes and they were handmade (though I doubt it is machine made)

I found one piece whose flakes could change the color between blue and green. It was so beautiful that reminds me of a peacock (though Antonius, Joanna, and Sarah insisted it looks like a mermaid, why? ) I made a bargain with the owner. It was two ma (95cm*120cm, I can’t remember the detailed data). 48 yuan for one ma. I am not good at a bargain so I just hesitated for a hundred year, and the owner finally got impatient and gave me 80 for the whole.

He answered another question from Diego, since the products here were so cheap and there were so little people, how could they make money out of that? The owner told us that most of their customers were from shopping malls or clothes markets, they will order hundreds of products together. The mass-selling keeps them making money.


Time flew fast, even with few shops open. I think it is an interesting and helpful experience and it provides me a place to looks up to when we are in the need of materials. Besides, shops here all have Taobao shops, so it is also convenient to shop online.


Talking Fabric | Notion Market Tour

The Notions Market is an amazing Aladdin Cave of ribbons, zippers, laces, sequins, buttons and a lot more. It is not only a dazzling market to search for materials needed for handicraft works, but also a magical place that can trigger my creative and innovative side by showing all kinds of beautiful and delicated works of art right in front of me.
I am more than willing to surrender my wallet to the whole market, but the question is how I can make the most out of these purchases of works of art. During the whole trip through Notions Market, I have two main takeaways that I believe will reshape my future mindset of designing.
First of all, I realized that it is a really important skill to learn how to keep the balance of functionality and aesthetics of my work. Before we went on our discovery journey to the Notions Market, Antonius gave us a task to examine whether the material is conductive or not. Dania and I examined more than 20 kinds of material which seems to be made of metal, but later it turned out that they are actually covered with metal-like paint and can not conduct at all. Therefore, I realized that no matter how the material looks like, we should never take its property for granted and we should always have our own hands on and try to examine the genuine property of that before making decisions. This is an extremely great lesson for us to learn before we select the material for our works. In this sense, the functionality should be the first priority, and only when functionality is fully guaranteed we can pursue further to achieve higher level of aesthetics.
The second lesson for me is that it is a great way to get inspirations from immersing myself into the real market rather than locking myself in the invisible box all the time. Despite the fact that the Notions Market only had several shops opening because of the Chinese New Year, I still learned and experienced a lot when talking with the shop owners about the notions they are selling and how their customers use these notions to make creative designs. Interestingly, I found there are so many different types of notions with distinct patterns that I once imagined about but have never seen before, and it is really excited for me to see them and buy them at a relatively low price. When going deep into the market and randomly discovering different kinds of notions, I found that some interesting combination just come across my mind, which I might not think of when I am constructing the idea alone. Therefore, I found it really interesting and helpful to plan a discovery about the unknown notions in the market and talk to the shop owners to learn about their expertise in fabrics and notions, in this way it has the great potential to reconstruct my idea in a way I have never thought of before.I really appreciate this field trip to Notions Market and gained a lot from this experience. It is not only a great place to go for buying notions and materials I need for my handicraft works, but also a vivid market for me to learn more about the material, talk with the notion experts and get more juicy inspirations. I am already looking forward to my second trip to the Notions Market.

Notions Market

Before this market trip, I expected the Notions Market to be similar to the South Bund Fabric Market (which I visited last semester with my roommate) in terms of scale. Despite many of the stalls being closed for the upcoming holiday, the few stores that were open provided a glance at the large variety of available products. By looking into some of the glass store fronts, it was possible to see that many of the vendors also display products outside of the storefront adding to the scale and complexity of the market. When we add in the fact that many of the vendors also have an online presence or that they have moved completely online, the sheer scale of availability is impressive. (My sense of scale may be slightly skewed as to find anything similar to this near were I live would require a six hour drive to Boston, an eight hour drive to New York, or a four hour drive to Quebec.)

The look of some of the products can be very deceptive in terms of conductivity. The beadwork pictured below, which on first glance looks plastic, was indeed conductive. However, the metallic looking thread, pictured next to it, was not conductive. The metallic threads in the fabric pictured below were also not conductive while some of the plastic appearing buttons and the loops on some beads were conductive. One particular vendor that specialized in zippers showed us a device that he uses to test the conductivity of products similar in appearance to a stud-finder. Many of his zippers were conductive while others ranged from plastic to large, almost industrial-sized zippers.

The types of products available feel like a dream come true for any sort of crafter, costumer, designer, etc. coming from areas were this sort of open market is not available. Pictured below are just some of the wide range of things available from lace, ribbons, appliqués, buttons, tassels, and fasteners to fabric panels and thread.

Before I head home for the summer, I hope to do a small bit of shopping for a project I have planned. 🙂 (sorry for the sideways photos, the window crashes when I try to rotate them)

-Sarah Brooker

Notions Market Writeup

The notions market showed me a completely different face of businesses in China, and especially the way business is evolving towards web-based commerce instead of store-fronts and real life interactions. I had been to the Xing Guang Photography Equipment Center, where you can find second hand or new cameras and equipment, and expected the notions market to be somewhat similar to it. However, the notions market was completely different to what I expected: it was smaller, darker and it was quite empty. We came to the conclusion that it was so empty because we were visiting right before the new years, and for that reason, I want to go back after the break and see what it looks like.

Looking at all of these small shops, it was a very interesting contrast to see how something as traditional as buttons, zippers, and embellishments, in short, things that are used when you sew clothes (in a very manual way) can be bought online or in a physical space but paying by digital means (AliPay, WePay…). This contrast is very present in China, but especially in this market, seeing all the closed stalls and empty hallways, it was even more present.

It is very interesting to reflect on their business model, because they sell both wholesale and to individuals (at a higher price). There were stores with thousands of different buttons, millions of zippers and even a store where you can get fake labels. Compared to Spain, where most of these items can be found in small notions stores that have nothing to do with the size of this market, this was a completely different insight behind the scenes of the fashion world. Furthremore, the other day I read a very interesting article in Vice about a similar market but for toys and other items. Find it here, it is an interesting read that helps reflect on the store-front-that-actually–sells-wholesale business model!

Writing 1: Notions Market

Jikai Zheng’s Documentation 3: 2/13/18

On February 10, our talking fabrics class set out to the notions market to get familiar with all sorts of embellishments, buttons, lace, zips, and thread. There was a plethora to look at and, of course, to test with our multimeters.

We use the multimeters to test for anything that could be deemed conductive. Once we set our multimeters, we could search for truly conductive embellishments, not just assume something is conductive because of its metallic luster. Just because something looks metallic doesn’t mean it will be conductive!

In actuality, we found quite a lot of beads on fabric to be metallic because they were cast in metal, and even heard one seller proclaim his embellishments were stainless steel. Turns out buttons covered in metal were not rare either, and they were definitely conductive. Zippers with metal components were also conductive. Every time the multimeters beeped was an assurance of conductivity,

However, there were some gold looking plastic thread that was not conductive at all. At first, I thought it was conductive because the multimeter beeped, but it was actually the two testers touching each other that caused the sound, not the thread itself. Guess we’ll just have to work with the real stuff back in our school then.

Overall, our field trip was a great introduction to knowing what we could find in the notions market. However, since it was nearing Spring Festival, many of the shops were closed, and therefore, I would like to come back another time if I needed to find buttons and zips for my projects. Next field trip will be the fabric market, which will be crucial to my project ideas.


Sewn Circuit- Pocket Square

For this project I started out with creating a circuit on a breadboard. Once this circuit was working, I transferred it to the white fabric we had previously used to practice, while I decided what to do for my project. I eventually decided to make a light-up pocket square, hopefully done with a flower fold. In the scrap room I found a piece of thin black fabric that I flower folded into a pocket square. I then took some green thread, later replaced with black thread, to hold the fold in place so I could sew the components of the circuit onto the pocket square.

The next thing I planned on doing was to solder the components of the circuit together so that I could simply couch them in place and then use conductive thread to attach the LED to the circuit. Before the class presentation I was able to see the LED in place with regular thread, but due to poor planning of my time, I did not solder the components together to make a circuit. I was also missing conductive snaps as a switch to the circuit that I had planned to buy during the Notions market field trip (we ended up having some on Thursday so this part was unnecessary).

After the class on Thursday when we were supposed to present the complete circuit, I was able to solder together most of the circuit before a spring in the helping hands popped out. Later, I couched the soldered parts onto the back of the pocket square where they would not be visible during normal wear. My hope is to have a functioning circuit by the next class. Now I know for future reference to be much more careful with my time management and to be very certain of when the deadline is.

Sarah Brooker

Week 3: Embroidered Circuit

My idea for this project was to create a bracelet with and LED light that would turn on once clipped around my wrist. I managed to put together a simple circuit attached to a piece of leather fabric with a Velcro switch. I used conductive thread to connect the components in place of wires.

I began by soldering a small piece of stranded wire onto both sides of my battery holder so that I could use the wire to make a loop that I would later couch sew onto the piece of leather. Once that was completed, I sewed one side of the Velcro onto the fabric with my conductive thread and connected that directly to the wire loop which connected to my batter holder. I then pierced two small holes through the leather fabric, positioned very close to the end of the black wire which I soldered onto the other side of my battery holder. I created a loop with the legs of the LED and couched the battery holder wire down, followed by one end of the LED loop. I then couched the other side of the LED light down on the fabric and made one continuous backstitch all the way to the end of the fabric where I then sewed the other side of the Velcro switch.

Unfortunately, the circuit did not light up once I closed the circuit. I believe that perhaps the connections made with the conductive thread were too weak and or not very continuous as sometimes I would run out of thread and have to cut the thread and start over while trying to make a continuous link. I believe that perhaps making the entire circuit using stranded wire then couching that arrangement onto the fabric would have been more effective, though a little less flexible than I would have wanted.

Here are some photos of my work.

Field Trip to the Notions Market (Phyllis)

Date: February 10th, 2018

Instructor: Antonius Wiriadjaja

Today Antonius led us to a notions market at No. 338 Renmin Lu. Since there are only eight people in our class, we were quite organized to go as a group. I’ve never been to any huge notions market before, so I thought that the market would be super 热闹 and we would see lots of tradings. However, when we arrived there…

Well… even though it was already around two in the afternoon, few shops were open. I thought this market was so unpopular that it might be somehow dying. Then Antonius reminded me of Chinese New Year — right! Lunar New Year is coming in a few days, so people from other provinces should leave for their hometowns and celebrate with their family 🙂

Fortunately, some shops were still open and we found…

Many colorful snaps!

Plenty of really cute woolen and cotton yarn~

Some… I asked the shopkeeper Xie about the price of these materials, and he told me that 7.8 RMB per for the narrowed ones (middle) and around 20 RMB for the larger ones (right).

Leah actually bought some peacock green material for herself for less than a hundred kuai (as is shown in the left picture below)!


One important mission of this field trip is to find conductive materials. So my partner and I tested various kinds of things, including snaps and other decorating materials. The materials we tested below were conductive~

There were also colorful copper wires which I believe can be used as conductive thread in future projects! (It says “dedicated copper wires for jewelry” in the left picture.) Attention!! The thread on the left is pretty but NOT conductive!

Some sticky decorations that can be put on fabrics are really interesting, too! For instance, the below shiny ones can stick on fabrics as long as you heat them! (The middle picture shows the back of the shiny ones.) And the cartoon ones can be stabilized by either heating them or needling them.

I think it is overall a really great experience for us to go to a notions market as a group! It makes me feel that we are not only studying on campus but learning from life 🙂 Look forward to our next field trip~

Assignment 1: Felting + Simple Circuits

Make-up Date: February 9, 2018

Documented by: Phyllis Fei

Instructor: Antonius Wiriadjaja

Materials & Tools

1 Handful of wool roving, 1 Coin cell battery, 1 LED, Vinyl Tape

Felting needles, Styrofoam block, Scissors


I borrowed brown and green felt to make mustache. The left photo is how my material originally looks like before felting. The right photo is my draft of this assignment 🙂


I felted a circle shape and a mustache shape with the felting needle. The photo below is how the felt looks like after felting!Then I stabilized the longer leg of the LED on the positive pole of the coin cell battery, and left the other LED leg on the negative pole of the battery (but didn’t stabilize it). And I used another piece of felt to make a battery container. The photo below shows how the battery container looks like!

In order to hide the leg of the LED, I felted the green circle shape on top of the battery container. And the side face of the mustache looks like this…

Now, when pressing the green circle, the LED will light up!

When you “wear” this on… Funny face! But sorry for failing in editing these photos to the right direction 🙁