27 January 2016

Fabric Shopping in Japan

I just got back from Japan! It's been my dream trip for as long as I can remember and, after a rough ride towards the end of last year, I needed something to look forward to, so blew the budget and booked it. And I'm so glad I did! From soothing bowls of steaming soba to the excitement of watching a sumo tournament, from the bright lights of Tokyo to the peace of the ryokans, it was just the trip I needed.

Oh yes, and the fabric shopping is pretty good too. I've been a fan of Japanese prints and textiles ever since I started sewing, and I'd read a few things online about how great the fabric shops are over there, so I was excited to check it out. And yes - I fulfilled the cliché of having to buy an extra suitcase to bring it back in :)

If you're thinking of visiting some day, today I'm sharing the places I visited. This isn't a comprehensive guide - primarily this was a holiday with my lovely guy, so I didn't visit absolutely every fabric shop. I found blog posts by Cashmerette, Thewallina and the Tokyo Craft Guide really helpful, so check those out too...

Fabric shopping in Tokyo 

My favourite fabric shop in Japan that I visited was Tomato in the Nippori Fabric District, near Nippori station - a veritable textile wonderland. If you only get a couple of hours to fulfil your fabric buying needs while over there, this would be where I'd advise you to go for a sure-fire fix.

Tomato has various buildings all close together, the largest of which has five floors (I think? I lost count). Five MASSIVE floors of goodness. A couple of tips to avoid the faux pas I made - you need to pay for fabric on the floor that you found it on (I got told off). And if you see a beautiful Nani Iro double gauze bolt lying lonely in a trolley, don't feel it up lest you bring evil looks upon yourself from other customers - the trolleys are for customers to carry the fabric they plan to purchase ;)

There are looooads of other fabric shops in the same area as Tomato which are worth a look if you have any energy left - here's a map.

The other place I went in Tokyo was Okadaya in Shinjuku (here's a map). There are two shops - the more visible one has cosmetics on the ground floor, with notions and other crafty bits on higher levels. The other shop is down the alley next to it - between the other Okadaya and AttaGirl - with five floors of fabric. There's loads of gems in here - the most magical thing I spotted was these Liberty prints with blink-and-you-miss-them Hello Kitties!

Fabric shopping in Kyoto

In Kyoto, the first place I visited was Nomura Tailor. There are two branches - a smaller one in a covered shopping arcade on Teramachi St, and a larger one on Shijo street around the corner. While the smaller one was a calmer shopping experience (ie. I was the only frenzied customer in there), as far as I could tell (but I could be wrong) the larger one stocks the same stuff and then some. Lots of double gauze, cotton prints, amazing quality knit, printed fleece and Japanese drapey fabrics on the ground floor, fake furs, silks, wools upstairs, and notions, accessories, knitting bits and sewing patterns on the top floor. Basically, a wealth of sewing eye candy!

Another shop I was keen to check out in Kyoto was Misuyabari needle shop, which isn't far from Nomura Tailor. The address system in Japan can be tricky to navigate - particularly if your Japanese is limited to "Delicious", "Thank you for the lovely meal" and "Where is the toilet?" (ahem) - but I found this post really helpful in finding the shop. Their speciality is needles and pins - the friendly owner gave me a booklet all about the history of the shop, alas it's all in Japanese so I can't tell you too much about it! But what I can tell you is that if you go, you will be in awe of the teeny tiny hand-crafted pinheads. Look at the little doggie and kitty pins I got - eep!

So what else did I get? These three fabrics above are all snuggly soft double gauzes which I plan to make into pyjamas, and possibly a baby dress for a friend in the polar bear print. Double gauze was what I was most excited about as it's usually very expensive in the UK - these were all around £5 per metre.

As you can see, there's a bit of a theme evident in my purchases! I did my best to avoid buying too much of the "kawaii" (cute) stuff that is everywhere. As much as it makes me happy, I know I'd rather wear geometric prints when it comes down to it. But how could I resist these kitties?? They're on a lovely lightweight cotton lawn - the B&W one will definitely be a shirt, and I might make a Fifi camisole and shorts set with the yellow one. The geometric print on the left is a linen mix with a nice drape (and not creasy - YES) - I'm planning to make a plain shift dress with it to wear with a brightly coloured necklace. The third fabric along is a drapey viscose which I'm thinking of making into a boxy blouse or tee for the Summer - I left so inspired by the loose-fitting clothes in Japan, everyone looked sooo stylish.

The pencils print is a lovely canvas from a designer/shop called Sou Sou - it's destined to become cushions for my sofa. I'm not sure if the navy fabric in the middle counts as "kasuri" but it's certainly a Japanese aesthetic. Another shift dress with this one, I reckon. The one on the right is a textured mystery fabric, which I'm planning to make into a Megan dress.

When you find a gorgeous quality stripe double knit, hold onto it for dear life. Even if that means buying another suitcase! The fabric on the left feels so lovely I'm almost melting into my keyboard right now (it will become a Coco dress, bien sûr). The pale blue stripe is a beautiful sweatshirt knit that I couldn't resist either. The other two fabrics in the pic above look like denim (win) but are actually double gauze (double win). Bettine dresses for those, I think.

I also picked up a few other bits and bobs - some handbag handles, marking pencils and pen, turquoise fabric scissors, flat-head pins and little embroidered motifs (kitty and nautical, natch). Can't wait to start using them!

If you go fabric shopping in Japan, I hope you have a wonderful time. Remember to pack extremely lightly, otherwise budget for an extra suitcase :)