Japan Fabric Shopping

Nippori Textile Town

While in Tokyo we had half a day unscheduled while we hoped that someone would cancel on their Toyota factory tour reservations and we could go. That didn’t work out but a little fabric therapy cheered me right up. Nippori Textile Town is about 100 stores mostly along one main road, Nippori Chuo Dori, which made it really easy to navigate. I walked up one side of the street and back down the other side, making a loop. Some stores are clothing stores but the majority were fabric stores.

Nippori Sign

Getting There

We had JR passes so we took the loop line (JR Yamanote) from Tokyo station near our hotel to the Nippori station.

Nippori Rail Map

It’s about 15 minutes and handful of stops. The loop lines runs pretty frequently. Hyperdia is a really handy website and app on what train options you have to go from station A to station B, transit times, transfers, track number if available and the cost. It doesn’t have an offline option so I would look up our train routes at the hotel or wherever we had free wifi. Then I screen captured the different options we had.

When you get to the Nippori station there were several signs to the fabric town but signs are sparse when you need it most. There is an intersection just outside the station with several possible diagonal streets to go down with no clear directional signs and no street names that I could find.

  • Option A: pick one and if you don’t see blocks and blocks of fabric stores shortly or the Fabric Town banners, you’re on the wrong street.

Nippori Fabric Shopping

  • Option B: take a small compass with you. This assumes you know which direction you need to go from the station. The compass came in really handy when we were underground or sometimes under-under-underground (if you’ve been to a major train station in Japan you will know exactly what I’m talking about) and the GPS on our phones couldn’t find us.
  • Option C: install the Maps.me app and download the offline maps. Unfortunately Google maps doesn’t have an offline batching option anymore for Japan. Search for “tomato” and drop a pin on the map. Then walk in the direction of the pin. There are several Tomato stores on the fabric street and Tomato is written in Roman characters so it’s easy to find on map.me app.

 

Getting Around

If you find a store with the Nippori Sen-I Gai (Fabric Town) Map, I suggest you pick up both the English and Japanese version if you can’t read Japanese. Many of the shop names were written in characters. On the back of the map is a store listing with a short description of what they carry. Ex.  Leather, stage costume, wool fabrics, buttons. I used the English map to figure out which stores I wanted to go to and then matched it up with the Japanese map to see how the shop names were written in Japanese. If you want the maps I picked up I have them linked below. The files are large because I wanted them to have all the details in case anyone wanted to do some pre-trip planning. If you have lots of time just wander and stop into any store that looks interesting.

English version: front and back

Japanese version: front and back

Fabric Expectations

I don’t know why every country I travel to I’m looking for some touristy, kitschy fabric. I was looking for fabrics that scream “Japan” or “Spain” or “insert foreign country here”. Remember my fabric from Portugal? Yes, in Spain you can find a large array of Flamenco fabrics. But I wasn’t in the market for any. In Japan you can find a large array of kimono fabrics. But again, I’m not in the market for any kimono. Though I did buy a kimono sewing pattern for dogs. The pattern has styles for girl and boy dogs.

Dog Kimono Pattern

In general what I’ve found in my travels are fabrics that everyday people wear. In Japan it was a lot of wovens in natural fabrics. The Japanese women wore lots of loose fitting tops, pants and skirts which are mainly what sewing patterns they carried. The colors for everyday wear i.e. work wear was black, navy, grey, white and khaki. In the fabric stores there are very few knits and very few cutesy fabrics which I incorrectly stereotyped as being rampant in Japan due to the totally awesome Superbuzzy. Where I found the type of fabrics I was looking for was in the children’s/baby’s section. Now I must wonder what the Japanese must think when we wear our shirts with little cat prints all over them.

I ended up getting a Gadetama laminate. I didn’t know at the time that it/he/she was a Sanrio character. I just loved the bizarre egg yolk taking a nap. Oh yes, there was a lot of purse/bag making fabrics and supplies. I suspect the laminate is for bag making also since it rains all the time here. I really wished I had water proofed the purse I had just sewed. I also picked up a knit with panda prints and another knit with whales. I believe I got all 3 fabrics at different Tomato stores. They have several floors of fabrics so they’re likely to have what you’re looking for. A tip on checking out: Make sure you’re done shopping before getting in line to cut your fabrics. There is a separate line for those cutting fabric and those purchasing non-cut fabrics. Once they cut your fabric, the fabric cutting person tells the cashier how many yards/meter at what price and they ring you up right away. It’s not like JoAnn’s where you get a slip. If you’re not done shopping, don’t get your fabric cut unless you want to wait in another line.

One really nice thing almost all the stores, restaurants and hotels all over Japan did was punch in the total on a calculator and showed it to us. Much easier then trying to remember your Japanese numbers especially since everything cost hundreds to thousands of yens. There were a lot of numbers they were saying. Whereas in Spain I listened to the euro amount (my Spanish is much better than my Japanese) and round up for the cents.

Japan Fabric Stash Addition

 

 

Tokyu Hands

Another place where I went looking for sewing and other crafty items was Tokyu Hands. Tokyu Hands which is a large chain DIY store which has I thought was a combo of a home store and a craft store. We ended up going to the store in Hiroshima, though there were at least 2 in Tokyo. One adjacent to the Tokyo station and another near Shibuya Crossing. I was disappointed that with all those floors of DIY and there was very little sewing stuff but lots and lots of pens.

 

 

Yuzawaya

I had researched other craft stores and found Yuzawaya in the city like space that is the Osaka station. In the Hankyu part of the Osaka station in a tucked away area of the mall was Yuzawaya. If you can find a directory look for  Yuzawaya in Japanese characters like the picture below. The first character reminds of of the shape of my Elna Grasshopper which is the only way I found the shop in a sea of hundreds of shops.

Yuzawaya

Even after I figured out where I was currently and where the store was I ran into problems. The floor wasn’t continuous. To get to the Yuzawaya you have to go down another floor cross over into the next building and go back up. Fortunately there were signs for Kiddyland or something similar that was in the same area as Yuzawaya. This shop is well worth the extra effort to find it. The shop was glorious!! I could have spent the whole day there. They sold machines, books, fabrics, notions and so much more.

Yuzawaya store

Yuzawaya 1Yuzawaya2

It was near the end of our time in Japan so my luggage was filled to the brim with goodies. My sweet hubbie offered to throw away some of his clothes so I could buy more fabric. I didn’t take up his offer. Instead I bought a couple of little kits that wouldn’t take up much room. I bought a cross stitch pin cushion kit (I could have taken out the poly fill to compact it more if I needed to) a kimono key chain kit and zippered coin purse kit.

Yuzawaya Score

I also bought a hanging ornament book.

Japanese Hanging Ornament Book

I’m not sure if these are decorative or if they other significance. If anyone knows more about these please let me know. I hate that I don’t speak Japanese beyond the essential travel phrases so I didn’t get the full experience. I hope you enjoyed my little shopping adventure in Japan. Can’t wait to hoard all this stuff in my stash until it has aged to perfection. 🙂

Happy sewing,

Wedding Signature

Vacay Like a Sewist

Vacay Fabric Shopping

For the past few years I’ve been adding fabric shopping to our vacation itinerary. On this trip I only managed to hit two stores. In Madrid I browsed Ribes y Casals. I had scoped out a few other stores near our hotel but after a full day of touristy sites, hills and heat I was out of steam.  I didn’t get any pictures of the store. It was a fairly large store with a really wide array of fabrics. They had everyday fabrics, home dec and even flamenco fabrics. The fabrics I was eyeing was a bit too basic, which was the opposite of my London shopping experience where everything was too fancy. I just couldn’t justify hauling back a yard of rib knit when it looked like something I could have picked up anywhere.

In Portugal I hadn’t scoped out any shops. Fortunately I spotted Feira dos Tecidos walking down the street. I immediately stopped Mr. DH and jaywalked across the street.

Portugal feira dos tecidos

Feira Dos Tecidos had a great selection of fabrics. They have fabrics piled in bins and tables like a fancier Michael Levine’s Loft. The store also had a nice selection of notions, trims, zippers etc.

feira dos tecidos inside

I found a piece of fabric I just had to have. It was love at first sight. I can’t explain my joy because it’s so super touristy. Where else can I get Lisboa fabric than in Lisboa. Obrigada Fiera Dos Tecidos!

Lisboa Fabric

The scale is large because it’s a home dec fabric. I was thinking a bag/tote. I’m tempted to make a jacket but I don’t think I bought enough. Any suggestions for patterns?

Vacay Sewing Magazine Shopping

In Spain there are newsstands on every other corner. They carry a surprising number of sewing magazines. I picked up 3: Patrones, Modelos and Anna Moda.

Spanish Sewing Magazines

Modelos is my favorite of the 3 for their fabric choices and styling. Every page looks like a page out of a fashion magazine. I love the prints they used. My favorite is this sheer chevron print. Paired with a matching mustard solid collar, it’s just fab.

Modelos 1

Another great print is this one with nesting dolls. Who knew nesting dolls prints could be so fashionable.

Modelos 3

Their pattern sheet comes in 5 colors and in 4 sizes.

Modelos Pattern Sheet

If they don’t have your size they’ve included their grading rules!! So brilliant.

Modelos Grading Rules

Patrones is my second favorite. They have knock off patterns from RTW. The cape pattern below is a copy of the Spanish clothing company PULL&BEAR. What great details.

Patrones 1

Their patterns are also pretty fashionable but I don’t think as fashionable as Modelos. Plus they keep putting jackets on all of their outfits. Some of the jackets worked but some were just plain awkward. The Michael Kors jumper below is pretty great. When the jacket goes on it hides the details and all you see are saggy thighs.

Patrones 2

The pattern sheet also comes in 5 colors but only 3 sizes. I didn’t see any grading instructions but I might have missed it.

Patrones Pattern Sheet

My least favorite of the 3 sewing magazines was Anna Moda. It’s just not my style. I think I need to just look at the line drawings because I’m sure there are some great patterns.

Anna Moda 1

Their pattern sheet comes in 2 colors and 4-5 sizes.

Anna Moda Pattern Sheet

Bonus Tip: Google Translate Camera

If your Spanish is rusty like mine and you want to read your Spanish sewing magazine NOW, download the Google Translate app. It has a camera function that will translate the words for you instantly. For Android you can even batch the data so you can use it without using cellular data or WiFi which is perfect for reading signs and menus. The translation is a bit buggy when the text is not clear or when your hands are shaky. It’s still way faster than typing words into a translator.

Google Translate App

Happy Sewing Shopping,

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London Fabric Shopping – Tips from a Clueless American

Tip #1 – figure out where the stores are before leaving the hotel room

I recently visited London on vacation. I kinda sorta did some research on fabric shopping which amounted to skimming a couple of blog posts. I found the area with a good cluster of stores and headed there. I decided on Berwick Street in Soho, so off I went.

Source:  Lonely Crafter's Guide to London

Source: Lonely Crafter’s Guide to London

 

 

Tip #2 – Don’t confuse East vs West when coming out of the Tube station

The nearest Tube station to these stores was Oxford Circle. Coming out of the station I was completely at a loss of which way was East. Oh no problem, look for the sun. Oh gee, it’s cloudy in London and I can’t see the sun at all. Like not even a glimmer if it was to my right or to my left. 15 minutes walking in the wrong direction later, I found Berwick St. I recently bought a mini compass from REI that can clip to my sleeve for future preventative care.

Source:  Lonely Crafter's Guide to London

Source: Lonely Crafter’s Guide to London

 

 

 Tip #3 – Don’t get sticker shock when you’re in Soho

I found a few fabrics that I loved but they were over £55 per meter. Wow, that’s like $88+/meter. Apparently the problem with my lack of prior research (see tip #1) was that I had wondered into some of the priciest fabric shops in London. There were some reasonably priced fabrics but they were similar to fabrics I can get locally and not worth hauling all the way across the Atlantic.

Fabrics

 

 

Tip #4 – Pick up sewing magazines at the convenience store

I picked up issues of Burda, Ottobre and Mollie Makes at what I would describe as a convenience store. Drop into a few of these as their selection vary. These make great plane reading and don’t take up too much space. I tried looking in book stores but I didn’t see any magazines.Sewing Magazines

 

 

Tip #5 – Take pics because you won’t remember the shops

After a couple of shops it was all a big blur of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. If you have a fabric in mind that you want to come back and purchase later, make sure you snap a pic of the shop and note where it is.  This is especially useful on Berwick St since there are a multiple Cloth House and Misan stores.

Fabric Shops

 

 

Tip #6 – Have fun fondling

Though I didn’t end up buying any fabric I enjoyed fondling fabrics. Bonus: Fondling is free.  I hope you had a fun time reliving my clueless American fabric shopping excursion with me.

Happy clueless shopping,

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Even More Fabric Shopping – superbuzzy

Sewing Mojo Mystery

I’m not sure where my sewing mojo disappeared to.  I know I packed in up in the move…  I faintly remember unpacking… so it must be here somewhere… maybe Waffle took it outside and buried it in the back yard… I don’t know…  I’m just hoping it’ll show up soon.  In the meantime I’m starting to think that the decrease of sewing mojo is inversely proportionate to the increase of sewing related activities.  For the math-y sewists

For the graph-y sewists

sewing mojo correlation graph

Anyone else seen this correlation in their lives?

 

 Most Recent Non-sewing Sewing Activity

I’ve been doing lots of non-sewing sewing things lately.  My most recent activities seems to be fabric shopping because I surely need more fabric to reach S.A.B.L.E (stash acquired beyond life expectancy).  If you haven’t read my attempt at S.A.B.L.E at the swap meet, you can catch up here.  Yesterday I headed to superbuzzy which I’ve been dying to go to for a while.  superbuzzy is buzz as in bee, not buzz as in drinking.  Just thought I needed to clarify that for some of you.  ahem.  So if you haven’t been to the store or been to their website let’s take a mini tour shall we…

superbuzzy is Super Cute

superbuzzy postcard

This pic is of their postcard and it summarizes the style of the store; cute, sweet and Japanese.  The store is located on Main Street in Ventura, CA which is a super long street with lots of little nondescript shops.  You know you’ve arrived at superbuzzy when you see the bee.

sewbuzzy sighting

A Peek Inside

For those who can’t get to the store you can live vicariously through the following pics or you can shop their website www.superbuzzy.com Everything they carry in the store is on their website and most of what they carry is from Japan.  The exception would be some of the patterns and maybe some of the books.

First off they have mostly cotton flat weave fabrics.  I’m not a quilter but it looks like quilting cotton.  All of the fabrics are colorful, has great prints and overall just adorable.

superbuzzy cute quilt fabrics

Fabrics

more fabric

more fabric

superbuzzy did I mention they have quilt fabrics

even more fabrics

superbuzzy even more quilt fabrics

Did I mention they have fabric?

superbuzzy geeky quilt fabrics

Fabrics for the geeky sewists

In additional to fabric on the bolts they also have a good selection of fat quarters and 1/8 yd cuts.  I love the decor.  You can sit a chat with Domo Kun for awhile.  And look at the cute honey comb tiles on the floor.  Just spectacular!!

superbuzzy honey comb tiles and Domo Kun There was a section of denim and a couple of knits which is more garment sewing than the other cottons.  Yes, I know lots of people sew clothes from quilting cotton.  That person is just not me.

superbuzzy garment fabrics

Denims

superbuzzy also has a few laminates for super cute table clothes or bags.

superbuzzy laminates

In the back they have an extensive selection of Japanese sewing and crafts books and magazines.  The only other place I’ve seen this many Japanese books is the book store in the Mitsuwa.  At the Mitsuwa there wasn’t nearly as many sewing, knitting, crocheting and other crafts books.  I also spied copies of Molly Makes which I’ve only seen online.  What a treasure trove.  I would have loved to grab a few and sit with Domo Kun and thumb through them.  I was just overwhelmed by the # of books and since the spines are written in Japanese it was hard for me to just peruse.  It’s probably best of review the selection online and drop in and purchase the book.  Sorry about the blurry pic.  Maybe I should have purchased that book on the top shelf “taking great photos”. LOL

superbuzzy books

In the back they also have yarns and embroidery floss.

superbuzzy yarn

And then there were the patterns.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that they carried Oliver + S, Colette, Amy Butler, Christine Haynes patterns along with some Japanese pattern lines.  I can just hop in instead of buying online and impulsively checking the mail box.  Oliver + S and Amy Butler patterns are perfect for the cotton fabrics they carry.

superbuzzy patterns

There’s way more fun stuff like notions, needle felt supplies, snacks etc that I didn’t take pics of.  Just check it out on their website. Lastly I can’t forget to mention that they also have sewing and craft classes.  If you’re into modern quilt, the Ventura Modern Quilt Guild has sew ins here.

 

 

How Do I Find My Sewing Mojo?

Now that I’ve done a sufficient amount of fabric shopping, pattern shopping, reading sewing blogs, blogging, organizing the sewing room, reorganizing the sewing room, I need to get back to sewing.  Any tips on how I get my sewing mojo back?

Happy (actual) sewing,Signature small