Monday, April 21, 2014

Fabric Shopping in Japan

Antique Singer at the Osaka, Japan History Museum. I thought it was interesting that they included this very American Singer sewing machine as part of their history. 
 After traveling for nearly a month, I'm really glad to be back at home. I realized after arriving into Japan and later Hong Kong...I really didn't have the time I wanted to do thorough fabric shopping. It's one of those things where I needed to devote some real time to or accept the fact that I wasn't going to get it all done.

I had to really narrow down the time and of course the stores I would visit. I went to Tomato in Nippori on my second day in Japan. It was not the best time to go. It meant having to put all my fabric somewhere and making decisions while really jetlagged. My husband planned this on our itinerary...and even though it was "my day," I was disappointed to have arrived there so early on. I only had the stamina to spend about two hours in Nippori. I still picked up some nice things, but the real problem was the private fabric sale going on at Tomato at the exact time I was there. I never got the discounts, but I did have to suffer the long lines and lack of ventilation.  Coupled with fatigue...I thought I was really going to pass out.

Disappointed...I did not shop anywhere else. I did look through some of the stock set outside the shops, and I wasn't all that impressed with what I saw. Most looked picked over, and much of the stock did not look fashionable. The clientele at Tomato were mostly older women and mom's looking for children's fabrics. It's really a great place for children's wear, quilters and home decor. You're not going to get too many interesting pieces for fashion-oriented clothes. However, with that said...I think if someone is going to make a lot of Japanese style clothing or pieces out of the Japanese pattern books focused on more natural wear, than there are things available. But none of those textiles are going to run cheap.  In fact, unless the weave or pattern was unique to Japan, I think purchasing organic fabric back home is probably just as good. Anything unique like hand-dyed pieces, Shibori, going to run hundreds of dollars.  This includes kimono fabric. So those things are really out of my budget.

I found a few interesting cottons, and some pieces on the sale racks which is a separate location from the main Tomato store.  They have about three locations specializing in different things. The main one with all the cottons and Kokka-like prints does not have many fashion-focused textiles. Those I found in the home decor building...upstairs in fact where all the sale pieces were. I did get some pretty good buys. I even picked up a Kimono print for a great price, but it was only a synthetic.

This and the piece below were nice "Liberty" weight cottons that had beautiful eyelet stitches at the side. I found these bolt-end pieces at the main Tomato building's sale table. The table is worth digging through because most of the pieces are current textiles but just end pieces at 20% off the regular price. The largest bolt-end can still be about three meters, which ends up almost 3.75 yards of fabric.  This piece and the one below were about $12 US for the whole cut. 

This is similar to Kokka fabric weight cotton, but more linen that canvas. The print looks like a Japanese crest, but it's really a pin cushion. The blue is vibrant and reminded me of the blue used in the hand-dyed pieces I saw in Mashiko. See that at the bottom of my post. This was about $7 US per meter. 
This was a modern patchwork-like print. The fabric is very unique, and is double-layered. I want to say it reminds me of diaper fabric in some ways, but a tighter weave, but just as soft on the back. This would make a great lining for a cotton jacket for some warmth, but without any batting bulk. I bought two prints of this type of double-lined cotton.  Also the one below.  This piece and the one below ran about $5 US per meter.

Another double-lined cotton.
This piece looked very similar to a Liberty cotton print. I paid about $3 US a meter, and thought it was a great deal. It has a beautiful top weight.

This is my favorite piece in the whole lot from Tomato. For $3 US a meter, this large polka-dotted piece was about 52" wide, and is a cotton wool blend. It has beautiful weight and could be made into almost anything.  I am really looking forward to making something from this piece. 
This is the Kimono-like fabric, except it's polyester. It's a lovely purple with yellow complements. The flowers reminded me of Cherry Blossoms. ...which was the time I was in Japan. This piece was about $7 US per meter.

This is a dark pink polka-dotted synthetic piece that has freehand embroidery stitches which makes it look like ruching. It's actually a very nice piece and drapes beautifully.  This piece was about $3 US per meter. 

 On my last day in Japan, I squeezed in some last minute shopping.  With an unruly adult daughter accompanying me (who doesn't have a lot of patience for shopping), I knew that it would be a disaster if I spent more than a few hours out and about.  I had Kinokuniya bookstore on my list for pattern books, also the Loft for craft supplies, and the glorious yarn store Avril to satisfy my yarn cravings. I didn't go to any of these places.  I was having issues with my daughter's temperament...and I was too much of a loving mother to have the heart to ditch her for the day. So I cancelled all those fun things and decided to go to one store instead: Yuzaway in Shinjuku. It's's like a Joann's but better. They had a lot of nice quilting fabrics, so one could go there and feel satisfied. But I'm not a quilter, and after being to Tomato...this store was well...small tomatoes (pun intended).  My daughter picked out the car print, and said she wanted a dress made out of that. (She's 23 years old.)  I was perplexed by the choice, and at $11 US a yard, it was cheaper than Kokka, but by far the most expensive piece I bought while in Japan.  I got it anyway...

Yuzuwaya has some very nice craft books.  The knitting and crochet patterns were simply breathtakingly beautiful. If I were a better knitter, I would have bought some. But I had to pass them up. I did find a ton of sewing pattern books that were equally beautiful. I nabbed a few, and although I don't read Japanese, I think I can figure most of it out. Worse comes to worse, I can ask my husband to help translate.  That's husband is fluent in Japanese.  Lucky me.

Each book ranged from $10 - 13 US each...which is a little cheaper than what I would pay for the English-translated ones on Amazon.  EXCEPT...these books aren't available on Amazon.  Not yet anyway. I did see a couple by Yoskiko Tsukiori, that's also available on Amazon, and I passed on those. If I can get it in English, I would rather pay more for the translated ones.

I will probably take some pictures of inside the books as I start working on some of the patterns so stay tuned.  Most of the books had at least ten or more patterns inside. So for the price, each pattern was about a dollar or less.  Each book has the pattern paper attached to the back. All the sizes are small...and will require some redrafting and a couple of muslins.  But all the designs are relatively simple and classic, so they can be used over and over.

This was a cute hat pattern.

This had gorgeous dresses, but may be the most complicated of all the books. This one will most likely require some translation.

This is my favorite book. EVERY pattern is something I would make. 

This is a pattern book devoted to dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori. 

Stay tuned for another post on my day in Mashiko, Japan, known for its hand-crafted pottery. I also found a hand-dyed fabric shop still using traditional techniques. Look for that post next and the new stash I picked up in Hong Kong.  Happy sewing!