Monday, 14 November 2016

Quilting, fabric and textiles - extra Japan post number two

My original intention for going to Japan in November was to visit the Yokohama quilt week, but that event was cancelled for 2016 when the organisers ceased publication of their quilting magazine. Nonetheless, I was still hoping to see some of the wonderful Japanese quilting scene that has produced so many award winners at quilting shows around the world.

While I certainly saw lots of fabric and crafts, I was surprised that I didn't see much specifically for quilters in the places I visited.  For example, we visited a few magazine stores and although there were handicraft magazines for knitters, crocheters, and general crafters, I only found one quilting magazine which was Quilts Japan. We spent a fair amount of time in three bookstores in Tokyo and one second bookstore (BookOff), as well as in the book sections of various fabric and craft stores, and the quilting sections were microscopic compared to the large dressmaking sections or even the knitting/crocheting sections. Tatting and jewellery making were also well represented. And most of the quilting books they had were about making bags and accessories, only a couple were for bed quilts. It made me wonder if quilting isn't as popular right now?

Googling on anything related to fabric in Japan will probably lead you to Nippori Fabric Town, a neighbourhood in Tokyo where there are a lot of fabric stores including the famous Tomato. I also hit a couple of branches of Tokyu Hands (a lifestyle and craft store chain), the Okadaya fabric store in Shinjuku, and the two branches of the excellent Nomura Tailor fabric stores in Kyoto. Some of the shops stocked a lot of imported American quilting cottons, as well as Japanese versions including Japanese copies of Liberty prints.  Most of the Nippori shops did not sell much in the way of small cuts, they wanted you to buy a half or whole metre.  Because of our dire exchange rate at the moment, prices were similar to the UK but I met some American quilters who were exclaiming that the prices for quilting cotton were lower than in the States.  Some shops were displaying made-up samples of bags or clothing, but not any quilts.






I focused on Japanese fabrics as I wanted a souvenir of my trip, but I didn't want to load my suitcases with a lot of yardage so I was fairly restrained.

Above is a Japanese wrapping cloth, these were for sale in shops everywhere we went, 
in hundreds of different patterns. They are used for wrapping gifts or knotted for
carrying items.  I bought this one as a gift for a friend. The fan is for me.

I went to a brilliant craft shop called Sakura Horikiri in Asakusa, which specialises
in kits such as the two on the right above to make pictures by pushing fabric into
slits cut in polystyrene. I saw this type of craft on my trips to the States in the
Noughties but in Japan these were hugely more sophisticated and artistic. There were all sizes 
ranging up to quite complex large canvases, many on a natural theme such as flowers or birds.
 I bought these two small kits which
come with all the fabric required. The kit on the left is for a typically Japanese-style zippered bag, 
found in another fabric store (I think in Kyoto?) which had several kits on offer for bags.

These above are fat eighths (or the metric equivalent) of various
Japanese prints which I found in Nippori. I don't think they are all cotton, but they are like
candy sticks rolled up like this, so pretty.

This all  above came from Nippori Fabric Town. The metric FQs are cotton as is the
lovely yardage below.  I might use the FQs to make a wallhanging like this one below
that I saw for an incredible price in a craft gallery attached to the Amuse Museum in Tokyo.

The same gallery was exhibiting this pretty applique picture but I think they wanted about
£600 for it!

Okadaya had a lot of Japanese fabric including heavier dressmaking weights. They 
also had a range of pretty panels - I bought the geisha one below. Then I chose
the other two fabrics to go with it, but I had to buy one metre of each. I will make
a wallhanging from them.


I saw shops everywhere we went selling a range of cute stuffed and appliqued fabric items made from Japanese printed fabric. I don't know if they were all the same chain or if this is just a really popular type of item in Japan. They aren't just for tourists, Japanese girls were coming in and cooing 'kawaii' [cute] over them. After visiting several of these shops to admire and fondle items such as stumpwork sushi, fabric mobiles, stuffed animals, and hair ornaments, I eventually succumbed
to a handful of cute stuffed and embroidered flowers.


This below is a heavier linen-weight Japanese indigo fabric which I bought
for making a bag. I also bought a metre of a more beige/pastel print
for my m-i-l which has gone off to her as a belated birthday present.
I bought us both a Japanese quilting/bag making book. Mine is called
American Country by Masako Wakayama and has some charming projects with a
Japanese twist. I don't read Japanese, but the metric measurements are given
and there are a lot of diagrams and picture tutorials.


So fabric is readily available in Japan and there must be a lot of people sewing clothes and household items judging by the books and patterns I saw. There were some big haberdashery sections in most of these stores as well, I was tempted by the large selection of bag handles at good prices but as I didn't have a specific project in mind, I didn't get any in the end.  If you do go, I suggest taking a few project ideas with you as it can be a bit overwhelming in Nippori where there is so much choice.

There are many good blog posts online about where to find fabric and craft shops in Tokyo, Kyoto etc so do your research before you go. It can be difficult to find places once you're there as addresses don't really work well in Japan (many streets aren't labelled and they don't number buildings consecutively) so search particularly for written directions on how to find places like Okadaya, and even better for photographs of the shop fronts since you may not be able to read the shop signs.  I took a handful of printed notes with me including photos, directions, screenprints of Google Maps etc which really helped. Don't worry if you don't speak Japanese because the shop clerks will always type out the total price on a calculator if there isn't a till display and show it to you and most of the price tickets have at least the number written out in roman numerals.  Fabric is sold in meters so either learn the numbers up to ten in Japanese or hold up the appropriate number of fingers, or if all else fails use your hands to indicate on the metre stick how much you want. Very likely the clerk will speak some English as it is taught in schools.  Most shops will only take cash, credit cards are not widely used in Japan, but everybody seems to have lots of change so it's easy to break bigger notes like a 10,000 yen note.  Happy Fabric Hunting!

1 comment:

swooze said...

How interesting. I love the things you bought

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