Japan is a sewist’s dream come true. All of the evidence is there. I mean, how many sewing bloggers in the past couple of years alone have traveled there to splurge on high quality fabrics and super cute notions? Just to name a few, Cashmerette, Sew in Love, and Crab & Bee!
I have always loved Japanese aesthetics. From chic minimalism to in-your-face kawaii, I am there. Those mixed with fabric and ohmygosh you had me at konnichi wa.
I spent two weeks in Japan and split my time between visiting old friends and having new adventures. Only a smidgen of that time was spent fabric shopping but I didn’t let that go to waste!
In Kyoto, there are two main fabric stores in the heart of downtown. One is a multiple-story Nomura Tailor House, with gorgeous fabric and notions at every turn but with immense sensory overload. The second is a smaller, more navigable version, set in the alleys near Nishiki Market. Of course I chose the second store in my jet-lagged haze.
I wasn’t sure what protocol was for taking pictures inside, so I have few very sloppy smart phone photos which were taken with haste. I’ve already been scolded in Germany (I stood too close to a Monet and “breathed on it”), I wasn’t about to let that happen in Japan.
As you can see, it was just one story in a cramped space, but it was what I needed at the time. DD wasn’t ready to wait more than 30 minutes for me to shop, although I admit it took me about an hour. Oops!
I mean, could you blame me? Look at all that beautiful cotton and double gauze fabric! I was flitting from fixture to fixture, making mental notes on which fabrics I want to purchase vs. which ones I should purchase. I said no to the Disney’s Cinderella canvas and yes to some beautiful Nani Iro and Kokka fabrics.
At checkout, I did ask permission to take a picture, so here’s the nice lady who mentioned I can do this purchase tax-free measuring my fabric!
I didn’t buy everything I had my heart set on because I figured I should save some shopping for Nippori Fabric Town in Tokyo!
In order to get to Nippori, you have to take a JR local train and not the subway. It’s still a short ride and there are signs pointing you in the direction of the “fabric town,” which is a long street lined with fabric and craft shops galore.
Truly a sewist’s dream come true – there were fabric stores everywhere and I was somewhat heartbroken that I couldn’t visit them all.
Yes, random knit store, sewing is the root of HAPPY.
I thought the Disney princess costume samples outside were a nice touch.
But I was on a mission… I HAD to get to Tomato! On the ride, I saw this:
I assumed this was the Tomato everyone was talking about. I bolted inside and it was a bit smaller than I was expecting. There were multiple stories, yes, but it didn’t look like the pictures taken from other sewing bloggers. I proceeded to touch all the fabrics, but decided to explore more of Nippori Fabric Town in case the “real” Tomato popped up.
And what do you know… it DID! About a half block down, there was another Tomato on the left side! Now that’s the one I was looking for. Turns out the first Tomato pictured above is the “Tomato Select” store. The tiny katakana to the right of the sign reads “select” and I totally missed that. I don’t know what made it select, but there sure were pretty fabrics in there.
As a side note, I’m wondering if I should have titled this post “In Search of the Real Tomato.” 😉
So at the real Tomato, it was obvious that was where the party was. It was crowded! Every Japanese sewist and their kid was there. I even saw another foreign lady and thought she may be a blogger, too… but I didn’t strike up conversation to find out as we were all in a hurry to find the best Japanese fabric around.
There were about 5 floors from what I could remember in my vacation-exhaustion haze. This is a photo of one of the floors… what looks to be the children’s section. The whole floor was about twice the size of what you see and the cutting tables were on the far left side of the room.
The thing about Tomato is you have to buy your fabric on the floor you found it. Needless to say, I did a once-over on each floor to see if any fabrics stood out, then went through each floor again to make my decisions and purchases. It was so hard to figure out what I wanted to buy. There were so many cool fabrics around, like this vinyl:
Or these super cute hedgehogs AND mermaids:
OR THIS FLIPPING CHICKEN FABRIC!!!
I am really kicking myself now for not buying the chicken fabric. I was trying to be sensible and thought what I would get the most wear from both at work and home. I figured a chicken dress at work would raise some eyebrows (although most of my co-workers understand my love for my backyard ladies).
There were also some neat quilted Star Wars fabrics:
But I’m not a Star Wars fan (sorry, guys!). I know my brother and nephew would enjoy something made out of this, but again… I had to make quick decisions and if a project didn’t immediately pop up in my mind, I didn’t buy it.
There was also a nice assortment of notions. I was hoping to find some Nani Iro bias tape or some kind of cute bias tape, but it was either hiding from me or they didn’t have it. I saw some at Nomura Tailor House in Kyoto and I should have bought it then. DARN.
But the good news is I bought a lot of cool stuff! Check out all those bags!
OK so I’ve been teasing you for a while about my fabric purchases… now here they are!
The top row is all from Tomato and the bottom row is all from Nomura Tailor House. I bought all woven fabrics, so I guess that means I have to lay aside my Colette Moneta pattern for a while.
Time for close-ups!
- On the left is a medium weight cotton with the most gorgeous Asian print! The fabric is slightly textured. This will probably be a dress.
- The middle is one of my favorites… a medium weight cotton fabric with cats! I’m thinking maybe a dress for this one, too.
- The right is a very soft linen. I love how the polka dots have a hand-painted look. I can see this in a nice summery top or even… you guessed it… a dress!
Now let’s “paws” to take a closer look at that cat fabric (har har).
In the selvage where you normally see dots of the colors used in the fabric are little cute paw prints! And look at those little cats faces, eeeee! I’m dying with cuteness over here. The gold kitties are a pretty shiny gold, so they stand out when they catch the sun.
- The flower fabric is the same textured cotton as the first. It’s super pretty in real life. Again, this will probably be a dress.
- On the right is a double-sided cotton fabric. One side looks like denim and the other is polka-dotted. These will turn into a pair of Seamwork Moji pants.
- Left: Kokka double gauze fabric. I don’t have much of this color blue in my wardrobe and I always like how it looks on me. Now I have 3 meters to play with. 🙂
- Middle: Nani Iro double gauze. I have had my eye on this forever! I didn’t buy any online because I wanted to feel what it was really like. Once I man-handled it in Kyoto, I fell in love. It feels like you’re petting a sheet made of clouds. Or happiness. Or something. Anyway, it’s awesome and I’ll probably make either a Grainline Sout Tee or a Tiny Pocket Tank.
- Right: A Nani Iro linen that might turn into a shirt or dress… (Edit: This became a Scout Tee!)
The picture above really doesn’t do this fabric justice, though.
Well, I guess this picture doesn’t either. Some of the flowers have a luminescent quality when you hold it a certain way. It’s such a feminine and delicate looking fabric… I’m so in love!
- Left: Cotton and Steel cotton. This is another item I have had my eyes on but wanted to feel it before making a commitment. Not only does it feel so soft and breezy, but there’s kitty faces!
- Right: Polka-dotted linen that was on sale! I see a pair of Grainline Maritime Shorts with this stuff.
So 6 out of 10 fabrics have some kind of polka-dots on them (I count the dark cat fabric as kitty polka-dots, btw). I guess Japan inspires me to wear them? Strange!
The only other thing I purchased that wasn’t fabric was a super cute fabric pencil and refill:
I haven’t tried it out yet but am anxious to on my next project!
I also made some purchases that weren’t exactly sewing related, but in keeping with the theme of fashion and beauty, I’ll share a peek at some other fun stuff I got.
I love collecting Japanese fashion magazines. It all started when I was super early at the airport to my flight back to the USA after my year of living in Japan. I was browsing in the airport gift shops when I saw a few fashion magazines. I was intrigued. I bought a copy of ViVi and S Cawaii and fell in love. Since then, I bought a few ViVis online and picked up a Gothic Lolita magazine from a shop in New Orleans. I knew when we made this trip last month that I would be bringing back a few more.
Of course I had to get the latest copy of ViVi and threw in an S Cawaii, but I also was curious about Kera.
Here’s a sneak peek inside Kera:
This isn’t really stuff I would wear on a normal day out, but I find the wacky fashion very interesting.
Whereas ViVi and S Cawaii focus more on everyday wearable pieces:
I also wanted to get the Pure Smile beauty masks I’ve seen popping up on the internet. Who wants to use a boring old plain beauty mask when you can look like a demon, a fox, or a daruma??
These were pretty cheap in Japan… only 325 yen (about $3 or less). I’ve seen them go for a little over twice that amount on Amazon.com! I’ve only tried the daruma one so far and I kind of had nightmares after seeing myself:
Definitely a great way to scare to bejeezus out of your spouse or children!
Moving on to makeup… I absolutely love the packaging on most of their makeup products. Anime and eyeliner? Two of my favorite things!
I saw this “Super Waterproof” eyeliner with Lum from Urusei Yatsura and just had to buy it:
UGH I just wanted to buy EVERYTHING! But I think I came back with a pretty good haul. I definitely can’t wait to dig into all of those fabrics!
If you’re still with me by now, thanks for hanging in there! I hope you enjoyed peeking through my souvenirs. I know I always like to see what people buy overseas. 😉
On a different note, I found out I was a runner-up in Madalynne’s Best Sewing Blogs of 2016! To whomever nominated me, THANK YOU!! I’m super grateful that I have such awesome readers! Please check out the winners and there are a ton of runners-up, so it’s a great page to use for finding new sewing blogs.
Whew, I think I’m done! I’ll resume posting about my handmade items next time. I hope you have enjoyed looking through all of my crazy Japan posts as much as I have enjoyed sharing them!