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July 31, 2017

How to plan a trip to the NYC garment district

Is there anything more fun than a fabric-buying outing when you’re on vacation? NOPE! I always try to scout out a quirky local option if I can, and pick up some “souvenirs” (that totally counts, right?). I know that lots of people occasionally get the chance to go to New York City, so I thought I’d pull together this guide to planning a short trip to the Garment District. Truly, it’s one of the wonders of the fabric buying world!

As a caveat: I’m not a NYC local, although I’ve visited a lot. This guide is meant to be a distillation of the highlights that I tend to hit when I’m in town, but there are lots and lots and lots more places to visit! Leave a comment below if there are any additional no-misses you’d recommend to any first time visitor.

How to plan a trip to the NYC Garment District

Where is it?

The NYC Garment District is roughly bounded by 6th and 9th Ave, and 35th to 40th St. If you’re not familiar with New York City, it’s just south of Times Square and Bryant Park. Most of the stores I go to are clustered between W 37th and W39th St, and 7th and 8th Ave. For out of towners, yes it’s a grid, so in some ways it’s easy to get around… but in some ways it’s harder when you don’t know which way you’re facing! Google Maps is definitely your friend, but luckily it’s also a small area so hard to get TOO lost.

Bear in mind that many (if not most) of these stores are not at street level, and in some cases aren’t even signposted. Make sure you have the address, and just be confident and go inside and to the elevator, and usually there’s a label in there. If not, you can just do some urban exploring…

Click on the map below to see shopping & dining suggestions!

When’s the best time to visit?

Seasonally, it doesn’t really matter, except for the fact you may be battling snow in the winter and burning sun in the summer (yay, NorthEast America!).

But, the key thing to remember is: a lot of the stores have limited opening hours, and many aren’t open at weekends or on Sundays (unlike almost all other American stores). Many a planned trip has gone awry because of this! Below, I’ve listed the current opening hours for my fave stores, but it’s a good idea to double check before you venture out.

Which stores should I go to?

Here are my highlights that I tend to visit, but bear in mind that the district is choc-a-block with options, and there are tons more, especially on the more budget/discount end. See the map above for all the locations/addresses!

Mood Fabrics

  • Open Mon – Fri 9am – 7pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm, Sunday closed
    • As Featured On TV, is Mood Fabrics really worth a pilgrimage? Yep! Queues of 14 year olds waiting to pet Swatch the dog aside, Mood is absolutely gigantic, and has a massive selection over several floors. You may be surprised to hear that it’s not all great quality – you definitely need to exercise some judgement. It can also be a little hard to get to the bolts because they’re stacked up to the ceiling – don’t be afraid to ask for help. But you can’t beat the range here, and you might even spot the occasional Project Runway alumni (a perhaps slightly disturbing number of them now work in the store).
    • As with many of these stores, it isn’t immediately obvious where Mood is from the street. They have a street level upholstery floor, but you need to go inside what appears to be an office building, and go up in the elevator. Don’t worry, there’s an elevator guard who’ll take you to the right place (old school New York!).

Metro Textiles

  • Open Mon – Fri 9.30 – 5.30pm. Closed at weekends. 
    • This is one of my favourite stores, and is a tonic after the overwhelm that is Mood! Metro is run by Kashi, and is a tiny one-room store hidden up in an office building. Kashi has a limited range of high quality fabrics (my understanding is that they are all extras from RTW production), and his prices are incredibly (sometimes unfeasibly) low. He can also ship things to you if you don’t want to carry them back with you. It’s always worth a trip to see Kashi!

B&J Fabrics

  • Open Monday – Friday, 8am – 5.45pm, Saturday 9am – 4.45pm, Sunday closed
    • B&J is a wonderland of incredibly upscale fabrics (think $500+ a yard), as well as more reasonably priced fabrics that we mere mortals can afford. It’s beautifully laid out, and for some of the fabrics, there are large swatches available to look at rather than bolts of fabric. They have big inspiration boards where they show you swatches of fabric they have that have been used in runway shows, and you’ll find yourself debating whether $100/yard is actually totally affordable.

Fabrics & Fabrics

  • Open Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm, closed at weekends
    • Another upscale store, Fabrics & Fabrics has a lot of really unique designer fabrics, and again has a range of prices, although it skews higher.

Spandex House

  • Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm, closed Sunday
    • Ever wanted to make a swimming costume covered in palm trees? A leotard covered in bullets and coke cans? Why Spandex House will be your mecca. Every single possible novelty spandex & lycra/swimsuit fabric, as well as many more subdued versions, are available at this place. Service can be a little… odd – you may need to flag down someone to help you and be patient. But it’s worth it for the crazy fabrics. If you’re in the market for lots of synthetic stretch, you should also check out Spandex World (I always forget which is which, truth be told).

Pacific Trimming

  • Monday – Friday, 8.30am – 7pm, Saturday 10am – 6pm, closed Sunday
    • If you’re looking for zips, trim, buttons, or any other trimmings, Pacific Trimming is totally amazing. The selection is unbelievable and everything I’ve ever bought there is really high quality. It’s my go-to for notions.

M&J Trimming

  •  Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm, Saturday 10am – 7pm,  Sunday 11am – 7pm
    • Another option for notions, M&J looks like a candy store, and is particularly good for ribbons, buttons, buckles and other fixtures.

Where should I take a break?

Shopping in the Garment District is definitely overwhelming! Even if you go in with a plan of what you want to buy, the decision overload is very real, so you’ll be needing some breaks. There are quite a few little cafes and restaurants (independent and chain) in the area, but here are three of my favourites (flagged on the map above).

Blue Bottle Coffee, 54 W 40th St

  • Right opposite Bryant Park, you can pick up a great coffee here and then sit in the park and watch the world go by.

Le Pain Quotidien, 70 W 40th St

  • Next to Blue Bottle, I often end up here for breakfast or lunch. It’s a European chain, and has nice sandwiches, salads and of course, lots of bread.

Houndstooth Pub, 520 8th Ave

  • Right in the middle of the Garment District, the Houndstooth has the usual pub food & drinks and is often the location of sewing blogger meet ups!

How do I get there?

You can get the subway to Times Square or Bryant Park and easily walk down; it’s also very close to Penn Station for people getting the Amtrak into town.

How much time do I need?

You can definitely spend 2 hours or 2 days in the Garment District and still have fun!

  • If you only have time for 1 store, I’d make it Mood Fabrics, because you’ll get a taste of everything and you’ll likely find something you like!
  • If you have a little more time, I’d do Mood Fabrics + Metro Textiles.

I hope this is helpful! I’d love to hear any more tips you have for people visiting the Garment District.

*Please note that store information including opening hours were correct as of July 2017 but may go out of date over time. If you’re planning an important trip, always check first! 


Cashmerette
April 25, 2016

Guide to Fabric Shopping in Los Angeles

One of the fun things about having a hobby that involves supplies is traveling to new places and getting the chance to go searching for treasures. Naturally, whenever I travel these days I make a beeline for the fabric stores, and it was no different when I recently went to LA on my way to the Craftcation conference. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll have seen the trip, but I thought I’d do a round up here in case you’re visiting LA any time soon and fancy retracing my fabric steps! So here is my guide to fabric shopping in Los Angeles.

Fabric Shopping in Los Angeles

First up, there’s the fabric district. If you’ve been to NYC you’re probably already familiar with the idea that there’s an area of the city that has a lot of fabric shops… but you have no idea how big that could be until you go to LA! The LA fabric district is giiiinormous, thanks to the garment manufacturing here – blocks and blocks of shoulder-to-shoulder stores. It reminded me a lot of the fabric district in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and barely felt like you were in America. As with most of these districts a lot of the stock is disastrous poly netting, flammable rainbow fake fur and prom dress extravaganzas, but there is good stuff if you know where to look and have a bit of patience.

  • Michael Levine is the main big retail store of the area, and it’s a huge treasure trove of fabric. I often get a bit overwhelmed in there, but it’s a great place to start.
  • Ragfinders is an amaaaaazing place, but before I get you too excited: it’s wholesale only, with a minimum of 20 yards in an order. That said, if you can go I recommend it: it’s the biggest fabric store I have ever seen, and has absolutely fantastic stock, mostly sourced from factories of Ready To Wear clothing who produced too much. The only risk if you feel like the bolts are going to fall on top of you and kill you, but I will say, there are worse ways to go.
Fabric Shopping in Los Angeles

This is just one of the multiple printed jersey aisles. Yep. Carrie for scale.

  • The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising is right next to the fabric district, and is a cool place to visit – not only do they have great exhibitions, but they also have a fabric shop which has bits and bobs that they haven’t used, and you can often get amazing bargains there.

Next on to my absolute favorite store:

  • The Fabric Store. This place is heaven, guys, pure heaven. I really love curated fabric stores (as opposed to a more T J Maxx “search for the gem in the rubbish” approach), and this place hits the nail on the head with a generous selection of wonderful fabrics. They are particularly known for their merino jerseys (of course I picked some up), but there was beautiful silk, wool, novelty fabrics, cottons… even a rack of pastel coloured leathers by the door. This is an absolute no-miss in LA. Afterwards, pop into Sycamore Kitchen or Republique for lunch – we went back multiple times to both.

Fabric Shopping in Los Angeles

Fabric Shopping in Los Angeles

Fabric Shopping in LA

And conveniently, right up the road is…

  • Mood Fabrics. The sister store of the more famous NYC location, I have to admit I actually prefer LA Mood. It’s more airy and light, it’s easier to see what they have in stock, and for some reason I feel less panic in there (am I the only one who gets like that in the NYC store?!). Definitely check out the bins at the ends of the aisles – a lot of my best purchases have been made from those.

Fabric Shopping in Los Angeles

Fabric Shopping in LA

  • International Silks and Woolens. Another mega-store with tons of stock, there was a bit too much novelty cotton downstairs for me, but I’ve since found out all the designer fabric is upstairs where I failed to go… d’oh! Please rectify my mistake, dear readers, and let me know what’s up there.

Fabric Shopping in LA

  • The Button Store. This place is great! It’s on a really cute street with lots of cafes and boutiques, and they have a massive selection of buttons (and sell wholesale, too).

Fabric Shopping in Los Angeles

  • Sew Modern. Over in West LA, Sew Modern is a bright and fun fabric shop and sewing class studio, and they have tons of branded cottons, quilting cottons, and a small selection of garment fabrics. A bit more geared towards quilters than garment sewers, but totally worth popping in if you’re in the area!
  • Rimmon Fabrics. Just up the road from Sew Modern, Rimmon is technically a wholesale jobber (meaning they sell the ends of fabric from factories, only for resale) but they told us that they’re happy to sell retail too, and in fact there was a retail customer there when we visited. It’s an eclectic mix of stock and not set up like a regular store, but they have some beautiful things, and there are many bargains to be had.

Fabric Shopping in Los Angeles

Finally, I want to give a shoutout to Super Buzzy in Ventura, CA (where Craftcation takes place). Super Buzzy specializes in Japanese fabric, and has the best selection I’ve ever seen in the US! I picked up some awesome Echino knit for a Concord T-Shirt hack, and enjoyed looking at all the fun Japanese fabrics and accessories. Worth a day trip if you’re in the area.

Fabric Shopping in Los Angeles

Below is a map so you can get a sense of where everything is – LA is enormous but as you can see, there’s a lot concentrated in the fabric district and La Brea area. You can have an amazing trip fabric shopping in Los Angeles too!

If you want even more recommendations from an LA local, I suggest checking out Christine Haynes’ Seamworker’s Guide to Los Angeles in Colette Seamwork magazine.

Do you have any other awesome LA spots to add to the list?


Cashmerette
May 18, 2015

Guide to Fabric and Yarn Shopping in Japan

Fabric and yarn shopping in Japan is the bee’s knees! There is such a wide range of unique fabric, yarns and notions available, and the attention to detail is spectacular. Regular readers will already have followed my exploits in Tokyo (part 1, part 2) and Kyoto, but I thought that I would gather all the info on the best shops, how to get there, and some maps, all into one post. Hopefully other travelers to Japan will find it useful! So here’s the Cashmerette Guide to Fabric and Yarn Shopping in Japan.

Can’t make it to Japan? Then I totally recommend checking out Miss Matatabi – it’s an awesome English-language Japanese fabric store that ships really quickly worldwide!

Guide to Fabric and Yarn Shopping in Japan

General info

  • Japanese stores open on the late side: the earliest at about 10am, but many don’t open until 11am or 12pm. Check first before you head out to shop!
  • Some stores are cash only, so make sure you have enough on you. Many Japanese ATMs don’t accept foreign cards, but all 7-11 ATMs do.
  • Tax-free discounts are available for foreigners in some stores if you spend over Yen 10,001. You’ll need your passport to get the discount. Some stores pro-actively offer (like Nomura Tailor in Kyoto), but others you’ll need to ask.
  • Fabric is sold by the metre. There is variation as to the minimum cut length, ranging from 10 cm to one metre pieces.

Tokyo

Fabric

  • Nippori Town The largest concentration of fabric stores in Tokyo is in Nippori Town, north-east of the city center. It’s easy to get there: take the Yamanote Line train to the Nippori Town stop. When you exit the platform you’ll immediately see directions on the sidewalk and on signposts: you cross the street and bear slightly right, and you’re there. There are over 80 stores, and most are clustered on Nippori Chuo Dori and the cross-streets. There’s a great map available in English here. The stores range from dark and chaotic to very high end.
    • Tomato is a no-miss store – in fact, it’s 5 stores all next to each other! As you walk up the street, you’ll find the upscale garment fabric Tomato first on the right, and then the upholstery store; on the left you have another three stores including the main, 5 storey building which is the gem! On the ground floor there are lots of novelty cotton and linen prints, as well as their famous “100 Yen” (about $0.80) wall which is great for bargain-hunters. On the other floors there are knits (including a wide range of terry and sweater knits), silks and novelty fabrics, and Japanese designers like Nani Iro and Kokka. You need to get your fabric cut and paid for separately on each level – look out for the marking on the floor which tells you where to wait and queue for an employee to come and cut your yardage.
    • La Musee Buttons is a very cute vintage button store, modeled on a Parisian boutique. It’s a no-miss if you like unusual and cute buttons.

Tomato

  • Bunka Fashion College Bunka is Japan’s leading fashion school, and it has several stores and a museum which are open to the public. It’s located near Shinjuku station in an enormous skyscraper at 3-22-1, Yoyogi,Shibuya-ku,Tokyo ,151-8522 (map here). It’s open weekdays 9 – 5pm. There are three stores: for notions, fabric, and books. To reach them, enter the main lobby of Bunka, turn right and go down the stairs to the basement level. Continue through to the back of the building and you’ll come to the cafe – the shops are clustered around the edge. There are all kinds of fantastic things to buy, from high quality menswear wools to the famous Bunka mannequins and rulers. It’s also fun to watch the fashion students!

Bunka

Fabric and Yarn

  • Yuzawaya This is a chain of beautiful stores that have a huge selection of Liberty prints (including limited editions to Japan), many garment-weight cottons, and a massive array of notions. There are also many other craft supplies available like yarn, needle-felting, leatherwork, stained glass making and more. There are multiple locations:
    • Kamata, 20 minutes by train from Tokyo Station: Tokyu Kamata Station South Exit, 8-23-5 Nishi Kamata, Ota-ku, Tokyo 144-8660
    • Shinjuku, in the Takashimaya department store: Shinjuku JR station New South Exit, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Takashimaya Times Square 11F, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-8580
    • Kichijoji, in the OIOI department store above the station: Kichijoji Station Park Exit (South Exit) 1-7-1 Kichijoji Minamicho, Marui 7F & 8F, Musashino-shi, Tokyo 180-0003
    • Ginza, 5-7-10 Ginza, New Melsa Ginza 5-chome 5th floor, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061

yuzawaya

  • Okadaya Another wonderful multi-storey fabric and craft store, in Shinjuku. There are two buildings: one for fabric, and one for all other crafts. This store is particularly great for sweater and quilted knits, novelty fabrics and special occasion fabrics. The address is 3-23-17 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, and it’s right behind Shinjuku station, just north of the Lumine Est northern entrance (map here). The entrance to the fabric store is hidden in an alley, so be persistent!

okadaya

Buttons

  • Stripe is a super cool button store hidden on a side street near Yutenji station. It’s pretty hipster, and features thousands of really unusual buttons, some made in-house and some imported. They’re famous for their five-holed buttons which can be attached in a star formation, as an anchor, and many other ways! They also have antique-effect zips, cords and more.

Stripe

If you’re interested in crafts beyond sewing and knitting, or you’re interested in exploring other less well-known stores and neighbourhoods, check out the Tokyo Craft Guide, written by Miss Matatabi. There’s free info on Nippori Town and Shibuya, and a downloadable eBook to other areas which is well worth the investment.

Kyoto

All the stores mentioned below are within a square mile of each other, making a shopping day or afternoon very achievable in Kyoto.

Fabric 

  • Nomura Tailor There are two locations of this iconic Kyoto fabric store, just around the corner from each other in the central shopping district of Kyoto’s left bank. It’s definitely worth visiting both as the stock is different.
    • Nomura Tailor (main store) is located on the main Shijo Dori st, between Fuyacho Dori and Gokomachi Dori. It’s 3 floors of wonderful fabrics from interesting laces to knits, Nani Iro, Kokka, and the ever present novelty cottons. The top floor has a wide range of notions and other crafting products.Nomura Tailor House (smaller store) is located in the shopping arcade on Teramachi St (about halfway up on the left hand side). This store is more craftsy, with a lot of quilting cottons and bundled fat quarters, and supplies for needle felting and bag making.

NomuraTailor1

NomuraTailor2

  • Linnet Cute store specializing in linen. It has a small selection of bolts of solid linens, together with it’s own range of garment patterns and some fun notions. It’s on 562 Aneyakoji Dori, by Tominokoji Dori.

Linnet

Notions

  • Misuyabari Needle Store This is a hidden 400 year old store in a shopping mall! It makes exquisite hand-made needles, decorative pins (with tiny animals and plants on them!), needle boxes and more. It’s pretty hard to find but it isn’t impossible. It’s located in the Shinkyogoku covered mall, just off Shijo Dori. Go the end of the covered arcade and you’ll hit a T-junction. Go right, and look for the pink shop on the left – just to the right is a corridor that you go down and into a courtyard where you’ll see the store (note the Google Maps pin has it on the wrong side of the arcade).

NeedleShop

  • Idola Tucked away in a beautiful old building are two miniature stores, selling vintage buttons and beads. Beautifully curated, mostly European wares (and right next to Avril – below). It’s located on the third floor of the western-style building at the corner of Sanjo Dori andTominokoji Dori.

Idola

Yarn

  • Habu Textiles A small, curated store predominantly focused on very high end yarn (mostly merino), with a few bolts of selected linen fabrics. They also sell a small range of ready-to-wear clothes in the loose linen Japanese style. It’s located on Gokomachi Dori, between Oike Dori and Aneyakoji Dori. Look for the wooden sign and head up the stairs.

Habu

  • Avril  This is a stunning yarn store with high quality yarn from floor to ceiling! They have workshops in knitting, weaving and felting. Located next to Idola on Sanjo Dori at the junction with Tominokoji Dori, on the third floor.

Avril

There are plenty of very cool boutiques and cafes around this area, so you’ll have an amazing day!

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. Do you know any other “no-miss” fabric and yarn stores in Japan that folks should add to their lists?

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Guide to Yarn, Fabric and Craft shopping in Tokyo and Kyoto by Cashmerette. Everything you need for an amazing crafty visit!

Cashmerette
May 7, 2015

Kyoto calling! (A Tale Of Many Fabric Stores)

Konichiwa! Hello, yes, can I please speak to the person in Kyoto responsible for fabric stores? Hmm. Yes, I’ll wait. Right. OK. Well that sounds bad for my wallet. Arigato!”

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Kyoto’s our last stop in Japan and thank goodness, because I already bought one new bag to carry fabric and notions in, and I can’t physically carry another. Kyoto’s the historic counterpart to busy Tokyo, but has no fewer fabric-buying opportunities, you’ll be relieved to hear. So let’s start at the beginning: the secret needle shop.

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I was tipped off to the existence of this most-unlikely shop, which sits in a courtyard behind a modern shopping arcade, by Norma, by way of Thewallinna.  It took a while to find (I’m going to write up a summary post with detailed directions to this and all the other stores soon!) but once I did: what a marvel. It’s been around for 400 years, and everything in there is lovingly made by hand. In addition to every type of needle you can imagine, he also sells the most kawaii tiny handmade pins you’ve ever seen. Dogs! Cats! Ducks! Sewing implements! Geraniums! They’re so small it’s hard to make your iPhone focus (surely a modern standard). He was also selling adorable tiny boxes which are travel sewing sets, complete with handmade snips, a pack of needles, three threads and a pincushion.  I bought one of everything (almost).

Kyoto2

Next up was Nomura Tailor which has two outlets around the corner from each other. The main one is 3 storeys of heaven. It’s mostly grown-up garment fabric, with a whole bunch of cottons, silks, laces, knits and everything in between. Of course there’s still lots of cute animal print. Of course. The notions floor at the top is also a treasure trove of really soft bias piping in a rainbow of colours, more of that amazing knit bias tape, untold handbag making accessories and every woman’s must-have: furry pom poms. 

Kyoto4

Turn the corner, and Nomura Tailor House is smaller and more cutesy – mostly quilting cottons with a few exceptions (those seersucker ginghams! be still my heart), and lots of other crafty things like needle felting kits. Of course, it was mostly comprised of cute animal prints. And cute animal sew-on patches.

Kyoto3

Kyoto5

In addition to the garment-making fabric stores, Kyoto abounds with “furoshiki” stores. These are pieces of fabric which have multiple purposes – I think the most common one is to wrap gifts (instead of wrapping paper), but they can also be transformed into slouchy bags with a ring and a few twists, or a nifty scarf, or a wide range of accessories that are available in the stores. I didn’t end up buying any this time because the prices are significantly higher than by-the-yard fabric, but I still took in the eye candy, of course.

Kyoto7

I wasn’t intending to head to Avril, the famous knitting store, but accidentally ended up in front of it, and I took that to be a sign from above. And what can I say: it’s flipping gorgeous. I don’t plan on starting knitting but if I ever change my mind I’ll be back here in a flash. More interesting to me were the two stores that flanked Avril both called idola, which sell beads and buttons. The vintage buttons are again, outstanding – they look like they’re from Paris, but who knows. The taste level here is insane. 
Kyoto6Phew! So that’s about it. I did pop into a few other places that I’ll mention in the roundup, but these were my faves. Contrary to appearances, I *did* see things other than fabric stores while I was here. We strolled the medieval streets for hours, walked the Philosopher’s Walk, meditated in front of Zen gardens (and/or took Instagram photos) and enjoyed sitting on the floor in our lovely ryokan hotel.

Kyoto1

Do you have trouble resisting fabric shopping when you’re on vacation? What’s the craziest place you’ve ever bought fabric? It makes me sad that so many things are available everywhere these days that few places are special any more, but Japan is definitely one of them! Do you know others?

And… if you can’t make it to Kyoto for regular monthly shopping adventures (sigh, if only) I recommend checking out Miss Matatabi – you can get nearly all the same fabrics delivered to the US and Europe!


Cashmerette
May 4, 2015

Fabric, Bunka and Bloggers in Tokyo!

Without a doubt, my favourite thing about blogging is meeting other bloggers in real life. It never fails to boggle my mind that I have these friends all around the world who I’ve never met… and who invariably turn out to be just as cool in person as they are online. When I decided to travel to Tokyo, my first priority was a visit to my blog roll to see who I knew in the city, and Novita (Very Purple Person) and Yoshimi (Yoshimi The Flying Squirrel) were top of the list!

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We met on Thursday at Shinjuku station, and the first port of call was heading over to Bunka Fashion School, guided by Yoshimi’s friend who is a graduate of their pattern-making course (and who was wearing a very nifty combo including a collar made of tiny linen rags and a Merchant&Mills UNIQLO t-shirt). I couldn’t get over how big Bunka is – it’s literally a skyscraper!

Bunka Fashion College | Cashmerette

Bunka Fashion College | Cashmerette

Bunka Fashion College | Cashmerette

There are all manner of facilities there, but naturally we checked out the shopping options first – they have a bookstore, fabric store, and notions/equipment shop.

In the bookstore Novita found me my first ever Japanese pattern book – for plus sizes! Interestingly, I noticed a lot more plus size women in Japan than last time I was here 6 years ago, and there are also now pattern books and fashion magazines. My book is “Pocchari Girls’ Sewing Book” which apparently means “chubby girls”, but, I was told, with a nice tone (apparently there’s also a movement to rechristen plus size women “marshmallow girls”….). The clothes are pretty cool and styled in a very fun Japanese way, even though they’re modeled by western women. They definitely tend in the tent-dress direction, but in a similar way to straight-size Japanese fashion which tends to be loose-fitting, rather than in a “these ladies need to cover up” way. I’ll do a full review of the book soon!

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I took a quick look in the fabric store but it was mostly wools and fabrics for men’s suiting – I presume that reflects the classes they’re teaching at the moment.

bunka3

The notions store though… swoon! There’s no doubt that seeing regular things with Japanese packaging makes them seem cooler, but there were also a lot of things that I haven’t seen in the US or Europe – like twill tape in a dispenser, tiny Japanese needles and pre-made bra strap holders. I bought one of the curved rulers (apparently the curve is famous…), and some chalk with “Bunka” on it… because.

bunka2

We saw the famous Bunka mannequins– apparently every year, they take the measurements of the incoming students, and create a mannequin that’s an average of the class. As a result, their forms are well-known for being a lot more reflective of real women’s figures than standard Wolf or Dritz models.

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After the Bunka stores we popped into the Bunka Garment Museum – they have a small permanent collection of 1920s – present clothing which was fun to ramble around, and then downstairs there was a temporary exhibition on denim. It was fascinating, both to see how little denim styles have changed since the early 1900s, but also because they have an awesome video which shows how commercial jeans are weathered and wrinkled using sandblasters and lasers.

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Next, we headed out to a store called Yuzawaya which is above Shinjuku station (all the best things in Tokyo are apparently above or below stations..). It has a massive variety of craft supplies, from stained-glass window making to leather kits to dried flower decoupage to fake fur trim, and of course I was so swayed by the packaging that I almost bought a needle-felting kitty set. And about 100 other things. Instead, I limited myself to some knit bias tape – I’d heard rumours of this before but never seen it myself, and given it was polka dots I was basically obliged to buy 8 packs. Yoshimi and I also picked up some limited edition Hello Kitty Liberty print for Carmen – see if you can see the kittens! This is a great store for Liberty, printed cottons, and more notions than you could dream of, all displayed in a really beautiful way. (If you can’t make it to Japan, Miss Matatabi has a lot of very similar stock and ships worldwide…)

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I also did a pre-game mini-visit to Odakaya in Shinjuku. It’s a little hard to find (the entrance to the fabric part of the building is down an alleyway) but it was another gem. They have a particularly good selection of sweater knits – I ended up buying a lightweight black and royal blue square knit which will be perfect for a cardigan or light sweater, and had to restrain myself from buying the various quilted and cabled sweater knits which, though gorgeous, were really expensive ($30+/meter).

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Post-shopping we headed out to the suburb of Kichijoji for some okonomiyaki dinner. Okonomiyaki is one of my favourite Japanese dishes – it’s a sort of pancake made with cabbage and eggs, which you add lots of things to like seafood, pork, little crispy bits of batter, cheese and so on. At the cute place we visited there’s a hot-plate on the table so you make your own, though we did have rather a lot of guidance from Yoshimi! Once it’s made you slather it with a sweet soy-based sauce and mayonnaise, and flaky dried fish bits on the top. It’s the best! I might have to start up a chain of okonomiyaki restaurants in Boston…

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All in all, a totally awesome day, thanks to Yoshimi and Novita. I’m hoping to see them again soon, either in Japan or New York! Now, on to Takayama and Kyoto… Does anyone have any tips, fabric, food or otherwise? And: should I just suck it up and buy another suitcase and buy all the fabric in Japan? I might break my back carrying it all, but..

 


Cashmerette
April 29, 2015

Fabric shopping in Tokyo

Greetings from Tokyo! After 48 hours of brutal jetlag (I didn’t realize it was possible to drool and walk into so many fixed objects with such panache) I am fully in the Japanese swing of things. So what did I do as soon as I had a semblance of sanity?

Fabric shopping, of course!

Based on the recommendation of, well, everybody I asked, I hoofed it up to Nippori Fabric Town, which is conveniently on the main circular Yamanote metro line in central Tokyo (talking of which: is there a cleaner and more efficient subway system in the world? I think not).

Step off the train platform and this is what you see….

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Naturally, I forgot to print off the Nippori Town Guide I’d previously been studying, but it wasn’t an issue, because pretty much all the stores are on the one street which starts at the station. There are more than 80 stores, but it’s a fairly compact area and much more calm and easy to navigate than the NYC garment district. I loved seeing all the little signs advertising the stores, and particularly loved that plaid carpeted road! The yellow brick road for sewists, I think.

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There’s a range of types of stores, from beautifully curated vintage button stores (of which more shortly), to notions shops, lace specialists, upholstery suppliers, leather shops and more. As usual, I was totally overwhelmed.

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After wandering up and down the street, my willing accomplice Anthony and I ended up spending most of our time in Tomato, which has multiple locations on the street and floor after floor of droolworthy wares.

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Here’s just a taste of what I found: (top left, clockwise) neon checked linen! reversible sweater knits! *pre-quilted* Nani Iro prints! awesome eyelet! 

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More lovely lightweight linen, Nani Iro, awesome checks, and very soft washed ginghams… I loved how many times fabrics were available in multiple colourways.

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And no tour would be complete without the piles and piles and stacks and mountains of whimsical animal fabrics. Truly, Japan is the capital of whimsy. Observe: bear, plug and badger etchings; cheeky foxes; languorous cats; and, to quote the fabric, “more cats”. I really had to restrain myself, due to the rather large gap between my fabric taste and my clothing taste. Trust me, if fabric taste Jenny got her way, I’d be full time cat whimsy, 24-7.

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Some more unusual finds included this printed grid “lace” (not sure what else to call it), multi-coloured fake fur, and a large array of lace collars. I totally fell in love with the silk crepe print at the bottom right, until I realized it was $250/meter. At which point it became unrequited love.

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The vintage buttons store I mentioned had the most amazing collection of chunky unusual buttons I think I’ve ever seen (naturally, they were whimsically displayed). I think they must have been re-mounted because the packaging was all a bit too perfect, but the range and types of buttons was awesome, and unusually they often had 10 or more of the same button (all my vintage ones are in packs of 5).

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After wrestling my kawaii demons to the ground, I did manage to make some awesome, but eminently sensible, purchases.

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First up: stripes! The top two are heathered terry – lovely and soft, and reminded me so much of Jen, a classy role model of mine. I also couldn’t resist a simple jersey stripe which was just the right weight, texture and stripe width (all sewists know, critical factors in a Breton). Then, gorgeous midweight linen! These are much more vibrant in real life, and yellow/grey and blue/green are my two favourite colour-combos so I bought 4 yards of each. Skirts and shirtdresses coming up, I think… And then finally, a lightweight seersucker-textured cotton in grey and limey yellow (again a bit brighter in person). I’m pretty certain it’s destined to be a maxi Southport
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If you ever find yourself in Tokyo, I highly recommend checking out Nippori town, even if you only have an hour to pop into Tomato. Go and stroke all the animal prints for me, please. Then, follow my lead and get a creme patissiere choux bun from Docatur afterwards. You deserve it. 

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I’m off to Kyoto at the weekend: does anyone have any top tips for sewing shopping there? I’m already looking forward to visiting the handmade needle place! (how does one hand make a needle?! The mind boggles). Oh and if you’re dying for Japanese fabric but haven’t quite made it there yet? Check out Miss Matatabi – she has a huge range of Japanese fabric, the site is in English, and they ship worldwide – I apologise in advance for the damage to your wallet 😉


Cashmerette
November 4, 2014

Review of Stonemountain & Daughter, Berkeley CA

Ah, work travel, you fickle beast, keeping me away from sewing and finishing up that damn coat.

On the plus side though, new fabric shops to visit!

Last week, I popped into San Francisco (en route from Vegas to Boston to London… yeah) and apparently there was this sports thing on which meant that lots of people got overexcited and swamped the centre of the city. This was most upsetting as it meant I missed both meeting my virtual sewing pal Tanya (next time!) and a trip to Britex.

However, the upside was that I was staying in Berkeley with my friend Anthony (of whom more will follow…) and that, of course, meant… my first trip to Stonemountain & Daughter!

Berkeley is a place teeming with character, overflowing with students, hipsters, homeless people and folks who tuned in and dropped out several decades ago. Delightfully, Stonemountain & Daughter fits right in, with retro signage and a most relaxed staff (who were all dressed up for Halloween – double bonus!).

I was a little concerned when I first walked in that it might be mostly quilting cottons, because they’re all focused at the front of the store. Not that cat quilting cotton is bad, you understand…
There was also an awesome button display – I want my own button Cashmerette sign! One day, dear readers, one day.
However beyond the cottons and buttons, this place is an Aladdin’s cave… venture back and you’ll discover Fur Mountain (I feel like someone needs to set up a blog with that as the title), a huge variety of denim, eyelet, Japanese fabrics and flannels.

Then in the adjacent room, a very solid range of other apparel fabrics, from silks to knits to brocade to wool.

Being the predictable creature I am, I picked up (top to bottom):
– Black jersey for lining a Moneta
– An awesome textured knit for the aforementioned Moneta – you can’t see it well in this photo, but the white stripes are raised knit ridges!
– A stretch cotton in bright blue, yellow and pink
– A great navy and grey flannel shirting for a Negroni for Anthony.

So a lovely trip, a lovely reunion, a lovely fabric shop and I’ll leave you with a lovely view of the Golden Gate bridge from the Berkeley hills. Remind me why I live in Boston again?

Cashmerette

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