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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 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.

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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.

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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….

Fabric shopping in Tokyo

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 😉


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