Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NOT Your Local Fabric Store

Besides a bad needlework stash habit, I also have a very strong stash jones for cloth. Before I left for Japan I spent some time on the web trying to find out where to buy needlework supplies and fabric. The more I looked for needlework, the less I found. A couple of websites mentioned only European and American patterns. If I wanted to buy Dimension patterns, I can more easily get them in the States! The needlework section in a local department store was only knitting. When we were in a bookstore on Monday, I did find the section on needlework, but it was pretty simplistic. Some hand embroidery patterns for simple flowers and animals and some very small cross stitch patterns. I ended up buying a Japanese sewing (with patterns!) magazine instead.

But I had some luck finding information on fabric. There is a section of Tokyo, called Nippori Textile Town, that supposedly had lots of fabric stores. So while my husband went to explore the Tokyo Museum of Photography, I got on the train to Nippori. The journey itself was quick. The map at the station told me which side of the station to exit, but once on the street -- no more signs! OK, I can explore a bit. Unfortunately it was still abysmally hot and muggy. I was dripping in sweat in no time flat. Luckily I came upon a sign, one I couldn't read, but it seemed indicate something special about the next street. I told myself I would walk a block and see if I could find any fabric stores. I started to see them. Most of them were small, just big enough for the proprietor and maybe one customer. When I found a slightly larger one, I entered, just to get out of the heat if nothing else. I could tell the proprietor didn't want me to drip on his fabric, but I did see several the interested me. Still I had read about a fabulous store called Tomato that was large and had huge bargains. I walked another couple of blocks and there it was!

Tomato is known for a huge selection of 100 Yen (about 87 US cents) per meter fabric. And there it was, hundred of rolls of delicious fabric. And at that price I bought some, too! Luckily you don't need to know any Japanese to read the prices and order several meters. Just bring the fabric to the cutting tables and hold up enough fingers. There didn't seem to be any markings on their meter sticks. I think they only sold fabric by the meter. I don't think I could convey a quarter yard anyway. My three 100 Yen fabrics are the blue fabric with spirals, the red/orange spirals, and the blue/green flowers on navy. The grey leopard print is actually an ultrasuede that was three times the price, 300 Yen ($2.59) per meter. Considering that ultrasuede usually goes for $50 per yard, I feel this was a real bargain. The last pice of fabric came from their regular store.

Moving on from the discount store, I stopped in the button, trim, and notions store. They were supposed to have a good selection of buttons, but the selection at Britex in San Francisco is bigger and the buttons in France are more unique. I did see some DMC thread there, at 87 yen (75 cents) per skein. At that price I suppose cross stitch isn't very popular. We are certainly spoiled by all the sales at JoAnne's and Michael's for 20 or 25 cent DMC.

I started at the top of the five stories of regular fabric. When I got off the elevator I knew I was in quilter's heaven. Every sort of Japanese and American fabric was available there, plus thousands of "fat quarters". I have so much quilting fabric that is simply sitting in bins that I wasn't tempted to buy any there, but I was tempted by the next section -- purse findings. They had handles and straps and rings and magnetic closures. I have never seen the variety as I saw there. But once again, without a specific project in mind, I just passed it by. I may regret that. The fourth floor was children's and Japanese fabric. Here were all the pastel sherbet prints with flowers and branches. I really thought I should buy some here, but there simply wasn't anything that caught my eye. Some of the hand dyed fabric was 5000 yen per meter. Beautiful, but not beautiful enough. It was the third floor that I really loved. This was the high end fashion fabric; lace, brocades, silk, satins, and chiffons. Until now everything that I had seen in Japan was elegant and understated. But someone with really bad taste must be buying the hot pink gold brocade fabric. I really wanted some printed silk, but all I could find in silk was Dupioni, which I have. There may have been other silks, but without being able to read the Japanese signs, I just had to guess. What I did find on this floor, however, was a wonderful sueded cotton in brown and tan, the last fabric in the picture. The second floor was knits, including some mre 100 yen per meter fabrics, but I was tired and hungry. I headed back to the train station, but couldn't find place that I trusted to eat.

Since it was early afternoon, I decided to try a store that had been recommended for crafts, Tokyu Hands. The one in Shinjuku seemed the best and it was a 20 minute train ride away. I could sit down and get cooler in the airconditioned train. Shinjuku is one of Tokyo's largest shopping areas. I even found a restaurant with some English on the menu, so I finally had lunch. Shinjuku is packed with stores, but I found Tokyu Hands easily enough in the Takashima department store. Tokyu Hands is described as a cross between Michael's and Home Depot. Yes, they have a floor full of Black and Decker tools, and one with lumber and do it yourself items. The crafts section is on the seventh floor and they do cover lots of crafts, as long as you aren't looking for anything too specialized. There was a two foot shelving area of Fimo clay, a foot long area of clock hands and mechanisms, a foot of kaleidescope findings, three feet of sewing notions, and a small chest of DMC threads (105 yen per skein). No kits, no fabric, no needlepoint canvas, no needlepoint wool. I was disappointed by not surprised. So I headed back to the hotel.

I will be sad to leave Tokyo, and our great hotel. We are finally finding our way around. But this afternoon we head off to Yokohama for Worldcon. We should have good time.


Cindy said...

Wow! What a great fabric store! You really got some nice pieces.

Anna van Schurman said...

Love all three fabrics on the bottom row! Sounds like a great trip.

Mistress Golden Needle said...

Wow you are sooooooo lucky!

Jan J. - who wishes she could fondle all that silk fabic in person too!!!!

Chiasmata said...

What an amazing store - you had a lot of self restraint! Glad to hear you've enjoyed exploring a foreign city and picked up a few treasures.