Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fabric Shopping Madness in Osaka and Tokyo:

I always envied my blogger pals who write and sew in Japan and use the most pretty looking linens and quilting cottons for their sewing projects. Though you'll always find a mention of Japanese silks and brocades usually used for the traditional Kimono, you'll stumble upon names like Kokka, Echino, Nari Iro, Yuwa and many more. They either design or print the loveliest linens and cottons. I've spent hours online just flipping through websites that sell these fabrics worldwide, but unfortunately, their shipping rates are very high to India :( 
I knew I was going to a fabric and sewing crazy nation and after the handmade market visit, I was waiting to go get some fabrics to take back home. I did read up a bit online and there were many kind bloggers who've written about fabric shops across Osaka. That being a big help, I did a location search on fabric shops close to the Shinsaibashi area and among a few stores, pops up - 
 Toraya - This 3 floor fabric store is located in the huge covered market near Dotonbori. It's about a ten minute walk from the JR Namba station. We happened to be living just a 5 minute walk away...how fabulous eh? The shop has bolts of fabric lying outside in baskets and tons hanging from rings on all four walls and racks inside the store. Takes a while to figure, but knowing the Japanese abit closely now, they had to have a methodical process to buying the fabric. You'll find young smiling and extremely helpful women spread across all the floors with aprons and a whole stationery kit in their pockets. What you see all across the store is samples on display. The moment you like something, gently ask one of the staff around, they cut up two small swatches of the fabric, staple them to two receipts. One you keep the other is sent up to the highest floor (cutting section)  through a chute...and then comes the best part. After you're done with all your choosing, you go up to the payment counter at the end of the floor, present your receipts and swoosh! All the cut fabric comes down through the chute rolled up in plastic capsules. Wallah, they fold it up, pack it neatly and you dance out of the store! WOW!! genius I say, there's no room for error. You get to keep the swatches and receipts too for your record. I was so enamoured at the whole chute thing and anyway giddy with all the excitement, that I missed taking a picture of the chute. But, it was most impressive! Fabric ranges from 100 Yen to 1600 Yen(60Rs - 1000 Rs) a metre on the ground floor. Fabrics like knits, quilting cottons, linens, canvas, vinyl, oil cloth, pleather etc are all on the ground floor. I noticed something new here. You even have ready quilted fabric on the bolts with various prints, from floral, checks, stripes, text, nursery and ofcourse the comic prints too. You get them  cut off the bolt, go home attach the binding and wallah..your quilt is ready. Baskets outside are the 100 yen so you'll have to dig in alot to find what you really want. I spent at least an hour outside. Small neat squares are also stacked outside if you'd like them for a patchwork project. The comic prints are the most expensive since they are licensed and then come the linens and canvases. I picked up most of my stash from the 600 Yen - 1200 Yen range ( Rs.360 - Rs. 1000). 

The second floor displays home decor fabrics, silks and designer fabrics that can go way beyond 2500 Yen (  Rs. 1500/-) per meter. I enjoyed looking around and running my fingers through the beautiful tapestries :) The 3rd floor houses a variety of notions - buttons, laces, interfacing, purse frames, handles, embroidery hoops, thimbles, tailor hams, ribbons, sewing patterns, marking pens, chalks, rulers, cutting tools, threads, zippers and tons of haberdashery. Go into the store and be prepared to be drawn in and lost for hours. I spent 4 hours flat and came out feeling exhausted. It was the first fabric store I'd gone to in the country and not realizing that this was only a preview :)

Otsukaya - This another great store, close to the Esaka station and about a 20 minute ride from the JR Namba station. This 5 floor ( so now you know..they're never less than 5 floors ;-)) store is carefully stocked with fabrics and notions at each level. I made a quick stop here and just had a look around (Terribly tough I tell you! ) cause I was saving all my pennies for the Nippori Fabric Town in Tokyo. I's realized by now that fabric shopping in Japan isn't for the faint hearted. And I'd need to be very calm and thoughtful about how much I would be able to carry back in a suitcase. 

Happy man sewing on the pavement
Nippori Fabric Town (Tokyo) - Yes! You read right! A whole town with stores selling only fabric and notions. Trust the Japanese to even come up with something like this for their sewing crazy people :) If you're using a JR pass, get off at the Nippori station and you'll figure with all the maps and directions around on how to get to the lane called - Nippori Chuo Dori. Ooooh...you'll know when you've arrived when you'll see bins of fabric outside each store, I even caught up with a gentlemen who was sewing away on his serger right on the pavement. Take your time here, walk in and out of stores first. Well not because you'll find varying prices, but because there's so much. Tomato has five stores here. Make sure you go to the 5 storey one. That houses everything sewing and crafting you can think of. The 100 Yen wall is what really excites people there. But the ground floor is where all the goodies are. As the so organised Japanese, this store too has a system, you pull out your bolts, cart them along is trolleys, queue up to get them cut, and then stand at the cashier and pay for them. The fabric trolleys were most thoughtful. The ground houses linens, knits, cottons, corduroys etc then as you climb up you have one floor for designer fabric, one for home decor textiles, one for silks and expensive stuff and then the last for notions and patterns. If you have limited time here's where you can find everything under one roof. 

Queue to the cutting table

 Fabric bolt rolling machine 

Arch is next door and sells fabrics at reduced prices.

Mihama is just before Tomato and sells beautiful designer silks and kimono fabrics in small quantities. I honestly could only pop in, admire and leave since I'd way too much than both the Mister and I could carry. 

I picked this gorgeous Moda, Tokyo map fabric from one of the small stores. Don't be hesitant and doubt the other little shops that line the street. They all have treasures waiting to be found. 

La Musee Buttons - The cutest button store I've ever seen. It actually looks like a Parisian Cafe from the outside and that actually is the idea. It's in the lane next to the first Tomato store with a big wooden button hanging above the store. The jars and jars of buttons actually look like freshly made candy. You could take a peep at the back where you can see the work tables where they actually make all this prettiness. There are buttons of various shapes and sizes and colours. I loved the glazed ceramic buttons the most. 

Okadaya - This compact 5 floor store lies hidden in a small alley near Shinjuku station on the JR line. We almost missed it the first time because of the small, tiny entrance. The ground floor has beauty products and do not be fooled by that hahahahaha I thought I was in the wrong place. Go higher up and then your head shall start to spin. They had the largest variety of tailor hams and some interesting sewing tools. Also on display are sewing machines, which are always a delight to see. They have a huge button section too  which is lovely. I was extremely pooped by the time we got here and I didn't buy any fabric from here, but I got this really cool Clover sewing tool I was looking for since a while and ofcourse I picked up some buttons. Oh yeah and they had this basket full of mystery boxes  by Juki filled with sewing charms. 100 Yen a box. All the boxes are the same, so you'll never make out what you're picking out. I picked out two and dropped one on the way out in all the excitement :(( 

My loot Yay!!

Phew! So that completes my list of stores that I went to. Fabric shopping in Japan is surely extremely overwhelming and so be prepared for hoards and hoards to choose from. Always carry cash around the small stores, except for places like Okadaya and Tomato, Toraya, they all have card machines. Take along fabric bags to tote your loot back in, or else you'll end up with just too many shopping bags to handle. Never be worried that you'll be cheated or you'll find some fabric cheaper some place else. The moment you like something, pick it up. There's a very less chance that you'll come back to the same store or find the same fabric elsewhere. Be thoughtful and real about what you're picking up cause you only have that one extra bag that you can fill in and fabric is heavy. The ANA flights to India allow you 46 kilos of baggage each and I carried 10 kilos of fabric back in a new suitcase :)) I cannot thank the Mister enough for helping me pick out the fabrics and notions. Alone I would've walked out empty handed - it was just too much to handle. Fabric sure has been the highlight of our trip to Japan, but so was everything else hahahaha I know you're wondering. Well I'll keep writing more about the other not so crafty stuff too! The food, the flowers, the trains, the people, ceramics, the shopping, and tons more. Hope these posts make you want to go there someday :) 

Much Luv,



 Our very own Kalamkari was spotted in one of the stores.

 I am not a cat fan but, this designer cat fabric sure is cute eh?

 Framed fabric art that stole my heart :)

Happy, excited, exhausted, overwhelmed me after hours roaming through fabric town. Notice my Liberty Uniqlo tee? :))