Tokyo: Possibly the best fabric shopping in the world!

In between narrowly missing a bidet facial (courtesy of my youngest who can’t resist pressing buttons on the Japanese toilets), spending my life savings in Tokyo’s toy shops and my fave shop ever, Tokyu Hands, and stroking hedgehogs and bunnies in a pet cafe, I managed a few hours’ respite in Tokyo’s fabric district, Nippori.

I’ve been to Japan a couple of times before and had only found expensive Liberty lawn in the main department stores. Since finding the online sewing community I’ve been able to track down some of Asia’s finest fabric emporiums. For my trip to Tokyo I consulted Cashmerette’s fantastic account of fabric and yarn shopping in Japan.  Her top tip that I share with you is: bring cash. Most stores don’t take plastic. Here I am, pictured above, on the starting blocks, and in the footsteps of many illustrious sewing bloggers (who’ve also posted the same photo)!   

There’s a whole street of fabric shops in Nippori, the largest being Tomato (which has several stores in a short stretch). Being a fool, I decided not to head straight for the 5-storey main Tomato but work up to it slowly, savouring the anticipation. I made a couple of purchases en route: some red French terry for a Bluegingerdoll Bonnie and some black cotton/viscose for a second Colette Wren (assuming the toile and the first go to plan).  What I discovered when I made it to Tomato was that this was surely the best stocked fabric store I have ever been inside! (n.b. I haven’t yet been to Mood NYC, but one day…).

Check out these gorgeous plaids! I stupidly didn’t buy any despite visiting them three times and now I’m consumed with shopper’s remorse. What was I thinking?? I even thought about going back for a second visit but I ran out of time! I’m on the verge of purchasing some online from the UK to make up for it. I am obsessing over Fancy Tiger Crafts’ Grainline Alder/Archer shirt dress for next winter!  

I saw these gorgeous Japanese sewing patterns. Why does everything look so much more stylish in Japanese?  

I love a stripe, but even I was dumbfounded by the selection in Tomato. These were just the cotton jersey fabrics. I succumbed to a black and white version to make my Christmas pressie Tilly Agnes. I had made a list of projects and requirements before I went just in case the selection sent me into choice-overload. I’m pleased to report that I stuck to it. I didn’t buy any cutesy Japanese prints that I probably wouldn’t wear, and I did buy mainly knits which I find really hard to come by.

 So here are the spoils: some French Terry in red and jade for some seasonal Bluegingerdoll Bonnies, black cotton/viscose, a tartan plaid for a Christmas Anna for next year, and some Sevenberry blue dotty cotton. The last two were from the 100¥ wall at Tomato, so a whopping 55p per metre! If I could only shop at Tomato once every couple of years I’d never need to go elsewhere. Ah, Japan. When can I return?  


Now Sewing in South East Asia…..

I’m baaaaaaaack! It seems like a lifetime ago I was packing up my sewing chattels in South London. The last few months have been a whirlwind, to say the least. New home, new job, new life! I couldn’t imagine sewing even a few weeks ago but a few fabric shopping expeditions and the arrival of my sewing machine last week have seen the return of my sew-jo! I have enjoyed taking a break from sewing as it had become a little too all-consuming. That said, I’ve got a few nice new pieces that I can’t wait to get started on.

I wanted to share a few of my fabric shop finds. I’m slowly finding my way round my new neighbourhood and have been totally reliant on you fellow bloggers to point me in the right direction. So it’s only right that I do the same.

My first outing took me to the fabric shops of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which seem to be clustered around one area of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (Jalan TAR). The big stores were Gulati’s Silk House (162, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, City Centre, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, tel +60326983901), Euro Moda (126, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, City Centre, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, tel+60326940805), and Harisons (229-235, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, City Centre, 50100 Kuala Lumpur).It would also be worth checking out Jakel Mall: an entire fabric mall-sized shop, with everything from local polyesters and batiks to European linens.

Taste’s a subjective thing, isn’t it? I didn’t manage to part with any of my Ringgits. I found a lot of brightly colored synthetics that wouldn’t help me to keep my cool in the tropics. There were one or two reasonable cottons in the more expensive shops but nothing to write home about. I’ve since heard that there are other places for sewists in the know and have made my first trip to the legendary Australian craft superstore, Spotlight (Ampang Point mall, 2nd floor, Jalan Mamanda 3, 68000 Ampang, Selangor, and now there’s a new Spotlight in MyTown shopping mall, Cheras, which is better organised).  Next on the itinerary was a very quick stop in Bangkok. In my one spare hour I headed straight for China World Mall: three floors of fabric heaven located in the Pahurat neighbourhood, on the fringes of Chinatown. Jill at talks about Kimono House (2nd floor) being an amazing place to find high quality cottons. She wasn’t wrong! I nearly hyperventilated when I saw Cotton & Steel fabrics on sale (approx USD 2 per metre)!

 I bought some lovely fabrics here, including some shibori dyed cotton, and am dreaming about when I can next get to Bangkok. China World Mall is well worth a visit, particularly when speed is of the essence and it’s too hot to pound the pavements. 

My last field report is from Hong Kong, where I’ve fabric shopped before. All signs point to Sham Shui Po according to Google. This is Hong Kong’s garment district, raved about by bloggers the world over. In previous visits I was never sure I’d found the exact block on Ki Lung Street as all I came across were wholesale shops with samples on display, and nothing like the frenzy of fabric buying that other bloggers write about.

  This time I found Traveller’s Yarn’s post about shopping for fabric in Sham Shui Po and made a beeline for Moon Yue Piece Goods (125-127 Yu Chau Street). O.M.G. What can I say? This place was exactly as described. He sells end-of-bolt fabrics from high end designers and stocks mainly silks. So the big question for me is what am I going to make with 6 yards of Shanghai Tang silk??