Okay, finally, fabric shopping in Japan

tomato in Japan

Thanks to multiple recommendations and quite explicit directions, I made it to the legendary Tomato fabric store in Nippori Textile Town. That's the cotton floor, above.

I had a great time in Tokyo. There's something exhilarating about being completely on your own in a strange city where you don't speak a word, not one single word, of the language. All it needed was for me to be pursued by shadowy underworld figures out to kill me for it to be a major motion picture. (Although having the plot be "shadowy underworld figures try to stop Erin from buying fabric" probably wouldn't make it past the first script meeting.)

Anyway, despite having to take the slow train back to Narita late Monday night (I missed the last express), I managed to go everywhere I wanted *and* get back to the airport in time to make my flight to Taipei.

Here's what I bought:

tomato in Japan

And some more:

tomato in Japan

Whoops, almost forgot one piece:

tomato in Japan

(Boy, am I glad I packed the spare duffel bag!)

So, from the top down — probably the most "Japanese" of the fabric I bought, the little birds and trees on heavy cotton. Heavier than quilting cotton, anyway. I deliberately didn't buy anything self-consciously Japanese: no kanji prints, no geishas, no "Engrish" writing. I wanted cute, but not "kawaii!", if that makes any sense. Also, as hard as it was to resist, I didn't buy anything Hello Kitty.

The gray dot is probably has a good bit of polyester in it, and it has a small flaw, but it was 100 yen/yard and the dots are really nice, not the bad printing I usually see in the US.

The autumn-leaf print is very heavy, almost upholstery weight, so I think that will be a skirt. It think it would be cute with an orange corduroy jacket and green tights in the fall … although in 90+ degree Taipei, it is *very* difficult to think about fall!

The black and gray leaf print just *spoke* to me, which black fabric hardly ever does. And who am I not to listen when Japanese fabric wants to emigrate? I had to buy it.

The browny-greige wallpaper print has a really interesting texture, almost matelassé. And since I'm never afraid to look like a combination wallpaper/bedspread, I figured I had to have it. I thought it would make a nice structured dress — something with stiff tailored details. We'll see …

The stripe is a shirting stripe and it's green/gray on one half and yellow-gray on the other. I thought I was hallucinating when I pulled it out; I pulled out the green side and, then, clutching the bolt, only saw the yellow; I enjoyed a brief moment of panic while I wondered where the green fabric went! Do I have any idea how to sew this? No, I do not. But for 100 yen/yard, I figured it would come to me. Someday. I'll wait.

The last bit is the orange/yellow sunburst cotton. I'm betting I'll make that up first; If I work it right it'll be a perfect Indian-summer dress, the yellow changing to orange towards the fall, just like the falling leaves …

Despite the notorious expensiveness of everything in Japan, I think I spent less than $125. Although I probably spent at least half that on train tickets ….

Here's a street-scene photo, just to help you get your bearings the next time you're in Tokyo:

tomato in Japan

Thanks again to all the folks who sent me recommendations and directions for my all-too-brief time in Tokyo … I can't wait to go back!

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0 thoughts on “Okay, finally, fabric shopping in Japan

  1. I *love* the little red birds.I like the black/grey/white leaves, too — it’s like a black fabric that’s not taking itself too seriously.

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  2. okay! fixed now. Forgot the IE problem about leaving “width” unspecified. Can I please beg all of you who are still using Internet Explorer to switch to the Firefox browser? It’s free, it’s good, and it will improve your Dress A Day experience a great deal! 🙂

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  3. Ahh. All better now. Beautiful fabrics (she says with a just a hint of jealousy).About the IE vs, Firefox;I’m the ‘puter fix-it person in my household. If I changed the browser, it would undermine my hard-won success in getting BF to not download anything ever again without checking with me. I’ll limp along & not complain – I love your site too much!

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  4. I use Opera as a browser. I’ve never had trouble on your site. I’m one of those people that doesn’t wear dresses, but I love your site. My mom hates that I’ve decided to try to learn to sew, and all for that Butterick wrap dress.

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  5. 100 yen/yard????WOW, I think you do know the language!I can be a little less envious because I just went fabric shopping in NYC, but it’s not Japan.~Becky

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  6. Oooo, thanks for posting the fabric pics! As nice fabric gets harder for home sewers to find (or at least that’s what the trend seems to be), it’s a relief to know that there are places that are heaven for fabriholics. Maybe if I use up my fabric stash, I’ll reward myself with a trip to Japan 🙂

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  7. I LOVE JAPAN!! That country has everything you never knew you needed. I once spent $80 on paper at Tokyu Hands. To do what with…that is still to be determined!

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  8. Nice work! I have a lot of sympathetic joy for your fabric finds.Running around a city where I don’t speak the language and being pursued by shadowy figures who don’t want me to buy fabric sounds like a typical dream plot. I’d definitely shell out for the movie version, if it were a Jacques Demi musical (a la “Demoiselles de Rochefort”) or maybe a Charlie Kaufman film.

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  9. This sounds like me.”And since I’m never afraid to look like a combination wallpaper/bedspread”I asked My DH what he thought of this fabric I had wrapped around me, for a skirt he no maybe a sofa cushion. I said but I like to upholster myself and look like Grandma’s couch

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  10. We are so lucky here in Texas. We can get those fabrics at fabric outlet malls in Dallas and Houston – the same fabric – for much lower prices and don’t have to carry it all the way home from overseas. Happy travelling!

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  11. Hi Erin! This is off topic, sorta, but I just wanted you to know that MilitaryHumveeAuction has been chosen as a Rockin’ Girl Blogger. Check here for more. I know it’s silly, but your page is great, maybe some more peeps will make it your way…Most sincerely,Thom

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  12. OK, I’m culturally deficient. Just how much is 100yen/yard? That black and white leaf print, looks very much like a fabric I have seen elsewhere–perhaps one on the sewing magazines? Your taste in colors and prints, aren’t mine, but I defend your right to love them! I still have a great big splashy print I picked up in Antigua 17 years ago and have never made anything with it yet. Hubby thinks it would kind of overwhelm me but it is crying to be made and worn.

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  13. My favorite is the birds and trees. I am always buying decorator fabric for dresses. I keep having vivid dreams about patterns and sewing. (Especially the latest Butterick wrap featured.) Maybe I will dream the movie of Erin and the shadowy figures thwarting her fabric shopping. She has to get a certain fabric to make the uniforms for Captainatrix and the Chicanauts and save the world from the evil Polly Esther, who is trying to force everyone on the planet to wear double knit polyester leisure suits!

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  14. I like the fabric with the orangey leaves in the first photo. And that little grey van in the last. Where can I get a van like that?

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  15. Like right thinking people everywhere, I also like the trees one the best. (I’ve seen scrapbook paper that’s very similar and it always gets snapped up quickly!) If anyone asked ME what to make from it, I’d say that wonderful kimono-sleeve dress from the April 1 post. Lucky thing nobody’s asked me, then…

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  16. I am most thoroughly jealous. When I was in Japan I was quite poor and could only look at the lovley fabrics. Went to an interesting Indigo Dying place somewhere in Kyushuu.

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  17. My personal favorites: the black/white leaves; the damask/Renassaince-looking weave; and, oddly, the yellow/orange chrysanthemummy thing. I apparently have a long-running love and/or obsession with foliage and foliate designs. Renaissance? You betcha! Turkish? Why not! Japanese? Sure! Just leaf them for me.Seriously, some mighty good hunting! I congratulate and envy you (in a wholesome way).

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  18. at the current exchange, 1$ = around 118yen. Doing the math, 100yen is about 85cents.Seems like you use a lot of Cotton for your dresses, but do you use Polyester? Satins for making evening dresses?? I export fabrics out of Japan. If you are looking for anything that you couldn’t find while you were here, let me know please.

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