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I'm Samantha (Sam), a mechanical engineer, seamstress, crafter, & entrepreneur. Enjoy perusing photos of my sewing and craft-related adventures. I hope my blog brings inspiration and happiness to your day!

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fabric shopping in japan

fabric shopping in japan - japanese fabric haul

Japan has always been at the top of my travel wishlist. It started at age 10, when I was obsessed with Hello Kitty, and my 10-year-old self pictured the entire country as one giant Sanrio store. When I finally made it to Japan this past October, 15 years later, it wasn’t quite the Sanrio paradise of my dreams, but the fabric stores certainly filled me with childlike delight.

I see any trip as an excuse to bring home a suitcase full of fabric, as the archives of this blog will easily attest. But this wasn’t just any trip – this was Japan, home of ubiquitous kawaii. So when I say “suitcase full of fabric”, it’s not hyperbole. My rolling carry-on bag was bulging with nothing but fabric on the flight home.

I posted a teaser picture months ago on my Instagram, but haven’t shared more details until now. How cruel of me! Hopefully these were worth the wait. I love them all.

orange birdies - fabric from japan

This teal fabric with the orange animals is my favorite from the entire haul. The colors are perfect. I bought it as a pre-cut, so it was folded very small, and I couldn’t see many of the details. When I unfolded it to lay it in my suitcase, I couldn’t believe all of the funny animals: orange rabbits, squirrels, and of course those darling owls that appear to have seal tails! It was the first fabric of the haul to be cut into: I paired it with a scrap of teal leather (from Belgium!) to make a little wallet.

rainbow hedgehogs and lots of sheep - fabric from japan

As I combed through the animal-print fabrics at each store, I was always questing for sheep to give to Marie. I found tons of sheep fabrics, each one better than the last! I kept a few small cuts for myself, and of course I’m obsessed with the neon rainbow hedgehogs in the photo above.

alpacas with bowties - fabric from japan

The best part of so many of these fabrics is the random deviation from the standard patterned animal. With these alpacas, it’s, “alpaca… alpaca… alpaca… alpaca with bow tie!” It’s a subtle surprise in each one, but it makes them so much more fun. The blue sheep print above also has some great surprise sheep.

pandas with donuts - fabric from japan

Panda fabrics were everywhere. It was impossible to pass up the pandas in teacups/driving cars/flying airplanes… and don’t get me started on the donut pandas. And this cow print is fun and subtle, if a bit dizzying.

japanese fabric - tiny snails, parakeets, and vw vans

The Minny Muu tiny snails and parakeets were irresistible. And, even better: tiny, tiny VW vans.

onions and lemons - fabric from japan

I even brought Lemon Tree some fabric! I’m working on a pair of napkins made out of the lemon print, and the onions are destined for a pair of tea towels. There was also a lot of Scandinavian influence in the fabrics I saw, like this blue print, including some Marimekko lookalikes and lots of fun graphic flowers.

scandinavia party - fabric from japan

This “Scandinavia Party” was the only block-printed fabric I came home with (it’s a common, and beautiful, fabric-printing style in Japan), and I love it dearly. I might even just hang a section on the wall. I’ve always wanted to add the Lecien tear drop print to my stash, and the green apartment print is destined to become a darling tote bag or purse lining.

sumo wrestlers and mount fuji - fabric from japan

And I couldn’t pass up these fabrics celebrating Japanese culture. The sumo wrestlers are just plain awesome, Mount Fuji is the cutest mountain ever, and the little mountaintop owls are a testament to Japan’s incredibly hilly terrain.

It’ll take me awhile to use up all this fabric, for sure, but luckily I’ve already started cutting into a few. It’s always so hard to cut into fabrics this loved, especially when they can’t be easily replaced! But I figure it will be a long time before I’m back in Japan, so this stash will serve me well.

Going to Japan?

Most of these came from:

  • Yuzawaya in Yokohama (but it’s a chain with multiple locations throughout the country)
  • Swany in Kamakura
  • Tomato in the Nippori Textile Town district of Tokyo. All of Nippori was awesome, but Tomato was basically heaven.

Tokyo Craft Guide’s Nippori Fabric Town map was very helpful for getting around Nippori. These maps are also available at many of the shops, but it can be hard to find the English map. Take a backpack… all that fabric gets heavy!

travel tuesday: münchen mit marie

schliersee: a beautiful alpen lake

This year has been a whirlwind of plane rides and delightful trips. I always feel bad leaving Lemontree at home alone, but there’s just so much world out there to be explored!

I had been looking forward to this particular trip for what felt like forever. Marie, my incredibly talented blogging, sewing, knitting, and baking friend, scored an internship with BMW in Munich from March through August. When she first shared the news, she said, “if you happen to come to Germany this summer, you should come visit me in Munich.” What’s summer without a trip to Germany? I penciled it in for late August and dreamed about the trip for months.

germany as seen from the plane window

We had the most wonderful visit. We visited flea markets and fabric stores. We took the train into the Alps, with day trips to Salzburg and gorgeous Schliersee.

tiny colorful cars at the deutsches verkehrsmuseum

We went to museums: BMW Museum, Deutsches Museum, Deutsches Verkehrszentrum. At the BMW factory tour, we saw the car assembly from start to finish, including a detailed – and fascinating! – description and walkthrough of the 6-step exterior painting and powdercoating process.

eiskaffee at a biergarten

We had ice creams and Eiskaffee. I had Bier and Schnitzel, Marie had Apfelschorle and veg. I filled my suitcase with MAOAM for Brad and flea market treasures for me.

untersberg in the clouds

We took a cable car to the top of Untersberg in Austria, where the view was all too similar to my view from Mt. Snowdon on last year’s hike in Wales. That is to say, we were embraced by a giant, opaque cloud. But the tufts of mist nestled in the nooks of the mountain couldn’t be beat.

church steeple through a window, salzburg

I loved the chance to visit Munich for more than the day or two that I had spent there on previous trips. There’s a big difference between sightseeing and experiencing a city, and this trip was the perfect blend.

sam and marie by the lake in munich

The best thing about having a creative friend is the chance to discuss techniques, problems, and current projects without any sort of explanation. While riding the train, walking our tens of thousands of steps, or sitting by the lake making friends with ducks, we’d chat about things we were working on or dreaming of working on. Blogs we’ve read, quilts we want to try, the difficulties in trying to keep a fabric stash to a manageable size. We even debated appropriate stitch lengths! Sorry, Marie – I just hate sewing at under 3.0.

sam and marie at the schliersbergalm

On our last day, we visited the lake town of Schliersee and hiked to the Schliersbergalm and then to the top of Rohnberg. It was a perfect day, and there are few sights more gorgeous than that lake surrounded by mountains on all sides.

schliersee rodelbahn: an alpine roller coaster

My favorite part of the whole trip, though, was the ride down the mountain on the Schliersee Rodelbahn. You just sit in a little cart with a brake and careen down the mountain in a winding plastic chute. What could be a more perfect end to a wonderful day, and a wonderful holiday?

schliersee rodelbahn: an alpine roller coaster

Thanks, Marie, for the perfect summer adventure! I can’t wait until next time!

Travel Tuesday is a semi-weekly feature that allows me to recap the many trips I’ve failed to formally document. I’ll be sharing photos and fuzzy (but fond) memories from recent and not-so-recent adventures.

travel tuesday: fabric shopping in liege, belgium

fabric shopping in liege, belgium: tissus du chien vert

As I’ve said before, traveling is often just an excuse to find new fabric stores. My most recent trip to Belgium and the Les Tissus du Chien Vert store in Liège was no exception.

Brad flew to Belgium for a business trip, and I was eager to tag along. Belgium’s promises of frites, waffles, and beer were enough to get me excited… but they also have this fabric store with a giant boat in the center of it. You can climb up to the boat, and spin the steering wheel and everything. It’s very effective marketing, since it gets your significant other excited about a fabric store (especially valuable when said significant other may or may not be the only one authorized to drive the business-use rental car).

There may have been a conversation like this:
Sam: Do you mind if we stop at this fabric store on the way to Bruges? It looks really good and there’s a giant boat in the middle of the store!
Brad: Okay!
Sam: I mean, we don’t have to do it if we don’t have time or if you don’t want to…
Brad: But there’s a giant boat in the middle of the store!

fabric shopping in liege, belgium: tissus du chien vert

I loved this store. It was an absolute delight.

fabric shopping in liege, belgium: tissus du chien vert

Not only was there a boat in the middle of the store, but the cutting tables were fashioned on top of the beds of old trucks. The place was filled with natural light, and the decor was just right: creative but not kitschy, fun but not flashy. And the place was huge, especially by European standards, and filled with fabrics of all varieties. They had a great selection and good prices, plus a sale during my visit.

fabric shopping in liege, belgium: tissus du chien vert

The oilcloth corner boasted its kid-friendliness with a vintage coin-op toy and hopscotch floor. The oilcloth selection was impressive, as were the selections of wools, durable outdoor nylons, and faux furs/velvets.

They had a high pile velvet that felt like heaven. Brad and I each wanted to buy enough to line every pocket of every coat, for life. We were only stopped by the fact that it was only available in red and pink. If that had been green, or orange, or blue, or yellow, we would have had to devote a suitcase (and perhaps a bank account) to the stuff.

fabric shopping in liege, belgium: tissus du chien vert

On the upper deck, there were swings draped in leathers and suedes.

fabric shopping in liege, belgium: tissus du chien vert

I ended up with one meter of fabric: a gorgeously textured green wool that’s destined for a new project chair. I managed to escape with just that, for now.

This was the Liège (Hognoul) location, but they have additional stores in the Brussels area. Don’t quote me, but it looks like the others may have boats as well… or at least something nearly as cool. This felt like the kind of store I could return to again and again, and I’ll definitely make another stop if I end up in Belgium sometime.

Travel Tuesday is a semi-weekly feature that allows me to recap the many trips I’ve failed to formally document. I’ll be sharing photos and fuzzy (but fond) memories from recent and not-so-recent adventures.

wiwo wednesday: quilting 8 years later

an 8-year-old quilt in progress

This is one of a handful of projects that could become an eternal “what i’m working on”. I’ve been dragging this quilt around in a rubbermaid shoe box for 8 years now. I still love almost all of the fabrics, but that almost is a kicker. I’m planning to do a bit of surgery this week and swap out one of the fabrics… nothing a little bit of seamripping can’t fix.

an 8-year-old quilt in progress

And, while we’re at it, I’m making a very minor change to my planned quilt pattern. As my first quilt, I started with all squares and rectangles in a self-made pattern. I’m not saying I’m changing to triangles or anything (oh i wish!) but the 5″ squares are too basic.

an 8-year-old quilt in progress

Here I am, complaining about this neverending quilt, then planning all sorts of changes that will guarantee it’s never finished. Do you have any projects like this? Any success stories you’d like to share to give me some extra motivation?

Marie started wiwo wednesday: What I’m Working On. I try to join her as often as I can to give you a peek into my creative process and my works-in-progress. Feel free to join in! Comment with what you’re working on, or blog it and leave me a link! See all my wiwo wednesday posts here.