Welcome to my new sewing room! It’s my favorite room in the house: this is where the magic happens. Out of all the rooms, this one has taken the most tweaking to get it just how I like it. It’s a never-ending process, but I love where it’s at right now so it’s time for a tour!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Minny Muu tiny snails and parakeets were irresistible. And, even better: tiny, tiny VW vans.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
I loved this store. It was an absolute delight.
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.
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.
On the upper deck, there were swings draped in leathers and suedes.
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.