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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Buying Sewing Fabric and Pattern Books in Tokyo

The main store of Tomato fabric with six floors in Nippori Textile Town Tokyo. There are some great deals here!
The second Tomato shop across the street. It's two floors and has top of the line Japanese fabrics.

My favorite fabric shop in Tokyo was Tomato fabrics in the Nippori Textile Town district next to Ueno in North Tokyo. To get there take the JR train to the Nippori exit and walk out the East gate.
There are several small fabric shops on the street but Tomato is the largest and has three stores on one block.
Tomato fabrics had so many gorgeous fabrics and the prices were much lower than the other store I visited in another part of town, Maruno in Shibuya. Although Maruno had a nice selection on five floors, the prices were double there on some of the same fabrics I saw at Tomato. If you are in Japan and serious about getting fabrics, it's worth the train ride up to Nippori Textile Town next to the Ueno area. Make sure you bring cash because none of the shops in the area accept credit cards.
Like many travelling sewists I didn't have the time to linger like I wanted because I had my husband and son with me and after an hour of waiting for me, they started to complain.
In fact, as soon as I got back to my hotel with my fabric purchases, I wished I had been more organized with my time there because the quality and variety were so good! I bought some cotton ginghams, Liberty type cotton prints which were on the clearance wall,  floral linens and polka dots, a patchwork type hanky pattern, and an interesting sweater knit.
Inside Tomato 

A remnant bin at Tomato.

Some of my selections.

So two days later when I had a little time to myself I went back to Tomato and spent about two hours going through all six floors of the main store. I oogled bag hardware, oilcloth, linen prints, cute notions, ans craft books.
However, in my experience, the best place to buy craft books in Tokyo was the big bookstore, Kinokuniya near Shinjuku station. I think there were hundreds of different pattern books there! The books were also at least half the price of buying them in the US.

Sewing pattern books at Kinokiniya bookstore Tokyo.

Another cool thing about Tomato was the 100 Yen a yard fabric wall and the remnant bins on each floor. I'm still kicking myself for not getting any of the amazing oilcloth prints I had never seen before. I think there were a couple hundred different cute oilcloths and laminated fabrics.
It does seem that a lot of Tokyoites are into sewing because the store was packed and it made for some fun people watching. Two super hip Harajuku type fashion designer guys were buying lots of far out fabrics and there were traditional grandmothers in the quilting section. As well as all the cute kawaii type prints, cotton ginghams, Liberty style print fabrics, Japanese designers fabrics, and double gauze cottons, Tomato had a beautiful selection of traditional type Japanese textured textiles like the type kimonos are made of.
I just have to say that the quality and hand of Japanese clothing fabrics are just phenomenal! I was familiar with the Japanese quilting cottons we have back home by Echino and Kokka. They are fun prints on a canvas linen fabric. While great for crafts and decor they are a bit too stiff and thick for clothing. But Japanese clothing cottons are perfect!
Some other places to buy fabric in Tokyo are the 100 yen shops like Dazou which have small cuts and notions. I bought some super cute fabric covered brown gingham buttons and crochet trim at Dazou for 100 yen each package.( $1.25).
 Tokyu hands department store in Shinjuku and Shibuya also have lots of supplies.
 I didn't get a chance to spend as much time as I would have liked looking for craft supplies since  I was sightseeing with my husband and 18 year old so. They were patient to come to Nippori Town, but we had about a hundred other things on our agenda. We were fortunate to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, ate sushi for breakfast at Tsukiji fish market in a 160 year old restaurant, stayed on futons in a traditional Ryokan hotel, and enjoyed an outdoor Japanese bath in an onsen in the hills of Hakone. It was a wonderful trip.

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  1. Oh WOW is all I can say! Thank you so much for sharing these bits of your adventure. What an awesome experience for you, although it does sound like you have been there before, it sounds wonderful.
    Will we be seeing some outfits coming out of Japanese pattern books soon?

    I guess you can tell by my blog that Cherry Blossoms are my fave... thank you for sharing those pictures!


  2. Lucky lucky lucky you. How could you choose just a few pieces of fabric from that huge store. I would love to spend a whole week exploring that amazing place. I can't wait to see what you make with your new pattern books :)

  3. That's so cool... Have fun and thanks for sharing sx

  4. Oh My! All those books, it all looks amazing. oh and the blossom is so beautiful. I bet it was an amazing trip. x x x

  5. how fun is that?!! So jealous! Have a blast!

  6. Have fun! I am so happy for you to have found a great fabric place, buy all you can! I just found out recently that there are no more fabric mills in the US and all our fabric is bought overseas. You are in a perfect place to buy some good stuff. Love all your pictures, be safe!

    1. I think that is so sad. US used to make such cute fabrics. Feedsacks and all.

  7. Thanks for posting about this!! I'm going to be in Tokyo this summer and I wasn't sure where to go! Love the pics.

  8. Beautiful! Did you know that you can make your own oilcloth? I am making some now. It takes about 4 days to get it made. If you want the directions on how to make the oilcloth, Google it and see. It's not real hard.

  9. OH, I just love all the photos...and all that fabric. Wow, it's like being a kid in a candy store. You found some great things :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  10. Very cool! I'd love to get to Japan one day. Looks like you had a great time.

  11. What an amazing trip! Hubby is always saying he wants to go to Japan. Now I'll have to say 'sure, but we have to go to tomato'...that'll confuse him!

  12. I found your post when I was googling for fabric shops in Tokyo. I'm going in Dec/Jan (can't wait) and will definitely be stopping off at some of your suggestions! Thanks for the tips :)


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