Fabric shopping in Japan

I just got back from Japan, where I spent 11 days exploring Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo. It was the best trip I’ve ever taken and I am already planning what I’ll do next time!

Anyone who reads this blog will know about my obsession with Japanese craft, from Nani Iro fabric to Japanese knitting patterns. (You can check out some of my Japan makes using the hashtags japanese fabric or japanese knitting.)

So although I was travelling with three boys I still made time for some crafty shopping!

In Kyoto, I went to Nomura Tailor. This was the best fabric shop of the whole trip, in terms of range and value for money. I got a whole lot of double gauze and Nani Iro (linen!). They also proactively offer tax free shopping, and all the staff wear great home-made blouses in wild prints.

In Kyoto I also visited Sou-Sou, which designs its own textiles as well as producing various things with them. There’s a cluster of their shops, each specialising in different things (eg kids, adult footwear, home/textiles, adult sized garments) just north of Nishiki Market. I didn’t get any fabric but I got some awesome Kyoto-made gifts.

Finally, I checked out Walnut Kyoto (I also went to Walnut Tokyo). This is more of a yarny place, and was lovely – but mostly sold European yarns that I can get easily at home, so I didn’t buy anything.

In Nara there was a lovely shop called Yu Nakagawa which sold handkerchiefs and other products in its custom designed textiles. Again, didn’t get anything but I regret that!

In Tokyo, I had great expectations of Nippori textile district. Maybe I was just exhausted (it was 28°C, super sunny and humid), but I didn’t leave inspired. I went to a few shops, including the gigantic Tomato store, where I combed through all five floors, but left with less than I expected. It was also more expensive than Nomura Tailor for the same stuff (and I know that because I got a further three metres of the same Nani Iro linen here!) and didn’t offer tax-free shopping. I did get some good tools and an excellent book from one of the smaller Tomato shops nearby, as well as some nice double gauze (pictured with some jersey from Okadaya, below).

I really liked Okadaya at Shinjuku although Shinjuku itself was a bit overwhelming (if you go, make sure to spend some time at Shinjuku Gyoen, which was a wonderful oasis in the midst of the chaos). Okadaya has two shops – one labyrinthine shop facing the street selling wigs, cosplay cosmetics and all the habby in the world (plus yarn), the other across an alley, with a fantastic selection of garment and tailoring fabrics. I got some yarn and some thick cotton jersey.

There are a few branches of Check & Stripe in Tokyo. I went to the one near Kichijoji (on my way to the Ghibli Museum!). The staff were lovely and were telling me about a workshop they’re running in London shortly, at the Chelsea Physic Garden. They also helped me pick out a book. In terms of their stock, it was mostly Liberty and plain linen – lovely, but not what I wanted.

I also popped into nearby Avril, but didn’t get anything.

Yuzawaya was also good – I went to the one at Kichijoji very briefly, and had a proper visit to the Ginza shop, just south of Tokyo Station. I read online that they sometimes have special Japan-only Liberty prints, but there were none in evidence when I visited. Sadface. But I did get some delicious triple gauze and the Nani Iro sewing book.

The nearby Muji (so big!) had some great craft books in its extensive book selection. Sewing, mending, embroidery, knitting, basket weaving…

Finally, I popped into Ginza Hands (a branch of the ubiquitous Tokyu Hands) while in Ginza. I spent a long time drooling over random stationery, but there wasn’t much in the way of fabric/yarn.

It was a brilliant trip and I strongly recommend visiting Japan! I really want to go back (or ideally, be reincarnated asap as a Japanese girl). For fabric and yarn people, there are lots of good resources online to help plan where to go. I used these posts from Cashmerette, Tilly and the Buttons, Seamwork, Triple Rin and Bobbin and Baste. A lot of blogs reference the Tokyo Craft Guide, but it no longer appears to exist.

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Rucksakura

I’m going to Japan! I’m unbelievably excited, I’ve starred every fabric / wool shop on the map and I’ve even had my camera repaired.

In honour of such a longed-for trip I decided to make myself the perfect travel rucksack.

Here she is:

She’s based on my favourite (bootleg copy) Fjallraven Kanken, but made 1cm deeper to accommodate my reusable water bottle in the side pockets. I also added a little tab on one side to loop the inevitable bag charm through, for when I cave and buy one somewhere (and yes, “somewhere” probably means the Studio Ghibli museum…).

The fabric is from Miss Matatabi – it’s a canvas from Kokka. I love the cherries and cherry blossoms! Very fitting for a trip to Japan. Buckles and snap from Ray-Stitch, webbing from Maculloch & Wallis, lining fabric from The Village Haberdashery. I interfaced all the pieces and also put some fusible wadding in the base to keep my cameras safe. The zips came from somewhere in the US – I was surprised at how hard it was to find a closed end 2-way zip in the UK…

I also made a matching purse and camera strap (pics of the camera strap to follow later…).

Mothering sock day

I ran out of things to title posts about socks years ago. Please bear with me!

My latest pair of socks was knitted at speed and finished only a few hours before midnight on the day before Mother’s Day.

I can’t actually remember what the yarn is, except that it’s rather nice. I had started a pair of socks several years ago in this yarn (also for my mum) but gave up in despair two-thirds of the way through the first sock when I discovered that errata in the pattern had made it all wrong. So when it came to knitting this, I was dealing with very wobbly yarn, which had been crimped into a sad half-sock for several years. Thankfully blocking has removed the wobbles.

The pattern was made up as I went and the ribbed parts use twisted stitches on the knit stitches (knitted through the back loop) to look fancy and make me frustrated when I’m knitting to a deadline.

My mum likes them! Sockcess.

My life in haberdashery

So I’ve run out of blog posts on things I’ve made recently, and I’m so busy at work right now that I’m not making much new either. So what better opportunity to post about haberdashery shopping?

People ask me a lot about where I get patterns, fabric, yarn and everything else. So hopefully now I can just point them in the direction of this post and not keep everything in my struggling brain! I’ll also keep this post up to date. This list is by no means comprehensive but I’ve limited myself to shops I’ve actually been to (sorry, Sew Over It and Simply Fabrics!) or ordered from. I might also post separately about places I’ve been to when I’ve travelled (e.g. Paris) if people want that.

So without further ado let’s talk about habby shops in the UK!

London

Ray Stitch (Islington)

https://raystitch.co.uk

What they sell: Fabric, sewing patterns, haberdashery.

Special finds: All the Nani Iro! Some special organic and fair-trade fabrics. Good selection of Liberty and knit fabrics. Lots of very good quality webbing. And a fantastic range of sewing patterns and books from independent designers (Named Clothing, Colette, Gather, Deer & Doe, Christine Haynes, Merchant & Mills…).

Notes: This is my favourite sewing shop in London. Although it doesn’t stock any yarn, Loop is less than 5 minutes’ walk away (see below). Tonnes of amazing food in the area, particularly in Camden Passage (brunch at Elk in the Woods is great) and ice-cream at Udderlicious. I think Sew Over It has a shop somewhere further north on Essex Road, but I’ve never been there.

Loop (Islington)

http://www.loopknittingshop.com

What they sell: Really exquisite yarn, very nice knitting tools and accessories, lots of knitting pattern books.

Special finds: This is where I go to get Japanese knitting books. Basically everything they sell is super special so it’s hard to single anything out. And if you buy stuff you get a great cotton shopping bag.

Notes: They’ve got a swift and ball winder for public use upstairs and they hold a great weekly knit night. They do gift vouchers, although beware there’s not much available for less than £20 in the shop (apart from buttons and needles). Highest concentration of hand-dyed yarns in London (and possibly the world?!).

The Village Haberdashery (West Hampstead)

https://www.thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk

What they sell: Everything.

Special finds: Cotton + Steel fabric, good selection of dressmaking fabrics (including sweatshirt, knit, ribbing, rayon, lawn, double gauze…), washi tape.

Notes: This is where I end up most often because it’s easiest for me to get to (phenomenal transport links: Underground, Overground, train, bus). They really keep on top of the latest sewing trends, so if you’ve coveted something on Instagram you can almost certainly find it here. They stock supplies for sewing, knitting and papercrafts and well as a nice range of stationery. You can sew by the hour here and there’s a huge range of workshops, although I’ve never been to any. Check out the greengrocer up the road for gorgeous artichokes. The Wet Fish Cafe is also fun.

Berwick Street (Soho)

What they sell: Fabric.

Special finds: Cloth House is my favourite and has lots of organic/fair trade fabrics sourced by the owners from India. Also the best range of knit/sweatshirt fabrics in London. Borovicks is good for costume fabrics; Misan has a couple of shops on the street with a focus on tailoring and serious couture fabrics (lace, silk, etc). Silk Society has gorgeous windows but I’ve never dared to enter! Finally, Klein’s has inconvenient opening hours but is the place to go for zips.

Notes: Most of these shops are closed on Sundays. Best to go in the week if possible, catch the street market, and catch Klein’s when it’s actually open! MacCulloch and Wallis is a stone’s throw away, on Poland St.

MacCulloch and Wallis (Soho)

https://www.macculloch-wallis.co.uk

What they sell: Fabric, sewing machines (Bernina), trims, millinery supplies, mainstream sewing patterns, notions, haberdashery.

Special finds: The have the best button selection in London, plus great buckles, toggles and zips. If you’re into feathers and trims this is the place to go. Also the best selection of interfacing fabrics I’ve found in London, including knit/woven interfacing in multiple weights and substrates and padded interfacing.

Notes: It’s quite expensive by and large but great if you’re a perfectionist, particularly for notions. If you need a copper zip, come here. If you need to match a buckle, come here. If you need particular interfacing or boning or are working on a historical pattern or costume, this is the place. But it’s not great for casual crafters or quilters or Instagram trend followers.

John Lewis (Oxford Street)

https://www.johnlewis.com

What they sell: Yarn, fabric, notions, haberdashery, sewing machines, needlework supplies, papercrafts.

Special finds: They’ve recently started to stock Nani Iro fabric in the Oxford Street shop and I couldn’t be happier! They’re also (surprisingly) one of the only sources of mending yarn in London (the other being Ray Stitch).

Notes: This is where I come to get most of the basics – linings, zips, thread… It’s just a really good, solid selection, plus I get to walk past the Sylvanian Families aisle on my way to the craft zone from the escalator.

Liberty (Soho)

http://www.libertylondon.com

What they sell: Liberty fabrics, Rowan yarns, upmarket haberdashery.

Special finds: Look out for Liberty print jersey and sweatshirting remnants of up to 3m half price during the sales (Christmas and summer). Also good for posh or unusual craft books.

Notes: The whole shop is so inspiring, but also ridiculously expensive. They’ve recently re-done the haberdashery and fabric section and it’s great – a much better range, and really well chosen stock. But it’s quite hard to afford things here, so particularly for Liberty fabric itself, Shaukat (see below) might be a better bet if you’re on a budget.

Shaukat (Kensington)

https://www.shaukat.co.uk

What they sell: All the Liberty, all the substrates! And the cheapest you can find in London (or indeed, online). They also sell some more normal shirtings etc upstairs.

Special finds: The whole basement is an Aladdin’s cave of Liberty fabric. The selection manages to be both extensive (a wider range than at Liberty itself) and charmingly random – lots of out of print fabrics and weird and wonderful substrates.

Notes: This place is great if you want to buy Liberty fabric, but it’s also a bit scary – I feel watched when I’m browsing and the staff are not very helpful. So it’s definitely the place to go if you’re on a mission, but if you’re more into looking than buying, then you might want to skip it.

Goldhawk Road

What they sell: Fabric.

Special finds: There are a number of fabric shops on Goldhawk Road and it’s worth looking at all of them if you’re browsing. Misan has a branch here, which is probably the most high-quality of the lot, and does a great range of lace and embroidered fabric.

Notes: I’ve only been here once, and fleetingly, but would definitely go back. I can imagine this would be a very good place to go if you were looking for something quite specialist or specific, or were planning on sewing evening wear (or halloween costumes!). The prices are generally low and in some shops you stand the chance of successful bargaining.

I Knit London (Waterloo)

http://iknit.org.uk

What they sell: Yarn, notions, knitting books, buttons.

Special finds: They do lots of their own hand-dyed yarn, particularly for socks, and have a very good selection of knitting books, including out of print gems.

Notes: They used to be located on one of the best kept secrets (and best named streets) in London: Lower Marsh, just below Waterloo Station. Sadly a big hotel is being built there now, so while Lower Marsh is still worth an explore (go to Marie’s Cafe for cheap ‘n’ cheerful Thai food!), I Knit has moved a block or so away. I haven’t been to the new shop, but the old one featured a very beat-up old sofa with two very excitable chihuahuas enthroned in it most of the time.

The Knitting and Stitching Show (October – Ally Pally)

https://www.theknittingandstitchingshow.com

What they sell: Everything!

Special finds: The range is insane and it’s worth checking out the list of exhibitors before a visit. It’s a good idea to plan ahead and know what you’re looking for, as it can be pretty overwhelming. You can get good deals on sewing machines and other equipment – this is where I got my Bernina.

Notes: The Knitting and Stitching Show moves around the country, and I think runs about 3 shows a year. The biggie is the one in early October at Ally Pally, near Muswell Hill in north London. Note that at the other end of the building there’s a huge indoor ice-skating rink!

Abergavenny

The Wool Croft

http://www.thewoolcroft.co.uk or https://www.facebook.com/TheWoolCroft/

What they sell: Lovely yarns, notions, a limited stock of fabric.

Special finds: All the yarn is lovely, but I most often come away with something from Noro, Rowan, Regia or in alpaca.

Notes: Ginevra’s shop is always inspiring and I always end up being tempted by something or other. She also puts on quite a lot of events and workshops. The windows are brilliant. The Wool Croft also won “best independent wool shop in Wales” in 2015 – and believe me, Wales is a woolly nation, so that’s saying a lot!

K&J Crafts

What they sell: basic yarn, a range of craft and quilting fabric, cake decorating supplies, haberdashery.

Special finds: Best for basic but hard-to-find habby, like flange cord, marking pens, machine needles, espadrille soles… They also unexpectedly stock Clover brand notions.

Notes: The staff are always lovely and really helpful, and it’s cheap as chips.

The Art Shop (and Chapel)

http://artshopandgallery.co.uk

What they sell: Art supplies, art books and magazines, actual art, and also some great ribbons.

Special finds: VV Rouleaux ribbons.

Notes: The Art Shop is on the high street, the Chapel is just at the back of the Market Hall. They’re both run by Pauline, part of a very influential dynasty in Abergavenny (the same dynasty is responsible for the Angel Bakery, Angel Hotel, another pub, and another hotel too…). If you go to the Chapel make sure you sit down for hot chocolate and cake (or even lunch) while you’re there, inside in the winter or outside in the summer (if it’s dry, of course).

Wonderwool Wales

http://www.wonderwoolwales.co.uk/home.html

What they sell: All the yarn.

Special finds: It’s a great chance to meet some high profile knitwear designers and discover new ones. Also some fantastic small batch, local yarns available.

Notes: Every year they do a great collective display made of knitted contributions from hundreds of knitters around a theme. They can be pretty wild… There’s also a chance to meet real sheep (follow the smell)!

Online (includes international)

M is for Make

https://www.misformake.co.uk

What they sell: Fabric, sewing patterns.

Special finds: Nani Iro, Cotton + Steel, Atelier Brunette

Notes: This is probably my favourite UK-based online shop. So much Nani Iro!

Alice Caroline

https://www.alicecaroline.co.uk

What they sell: Liberty fabric.

Special finds: They have frequent sales with some great finds, plus occasionally stock vintage Liberty fabric.

Notes: Unlike actual Liberty, Alice Caroline sells fat quarters of fabric.

Backstitch

http://www.backstitch.co.uk

What they sell: Everything.

Special finds: Good range of indie sewing patterns, and embroidery kits from my favourite (and Torontonian) Kiriki Press

Notes: I used to use Backstitch more, but with the rise of PDF sewing patterns (and the growth of my pattern/tool stash) I don’t so much anymore. But they’ve got a great range.

Miss Matatabi

http://www.missmatatabi.com

What they sell: Japanese fabric, sewing books, zakka.

Special finds: This is The Place for Nani Iro, including one-offs like quilted double gauze. I’ve also found some incredible novelty prints on great substrates, like the panda/bread double gauze I used for these PJs.

Notes: I completely love this shop. Frances provides great service. I also once won a voucher for her shop and it was one of the best moments of my life.

Studio Donegal / Springwools

https://springwools.com

What they sell: Yarn.

Special finds: 2kg cones of Studio Dongel yarn, which is GORGEOUS, made traditionally in Ireland, and incredibly cheap for what you get.

Notes: Aside from the Studio Donegal yarn, the yarns stocked are mostly pretty basic.

Creataholic

http://createaholic.tictail.com

What they sell: Macrame supplies.

Special finds: Some of the nicest macrame cord you will find, plus hard-to-find hardware like wooden rings and beads with big enough holes for rope.

Notes: Fanny’s book, “Macrame”, is the best craft book I’ve bought in years. You can get it on her website. She’s also got a great insta account.

…And turning across the sea to my homeland, here’s the small slice of Toronto’s vibrant craft life with which I am familiar.

Toronto

The Workroom (Queen St W)

https://www.theworkroom.ca

What they sell: Fabric, patterns, haberdashery, sewing time, classes, Bernina dealer.

Special finds: Hard to single any one thing out, as everything in here is special! The most special part was Maisy, the resident dog and soul of the shop, but she passed away a few years ago. But her spirit lives on. The first and the best truly great haberdashery shop in Toronto, and always leading the way in new crafts. Good selection of Japanese pattern and embroidery books.

Notes: If you go to Toronto this place is worth a good long visit. I go whenever I’m back home, and always (literally, even in December) get an ice-cream across the road at Boreal gelato. The pine sorbet is great.

Romni Wools (Queen St W)

http://www.romniwools.com

What they sell: All the yarn.

Special finds: The bargain basement is something else… Romni has been here since my mum was growing up, and it’s like a reference library of yarn. If someone told me you could get every yarn on the planet here, I’d believe them.

Notes: I could spend hours in here weaving my way through the labyrinth of tall shelves exploding with yarn. I think they’ve opened another branch now, but I’ve not been yet. Romni does a famous boxing day sale, and people queue around the block to get in.

The Paper Place (Queen St W)

https://shop.thepaperplace.ca

What they sell: Paper and paper craft supplies.

Special finds: Incredible range of wash tape, and of course the beautiful handprinted Japanese paper.

Notes: The shop has a perfect balance of serious paper supplies (handprinted Japanese paper, adhesives and card making things) with top end stationery and gifts. There’s also a nice bookshop next door, and the park across the road is famous for its rare albino squirrels.

Other places on Queen Street West

What they sell: Fabric.

Notes: There are a few blocks with lots of fabric shops – a bit like Goldhawk Road in London – although sadly another one seems to close every year as hipster shops continue to encroach. The bit around and east of Romni Wools is the most concentrated section. A few specialise in furnishing fabric, but most have a pretty wide (and random) range.

Eweknit (Christie Pits)

https://eweknit.co

What they sell: Yarn, fabric, patterns, some notions.

Special finds: Liberty fabric, gorgeous yarn (too many great ranges to name…) and lots of local and Canadian yarn too, also great for knitting books and magazines (they stock Amirisu and Laine, for example).

Notes: This is the new(ish), eastern competitor to the Workroom, with more of a focus on knitting. Apparently there is a bargain basement (which must be fabulous, based on what I’ve seen on the ground floor) but I haven’t yet ventured in search of it.

Spring flowers

I’m increasingly desperate to visit Japan – not only home to my favourite knitting and fabric designers, but also my favourite films, plants, animals… I’m coming round to the food too!

Anyway, until the time comes that I can actually visit, I have to make do somehow. So I made this gorgeous kimono.

The fabric is a peony print rayon from Wear Lemonade, the pattern is the Asaka Kimono, from my favourite Named Clothing. And the sunshine is a gift on a February weekend!

I declined to take modelled shots, as I had prioritised sewing over showering the weekend I finished this. Maybe later, on instagram. 🙂

More socks afoot

I am enjoying the ease and speed of knitting self-striping sock yarn. My latest pair of socks is knit from a ball of Meilenweit Tirol yarn (colourway 3701) which I bought at Romni Wools in Toronto over Christmas.

I did a lot of the knitting going to and returning from Stockholm over my birthday weekend. 28 feels a lot less daunting with these adventurous socks on my feet!