Shopping in Japan

I’m still in a whirl of excitement about my trip to Japan earlier this month. So, so good. I knew it was going to be good, but it was even better. I only had 10 days, and half of that was work-related, but we managed to squeeze quite a lot into the remainder.

Including fabric, of course.

I’d read the Cashmerette guide, but didn’t manage to cover nearly as much ground as she did (see work-related factors, above). In Tokyo I did get to the Shinjuku Takashimaya department store, and can confirm that if you’re looking for Hello Kitty Liberty prints, that’s your place.

The other fabric shopping I did in Tokyo was (of course) Nippori Fabric Town. It’s only a 15 minute train ride north of the city, on the very convenient Yamanote Line. Take the north exit from the train station, and there are the signs.

nippori fabric town sign

This is the street you’re looking for.

nippori street

Think it looks unremarkable? Wrong, it’s fabric mecca. Keep walking past the little statue….

nippori statue


nippori street 2

There you are.

tomato outside.JPG

Tomato is five shops, the largest (on the left of the street) with five storeys. I was there on a Saturday, and the bottom floor was basically a mosh pit of people trying to get to the 100-yen shelves.

tomato Y100.JPG

tomato rush hour.JPG

Afterwards I found out that there’s another 100-yen shelf in the smaller Tomato next door, which was much less crowded. Each of the five floors has a particular theme, and you pay separately on each floor. These were the coated fabrics for wet weather gear. I didn’t buy any, but just look at them.

tomato raincoat fabric.JPG

And of course the weird and wonderful. For instance, banana print sweatshirting.

tomato banana fabric

To avoid total anarchy, in the mosh pit there are separate queues to have the fabrics cut, and to pay for them.

I looked around lots of other shops on the street, but only bought from two others. At this one (which I think is called Pakira, it’s one of the closer shops to the station) I bought two gorgeous textured cottons, to make little dresses for the nieces. There’s lots of Liberty here as well, including pre-cuts.

shop 1.JPG

And at this one, Mihama, the Fashion Critic bought some awesome printed cotton for a shirt. The man at this shop was a delight. The fabric here is pre-cut and already bagged, which is a bit of an unusual way to buy it (no fondling). But the range is wonderful.

shop 2.JPG

We also visited Kyoto. (Side note: Kyoto is amazing). The only fabric shopping I did there was at Nomura Tailor. I love the way they have their fabric set out, with neatly displayed samples along the walls. When you find what you want, a helpful young guy pulls out the bolts for you and takes them to the counter to be cut. No lugging bolts of fabric round the shop, and no fear of missing out, since everything they have is on display.

nomura tailor

nomura tailor 2

I would highly recommend arriving in Kyoto late in the day, because the main shopping streets around the Kawaramachi area are illuminated and it looks gorgeous. In one of the arcades there’s a little shop that sells Japanese-made knives and scissors, and I bought some very special thread snips.

thread snips

thread snips 2

They were packaged beautifully, like everything in Japan.


This is my haul.
From Tokyo:

tomato purchases

From Kyoto:

nomura tailor purchases

And these are my plans:

  • Mustard cotton blazer with grey trim
  • Grey checked jacket with three-quarter sleeves
  • Raspberry linen blouse
  • Blue linen scarf
  • Two shirts for the Fashion Critic
  • Grey work blouses for my sisters
  • Trousers and t-shirts for the nieces

In non-sewing-related news, we were smack in the middle of cherry blossom season. They really are beautiful.

cherry blossoms at night


cherry blossom temple

cherry blossom canal

And the locals truly lose the plot over them. This was a park with picnickers on every free inch of ground.

cherry blossom picnics

I’m really glad we were there in April.

We also visited the snow monkeys near Nagano. It was great to get away from the city.


There wasn’t any snow left, but one little guy had a dip.

monkey swimming

And the hot springs were capital-A Amazing.

Oh Japan. I love you. I don’t know what took me so long.


Budget officially blown (not unlike Australia’s)

It seems only fitting that in the wake of the Hockey Horror Show, my budget should be similarly blown. Although sometimes it’s wonderful to be an expat, it’s hard not to feel some ties to home. After all, Australians love their Kiwi cousins – surely the feeling is mutual?

So, I ended February with $158 left from my optimistic $365-for-the-year.

In March, I went to Melbourne and bought spandex to make Rose Hip tights and a maternity top (a gift). Since the tights have now gone to a new home I’m going to decide they don’t count either. I also bought some cotton for burp cloths (also a gift).

Then, Fabric-a-brac happened, which cost me $32, plus an extra $20 for a Hummingbird pattern that Kat had ordered for me.


Next, the WSBN went to Levana, a knits paradise, and I spent a (comparatively restrained) $37 on what will soon be two dresses and a t-shirt.

The very next weekend, a local church had a fabric sale, which cost me $19 (mainly in notions).

And the icing on the cake… this week The Fabric Warehouse undercut The Fabric Store by having a 40% off sale. You could tell they meant war, because they included drinks and snacks. I found myself $130 poorer, mind you, $40 of that is a delicious wool/silk trouser blend, to make two pairs of work trousers for the Fashion Critic. Does anyone know a good men’s trouser pattern, that’s formal enough for the office? Other goodies were a navy wool blend knit for a work dress, some viscose/elastane for a slip (and an amazing 80s Knitwit pattern for the same purpose), some green sweatshirting for a Lola dress and some more spandex for Rose Hip tights V2.0.

So, it’s only May, and I’m already $40 in the red.

You know, I don’t care. I haven’t used much stash, but I haven’t added to it either. I’ve had a productive year, made lots of good presents, and challenged myself with new techniques and patterns. I’m going to keep on keeping track, because I think it’s good to know how much sewing is costing me, but I know that every dollar is worth it. If nothing else, it means that I’m a tiny part of a huge and diverse community.


I am expecting not one but two little nieces or nephews! So I have been breaking all the rules of selfish sewing by making clothes for my ever-expanding sisters. Good news for me, though – it turns out that you don’t have to be pregnant to enjoy wearing stretchy pants. I made three trips to the Fabric Store for their ultra-fabulous merino/nylon knit. Just 1.2m makes a pair of the comfiest pants in the world, whether you have a Baby on Board or (in my case) just a second helping of ice cream.

Burda 8999

Burda 8999

Burda 8999

Pattern courtesy of Sandra, in the WSBN Christmas pattern swap (to which I contributed exactly nothing, but came away with quite a few goodies). It’s Burda 8999, but I can’t find a link to it anywhere. Thank you Sandra!

Another Christmas swap greedy grab was this very nice black-and-white fabric from Leimomi, which became a top. I underlined the bodice with a cotton jersey, and used Burda 8094 (thanks Nicola!).

Burda 8094

Burda 8094

Burda 8094

I made another version of it using a cotton lawn from Spotlight.

Burda 8094

Burda 8094

Karma got back at me with the next one, though: the day after I bought the fabric the Fabric Warehouse started their 40% off sale. Can’t win ’em all. This is another one I’m planning to copy for myself; I think it would be perfectly good as non-maternity wear also. It is a free online pattern from DIY Maternity.

Turn About the Room dress

Turn About the Room dress

I love this in a stripe. I have been back looking for more stretchy stripes without success – please let me know if you see any good ones. I also changed the direction of the stripe for the neck band, I think it looks better that way. I guess you can only do that if you are using fabric with a four-way stretch.

Also, here’s the February budget round-up:

  • All this loot, as well as some stretchy stripy viscose for boxer shorts (unblogged) – DOESN’T COUNT! Generosity for the win.
  • $5 green silk/cotton remnant for a blouse
  • $5 for shoulder pads and a button for my Bellatrix (it’s still summer and I’m sticking to that excuse)
  • $5 for some more elastic (stash top-up) and a seam ripper – bought from Pete’s Emporium at Porirua, which was a new experience for me

Total: $15 (Remaining: $158. And Fabric-a-brac is really soon!)

Christmas in October

If you are related to me, click this link and go look at something else.

If you’re not, I want to show you my Christmas sewing. This is outrageously organised, by my standards.

A couple of years ago I heard of a lovely tradition, involving new pjyamas on Christmas Eve. That way you get to wake up on Christmas morning in nice new clean PJs, all ready for opening presents and gorging yourself on rum balls.  The last two Christmases, I’ve bought myself new PJs, and this year I decided to extend it to the folks I’ll be spending the day with.

So after a quick visit to the most addictive fabric website I know, Hawthorne Threads, and some serious guesstimation about people’s waist circumference, we were in business. I used Simplicity 9958, and cut the men’s medium for all of them (even the ones for my sister).  Based on past experience, I lowered the waistline by an inch for the fellas, as they’re a bit old-fashioned otherwise. I left it as is for my sister’s pair (as I like a bit of butt-coverage, myself).

And here are the results! It was a typically windy-Wellington day, and I had to take a lot of photos before I got one with them all visible.Image


VWs for the guy with a 70s panel van.


Aeroplanes for our adrenaline junkie.


Cute lab animals for our science nerd.


Doggies for our dog lover.



Monkeys and dinosaurs because… well, just because.

And people, flat-felled seams! Where have you been all my life? Easy and strong and good going round curves… I will be using them a lot more from now on.

Cost/benefit analysis

The Fabric Warehouse sale was on this week. I should say, is on, because I fully intend to go again. I spent a measly $21 on 7 metres of great stuff, fabric I wouldn’t normally buy but look forward to playing with. It got me thinking about how much I spend on clothing. With travelling, I haven’t been doing a lot of sewing in the last 12 months. I haven’t done much active stash-accumulating, either, though my fairy godmother in Hong Kong has other plans and keeps sending me lovely boxes. And I haven’t bought many clothes, either. In fact, what have I bought in 2013?….

ImageWell, yeah, shoes. They don’t count, though, do they? Shoes are expensive, and ya gotta keep your feet warm.


Likewise, tops wear out pretty quickly, and when you’re not a knits sewist, they add up…


OK, this was a bit of a splurge. Two dresses while my sewing machine was on the high seas.


Eh, barely anything.


SO restrained. Actually there was another $20 purchase too, come to think of it.

So what’s that altogether? $655. In 9 months, in which I thought I’d barely bought clothes.

Which brings me to my personal 2014 challenge. I’m going to give myself a budget of a dollar a day. $365 for the year. Sounds like heaps. Stash-busting doesn’t count, but everything else does.

Stay tuned, I have something exciting to show you next time. I’ve been busy with Christmas sewing! This level of organisation is unprecedented, I’m always the one being politely asked to leave the shops on Christmas Eve. 84 days to go!