Shopping for Fabric in Tokyo, Part I

First, just to get you in the mood for how big, how huge, how overwhelming Tokyo can be, let’s Sing A Song (click on link below):

Tokyo_1SingASong

 

 

It’s from a video taken at the Shibuyu scramble crossing, a place I went to on my recent trip to Tokyo.  The advertisers must pay Big Bucks to have four screens going at once.

 

 

Ginza Scramble Intersetion

I have to admit, I like the Ginza scramble crossing better (above), although I never got a video with people crossing, as I was always there early in the morning, before the rush.

But we’re here to talk about the fabric shopping.  I found shopping in three different places: Nippori Fabric Town (the nickname), Yuzawaya (an elegant store, 6th floor, Ginza area), and a place you might not think of: buying tenugui, or wiping cloths, in an artisan shop near Akihabara.

Here are three large files of the map of Nippori Fabric Town, 2017 version (click on each picture to enlarge it). I had printed out an older version of this map and taken with me, so this might help someone; these maps are available in many shops.  True confession:  I didn’t shop the entire street, as my time was short, so I will only share my experiences with part of the street.

Nippori Fabric Town is a section of  a street, not too far from the Nippori train station.  I had downloaded Hyperdia, an app that gives you travel directions for the massive subway system, and referred to it often.  Google Maps was also really helpful

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But the real godsend was the portable wifi hotspot we rented, which made our lives infinitely better while traveling in a place where you don’t speak the language (although there is a lot of English around, once you figure out where to look).

Oh, and Google Translate, another app.  You can open it, hold up your phone’s camera up to a sign, and it will translate it, so you can find out things by reading.  Of course, once in a shop, it translated the ingredients of a pastry as containing “walnuts, flour and Breath of Heaven,” so there you go. (I actually downloaded this at home to read a recent purchase of a Japanese book about lettering–helpful there, too–although the idiomatic expressions may always be a challenge.)

Tokyo_Nippori1

My Hyperdia map (and Google map) said to exit the South Gate.  Where you exit in the Tokyo train stations can be as critical as to which train you take.  I had to ask once for help, and they redirected me, for even though you have the maps, you still get lost.Tokyo_Nippori2

Pretty panels outside the South Gate, as I headed on a walkway over the tracks to the stairs down to the street below:

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Check out the guy rolling his suitcase down the little ramp next to the handrail.

Come down the stairs, go across the street, then proceed straight at the next street.  Tokyo_Nippori3

Turn right when you see this:

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(You’ll be coming from the other direction: look for the giant upside-down hockey stick next to the iron maiden statue, and turn right in front of the stick.)

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I loved seeing these patterns all in Japanese, but didn’t buy any, being reminded of that line said by Barbara Bush about Nancy Reagan:  “She’s a size 4.  So is my left leg.” (I loved Barbara Bush; Japanese clothing is just not made for me.)

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I knew there was also a Happy Fabric I was supposed to scout out when I went to Seoul (next post), but doubted that they were related.  If you do a search for “fabric shopping in Tokyo,” there are several blog posts that will each give you a different piece of information about jumping into this experience.  And they all said:

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“Head for Tomato Fabrics.”

Tokyo_Nippori8Tomato

The first Tomato shop was my favorite.  The fabrics were nicely organized, the shop was clean, the sales staff had a smidgen of English and were very helpful.  The down side of shopping on Nippori street is that the minimum purchase is 1 meter.  When I’m home shopping, and I have the back of my mini SUV to throw all my purchases in, this is not a problem.  But when I’m traveling overseas, and I have one small suitcase, slightly bigger than the size of my dresser drawer, this is not happy news.  I figured if I got desperate, I could leave half a meter of each fabric behind, but instead I left my pajamas behind, rather than part with any of my fabric (and a blouse in Incheon was abandoned, but that was a mistake: always check the closets, she now says).

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Why is she wearing a face mask?  It’s complicated.  But you see it everywhere.

At this shop I purchased these fabrics.  I made sure that everything I purchased was made in Japan, and I loved finding fabric by Keiko Goke and Yoshiko Jinzenji.  The sunflower print fabric, one a canvas and one a quilting cotton, are by Suzuko Koseki, with Yuwa again being the manufacturer.

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One down, more to go.  I’d asked the ladies in the above picture which Tomato shop had “patchwork” fabric, and headed that direction.

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This shop wasn’t it.  This was the 100 yen shop, or 1 meter for 100 yen.  At this time, we estimated that 1000 yen was roughly 9 dollars, so 100 yen was about 90 cents.  This is where I started to fall out of love with this adventure.  Again–if you are local, it’s bliss.  If you are a foreigner, with limited cash and space, it’s not really helpful to have a lot of fabric that is sort of clearance stuff, upholstery stuff, etc.  How can you possible carry home 3 yards of fleece, even if it is incredibly cheap?

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I moved on to this Tomato Shop, with five floors. (Doesn’t it make your heart leap to see all these rainbow colors, even if it is just fabric for dress lining?)  I passed on the American fabrics, for I learned that I’m just not keen to pay $20 bucks for a yard, and instead concentrated on local fabrics, of which I found plenty to choose from.

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Final Tomato store was a lot of fun.  While I was waiting to be checked out, I took a snapshot out the window of this electrical pole.  A work of high-powered art.

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Dots are universal.  I had obtained a rolling cart from a helpful employee, loaded it up with cute Japanese Christmas fabric and rolled it carefully to the cutting table, having checked to make sure I didn’t have the kind of tag that indicated I’d have to buy a meter of each.

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The selvages may have played a part in my decision…

Wrong.  I had to buy a minimum of a meter of each (above).  I put half of the bolts aside, and purchased four pieces, instead of the ten I’d picked out.  Even after I’d bought one meter of fabric, he wouldn’t cut a half of the next.  One meter per roll.

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I wandered through the remaining Tomato shops, feeling very much like it was warehouse shopping, and didn’t buy anything else.  My backpack was heavy, and it was only the 4th day of my trip.  Space would be a problem, for sure.

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When they say there are over thirty shops here, some of them are like the one above: leather skins hanging out front, along with mink balls, and a dingy interior (where the owner was slurping his ramen).

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Halloween?  Traditional Costume?  With one black hand, one white hand?

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Time to go home.  I retraced my steps back to the Nippori Station, a combination of old and new.  New, in that they have the barriers at all the track edges, and old with the arches.

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When I came back to my hotel, I noticed this little shop.  Always when I’d passed by it, early in the morning on the way to the subway station, the rollup metal door had been down, and I hadn’t known what was behind it.

So later that afternoon I went to see what was there.

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It had Liberty Fabrics, sashiko embroidery kits, lots of stitchery kits–a very charming shop in a very small space.  The employees knew about 5 words of English, a larger vocabulary than my pitiful Japanese, but they were unfailingly polite and tried to be helpful, always smiling.

The younger woman in the shop kept that smile plastered on her face, even when helping two other obtuse Americans who where there with me.  Maybe it was the end of a long day, or just their nature, but I was immediately embarrassed to be from the same place as them.  Woman A was nearly taking apart one of the displays, trying to figure out how it was put together, taking several photos.  The young employee came over and smiled, and held out her hands, as if offering to help.  Woman A barked at her “How will I know if I should buy this, if I can’t read the instructions?  I have to figure out if I can even make the darn thing!”

I wanted to pretend to speak French or German…anything but be associated with this person, who had not figured out the basic rule of Japanese consumerism:  Don’t Touch the Stuff.  Seriously.  You can ask them to show it to you, you can lightly gesture towards whatever you want to see and if they give you a nod, then proceed, but we Americans like to shop with our hands.  Touch touch touch.

And one more rule: be nice.

I remember once trying to buy a little wiping towel when I was in Japan in 2001, for there really weren’t towels or dryers in the bathrooms.  Every woman carried around a little towel in her purse, and pulled it out and dried her hands that way.  In this department store from the display, I leaned over to pick up the towel (really a washcloth) and the woman helping me said gently, “No, no.”  Then she scurried off to the back, came out with a washcloth like the one I was interested, and with both hands, presented it to me.  [This trip I saw dryers nearly everywhere, but still not too many paper towels.  And women everywhere were whipping out their little towel to dry their hands.]

I accepted all my packages this week with both hands.  I offered up my credit card with both hands.  I took the receipts given back to me with both hands.  But rarely did I ever touch anything in a shop without their permission.

Woman A ended up leaving without buy a thing.

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I also learned to let the shop know that my purchase was a gift, and the simplest wrapping job  — in this case a cellophane bag with a piece of paper, a little bit of ribbon with a sticker — became a work of art to take home.  This little bit of Japan in my suitcase was far better than yards and yards and meters and meters of wadded up fabrics.

Next post: Yuzawaya, Tokyo Shopping Heaven, and We Venture into Dongdaemun, in Seoul.

 

 

A Tiny Quilt for Autumn

Tiny Pumpkin Quilt_front2

So, one day I just had to do some creating.  Not following a big-deal pattern with billions of pieces, but a little project that just allowed me to follow a simple set of instructions and play with fabric.

Tiny Pumpkin Quilt_pattern

I had saved this paper pieced pattern from Chase of the blog Quarter-Inch Mark.  It’s a free download, and since I was just playing, I printed it out at 100% which made it about a 6-inch pumpkin.  I think if I were doing this again, I’d go up to 125% or so, trying to get the pumpkin a bit bigger.

I just cut strips and went to it, and in hindsight, should have put the shaded strip on the outside, but since this was for a little quilt, and I was just playing, I shrugged and kept going.

Tiny Pumpkin Quilt_quilting

I am following the tutorial for another tiny quilt I made, which you can find here.  It’s little quilt that fits onto a plastic picture frame that I bought at Wal-Mart for a buck-fifty ($1.50).

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See the other tutorial for how big to make this (I added strips to the pumpkin to make it large enough), and how big to make the sleeve that goes on the back.  All instructions are on that post.Tiny Pumpkin Quilt_binding1b

I like to do single-fabric bindings on my mini quilts.  Cut a strip 1-1/2″ wide, stitch RST, first the right/left sides of the quilt, then the top/bottom.  Fold up the raw edge of the binding, to the raw edge of the quilt.

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Use a glue stick to help you out, as you do the next step, which is folding the folded edge over your stitching that attaches the binding.  See both sides done (below):

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Now do the top and bottom, folding in the raw edges, and then the folded edge over that (orange) line of stitching, which attaches the binding.

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Because you’ve used a glue stick to help you out, the top-stitching (from the top) is easy-peasy.

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Slip the quilt over the plastic frame (above and below).

Tiny Pumpkin Quilt_frameTiny Pumpkin Quilt_front

I hope to make several of these mini quilts so I can change them with the seasons.

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Now I have a summer tiny quilt and an autumn tiny quilt!

Home, Sweet, Home Mini-Quilt Class

 

HomeSweetHomeClassRecently I taught a class for my Home, Sweet, Home mini quilt.  I snapped these photos as they were working; they’d all mostly prepped up their pieces before coming, and it made the class go quite smoothly.  I loved all the different ways that people did their blocks (shown here at our Guild Meeting):

HomeSweetHomeClass_1

Here are most of them (some didn’t bring them to Guild):

It wasn’t until posting these up that I found two errors in these quilts.  Isn’t it funny that you don’t see things…until you do?  (Hint: it’s in the bushes.)  I love the rainbow quilt made by my friend Lisa.  I may have to make one for myself.

HomeSweetHome_Melissa

(Breaking News: Melissa finished hers!)

Eclipse, deconstructed

This is the post where I reveal all my beauty secrets.  Kidding.

This is the post where I tell you how I made my Four-in-Art quilt, showing a technique   I’d read about this technique somewhere, but that crazed-woman-at-the-computer didn’t bookmark it or file it away neatly.  So I had to wing it, which is okay.

First, cut yourself a square of black fabric.  I used the wrong side of a fabric that I hoarded about 15 years ago, and I’m still trying to get rid of it.  (It’s a great fabric, really.)  Then get yourself some Steam-A-Seam II, the fusible applique stuff that will be sticky when you lift up the transfer paper, after you’ve ironed it on.

I did check to make sure that I adhered the non-release side of the Steam-A-Seam II, leaving the side that would release easily facing me.

Gather together some scraps in the colors you want to place on your background.  Since I was doing the eclipse, I basically had three: yellow, black, blue.  Throw in some related colors, just to keep it interesting.  For me, that meant some lighter blues, and orange.

Pile up your color, then randomly cut through the fabrics, and then do it again.  You need some bigger pieces (1-1/2″), but also lots of smaller pieces (1/2″).

I traced a circle on my paper, slightly off-center — because none of us saw that eclipse dead-center — and cut out a hole out of the paper backing.

I laid out my black scraps, making a loose circle. Then I tucked my yellow/orange sun flares behind the circle, pressing down with my fingers to make them adhere to that sticky surface.

Then I oopsed:

I went to the ironing board and ironed it all down.  WRONG.  While this seemed like a good idea, you know–to make sure all those pieces were not going to go anywhere — in reality it prevented me from lifting up the edges and tucking in more yellows,  and the blues.  So maybe if you can protect the edges of your design from the hot iron it might be a good idea?  Or just wait until the end?

Milky Way MJA

Star Fields, by Matthew Anselmo of MattsClicks

Then my son Matthew, who is an expert landscape photographer, put up pictures of the Milky Way on his Instagram, MattsClicks.  This gave me to freedom to really add in color to the heavens, so I pulled a greater variety of blues (and some with purples) and started scattering them around, trying to keep a “street” of lighter blues to represent the Milky Way. (Thanks, Matt!)

Eclipse_4inart_methods8Add in your bits and pieces, filling up the background in a random, organic way.

NOW go to the ironing board, lay your transfer paper over the design (the crackly sheet that came with your fusible), and press, lifting up and down, not sliding, until you think it’s adhered.

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I used three different colors of thread, and just scribbled free-motion-quilted the pieces down.  I did a series of circles in black in the moon, the followed the shapes for the solar flares, then a random loopy design in the heavens.

Eclipse_4inart_methods9aThis is where I notice that the moon has two eyeballs staring right at me.  And this is where I go get some more scraps, use a regular old-school glue stick and paste more fabric scraps over the eyeballs (you don’t see it in the first one, do you?).  Quilt, again.  And then I thought that the moon looked more like a black lump of coal than the moon (even though it does have a mountain-y horizon…it’s not THAT bumpy).  More scraps glued on, more FMQ. I finished up by going in giant circle around the perimeter of the moon, to reinforce that Orb in the Sky thing.

Well.  Not quite.  But that’s what my work table looked like after I trimmed it up, bound it, and made the label.  I’m a total believer in a clean workspace at all times.  I’m a total believer in a clean workspace at least once every couple of weeks.  I mean, I’d like it to be all the time, but I create in small room, and I decided to adjust to the life I have.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the Deconstruction Post for the Final Four-in-Art Quilt.  I probably won’t leave the art quilt in the dust, though, as it’s a quick way to make a quilt while trying out a new technique.  Given that it is often smaller (most of mine were 12″ square), you can crank one out in a day, or an afternoon, if your design is not too complicated.

Thank you for coming along on this five-year journey.

~Elizabeth, of OPQuilt.com

Rewards for WorkingCreatively

Eclipse: Final *Four-in-Art* Art Quilt

 

Eclipse_fourinart_frontEclipse • Quilt #189
Four-in-Art, Series Four: Light
12″ square

Click to enlarge any photo.

This is the final post of our Four-in-Art Art Quilt group.

Our group had its genesis when I saw the Twelve-by-Twelve group at a quilt show. Rachel and I emailed back and forth about maybe trying to make some art quilts.  I think we had done tons of regular quilts, and were looking for something new.  The idea was to put out a theme, create a quilt around the theme and maybe try a new technique while we were at it.  It started with just four quilters who wanted to try something, so we called ourselves Four-in-Art, and I made up a logo, incorporating the idea of four:

Sometime later, we added four more quilters, then switched the scheduling to four times a year, so we were still Four-in-Art.  We created a blog to post our quilts, for once you archive, you are real.

 Here is an overview of my quilts: (By the way, I am following the newspaper convention of captioning underneath my photos, so look there for details.
Year 1: Nature

We took turns coming up with the overarching theme for the year, then again, turns for the quarterly challenges.  The challenges are, from the upper left: Queen Anne’s Lace, Tree(s), Fire, Owl.  It was liberating to craft this way, without getting out too many rulers or drafting things on the computer (see below for a glimpse of my journal).

Year2_FourinArtYear 2: Urban  Quarterly Challenges (from upper left): Maps, Structure, Landmarks, Contrast, Light (we seem to like this topic).Year 3: Literature  —  We could choose what segment of literature to focus on.  Some did a series of novels, Nancy did a series of children’s books’ titles, which she then donated to her local library, and I did a series of poems.  I love the poems, pretty much hate these quilts, for a variety of reasons.  Year 4: Color, and the challenges (again, from upper left): Microscopic, Music, Purple Passion, and I’ve Got the Blues.

And this year’s, with the yearly theme of Light.  The quarterly challenges were: Shimmer,  Light in the Darkness, Stained Glass Shadows, and Illumination.

It’s very satisfying to notice the growth, the steps backward, the consequence of leaving things to the last minute, and how having enough time impacts what you can create.  I also learned new techniques, new ways of doing things, new ways to incorporate design beyond the grid and have it mean something.

A few pages from my notebook/sketchbook.  It really helped to keep one of these, and not just for the journaling.  I was often able to arrive at an idea for my quilt through drawing out (that old mysterious hand-brain connection) and writing out my feelings about the theme and the challenge.

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(I came back in later and pasted in the four quilts we did under that theme.)

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It was also a place to keep patterns, those bits and pieces of paper that led me to the final quilt, as well as notes and thoughts while on the run:

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Pages about this quilt (the second page is digitally pasted on top of the first).  You can see the rejected ideas.

This little quilt, Ted and Maurice at Lorinc Pap Ter, is my favorite, not only for the idea of Contrast which it expresses (and was our challenge for this 12″ square quilt), but also because I learned how to print photos onto fabric [making my own photo-ready fabric, not buying it] and had a great time doing this.

I have more than one that qualifies for the Least-Favorite-Maybe-Even-Hate, so I won’t tell you which ones.  But I can share the why: when I was trying to be too “artsy” and didn’t let the idea drive the design, or when I forced the design, or when I was new at this and just had no clue how to execute the idea.

Four-in-Art Index

I used to have a dedicated page for all the Four-in-Art quilts, but recently I was cleaning out around here and filed them away in the Master Index to my quilts.  Now they are all on the 200 Quilts page, making them easy to find.  Slowly I’m going through the posts, adding the tag “Technique” to those pages that show how I tried a new way of doing things, or a new method.  I hope they will be helpful for you (use my search engines to the right–Wordpress has outstanding search capability).

It’s been a wonderful journey, these past five years, and my hat is off to those who started — and stuck — with me: Rachel and Betty.  They were some of the best companions to have alongside me as I traveled this road.  Other travelers were Leanne (SheCanQuilt), Anne (SpringLeaf Studios), Amanda, Carla, Jennifer, Nancy (Patchwork Breeze), Simone (Quiltalicious), Susan (PatchworknPlay), and Camilla.  Finally, Catherine (Knotted Cotton) and Janine (Rainbow Hare), who were also members, will be carrying this art quilt group forward, through their Endeavorers.  Click on their links to be taken to their blogs. And thank you for reading this WHOLE thing.

Now, please enjoy the final round of quilts for the Four-in-Art group!

Betty        Blogpost on Four-in-Art

Catherine         http://www.knottedcotton.com

Janine         http://www.rainbowhare.com

Nancy         http://www.patchworkbreeze.blogspot.com

Rachel         http://www.rachel-thelifeofriley.blogspot.com

Simone         http://quiltalicious.blogspot.com

All of our blocks are on our blog, Four-in-Art.

 

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