Barcelona – Paris Trip: the Dior Exhibition and Fabric Shopping

Ben and I were married in October, 2012 and we did not had a honeymoon at that time as I was still finishing up my graduate studies and he just started working.Then in 2013 we had our ceremony in China, which was a bustle hustle one month trip (our families are 1500km apart) that spared us no time for a real honeymoon. We always wanted a makeup honeymoon and finally we did it!

We had an evening flight from Toronto to Barcelona on September 29 and spent 4 days there (just in time for the Catalonia Independence strike!!). Then we took the high speed train to Paris on October 4, and spent another 4 days there. It was a short trip but we had great time (though Ben complained too much walking and museums but not enough time for relaxing and chill lol… gotta improve our itinerary next time!). 


Highlight of the trip includes visiting of the Christian Dior: Couturier du Reve retrospective show at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. It’s just a wonderful experience to be able to immerse in the masterpieces of the masters in Haute Couture. The exhibition is dreamy, dramatic and simply unforgettable. I had seen the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2008, the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2010 and the Issey Miyake exhibition at the National Art Center of Tokyo in 2016. The Dior exhibition is the best of the best. There is a retrospective Dior exhibition at ROM now and it’s a must-see this Christmas for me!

We visited two fabric shops in Barcelona: Ribes & Casals and Nunoya.

Ribes & Casals is huge! I am quite impressed with their high ceiling and lofty space, with vast selection of home-dec and fashion fabrics. They have nice tweeds and silks. Unfortunately making a suit or an evening dress is still beyond my skills level and hence I left the shop without any purchase.  

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Nunoya is not far away from Ribes & Casals. This is THE PLACE for sumptuous Japanese fabrics! Here you will find Echino, Nani Iro, Kokka and lots of other cute Japanese prints. They also have lots of beautiful quilting cotton weight prints from the US and Europe. My only complaint is the price! It’s too hard to decide what to get when every bolt of fabric is so nice but also so expensive (plus a hefty addition of tax). In the end, I brought 3 meters of fabrics back home - the Echino fabrics that I used to make some of the cushions.

Before the trip I envisioned spending at least an afternoon for fabric shopping in Paris. But that did not come true. We spent too much time in the museums and walking along the Seine River. In the end, we went to only one of the many places in my list: Anna Ka Bazaar, a little cozy fabric and needlework shop in the 11th arr and not far away from where we stayed, the CitizenM hotel near Paris Gare de Lyon. The shop owner designs the beautiful Atelier Brunette fabrics. I picked about 5 assorted meters of their cotton lawn as souvenirs for myself.  

Since I still have many destinations in Paris that I want to visit and revisit. It’s a great excuse to plan another trip here...maybe for our 10th anniversary.

Tokyo Trip 2016 Part 3 - Jiyugaoka and More

I wrote part 1 and part 2 last year and felt obligated to complete the whole list. So here it is!

Jiyugaoka is a neighborhood in southern Meguro, Tokyo. Actually, Jiyugaoka is not just for fabric shopping, around the Jiyugaoka Station the tiny streets are filled with chic boutiques and zakka stores, cafes and restaurants that make the neighborhood a great destination for all tourists. I like the relaxed, petite bourgeoisie atmosphere of Jiyugaoka, less crowed than the in city centres but not lack of commercial developments. I visited four fabric stores in Jiyugaoka, all boutique style. So, if you are visiting Jiyugaoka, do not just focus on the fabric stores! Enjoy also other shops and cafes. Otherwise you will be disappointed because the shops are just too small comparing with Swany or Tomato.

Not far away from the station there is a lovely shop call Hobbyra Hobbyre. It is a chain store that has over 40 branches nationwide, some are located inside department stores. Their flagship products are Liberty fabrics printed in Japan, with also great selections of yarn crafts and embroidery supplies. If you like sweetie cutie refined and delicate handmade goodies, definitely visit one or two Hobbyra Hobbyre. They sell beautiful embroidery kits for wall hangings, bags, placemats and more. They also have Liberty fabric kits for dressmaking and quilts. I simply couldn’t resist the tana lawn, and brought a bundle of precuts home.

One of my current quilting-in-progress project is an Arkansas Crossroads quilt pieced with these Japanese tana lawn and those I got in the UK back in 2014. It reminds me of my joyful memories in the UK and Japan, with my sweet sister.

A bit further south from the station there is a home decor store, DDintex, that also sells Liberty prints as well as other European fabrics. They also carry their own in-house linens and sell ready-to-use home furnishing products and accessories.

Just to the east side of the station there is a lovely quilt shop called Nu: Hand Works. It is a bit hard to find that the store is on the third floor of a supermarket building! I almost missed it. The store has a nice selection of canvas, strips and ginghams, as well as quilting cotton from the US and Europe. Their notions and bag-making accessories are pretty decent, too.

If you walk about 20 minutes north from the station to the Meguro Dori street, on the south side there is a lovely little fabric store call FIQ (Fabric in Ideal Quality) that focuses on bold and beautiful Scandinavian inspired fabrics, with prices tend to be on the expensive side. I LOVE their medium weight cottons and linens!

Other places

1. Shinjuku

Love these Japanese basting cotton!

Love these Japanese basting cotton!

In Shinjuku, sewing-wise there are two places worth visiting: Okadaya and Books Kinokuniya. This was the second time I visited Okadaya and I was not disappointed. On the fabric building, my favourites are the medium weight cotton/linen-cotton prints displayed on the ground floor. The bottom line is: if you don’t have a chance to visit the Nipori Fabric Town or Swany, Okadaya is definitely the place to visit. It’s very close the the Shinjuku Station, the one that you will be most likely pass by… so no excuse.

Since you are already in Shinjuku, why not also pay a visit to Books Kinokuniya! They have the main store just outside the Shinjuku-san-chimo Station (not Shinjuku Station, but Shinjuku-san-chimo Station). Look how much craft books they have in stock on the sixth floor!


2. Kichijoji

There is also a Hobbyra Hobbyre in Kichijoji, but the most famous place there is Yuyawaya, the giant equivalent of Fabricland in Canada, or Jo-Ann in the USA! There are several Yuyawaya shops in Tokyo, and the one in Kichijoji is quite famous that many craft lovers mentioned this particular location (I don’t’ know why). 

3. Nishi-Ogikubo

The Nishi-Ogikubo Station is just east of the Kichijoji Station (Chuo Main Line). I went there specifically for a lovely quilt shop called “Sweet Flap”. I love the quilts designed by the owner, Naoko Sunagawa. Her place is about 450m south of the Nishi-Ogikubo Station. It’s a nice walk wondering around the cute shops in the district, too!

It's just so much fun staying in Tokyo for two weeks.

The gorgeous cherry blossoms and yummy noodles are so much to be missed. Besides sightseeing and food tasting, the fabric shopping experience is simply amazing and most unforgettable! I want to go back, again and again!

The Tiny Applique Stitches

Update from last post: I had another ultrasound last Friday and found some tissues remaining in my uterus. I was send to the Day Surgery, had a D&C and started another round of recovery. While resting at home, I resumed my sample blocks quilt and worked on a Baltimore album style applique block. This time, I tried prepared edge hand applique., using Appliquick fusible webs and glue to turn the edges before stitching the pieces to the background fabric. As I was working on the fell stitch, I wondered how close the stitches need to be. Then, I remembered the pictures taken at the Maryland Historical Society Museum last Christmas. Browsing through the pictures again, I must admit that my stitches are too sparse from a Baltimore lady's standard... (need improvement)

I felt guilty that I used mostly a cream color thread for applique and don't bother about the stitches being (hardly) visible. But that's how people had done in the past actually. I think they were proud of they tiny stitches and fine workmanship, and wouldn't mind the stitches being visible. 

Indeed, the stitches, even done in white thread, are invisible if you are more than 4 inches away. 

Tokyo Trip 2016 Part 2 - The Nippori Fabric Town

From time to time I order the Japanese sewing magazine “Style Book” from the Japanese Amazon site, which regularly features a section about the Nippori Fabric Town, with a map attached. It always looked like a tempting place for me so when I planned my trip, I dropped a pin at the Nippori Fabric Town on my Google Maps as one of the several MUST VISIT fabric shopping destinations. Indeed the “fabric town” seems to be quite well-known for tourists who love to sew. I saw people with different ethnic backgrounds rummaging around for fabrics and notions, and even met two women from the US grabbing a full basket of Japanese floral print fatquarters for their friends. 

The Nipori Fabric Town is conveniently located just steps outside the Nippori Station of the JR East Yamanote Line, with banners hanging on the main street like this to remind you that it is dedicated for fabrics: 

This place is the fashion district of Tokyo. When you are here be sure to take a free copy of the directory map (English version available, check out the cashier counter area of any of the bigger stores) to guide your shopping. The most famous shop here is called Tomato – The shop has four branches spread randomly on each side of the street, for selling different types of fabrics (fashion, craft, quilting, home décor, etc) and so targeting different groups of sewers. Look around for the big tomato sign and you will not miss any of them. They sell all sorts of fabrics and notions from Harris Tweed to basting thread.

Out of the 90 fabric and notion shops listed on the official map, there are two other places that I also like: Elegance for their high quality fashion fabrics (they have one branch, the Store #21 on the Map Index, that sells only knits and jerseys, absolutely stunning stuffs!) and Momo, Store #8 on the Map Index, for their linens and cottons. Check them out when you are there!

The Elegance shop Knits branch

Note I think the easiest way to go to anywhere in Tokyo is through the rapid transit. The Tokyo rapid transit network is perhaps the most convoluted but fabulous one I’ve ever seen in my life! There are two primary subway operators: Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway, making up a total of 13 subway lines and 285 subway stations. On top of that there are several subway lines run by private companies and tens of train lines operated by JR East. The railway and subway lines are interconnected and many times their stations share the same building complex. With a Passmo or Suica Card, you can transfer between lines “barrier free”. Once you understand how it works and with the help from Google Maps, you can basically go anywhere hassle free. My only advice is follow the Google Maps. It gives accurate route info (including bus routes) and time schedule 99% of the time. 

On my next post, I will steer my wheel to Jiyugaoka.

Tokyo Trip 2016 Part 1 - My Favorite Fabric Shop

From March 18 to April 3 I spent my time in Tokyo – to visit my sister, sightseeing (cherry blossoms blooming!), and equally importantly and enjoyably, to check out craft stores and bring home fabrics, notions, patterns and books. It’s so much fun! Tokyo is absolutely the paradise for fabric lovers and fiber snobs. I envy how the Japanese have access to high quality products that our Fabricland and Michaels wouldn’t match. I love the cotton-linen blend prints, denims and canvas fabrics made in Japan that are hardly available here in Canada. I can’t wait to share with you my unforgettable shopping experience!

And for this post, let’s talk about my favourite place. It’s the Swany fabric shop in Kamakura.

Swany - the original building

Kamakura is about 50km south of Tokyo, a lovely quaint old beach town where Swany’s original store resides. The shop is about 450m (6min walk) away from the Kamakura Station. In the past I purchased two lovely bag making books (this one and this one) they published and loved the floral fabrics used on their samples, so I knew I must visit the shop even though it is a bit far away from the city centre. However, before the visit I didn't expect that Swany is a big, big fabric store that consisted an old, original building and a new building next to it, with each having several floors, all open to the public. They have all you need for garment sewing, quilting, bag making to home furnishing. There are many things that I like about the store:

The clothing samples are for sale, too!

·         They have a vast collection of display samples on each floor for you to get inspirations and to touch and feel the drape and texture of the fabrics. These samples are pretty decorations that bring lots of charm to the store, too.

·         All merchandise are, if not all, mostly high quality stuffs. Many of the stuffs they sell are hard to find in Canada, including Japanese-made canvas, denim, laminated fabrics, and Swany's own collections. I am so in love with the linen florals, polka dots and quilting cottons from around the world. My favorite is the echino by Etsuko Furuya collection, so modern and one-of-a-kind! I see endless possibilities in turning the echino fabrics into pillows, table runners, purses and bags. In addition, Swany has a huge collection of bag making accessories and notions. It’s simply the best brick-and-mortar store to gather what you need for bag making. By the way, it is a brick-and-mortar store with a charming spirit, not a typical North American brick-and-mortar box.This is the one-stop place for souvenirs! Another place that can compete with Swany would probably be the Tomato shops in the Nipori Fabric Town, which will be discussed later.

·         The store is so clean and organized. Even leftover fabric bundles at bargaining prices are neatly packaged and displayed on trays.

The free pattern I got!

Teddy bears in Tilda fabrics.

·         You can ask for a “Swany special” pattern for free if you spend over 1000 yen (about $12 CAD). I like free stuffs. Note that hese are just patterns – no instructions. So you need to figure out how to assemble the pieces together on your own.

In summary this is THE STORE of my favourite and that I will definitely revisit on my next trip to Tokyo. You can easily spent half a day there browsing through their collection of fabrics, patterns, books and notions, and the rest of the day to stroll around the town, to see the great Buddha, the temples, or take the vintage train (Enoden) to the Enoshima Island.

Komachi St. is great as a "bundle package" for a one-day trip in Kamakura

My Itinerary was Enoshima Island – Swany – Komachi Street for a relaxing, one-day trip. The Kimachi Street is filled with a sea of people in the weekends. It’s a great place for tasting Japanese Street Food! I especially enjoyed the green tea ice cream in the boldest, bitterest flavour.

On my way to the Enoshima Island... this is so impressive!

The island is so crowed!

The island is so crowed!

My sister, with her very limited understand of Japanese, helped me to figure out where the exhibition was located.

Oh oh oh, last but not the least, on my way to the Enoshima Island riding the Enoden train, I saw a poster about a quilt exhibition by Kathy Nakajima, who is famous for her Hawaiian Style applique. Of course I couldn’t miss this, and stopped by:

The exhibition is a bit too commercial to my taste; nevertheless it’s always nice to see and learn from other people’s handwork.

Needless to say, I had a fun day in Kamakura! I am sure that you will like the town, too!

A Dutch Treat

Here is the exciting part: I also visited Amsterdam outside my trip to England. Of course, I didn't miss the quilt shop Den Haan & Wagenmakers. I am a long time lover of the French magazine QuiltMania and their books, so I was so well aware of this shop and the beautiful dutch chintz prints. Getting there is easy. It's located in the heart of Amsterdam, very close to the Bijenkorf department store. Tram #2 stops at about 20 meters away from the shop. The shop sells bolts and bolts of reproduction fabrics. I loved their dutch chintz inspired series (especially those in bright and saturated yellow tones). As a contrast, there is another quilt shop right next to it, which sells modern prints only. 

Amsterdam is very attractive.  I love the city so much (beside the quilt shops). Though I know the next time that I would have a chance wandering along the canals will be a long time from now, it's definitely a to be revisited place for me.