A Weekend of Craft Shops, Day 1

Yesterday I regaled you with my confession of otakuness, and here is the proof.

This past weekend we set out to Futako-tamagawa in search of a craft shop.  That’s right, I lured Dan along with the promise of ramen, but we somehow ran out of time.  I’m a cruel woman.

Hobbyra Hobbyre and Lido Merceria are not just craft stores, but Tokyo shopping at its best — small, well-curated specialty shops for the enthusiast.

Let’s begin with Hobbyra Hobbyre, a French-embroidery-inspired, Liberty-of-London-lover’s paradise.  This shop carries a little bit of a lot of things, but all were of the best quality — beautiful cotton and linen print fabrics, fine yarns and wood knitting needles, sewing patterns and books, needlework supplies, selected tools and notions, and amazing printed embroidery kits.  I mean amazing.  I wanted to leave with a few of each.

The downside to this shop is that it’s a bit expensive.  Fabric was in the 1000-2500 yen per meter range (US$12-$30 per yard), yet I picked up some reasonably-priced sashiko supplies for 200 yen each (US$2.50).  Dan told me later that, while waiting outside, he got a bit nervous when a woman left the shop exclaiming how expensive it all was, because I was still inside, taking my sweet time, certainly doing damage to our bank account.  My words, not his of course.

The crown jewel of the day, maybe my entire week, was the Hello Kitty + Liberty of London limited edition cotton prints.  Both have a dedicated cult following (many of you know about my little Liberty crush), and they’ve combined forces to produce some of the most whimsical and lovely fabric I’ve seen.  I stood there for a while trying to come up with a project idea worth the 3200 yen per meter price tag (almost US$40 per yard), but in the end I decided I couldn’t love Ms. Kitty quite enough.

This sneak-attack photo doesn’t reveal much (photos aren’t typically allowed in craft stores), but the print is of Hello Kitty flitting amongst London Town icons.  (Apparently this collection is only being sold in Japan, so if anyone is interested I’d be willing to go find some and put up a reserved listing in my shop – send me an email to discuss).

I went to Futako-tamagawa in search of Hobbyra Hobbyre, but was delighted to find Lido Merceria just next door.  Where Hobbyra Hobbyre is all things embroidery and French floral, Lido Merceria is German retro-era needlepoint.

Lido Merceria feels more like a curiosity shop than a craft store.  I loved the display case of vintage scissors and tools (yes, those are $85 embroidery snips, for anyone who is counting). With notions, buttons and trim, patches, and upholstery-weight fabric, all in varying degrees of vintage and new, this shop was a treat.

And what did I end the day with? I showed incredible restraint — sashiko thread in pretty pastels, a printed sashiko pattern, and a few swatches of Liberty fabric.  Not a bad day.

Getting there: Take the Tokyu-Den-Entoshi Line from Shibuya station or the Tokyu-Oimachi Line to Futako-tamagawa station.  Cross through Dogwood Plaza to locate the Takashimaya Shopping Center. Lido Merceria and Hobbyra Hobbyre and on the 5th floor of the South building, across from the Camper shoe store.

Lido Merceria  Tel. 03-6805-6822, open 10-9
Hobbyra Hobbyre  ホビーラホビーレ  Tel. 03-3707-1430, open 10-9

Tamagawa Takashimaya S-C South Building 5F, 3-17-1 Tamagawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

〒158-0094 東京都世田谷区玉川3-17-1 玉川高島屋S・C 南館5F

According to their website, Hobbyra Hobbyre can be found in other locations around Japan.  Check store locations on their website for more information.

Craft Otaku

I think I’m a craft otaku.

I just realized it, just this very moment.  Is this how it happens for everyone?  Otakus out there, please show me the way.  Not in person of course–just leave me a comment or point me to a message board or something.  Ack!

I’ve been working on a post about my craft adventures from this past weekend, when I visited 6 shops in 2 days. Though, I was at another shop today which brings my average down to 1.4 shops per day.  This week at least.

While recalling the details of my craft adventures I realized the passion I felt for these shops was a bit unnatural.  I took extensive notes and photographs, thumbed fabrics, and drooled over embroidery kits.  I praised the shops for their specialized, well-curated collections of vintage scissors.  I applauded them for only stocking the highest quality items.  I’m a craft snob.

Today I was chatting with a friend about what to do with all the kawaii needle-felted creatures and amigurumi for which I feel an intense need to collect.  She suggested a wunderkammer and I instantly agreed, and was reminded of all the little glass cabinets I’ve seen around Tokyo for people to store their manga and anime figurines.  And then it dawned on me:

I’m a craft otaku, and I want a wunderkammer for my amigurumi.  (>人<)


Action Craft is well underway! I’ve received a few shipments of quilts already and I’ve gotten word more are on the way. Keep up the great work, friends! I’ll be photographing the quilts and posting updates here, so keep an eye out for that.

Yesterday I realized we were getting close to the end-of-April deadline I set, and I had yet to start my quilt. Insert nervous-guilty face. So I went digging into my fabric stash, and ended up with this:

I made Dan a tie instead. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and I had a beautiful chunk of Liberty fabric just sitting around.  This tie begged me to make it.

Pro·craf·ti·nation (v.) to delay or postpone one craft with the commencement of another; to put-off doing something with a deadline by making something else for fun

The last time we were in Pennsylvania visiting family, Dan found a stash of his dad’s old ties and pocketed a few. I must have married into a stylish family, because these ties are hip. Not vintagey or trendy, but with some sort of timeless style.  They’re skinny with a square end, which is such a great detail. I could make a joke about square being hip, but perhaps I’ll spare you.

Dan’s mom got word of the tie trend in our house, and sent me a stained one and a seam ripper.

The vintage labels are amazing.  Bonwit Teller?  Where did you go with your classy top hat?  This tie was easy and really fun to make, I even enjoyed the hand-sewing. When I presented it to him (thinly veiling my pure glee), Dan called it “festive” which I choose to interpret as a positive thing. Must not be so bad, since he wore it to work today.

But back to Action Quilt — I did manage to stitch a few pieces together:

Now, back to sewing … or tie-making, or blogging, or grocery shopping or a trip to the post office, or maybe some more sashiko…

I Know

I know there must be a connection that can be made between the fragile situation in Japan and these precarious, lantern-covered wooden floats that lumber through the streets, pushed and pulled by a community, urged on by the chants and music from those too small to help.

But what do I know? We ooh, and ahh, and are happy to be at our first matsuri in a new Japan.

Spring Sprung

Ahh, it feels like spring today. I hung some laundry to dry on the balcony and left the door wide open. The birds are chirping and blue sky is in sight (that is, beyond the power lines and skyscrapers).

I apologize to all my Minnesotan readers for my gratuitous boasting of springtime, since many of you probably still have snow on the ground in some places. OK, not really, but it is just so fun to jest.

It’s hanami time in Japan, which means everyone goes outside to picnic under the sakura, or cherry blossoms. I went for a walk yesterday and saw two people picnicking with champagne at 2 in the afternoon. Rightfully so, the sakura are lovely — and fleeting — they deserve proper celebration.

On Sunday Dan and I took a walk along the river in Nakameguro, which is lined on both side with sakura that were in full bloom.

The sakura in Tokyo are almost gone, blooms coming and going in a matter of days. I’m hoping this weekend gets a little windy, because I love to stand under the cherry trees and let the little white and pale-pink petals flutter around me. Perhaps it reminds me of snowfall in Minnesota.

OK, you’ve got me there.