Buying fabric in Japan

If you know anything about me, you know that I looooooove fabric. I have a bit of an obsession. The last couple of times we’ve been here, I didn’t venture much into fabric stores, because I knew we’d just have to bring it all home. But now I have no such constraints. (Insert evil maniacal laugh here.)

Japanese fabric is gorgeous. There’s kimono fabric, and yakata fabric, and the fancier kinds, and then there are the cottons by Japanese designers. Be still my heart. Some of these are available in the states at a premium, but here there are just stores and stores of them. 🙂 My favorite designs are big, bold, and quirky. My favorite Japanese fabric line at the moment is Echino.  (Sorry that the pictures are turned sideways! My computer is kind of being a punk. )

Zoe is getting a quilt made with this:


Also Echino- I love the little cockatiels!



Anyway, for my US fabric loving friends, I thought I’d share a little about how fabric stores work here.

First of all, there are a ton of them. There’s a whole fabric district, full of fabric stores, that I haven’t ventured out to yet because I fear for my wallet. My current favorite store is Yuzawaya in Kamata. It actually takes up 3 multi-story buildings. There are also tiny little stores in shopping malls that pack quite a bit inside.

Fabric is sold by increments of 10 cm. So the tag gives you the price for 10cm and you multiply it out for the quantity you want. A lot of places give a discount if you buy a meter (100 cm), so fabric that is usually 70 yen (approx 70 cents) for 10 cm would go down to 65 yen/ 10 cm if you bought a meter- so 650 yen/meter. The cheapest I’ve seen cottons is 580 yen a meter (about $5.80), and it can go all the way up to 294 yen/ 10 cm– yup, that’s almost $30 a meter. A lot balances in the middle, around $15 a meter.  (Note- this is only for cottons, I haven’t looked at prices on other fabrics.)



This always makes me worry that I’m not multiplying right and am somehow going to end up with a 6800 yen ($68) meter of fabric. 🙂

Fabric is around 111 cm from selvage to selvage, which is around 45 inches, like in the US.  A meter is a  skosh over 39 inches, so if you get a meter of fabric it’s a bit over a yard.

Just like in the US, you take the fabric you want to the cutting counter and tell them how much you  want. I stick to 1 meter and go ju cenchi (50 centimeters).  They cut the fabric and then print out a little sticker with the price and quantity on it that you take up to the cashier. (Like in the picture above.)

In the stores I’ve been in, fabric has been organized by line, with similar styles grouped together.

And now, some pretty fabric for you to look at.  Again, excuse the turned photos, I don’t know why it won’t export correctly.

We’ll start with the kawaii (cute).






This next one is totally upside down, but too cute to leave out. 🙂IMG_9703

I love these foxes so much I can’t stand it. I imagine them lining something snazzy that I have no idea how to make. 🙂


Halloween in Japan! I love that there are matryoshka dolls involved.


The girls picked this fabric for a banner for their room. It’s the next project.



This aren’t Japanese, they’re Liberty of London, but aren’t they just. so. pretty???IMG_9706

I’m too lazy to go downstairs and take pictures of the fabric I used for the girls’ bags, so I’ll just use pictures I already have of the bags themselves. The girls picked it out, and wanted to be matching.


I made up the pattern for these, and ended up taking Tiny’s almost completely apart after I finished Zoe’s and figured out a better way to do part of it. And now looking at this picture I realize that I didn’t top stitch the flap on Tiny’s. Whoops! These are for their scriptures so that B and I don’t end up carrying them on the way to church.

I love the inside fabric.


Note- those are not the girls’ scriptures under the bag. That would be heavy.

The fabric stores I’ve been in also have yarn, notions, ribbon, and other general crafting things. The smaller stores obviously have less, but they have a shallow selection of a wide swath of things.

Can you see why I have so much trouble not buying fabric? 🙂 I’m collecting fabric to make this quilt. tokyo subway quilt

It’s designed by Elizabeth Hartman, inspired by the Tokyo subway map, and I’ve had my eye on it for a while. She uses a lot of Echino in it, maybe that’s why I like it so much. 🙂


3 thoughts on “Buying fabric in Japan

  1. Gerry Blackwell on

    Thanks for the info. I will have to reread to really benefit. Enjoy your stay.

  2. What fun fabric! Sometimes all I have to do is go in a fabric store and just feel the new fabrics for a bit to make me happy! I dream of all the fun things I could make with them. Time is at a premium right now for sewing but I do what you’ve been doing. I have a quilt in mind and then I keep my eye open for pieces to add to the collection to finish the quilt. I find as much joy in the journey to designing a quilt (even if it’s just picking colors) as I do with actually sewing and completing it. I’m so happy to have a relative who shares my obsession, especially since my daughter’s don’t share my love!

  3. Jessica on

    Lovely, so fun, and fantastic!!! What a great post! So my one question is… what is the feel of the cotton fabric? Is it super soft and thin with a drapey hand or is it the same thickness and hand as quilting cotton here in the US?

    Man! I want to come visit and go fabric shopping with you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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