November 29, 2013

Textile Heaven

I realize that November is actually a good time to visit Japan if you are a quilter. Not only can you take in the quilt show but you can enjoy the wonderful colours. I especially love the reds.

My quilting friends have heard me go on about the wonderful shrine antique fairs in Japan where you can find a treasure-trove of wonderful textiles. I have been able to take in three during my visit this time but my all time favourite continues to be in Kawagoe at the Narita-san Betsu-in (Shrine). This was always where I made my most interesting finds and found so many of my indigo blue fabrics. It only occurs once a month on the 28th and no matter what day it falls on, by noon it is packed. After a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call and a quick breakfast, I was off to catch the express train on the Tobo-Toju line which gets you into Kawagoe in half an hour, just long enough for a refreshing nap if you follow the Japanese custom of sleeping seating up.

Getting to the shrine early is great because you can take a leisurely stroll and see all the offerings but if you see a great fabric grab it up. Here is a stall with some wonderful vintage indigo blues. I always ask if I can take pictures and one of the things I like is that at this market I always get permission. That is not always the case at other markets but it is polite to ask.

The cost of this quilt is about $300.

This jacket was about $350.00. It may be old and tattered but it is highly valued.

As I noted before, something nice always happens to me when shopping for textiles. I found a little booth tucked into a corner at the bottom of a set of stairs of the shrine. There a woman was wearing a wonderful jacket made up of indigo blues with sashiko sewing and appliqué.

 She was selling printed squares in red with imprints of cats and blue squares with jackets with family crests (kamon). She also had these 2 inch squares of all different kamon.
Well, I could picture a couple of quilts and went through them all for a variety. I was very excited and through gestures and a picture on my camera, she understood what I was going to do with them. I choose 16 of each of the larger squares and 10 of the Kamon squares. This wonderful lady went into her stash and pulled out a full set of 20 of the red squares and offered them for the same price as the 16. Then she discounted the total again. When we had settled our transaction, she then gestured for me to wait and went back into her stash to present me with a full set of the kamon squares. “Gifto”, she said. I was walking on air. Such kindness does that!

After finishing at the market, I walked to the old town which takes you back to the Edo period when these wonderful black roof tiled buildings were built as storehouses away from Tokyo which at the time was plagued with fires. They now form several interesting shopping streets where you can enjoy their famous sweet potato sweets and icecream.

On the way there, I came across a shop specializing in sashiko. The shop is owned by Akie Ginza who has written the book below. As you can see from the cover she makes wonderful large sashiko quilts of her own design. In the shop you can find everything you need for this technique including bolts and smaller squares of fabrics in indigo blue and white printed materials and types of cotton threads used in different colours.

Is it any wonder why Kawagoe remains one of my favourite textile shopping places in Japan?

1 comment:

  1. Holy crow, Susan, I am soooo envious! I spent the summer in Japan in 1990, but I have not been back since. You have found so many nice treasures. I particularly like that book. The sashiko quilts on the cover are amazing, I have never seen sashiko done to that degree before.

    Thanks for all the great photos!


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