Monday, July 14, 2014

Japan Trip: Where the Fiber is

I'm pretty excited to say that we, Mr. IT Guy and I, are heading to Japan for a much needed vacation in about a week. It was somewhat a sudden decision, but we found out about cheap flights from Korea to Japan and thought, "Why not?" I know that the summers in Japan can be similar to those in Korea (hot, humid, rainy, dank, etc.), but somehow you can just deal with these weather conditions a little better when you're on vacation. After all, we dealt with them just fine on our last summer trip there.

As some of you know, I've been working with a lovely lady in Japan who has been my fiber and dye go-to person. Ever since I found out that Japan has an appreciation for yarns made of natural fibers and fleeces which are easily available, I've wanted to go to a fiber/yarn shop there. Some days, I feel like I'm sitting in a fiber-free void in Seoul, and it hurts my creative soul. Unfortunately, Korea still seems to be on the acrylic yarn craze bandwagon, but I have hope for the future here. But it isn't the future yet, so I am really looking forward to getting my fix in Japan.

I heard from a mutual Facebook fan that Natalie Redding (from Namaste Farms) knew of some places in Japan that sold fibery goods. A friend of hers, Junko, gave me the low down on the best fiber shops to visit in the Osaka/Kyoto areas. I'm going to post below the links and do some research later to see which ones I'll be able to try and visit while we're in Japan.

  • Teoriya: This shop specializes in weaving supplies and yarn. There is a pretty wide selection of plant and animal fiber yarns available in this shop, including some wool yarn directly imported from Sweden.
  • Spinnuts: The online shop features a ton of variety, from fleeces to spindles. There is a wide variety of sheep fleeces, many of which come from Australia.
  • Hitsuji: This place has lots of equipment and books available, in addition to yarns and fibers. What's really cool about this shop is that they sell natural dyes. If I wanted to get my Wild Color on, I know where to go to get the stuff!
  • Textile Aoni: I can't get a proper translation of this page, and since the Google translate feature doesn't work (I assume this isn't text based?), I have no idea what this shop sells...or where to find it. I could email the owner and hope s/he speaks English.
  • Habu Textiles: Now this is a swanky shop. If you're a fiber guru and you've been to New York, you might have popped your head into this shop. This shop mainly sells yarn and notions (buttons and beads), and the way the pictures are taken, I feel like I'm sitting in a serene rock garden. 
  • Avril-Kyoto: This one sells mostly yarns and needles, and has lots of knitting and felting workshops on-site. 
  • Sometake: This shop is a haven for merino lovers. There are tons of colors to choose from, and it almost all comes in combed top preparation. There are also luxury fibers like alpaca and cashmere.
  • Semba Center: This place vaguely reminds me of Dongdaemun in Seoul, except they have whole floors dedicated to fibery goods. As a bonus, there are lots of restaurants nearby, making this place easily a whole day visit.
A funny side note. While I was checking these websites out, I had to ask Google to translate them from Japanese. Now, the translate feature has come a long way since its inception, but funny things happen. For example, what we know of as "batts" get translated as "butts" by Google. So, if you check out these links and translate them to English, try to control your laughter when you read "Germany Butts" and "Irish Butts." :D

So, I think I have some favorites. I really want to try and visit Spinnuts and Semba Center if I can. We have a fairly open schedule while we're there, so I'm pretty sure Mr. IT Guy won't mind if we go to a couple of places. Osaka is noted as a culinary hotspot, so we will find some good food no matter where we go. We also have some plans to attend Universal Studios and see the new Harry Pottery features while we're there. I'll post more about my fibery adventures when we get back in a couple of weeks!