Friday, April 26, 2013

Indigo jackpot in Nishi-Ogikubo

It seems that for almost a year I've really been on the hunt for good indigo cloth off the bolt.  Not navy cotton, but that elusive beautiful indigo.

Yuzawaya has a passable fabric (198 yen per 10 cm), which I was happy to find, and am using for the little sashiko sampler classes I'm doing at church.

This repro fabric is pretty cool: 

Then recently my sashiko teacher at Blue and White provided me with some much better indigo fabric, for the same price, but I know I'm inconveniencing her when I ask, and I see her only once a month.

I have found many wonderful vintage pieces at flea markets, for a price, as well as beautiful swatches at Blue and White (they purchase it from an itinerant indigo peddler who visits the shop now and then).

(The dark blue kasuri above was a gift from Queenie.  Gorgeous.)

And in that hole-in-the-wall shop Natasha helped me find, I did find some beautiful taupe 55% linen, 45% cotton (or the other way around) at a fair price, pictured here next to a navy:

But still not that deep pool of indigo.

Then the other day while exploring a new neighborhood full of antiques and artsy boutiques, my friends and I hit the JACKPOT without even trying.

Take the North Exit at Nishi-Ogikubo station,

Find the Koban (police station - there are small ones on many corners - and the police are always willing and happy to help with directions) and ask for an "Antiques Shops Map."

The map shows 61 shops and cafes, with names like "UNTIDY Art and Objects to Use" and "Mood" and "Gallery Bowknot".  Most of the names are in kanji but the map is very clear and shows four clusters of shops around the station.  All of it is walkable/browsable within a few hours.

The streets were quiet and quaint, and it was great to just walk around what felt like Japan without another Westerner in sight.

This was a new cafe opening - lots of congratulatory flowers from neighboring businesses on display. You can see us in the reflection of the glass - plus a waiter waving to us - so funny!

More silliness at a combini (convenience store):

We were looking for Store #33 - because next to the shop name the map read in English "Quilt and Old Textiles."  Could this unassuming spot be it?


Yes!  And what's more, once inside it gradually became clear, from some photos on the wall, that this was the workshop of a well known Japanese quilting sensei, Shizuko Kuroha, who famously uses indigo in her work.
I had just caught a glimpse of her at that Edo quilt show at Mitsukoshi Department Store last week.  She was standing in front of her quilts, giving a talk to an attentive crowd (I knew I wouldn't understand a single word, so I didn't pause to listen).

Cotton indigo for sale?  Why, yes!

These nice ladies were busy cutting pieces for their sensei (in Japan much of the work of the big-name quilters is actually performed by their students):

But they graciously took a break to measure some fabric off the bolt for us:

There were also some very special (and expensive) vintage pieces.  Julie W and I were just thrilled to be able to buy several yards of the new stuff, for about 2000 yen per meter.  Hurray!