There is a charming, lovely, and very inspiring fabric store located in Kamakura, about a 20 minute train ride from where I live in Yokosuka Japan. This sounds convenient until you factor in that to get there I have to drive to the base parking lot that is closest to the train station, walk to the train station and then once in Kamakura, I have a 10 minute walk from the station to the store. I’m not complaining, I’m just setting the stage for my friends in the states. The point is I’m not just hopping in my car and dashing to the fabric store to pick up a few supplies. When I go to Swany’s I’m going with intent. I have a list. I am, of course, wildly open to impulse purchases.
When we lived in the DC area I used to frequent G Street Fabrics. There I would caress bolt after bolt of gorgeous fabrics, my mind drifting from one sewing project to another. My husband maintains it is not physically possible for me to go into a fabric store without running my hands over every bolt (I believe he exaggerates, but then again given the groans from the backseat gang when I even dare to mention fabric store … maybe not). I took classes there, learned how to make decorator pillows, valences for our homes, even lined, French-pleat draperies (no easy feat). I love a really good fabric store. I find it amazing that you can take a lifeless piece of fabric and with a little vision and a pattern you can create whatever you can imagine.
On my first outing to Kamakura when I arrived here in 2009, Bossy Explorer led a group of us to visit Swany’s. Touted as the fabric store to go to, I couldn’t wait to see what was in store. Alas, one of the frustrations to the language barrier is not understanding the signage. We were, as the saying goes, “so close and yet so far.” In the hiatus that Bossy had taken on a one year tour in DC, Swany’s had apparently upgraded. The building she recalled as the main storefront was only selling remnants. Not what our crew had in mind, we walked away disappointed but there was a promise of “the best waffles in Japan” and my attention was diverted. Had we walked a short block further and turned a corner we would have discovered a 3-story fabric wonderland – Swany’s had gone upscale.
What makes this store so different from say a box store like Joanne’s or Hancocks back in the U.S.? Of course there is the Japaneseness. Not sure that’s a word – but it should be when living here in Japan. My friend, Gracious Explorer, explained that in Japan this is known as ‘Wa.’ Swany’s knows their ‘Wa.’ The store has artful displays of fabric and everywhere you turn there are samples of beautiful boutique bags made from the fabric you were just drooling over. Better yet is that each display has a tag with a number on it, when you purchase 1000 Yen (in better exchange rate days 1:1 that would be $10) you get a pattern from 100’s to chose from. I’m not kidding, they have binders of patterns. My collection has begun. The only downside for me of course is that these patterns are in Japanese (what else?). Not to let that deter me I have already made several items.
My time is short here, we are in the countdown to move this summer, but I am determined to make the most of it – as in make as many projects from Swany’s as I can before we leave. Check back in from now until they pack up my sewing machine ... approximately 14 weeks from now and see what I’ve been making, because one thing is certain, Swany’s leaves me ... inspired.
Link to Swany's in Kamakura. If you scroll to the bottom you'll find the map with directions from the train station - in Japanese ... but of course! http://www.swany-kamakura.co.jp/shopguide02.html