Fabrics for zakka sewing, and where to find them (learn to sew post no. 4)

I am so excited that a few people have read my blog and contacted me to attend my little sewing class.  I never know if anyone is reading my blog (aside from my faithful family and a few friends), so I often feel like I’m just talking to myself.  It is fantastic to hear that I actually have readers out there!   

Well, today I wanted to write about fabric choices for zakka sewing, and a few of my favorite fabric sources in Sydney and online.  First off, the word “zakka” is Japanese for random household items – it just means little things you use around your house, anything from an apron to a shopping bag to a potholder.  The word zakka has spread to the West these days, and there are even English language books on zakka sewing, like this one or this one

So what types of fabrics are suitable for zakka sewing? The short answer is, pretty much any woven fabric (i.e. not knit, jersey, or stretchy fabric).  Natural fabrics like cotton, linen and hemp are best.  Japanese people LOVE linen, particularly natural-colored linen.  So when I think of zakka, I have this mental image of beige linen fabric, combined with colourful but understated prints like Liberty of London tana lawn (wildly popular in Japan) — sometimes embellished with simple hand embroidery or trims like lace and buttons for the handmade look.  

Canvas or home decor fabric is a little on the heavy side, and is ideal for things like bags, aprons, fabric baskets and potholders — things that need a bit of structure.  Cotton or linen blend canvas is also easy to sew.  Lighter fabrics like quilting cotton or Liberty fabrics are useful for softer things, like cushion covers, tissue box covers, and also as a lining for bags, pouches, and fabric baskets.  

So where do you find these fabrics for zakka sewing? Quilting cotton is easy to find anywhere.  Finding good-quality cotton or linen canvas fabric is a little more challenging if you are in Australia.

Below are some of my favorite sources of canvas and home decor fabrics.

Ikea

Ikea sells home decor fabric by the meter. The selection may not be huge, but they have good-quality cotton and linen interior fabric suitable for zakka sewing.  They have a basic selection of solid-color fabrics, as well as a few stripes and prints.  The price is quite reasonable. 

Etsy and eBay

Did you know that Etsy also has a “supply” section, and you can find a wide range of fabrics, including printed canvas, at quite a reasonable price?  

eBay is also a good source of fabric, and you can often find great deals.  The downside is eBay is so huge, you have to know how to look for the fabric you are looking for.  If you are after a particular designer fabric (say, the “Far, Far, Away” ranges of children’s prints by Heather Ross), it is easier to find it.  

Online fabric shops

Many online fabric shops in the US and Australia now carry lovely canvas / home decor prints (most of them are, surprise, imported from Japan).  There are too many shops to choose from, but here are some of my personal favorites.

  • Superbuzzy (US) – This online shop is like a shrine to Japanese fabric goodness.  You can find not only canvas, but also quilting-weight cotton and double gauze in cute Japanese prints.
  • Purl Soho  (US) – Fantastic selection of various Japanese canvas prints.  Pricey, but not as pricey as buying from Australia-based online shops.  Purl also has a great blog, with tons of free tutorials for everything from quilts to lunch bags to table napkins.
  • Fabricworm (US) – Has a good selection of Japanese canvas fabric as well, and they often have a sale going on.
  • Kelani Fabrics (Australia) – I was so excited when I first “discovered” them at an annual quilting show in Sydney several years ago.  They have a ton of cute Japanese prints! They also carry other home decor fabrics, and beautiful hand-printed canvas fabrics by Australian screen printers.  It’s not cheap – as fabrics in general are more expensive in Australia – but the upside is you’ll get fast shipping, and you don’t need much fabric for making small things like potholders.
  • Duckcloths (Australia) – Another beautiful online fabric shop based in Australia.  Carries a wide range of Japanese, home decor and other fabrics suitable for zakka sewing.

Retail quilting and craft shops in Australia

Some quilting shops are now branching out to carry some home decor or canvas fabrics, some imported from Japan.  The range is still pretty small compared to online shops mentioned above, but at least you can touch and feel the fabrics in person if you live nearby.  The trendy quilting shops these days are not your grandmother’s quilt shop! Here are some of my favorites in Sydney. 

  • Calico & Ivy – This stylish craft shop has branches in Perth and Sydney (10 Birchgrove Rode, Balmain). They carry a small but lovely selection of Japanese canvas fabric, as well as a few Japanese craft books.
  • Material Obsession – I am partial to this shop because this is where I first leaned to make quilts years ago. I remember being happily overwhelmed by bolt after bolt of beautiful modern prints they carry.  Definitely not your grandmother’s quilting shop.  Their shop in Drummoyne has mostly quilting fabrics, of course, but I have seen a few cotton-linen and home decor fabrics as well.  Worth checking out if you live nearby.

Well, that’s it for now I think.  I am sure I have missed many other sources of fantastic fabrics, but if you have no idea where to start, the above links will get you started in the right direction.  I’d love to discover new fabrics shops, too, so if you have a favourite shop, please do leave a comment and share! 

One more thing…. I often get asked where I get the Japanese fabrics I use for my online shops.  I get most of my fabrics directly from online shops in Japan (or send my mother to search for fabrics when she visits Japan).  These sites are in Japanese, unfortunately, and are hard to access and navigate if you don’t read Japanese.  Many shops don’t deliver internationally, either.  That is the reason I didn’t mention those shops here.  

Happy fabric shopping!

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