I made a shirt.

I totally did. I turned a piece of fabric into something wearable.

Ignore the wrinkles and the pink belly button dot. If I can’t see them then you can’t see them. That’s the way it works, right?

And no, I’m not going to model it. I thought about the idea, but really… guys, I’m an awkward lanky goof, and when there is a camera involved it’s a hot mess.

But back to my shirt. My shirt! A friend was wearing one she made, and when I commented on how much I liked it she bullied encouraged me to try sewing one for myself. I ordered the pattern online that same evening, and with speedy, instant gratification it was sent via PDF five minutes later.

All I could think about was sewing this shirt. I was possessed. I bought fabric the next morning, brought it home and washed it and watched it air dry, drumming my fingers, telling it to hurry up already.

It took me 4 hours to make, start to finish. Everything that could possibly go wrong did. I sewed the pocket upside down, then the side seams inside out. I had to rip out all the stitches but I didn’t mind. I was making a shirt, yo.

And then it was finished and I was in love. I put it on immediately, which was easy to do because I was wearing only my underwear solely in anticipation of the moment when I could put on my bespoke top. Bespoke — la tee dah!

Then I sat down and sewed another one.

I told you, I was possessed. The second one has a hand-sewn pocket. I used more expensive nani IRO fabric (I was ready!) and it only took me an hour. I’ve already worn it twice.

What shall I sew next?! Do you have pattern suggestions? Please send them my way! I’m giddy! I want to sew all the shirts!

Dear Neighbor, Please Don’t Die

Yesterday I thought my neighbor died.

Not to spoil the ending, but she is OK. Still kickin’ it with her TV at full volume. But she scared the sushi out of me and for some reason my reaction was intense enough that I feel like writing about it here.

Our neighbor is The Oldest Woman Alive. She is very tiny and when she speaks you can hear the wrinkles in her voice. Her name is Tanaka-san, and we introduced ourselves to her a few weeks ago when we moved in and brought her a box of mini cakes. Because old ladies should be allowed to eat all the cake they want.

Otherwise I rarely see Tanaka-san, though I’m constantly aware of her existence across the garden. Her house is 5 feet from ours and when the windows are open it is as if we are in the same building. I take solace in the fact that she is hard-of-hearing, so I don’t have to tip-toe or be too mindful of waking her from a nap. Good thing I like her enka music.

I have become accustomed to her schedule. Every morning she gets a call via intercom, someone from an Oldest Lady care facility checking in to say hello. Then in the afternoon she has a visitor from said care facility or gets picked up to take a walk wheelchair roll to the nearby Oldest Lady daycare center where she undoubtedly plays ring toss. At 5:28 every evening a bento is delivered to her door by a man too old to be riding a scooter. Evening means TV and enka.

Yesterday she didn’t answer her morning call. The intercom vibrated, “Tanaka-san? おはようございます! Tanaka-san? Good morning! Then a neighbor with a stern knock knock knock at the front door, and … nothing. No shrill response. No peeking through the straw shade. I began to worry.

About 5 minutes later I heard sirens. I thought, “Those sound close. No, they couldn’t possibly be for…” and with Tanaka-san’s phone on a constant ring-ring-riiiing the crew of rescure workers arrived. Like, 20 of them, running in-sync through our side street too small for their ambulance. The police swiftly followed, as did a staff person from the Oldest Lady care facility. I stood inside my house and chewed on my fingernails. No one could see me behind the screen which is behind the bushes, but I was waiting and straining to understand what they relayed into their walkie-talkies. I cursed my recent laziness from studying Japanese. Everyone stood outside my door which is outside her door and we waited.

Then suddenly the rescure workers left and only the police remained, which I thought was either a good sign or a very, very bad one.

And at last, the care worker breathes a よかった!It’s good!

From inside the house I hear a paramedic simply say, with a bit of a laugh, Good morning!

My heart was pounding during the entire ordeal. There was no need for an alarm clock — I was wide awake.

Though Tanaka-san has lived a long and hopefully fullfilling life, I’m not willing for her to go just yet. I’m rooting for her to make it another day, another year. She’s made it so far. Just a little further. She deserves more cake.

Life across the garden is quiet today, which makes me wonder, is tiny Tanaka-san embarrassed by the hubbub she caused? Certainly everyone in a 3-5 block radius heard it. Or did she have a minor stroke? Is she OK? I’m not sure, and I can’t ask. I can only wait, and wish her the best. Dear Tanaka-san, please don’t die.

Fire Flowers: A Free Summer Sashiko Pattern

It is hot in Tokyo right now, and though I dislike the heat I love the way Japan deals with it: twinkling wind chimes to remind you of a breeze, shaved ice and cold noodles, evening street festivals, and fireworks.

The word for fireworks in Japanese is hanabi, which roughly translates to “fire flower,” and which I think is delightful.

I sashiko’d this placemat for the shop where I take classes. They asked us to create fun sashiko pieces for their summer window display, and I thought long and hard about what could represent summer in Japan. It was either unagidon (grilled eel on rice) or fireworks, and in the end I decided fireworks would look prettier rendered in thread.

Fireworks are meant to be enjoyed together with lots of oohs and aahs, so what better way to celebrate summer than to share the pattern with you!

Click here to download the free PDF pattern.

I used variegated rainbow sashiko thread for the big blasts, white for the fountain, and scraps of pink and blue for the others. I have some extra rainbow thread, so if you’re interested send me an email at sakepuppets@gmail.com and I can throw together a small, inexpensive kit.

Happy hanabi!

Works In Progress: Gray (Grey?) Shoulder Bag

I spent a semester in London while a student, so now I can never spell grey (gray?) correctly.

Has it been over a year since I last looked at this project? Oh dear.

The last time you saw this bag it looked like this:

Perhaps it doesn’t seem like much has changed, but I swear it has. I’ve finished the sashiko stitching and now I just need my sensei to hold my hand while I pin and sew the pieces together. I’ve forgotten which goes where. It’s a bit of a mess, actually.

This shoulder bag was designed by my sensei and the kit was a bit on the expensive side, so I’ve really been wanting to finish it. And then I bought this expensive button to go with my expensive kit. They were a match made in heaven, I couldn’t help myself.

The lining she gave me is a bit ugly, so perhaps I need some expensive fabric to go with my expensive other parts. Dark is always good for the inside (dirt!) but I like a little surprise (color!) when I open my bag. Anyone have suggestions?

Super Deco!

Fellow Craft Club host Kim and I spent the afternoon making samples for our next class, Super Deco iPhone Cases. When I was 12 I bedazzled a jean jacket, but this is by far the most sparkly thing I have ever made:

I named mine Strawberry Sweetcake and Kim’s is Gothic Love. We didn’t make it far from the bead shop before ripping everything open. We huddled in the corner of a chain coffee shop with our gems, ice coffee and glue fumes, sticking sparkly things to other things with wild abandon.

 

Want to make one too? Come to the Craft Club! The Super Deco iPhone class meets Sunday July 22nd at 1 pm in Shinjuku Gyoen. All materials included and snacks for ¥5000, bring a friend and cost is just ¥3500 each. (Such a deal! Kim bought a similar case, ahem, our inspiration, at a Tokyo boutique for ¥6500!) Check this page for more details.

スーパーデコiPhoneのケース
2012年7月22日(日)13:00ー14:30

含まれる材料:iPhone4のケース、ビーズとキラキラ、レッスンメモ、お茶とお菓子
場所:新宿御苑 (ホームページ地図
参加費 :¥5000 –> お友達と参加すると割引があります! 2人=¥7000

A Lovely Crafternoon

I wanted to share a few photos from our Craft Club in Shinjuku Gyoen this past weekend.

This is what a craft class looks like before students arrive:

And this is shortly after:

I love it. It’s chaos, but the best kind. Here everyone is choosing fabrics for their quilt blocks from the pile of pre-cut squares I brought. Honestly, I think this is the hardest part. Sometimes I spend hours just staring at fabric, getting those color combos just right, and then sometimes I just grab randomly. I’m still not sure which method works better. (And yes, that is pudding on my pin case.)

For those who are curious (and I know you are!), in a rare tell-all moment, the inner workings of a quilt class are finally revealed. She’s lifting up her skirt and showing you everything, that dirty little quilt class.

The true secret to a great quilt? Ice coffee. Always coffee.

The Flying Geese start to take shape…

Everyone in class was planning to do something different with their quilt blocks: some were keeping them for a larger quilt, another was making a pillowcase, and one person decided maybe she’d like a coaster-sized quilt block rather than a placemat. :) I attached mine to a tote bag.

I decided this Flying Geese pinwheel looks like the geese are stuck in a tornado.

Thanks again to everyone who joined us on Sunday! The next class in the quilting series will be held Sunday August 12th, and we’re decorating iPhone cases on July 22nd! Hope you’ll join us. (For class info, check this link. Thanks!)

E-zine giveaway winners, & a Craft Club reminder!

Thanks to everyone for your comments! It’s fun to hear from everyone !

And without further delay, the winners of &Stitches Issue 3 are:

Congratulations to Laura and Kathryn! (Kathryn, please get in touch with me at sakepuppets@gmail.com to claim your prize.) To everyone else, thanks again for your kind words and support. *blush*

You can still get a copy for yourself at the &Stitches web shop for £4.50 (use the code momiji to get 10% of until July 7th). What a deal!

And for those in Tokyo, don’t forget we’re holding the next English Craft Club in Shinjuku Gyoen (if it rains we’ll be under a covered pavilion). Check this link or email me for details. Hope to see you there!

&Stitches e-zine (and giveaway!)

Update: We’re no longer accepting entries for this giveaway. Winners will be announced later today. Thanks!

* * *

Recently the quarterly e-zine &Stitches asked me to contribute to their Asia-inspired issue, and I happily accepted! I provided a short background and tutorial on my favorite Japanese craft, sashiko.

&Stitches is a digital magazine focused on modern embroidery. My sashiko tutorial in this quarter’s issue includes the traditional seigaiha pattern, or blue ocean waves.

The e-zine contains lots of other great stuff too, including embroidery tutorials, patterns, book reviews and interviews, including one by Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching, whose cheeky patterns helped me rediscover embroidery almost 10 years ago (whoa!). I’ve already devoured the entire issue and enjoyed flipping through the lovely, really colorful photographs. You can check out the &Stitches Facebook page or click on over to their blog to pick up a copy. Use code momiji during check out to receive a 10% discount on your zine purchase, valid through July 7th. Along with the issue you’ll also receive a coupon for free shipping until July 15th on any purchase in my Etsy shop.

But better yet, you can win a free copy! The fine ladies at &Stitches have offered to giveaway two issues to readers of this blog. Leave a comment here before midnight Thursday July 5th Tokyo time, and I’ll use a random number generator to select two lucky readers. Talk about happy stitchin’!

You can also check out the Saké Puppets Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, or peek at my online Etsy shop, where new fabrics and patterns are being updated. Thanks!

P.S. I should note that &Stitches hails from the UK, where the term “oriental” doesn’t have the same connotations as it can in American English. It goes without saying that the &Stitches team is excited about introducing their readers to embroidery styles from around the world.

I’ll stab you in the eye.

But first, I’ll stab myself in the finger. Repeatedly.

I learned the hard way that drinking wine while needle felting is not a good idea.

Needle felting is a bit trendy in Japan now, so it is easy to find inexpensive, adorable felting kits. This was my first attempt so I wanted to start slowly. I skipped all things cute and cuddly (with limbs — too advanced!) and instead opted for beer snacks on a strap.

Beer, fava bean, beer snacks.

The kit comes with everything you need … except the most important part, the needle. You have to get that yourself, probably because felting needles are a bit more expensive than your average needle. The instructions also recommend purchasing a foam base. A friend gave me a tip and suggested using a cheap kitchen sponge from the 100 yen shop. It was a bit clumsy to work with, but I’m not sure it was the sponge’s fault.

Felting needles are unique in that they have tiny barbs near the tip, which catch the wool fibers and help felt it together.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I tried reading the Japanese instructions, then watched a few YouTube videos and stabbed at some wool for a while. And stabbed and stabbed. And then I missed a few times. Blood functions as glue, right?

Eventually I got my revenge.

This wasn’t merely torture. I was making french knots for eyes.

In the end I enjoyed needle felting. I liked the way the wool roving transformed into a tiny nest of fibers. It was the opposite of untangling a knot. And I also really like stabbing at things.

Eventually, wooly snacks emerged. I like they way they smirk. It seems they’re a little salty.

English Craft Club 7月8日: Flying Geese Quilts

The next English Craft Club class meets Sunday July 8th in Shinjuku Gyoen! This upcoming class is part of the American Quilt Series, and up this week is the Flying Geese block.

This block was fun to put together, and can be arranged in a variety of ways to create some interesting patterns. Come try it for yourself!

Finished quilt blocks can be used to create a placemat, decorate a tote bag or cushion cover, or save to add to a larger quilt. All project materials and light snacks are included. Cost is 5000 yen per person, or bring a friend and get a discount! The English Craft Club is open to everyone — men, women, both native speakers and those learning English. If you are interested in joining the class, please send an email to sakepuppets@gmail.com to register. Hope to see you there!

You can find more information about upcoming classes by clicking the links below. Thanks!

Sunday July 8th: Schedule
12:55  Meet at the Okido Gate at Shinjuku Gyoen
13:00  Class begins! Choose fabric and begin project
14:00  Break for snacks and refreshments
14:30  Class instruction ends, but feel free to stay until 15:00 to finish your project and chat with instructors and new friends

* * *

キルトを学びます。型紙の写し方、キルトのステッチをお教えします。キルトはテーブルに置くコースターか、トートバッグの飾りとして使えます。

計画
12:55 新宿御苑の大木戸門で集合
13:00 レッスンを始めしょう! 単語集を習ったり、ご自身で布を選んで頂きます。
14:00 休憩
14:30 ワークショップ終了。15:00までは講師が残っています。

含まれる材料:ご自身で選んだ布、糸、型紙、レッスンメモ

『The English Craft Club』は楽しく英語を勉強するクラブです。毎回のクラスごとに、皆さまに各自で作品を作って頂きます。クラフトをしながら、様々な表現や英単語を楽しく勉強していきます。

『The English Craft Club』に参加をご希望の方は、以下のアドレスまでご連絡下さい。ご質問もお気軽にどうぞ。(英語・日本語どちらでも結構です)sakepuppets@gmail.com