Tiny Punky Needle Book

After paying proper respect to my old sewing needles at the harikuyou 針供養 festival, I started to feel bad about how I treat my other needles. Usually they are scattered on my desk, with random bits of string left threaded to help me find them when they drop to the floor. They deserve a happier place to live.

tiny punky needle case

I whipped up this needle book using the new Kokka fabric Candy Party Tsuzuki, a gift from my friend Miss Matatabi. I bought the button months ago because fancy zebras are awesome.

needle book, needle bed

candy party!

I am really excited about this fabric. Triangles and neon and sparkles. Yes! It’s like Harajuku wrapped up in a little fabric bow: super sweet and a bit punky.

kokka candy party

I put a pocket in the back to hold my Japanese needles because their packaging is just too lovely not to keep. They are from my friend Inna who really knows her needles. They be fancy.

How do you store your needles?

Head Tube

I did it. It only took me a month, but it felt like forever.

head tube as a hat

I finished the hat/muffler/head tube I started on a whim last month when I was overtaken by the knitting bug. This certainly cured it. It wasn’t an unpleasant project to knit. I likened it to a sudoko puzzle: not difficult, but work. An inexplicable something you just have to do. I would curse my hat/muffler/head tube and Dan would suggest I just give up on it. My response, “Why would I do that? I’m having fun.”

knit pic

So after you have spent a month of your life knitting something, and you knit the final knit and put it on your head with excitement, turn to your spouse and ask, “How does it look?” What do you do when they say, “Well, it’s not really your style.”

Translation: “That thing is super ugly.”

There are many correct answers, of course. If you threw the head tube in his face, I’d say that is acceptable. I told him that actually, it was OK because I made it for him. And I hope he wears it everyday. Like this:

head tube

And of course he will.

Ps, ravelry notes here.

Let’s get to know each other.

Last month I posted a survey and asked you to tell me a bit about yourselves. Many of you responded and left notes that were a delight to read. Thanks again to all of you for taking the time!

When I sat down to look at the answers the first thing I saw was the comment “I love you.” I scrolled over to see it was from a male in his 50s… gah! Gross. I scrolled a bit more, it was someone from the United States, from the same town as my parents … Oh. Thanks Dad, I love you too.

After recovering from that initial gut drop, I was excited to read the results. Something you may not know about me — I am a data nerd. I love spreadsheets and in my pre-Japan life I designed databases for money. And for fun. So these survey results are my bag, baby. Don’t worry, I will spare you the dirty little database details and share only the hits.

Of those who responded, most of you identified yourselves as female with ages ranging from  their 20s to those in their 60s.

who are you?

Together you come from 17 different countries and speak 18 different languages.

where are you?

Most of you did not want to hear my knock-knock jokes. Your loss, folks.

Turns out that many of you come to Saké Puppets to hear about Japan or crafts, or both. This wasn’t too surprising since my most-clicked posts are about sashiko, Japanese craft books, and my reaction to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

sashiko kits

Only 42% come here to spy on my life. Or only 42% admitted they come here to spy. I honestly thought that number would be much higher, since spying is the only reason I read blogs. I am nosey.

I was also surprised to hear that so many of you are interested in hearing about travel escapades around Japan (76%) and the food we are eating (65%). If I have to sacrifice myself to more trips to the mountains for ramen, then so be it!

ramen

Lastly, many of you asked for more sashiko (64%), which is where I am headed in the very near future. I hope to bring you more projects featuring my own unique style and also provide access to traditional pattern resources. I have some very exciting things to share.

Thank you again to everyone who responded! And if you didn’t but are lurking there in the shadows, that’s cool too. Thanks for stopping by! ☆彡

Happy Valentine’s Day ❤

In Japan women do the gifting on Valentine’s Day. Many make chocolates for their friends and sweethearts, which means that this time of year every 100 yen shop and supermarket is stocked with chocolate-making and wrapping paraphernalia. I’ve been ogling adorable, tiny, heart-shaped boxes for weeks.

The thing I discovered, however, is that for most people making chocolates means melting chocolates, then reshaping and decorating them with waxy sprinkles and frosting to make them all somewhat inedible.

I do not like frosting. Or sprinkles. Making chocolates is otherwise appealing, so at my local 100 yen shop I picked up a chocolate mold kit with foil wrappers, which I thought was a good compromise.

I used a double boiler to melt the chocolate then poured it into my mold. After an hour in the refrigerator they popped out easily. I wrapped them in foil, creating tiny hedgehogs, sheep, and cows. Gathered in the box, they look like they’ve been corralled into a barnyard.

chocolate molding supplies

pink sheep, hedgehogs, and cows

chocolate molding

Will you be my valentine?

chocolate barn yard

Happy Valentine's Day!

Then I added neon hearts and sparkle snowflakes to my photo, just in case it wasn’t sweet enough. Happy Valentine’s Day from Japan!

Harikuyou Needle Festival

On Friday I went to a local harikuyou 針供養 festival. February 8th is a day to pay respect to your old sewing needles by sticking them in tofu.

Needles stuck in soft tofu, their reward for a job well-done

The idea is that your needles have worked hard and have served you well, and so deserve a soft place to live our their final days.

My friend who is also a stitcher and I joined women in kimono and men in glimmering robes inside the small temple. We were ushered in and we kneeled on pillows. A box of incense passed our way and we were encouraged to pinch some into the embers and pray. We lined up with everyone and stuck our needles into the tofu. Then the temple ladies handed us sweet amazake. They reminded us it was cold outside, we needed to drink up, and handed us a second cup.

Needles in a bed of tofu for harikuyou

After the ceremony we went outside and noticed women were also dropping pins and needles into a large stone box. We peeked inside and saw it was filled up to the eaves. They told us it has been a resting place for needles for as long as the temple has been there. (I looked at their website, maybe since 1608?)

Needles of days past

We strolled around the temple grounds, admiring the ume trees in bloom. It was cold, but a lovely day.

森嚴寺

Just before I placed my needle into the tofu I accidentally pricked myself with it, and it drew a little blood. He (yes, he) wouldn’t go without a fight. I felt some remorse about sending him to his end, so I hope I did right by this little needle in finding him a tofu bed.

I bought a good luck charm from the temple to help me while sewing this year. I haven’t pricked myself since.

森嚴寺

Ps, I have updated this post so it no longer refers to my friend and myself as sewers. We are indeed people who use needles, not big holes of crap. ;)

Wool Winter Skirt

A winter skirt, just in time for spring. This lovely wool was given to me years ago and I finally felt confident enough to sew something with it. I used the new Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt pattern, which is designed for hippy ladies such as myself. A nice match, I think.

Sewaholic skirt, vintage wool

It reminds me a little of a skirt my mom used to have. Or the one Vera Ellen wears around the fire in White Christmas. You know the one.

wool winter skirt

I have a teeny confession to make, however. The hem is only basted. I don’t own a full length mirror, I usually reply on shop windows as I walk to the subway station. The barber is used to me adjusting my pants in front of his window, and we are both OK with that. I’m not yet sold on this skirt’s length (I added 2 inches to view A) and wanted help from these photos. So don’t look too closely.

I  completed this skirt as part of a Hollyburn sew-along. The pattern was easy to understand, but because it is wool I thought it was necessary to add a lining and it turns out I needed a little hand-holding. Thankfully Rachel at My Messings did a step-by-step guide. This was my first garment with a zipper and a lining so there is definitely room for improvement, but I’m happy with they way it turned out. Well, after it is hemmed, maybe in time for next autumn.

Pay no mind to the wrinkles.

English Craft Club, this Sunday 2月10日

The first English Craft Club gathering of the year is this Sunday, and just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Valentine's Day!

A fun tradition in the United States, I used to get together with my friends to make handmade Valentine’s Day cards to give to sweethearts and loved ones. This Sunday we will gather around the kotatsu, eat chocolate and make beautiful cards. I’ll provide all of the materials and lots of inspiration and card ideas!

Click here for class details, and here for some project ideas. Email me at sakepuppets@gmail.com for reservations. See you there!

Pinterest Valentines

A Practice Gift

For Christmas I made my husband a shirt. It was a gift, but also a little selfish since I really wanted to hide at home and sew for a few days.

shirt and shadowsI chose the Colette Negroni pattern because word on the Internet was it is an easy pattern to tackle, which turned out to be true. It was fun to put together. I may have squealed with delight, sitting there alone in my apartment. Or perhaps Tanaka-san heard me and shared in the fun.

It was a risky undertaking since I had never before made something with so much detail — pockets! button holes! cuffs! a collar! — and if the project fell terribly apart, I was left with no backup plan. Thankfully it worked out well, for both us.

flirty pockets

This is the practice shirt, which I made out of cheap polyester-something, and it has been worn about a dozen times without washing. I think he likes it. I keep saying he can pick out the fabric for the real shirt but he has to go to Nippori with me to do so. Maybe there is a bit of selfishness in that offer, too.

The Tokyo Quilt Festival

This week I visited the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival. If you tell me something will be great, I am instantly skeptical. But this was great, at least for the few short hours I was able to withstand old ladies and their elbows. Don’t let those canes fool you, they are swift and deadly.Entering the Dome

Thank goodness I was at least a head taller than everyone, so getting a peep at the quilts was no problem. My view for most of the morning was something like this:

View from the top

In all earnestness, I had a lovely time with the old gals. My Japanese sewing vocabulary is well rounded, as is my ability to exclaim simultaneous astonishment and compliment with only mouth sounds (eeehhhhhHHHHH?!), so we got along quite nicely.

crazy triangle quilt

Occasionally someone would look over their shoulder to check for the Quilt Police and then gently lift the quilt to sneek a peek at the backside, and I’d crane my neck to catch a glimpse, too. We’d nod in understanding. You can always spot a fellow quilter or embroiderer, someone who is just as interested in the back as they are in the front.

tiny hand pieced

While most people were fawning over the traditional quilts, I really enjoyed the “wa” quilts category (和のキルト部門), described as quilts with a unique Japanese quality to them. Many were constructed from Japanese kimono silk and were quite vibrant, but I prefered the naturally-dyed blues and grays of old ikat cottons.

not so sexy hexy

My favorite was this double wedding ring quilt. I was lucky to catch a moment with no one between it and me and I snapped a photo — I’m standing straight in front, but notice how the rings are different sizes. I wish I could have taken this one home with me.

wonky double wedding

Another favorite of the day was the pudding quilt. Obviously.

pudding

You can see more photos of my favorites here on Flickr. This was my first quilt festival — has anyone else attended one? How do you think it compares? I’d love to hear!