Spring Circle Scarf

While visiting the Kawaii Nunohaku craft fair last month I bought two small pieces of fabric from a Kamakura-based shop owner. The fabric was a beautiful pairing and I knew right away that I wanted to use them in a scarf.

A beautiful pairing.I know nothing about these fabrics except that the colorful one is incredibly soft and light, is screen or maybe woodblock printed, and the other is linen. It might be hand-printed, too. I decided to make a circle scarf like the one I saw on Miss Matatabi’s site. I cut each piece into two 12″ by 30″ rectangles and sewed the short ends together. Following the directions here, I sewed the two fabrics together along their long edges then turned the scarf right-side-out, hiding the seams and pressing it crisp. I joined the remaining short ends and finished it with hand-stitching.

A spring circle scarf. I’m really pleased.

The *New* Tokyo Craft Guide

I’m really excited to share the news — I’m writing a book!

The New Tokyo Craft Guide

My friend Frances of Miss Matatabi and I have joined forces to put together the Tokyo Craft Guide, an ebook showcasing our favorite Tokyo craft shops, cafes, and project tutorials.

*\(^O^)/*

We have accumulated a list of over 50 craft stores (!!) and organized them in a series of craft-shopping-excursions complete with illustrated neighborhood walking maps, shop highlights, and favorite cafe spots. It is like a treasure map with the best kind of treasure – fabric! ribbon! buttons!

The idea for the Tokyo Craft Guide was born when we realized our favorite independently-owned craft stores are sometimes hard to find. They require extra effort to get to, but when you do you’re rewarded with lovely nooks of fabric, supplies and project inspiration, each with its own character or style. This is the type of experience we want to share.

The Tokyo Craft Guide ebook will be available next month, and in the meantime you can visit our blog for additional shop profiles, events and interviews. Much of the content I have offered previously on Saké Puppets will move over there and get a much-needed update, so fear not! You can also find photos and Japanese craft chatter on our Facebook page, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

We’re really excited to finally share this project with you! Please take a look, and thanks!!

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Vegetarian Ramen

Vegetarianism is a tricky concept in Japan. The words vegetable and vegetarian get mixed up, and you’ll order a vegetarian something and it will arrive with shrimp on it. The recommended meal for many veg visitors to Tokyo is … Indian food. It is not impossible to be a vegetarian here, it is just more work. Vegetarians who are able or willing to eat dashi, a broth made from dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna (also known as bonito and katsuobushi) have a much easier time. As a visiting-vegetarian friend said, she didn’t realize that dishes made with dashi would be so heavy. You mean flavorful? That, my friend, would be the animal.

I eat meat but trend vegetarian, so when I find a great vegetarian anything I get excited (like this shojin ryori). This week I found vegetarian ramen.

VegeRamen Nana8

Real deal vegetarian ramen. That’s lotus root, okra, mushrooms, radish, grated daikon, tomato, onions and greens in a flavorful vegetable broth. Even the noodles are green.

VegeRamen Nana

They are made from spirulina. I don’t actually know what that is, but I trust my man James. Every year the ramen chain Kagetsu Arashi offers a vegetarian ramen as a healthy alternative to the fat-packed kind. A vegetarian friend here admitted to eating it every day for a week straight, and I assume he is still going strong. Keep it up man! They’re offering it until May!

Since it’s healthy, why not get the veggie gyoza? Vegetarians need junk food, too.

Vege gyoza

New Spring Sashiko Kit

Spring has taken hold of me. I ate two sakura-flavored mochi today. No lie.

Every year I put out a sakura-themed sashiko kit because I think sakura and sashiko are such as lovely little pair. And they are fun to say. Go ahead and try it: sakura sashiko sakura sashiko sakura sashiko. Catchy, right?sakura sashiko embroidery kitThis year I designed a pouch kit. These metal squeeze clasps are a new discovery for me and they are great. Easy to use, the metal clasp stays closed tightly and makes such an interesting and unexpected detail.squeeze! sakura sashiko pouchThis sashiko kit is easy to assemble in an afternoon and can be sewn entirely by hand. It is a great kit for beginner embroiderers, too. The finished pouch is 5″ by 6 1/2″ (125 mm by 165 mm), perfect for cosmetics, jewelry, small toys or treasures. Both small and large sakura patterns are included so you can design the layout yourself, and the pouch can be made with flat or boxed corners, your choice!

You can find the kits here. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!sakura sashiko diy embroidered pouch kitsakura trio DIY sashiko pouch

Sashiko Picnic

Today the weather was beautiful. I packed a lunch, hopped on my bike and peddled out for an impromptu picnic.sashiko bentospring sakura sashikoMy neighborhood has a take-away karaage (fried chicken) shop which proves irresistible at lunchtime when they stack bentos in the front window. Next door is a sweets shop, so into my bike’s basket went a sakura-shaped sugar cookie for dessert.springtime picnic lunchsakura wasanbonThe sakura trees are just starting to bloom in Tokyo. I found a few over-achieving blossoms that had already fallen and scooped them up to take along. The wasanbon cookie was stuffed with azuki red bean paste and much too sweet for my liking. It looked pretty anyway.sakura trioThe footpath that runs through Setagaya is lined with small gardens, play areas, and occasionally a small stream. As I ate my lunch I dropped the blossoms into the water. They meandered about 5 or 6 meters before getting caught on a rock. A bit later a small girl noticed them and plucked one out, very proud of her find.floating sakuraAh, spring.

A Candy Party in My Bag

I am in love with Kokka’s new fabric Candy Party Tsuzuki. When Miss Matatabi gave me a few chunks I jumped right in and made this tiny punky needle book. Then … I stalled out. I put it on my desk and stared at it. I was dizzy with infatuation. What to do next? Do I cut it up and re-piece it, or do I use the pattern as-is? I thought about making a skirt but decided that is too bold, even for me, even for Tokyo. I considered a clutch, a backpack, more zipper pouches. I wanted something big to show off every combination of patterns I could muster.

candy party laptop caseMy laptop needed dressing up, it was an ideal match. Now, when I dig into my shoulder bag I see my Candy Party laptop gettin’ down in there.

laptop case by Saké PuppetsThis envelope-style laptop case is a combination of the pink-gold and blue-lilac colorways pieced together. I think it rocks, so much so that I ordered more of the purple-mint. What next?!

Late afternoon

afternoon sun, stitching, teaToday I have been quiet under the kotatsu. I stitched up a hankerchief and played with the idea of a new spring sashiko kit. The sun shone brightly and Tanaka-san went out for a ride. She, too, has been quiet so I was happy to see her in the sunshine, wheeled away in a bright purple hat but with her face to the sky.

As the late afternoon sun dwindles from my apartment I think about where I was two years ago when the Tohoku earthquake hit Japan. That leads me to think about where I was five years ago, and then 10. Life changes suddenly sometimes.

My heart aches, so as the afternoon sun dwindles I sit quietly on the tatami and I stitch.

Pattern Frenzy

A while back Vogue had a sale on all their sewing patterns, so I bought three. This is definitely wishful thinking. I can’t imagine I will find the time to make all of these dresses.

vogue patternsI bought them because they were inexpensive and I thought they might be nice patterns for a beginner. I am going to cut into that pattern tissue, yes I am.

A friend recently bought a real-deal Von Furstenberg and looked great in it, which was the inspiration for 8646. I have no idea what I was thinking about 8825. Those sleeves are sort of hideous. (Though the blue version on their website is much better, and this version rocks.)

The hardest part about sewing is conjuring up an image of the final project — what fabric to use, how it will drape, how I could possibly customize it? I have no idea.

While frolicking in the US last summer I stopped by JoAnn Fabrics and found all their patterns on sale for cheap, like $1 or something ridiculous. I can’t quite remember, it all went a little blurry after the frenzy hit. I had forgotten about them until I went to put my new Vogue numbers away.

pattern frenzyI now remember my excitement about Ms. 8727. In 2006 (or 2005?) I bought a dress similar to view B at H&M for $15, and it is one of my favorite dresses. It fits me perfectly, is printed linen with a lined bodice and pockets, and I still wear it all summer. Even though styles in Japan are quite modest and that much semi-cleavage is scandalous. I don’t care, I need pockets! For years I have been dreaming of making one in every color of the rainbow but didn’t actually know how to do that. Until now!

This is quite the lineup, and none of it gets started until after this:

Nani iro + ElisalexI decided to join another sew-along, this time for the By Hand London’s Elisalex dress. I am making it in Nani iro linen. My excitement can only be adequately described in emoji: ヾ(^O^)ノ

Shojin Ryori

I had a fancy meal.

shojin ryori

It was a 3 hour endeavor, and by the end I was so stuffed I couldn’t finish my strawberries. I begged my friends to eat them so I wouldn’t offend the chef.

This is shojin ryori, vegetarian Buddhist cuisine. No animals were harmed in the making of this meal, my friends. Unlike the multi course kaiseki ryori meals I have had in Kyoto, which are very rich from miso and fish, this meal was light and flavorful. Almost refreshing.

Starting at the top left: tea with brown sugar sweets; sesame greens, pickles, and sweet black beans; walnut tofu and soup with yuzu and something that looked like grass but didn’t taste like it. Second row: vegetables and tofu made with a rice batter that puffs when it is fried, dipped in salt rather than a sauce; shitake sashimi that were incredible and tasted like they could have been fish; more mountain greens, a fruit similar to an apricot, and the only konnyaku I have ever enjoyed. Last row: hand-cut soba served in a basket; rice, miso and mushroom soup, and more pickles; finally, strawberries for dessert. I missed snapping a photo of one course, a baked soup with vegetables and a ginko nut, probably because I was getting behind on my courses and was focused on eating everything before they took it away.

This dinner was pricey, but one of the best meals I have had in Japan and the casual yet elegant environment was perfect for a Sunday evening with friends. And who can put a price on that, really.

Itosho いと正 is located in Azabu juban. Check here for a map.