Saké Puppets around the Web

Hello! I thought I’d share a quick update on some things happening around the Saké Puppets studio. First, I am very excited to share that I am now contributing to the Miss Matatabi Makers, where each month I’ll be sewing a new project with the delightful Japanese fabrics available in Miss Matatabi’s shop. You can take the girl out of Japan, but she’ll take the fabric with her. (^_−)−☆

Saké Puppets for Miss Matatabi MakersRiding Peplum by Saké Puppets for Miss Matatabi MakersClick on over to check out my first post, the new Riding Peplum pattern by April Rhodes in JUBILEE cotton lawn. Whoosh!

I also recently contributed a sashiko tutorial and coaster pattern to Kindred Stitches, a digital hand-craft magazine available on the Apple Newsstand. There are some very sweet projects included in the Japanese issue, so if you are interested, head on over to iTunes to check it out.

Knit Bits

This winter I am spending a lot of time with knitting needles. My grandmother, who taught me how to knit and indulged my love of crafts when I was young, passed away last month. Together we would make plastic canvas needlepoint houses and bake cookies until there was no more room for cookies or needlepoint houses. Right, like that ever happened.

Over the past few years I have learned how I best handle grief. When I lose someone I care about I like to spend time alone, doing something I enjoy that also honors them. I take that time to reflect and try to focus on happy memories and it helps me feel close to them. So in the days leading up to her funeral, I channeled my energy into finishing the epic cowl I began knitting in November. My grandmother stopped knitting years ago because of arthritis, but she loved to see what I was working on and was an avid follower of this blog. So I dropped everything, and I knit.

Empalme cowl, knit by Saké PuppetsThe pattern is Empalme, which I purchased from the wonderful shop Yarn + Co when I was in Melbourne. I bought the yarn at Avril in Tokyo, carried it all with me to Brooklyn, and finished it in Minneapolis where my grandmother lived. The yarn is super soft 100% merino wool and varies in thickness, which gives the whole project a very natural, organic texture.

My one note about this pattern, I probably did not have to knit all 13 repeats, since it turned out quite long. But it is incredibly soft and I love the pattern, and it is still the knitting project I’m proudest of to date.Behind the scenes as chez Saké PuppetsI got in the groove with my cowl and wasn’t ready to be done knitting, so I made a hat as a gift for a friend (first hat!) and then another for myself. The pattern is Dreiecke, made with stash yarn. This is the first time I have had stash yarn to use, and, it pretty much blew my mind. I had all the pieces I needed, and on a cold snowy night when the urge to knit struck, all I had to do was rummage around in my knit bin for my knit bits and get started. I now understand the urge to stash-build/yarn-hoard. Who needs the excitement of a new city to explore?! Olympics! Stash yarn! I’m set for winter, friends.Hiding my cold-chapped face

Handmade holidays with family: wreaths!

The past weeks have been a whirlwind. Arriving in the US in time for Thanksgiving means we jumped head-first into holiday gatherings with family and friends, though I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I’ve been treated to a birthday dinner with a gigantic chocolate and peanut butter cake, a holiday play at my nephew’s elementary school, apartment-hunting in New York followed by lambrusco dinner parties, welcome-back cocktails, and brunches with friends, and even a quick trip to DC that resulted in a snowstorm and an extra 4 hours on a bus in New Jersey but because I had my knitting, I didn’t even mind.

Recently my family started a holiday tradition of getting together for an annual wreath-making party, and I was excited to join them. With metal frames from old store-bought wreaths now reused every year, we wired-in fresh greens from the yard. I was encouraged to just go for it — freeform wreaths! No rules DIY is my kind of DIY.

Look at that gigantic pinecone!handmade holiday wreathsWe snipped small bits of juniper, evergreen, holly and magnolia and wired them into clumps, wired them to our frames, and filled in as needed. Sometimes we put a bird on it.

My first attempt! A juniper wreath Attempt #2, a magnolia wreath with hollyhandmade holiday wreathhandmade juniper wreathhandmade holidays! by Saké PuppetsMy wreaths look a little more wild and haphazard than the pros, who have been doing this for a few years now. But they were really easy and fun to make, and the room smelled amazing. And, they cost us nothing!

What are you making for the holidays? I might graduate next to a swag, or maybe even a garland — it’s a handmade holiday party in here!

Handmade gift wrap ideas for the holidays – - – sashiko furoshiki!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

In the midst of the madness that is my overseas move, I decided to release two new sashiko patterns. Yessir! sashiko furoshiki by Saké PuppetsInspired by Japan’s gift-giving culture, I made sashiko-embellished furoshiki for the holidays. Furoshiki are cloths used for gift wrapping and they create lovely, elegant packages. The fanciest of gifts are always wrapped in furoshiki cloths. In addition, furoshiki are often considered a gift themselves, and can be used as tablecloths, scarves, or tied into handbags.

furoshiki as tablecloth by Saké Puppets

I have also been thinking about how to make holiday gift wrap more sustainable. From year to year my family tends to save and reuse ribbons and bags, so why not throw a few furoshiki in the mix as well? 

The first pattern was inspired by winter snowflakes, which I love to sashiko stitch onto indigo fabric because they evoke memories of quiet snow falling late at night. The pattern can be repeated to create a border design or fit into corners.

sashiko snowflakes by Saké PuppetsThe second pattern is a simple modern sampler. I originally created this design to use on iPad or tablet cases, but discovered it makes for a beautiful furoshiki as well. One of the wonderful things about sashiko patterns is that they can be embroidered anywhere! The pattern is a 25 cm square (9 7/8″) that can be sized up or down to your liking.

Sashiko is great for iPad, tablet and Kindle cases, pattern by Saké PuppetsBoth patterns are available for download on Etsy, along with several other patterns that are also well-suited for furoshiki. Check back here soon for tutorials on how to make and wrap furoshiki, and click over here for step-by-step instructions on how to embroider with sashiko.

Happy holidays everyone!

Ahoy!

Hello dear friends. It has been too long! My confession: I was on holiday in New Zealand for a few weeks and, silly me, I thought I would have oodles of time to post about the crafts I brought with me and the new patterns I’m designing. As it turns out, vacationing is tough work! My days were busy and I returned to Tokyo with all of my projects still unfinished. I realize no one will feel an ounce of sympathy, but I had to plead my case.

We rented a small camper van and drove around NZ’s South Island, stopping at a different gorgeous location each night. We saw seals and penguins and whales, drove through avalanche zones and vineyards, and strategized our stops based on sunrises and sunsets. I learned to appreciate savory pies (steak and peas!) and found a favorite Marlborough sauvi.

New Zealand sceneryI did get to do a bit of knitting. The cliff-sides and river banks dotted with sheep and newborn lambs had me inspired, and I marched straight into the first wool shop I could find for some locally-sourced merino. Cruellas in Nelson set me up with a pattern, yarn and needles, and kindly held my hand the next morning when I returned with many questions.

New Zealand sheepOthers in our party found the sheep inspiring in a different way, and instead sought out the nearest grocer stocking lamb and mint sausages.

On our way back to Tokyo we stopped in Melbourne where I stocked up on Frankie magazines, merino knit jersey from The Fabric Store, and more yarn and patterns from Yarn + Co, a super hip yarn shop in Fitzroy. It was their neon accessories in the window that caught my attention, but the friendly owner, wall of alpaca yarns and huge couch had me there for quite a while.

New Zealand and Melbourne craft-capadesIt was an unforgettable trip. But now that I’m in Tokyo I am happy to be back at work! There are many exciting things happening here — I can’t wait to share them all with you!

We rented our van from Wilderness Motorhomes and had a great experience. I highly recommend them!

Hitomezashi sashiko: a tutorial

Yesterday I posted the result of my year-long endeavor with hitomezashi, the “one-stitch” style of sashiko done with alternating over-and-under stitches.

hitomezashi by Saké PuppetsToday I thought I’d post a tutorial so you can try this style of sashiko at home. I bought a pre-printed pattern, but once I got going I realized it wasn’t necessary. Hitomezashi is straightforward, with alternating stitches on a grid. Much like knitting, the repeating pattern is easy to memorize and follow.

Let’s begin by drawing your grid onto your fabric. I made my lines 1/4″ apart. Draw lightly, you want these to wash out later, but you also don’t want them to wear off too soon.

sashiko tutorial by Saké PuppetsNow you’ll simply follow a pattern, making one stitch per space on the grid.

a sashiko tutorial by Saké Puppets

Stitch all of the horizontal lines first, then proceed to stitch all of the vertical lines. In the end, your pattern will emerge!

a sashiko tutorial by Saké PuppetsI have broken the kaki no hana (persimmon flower) pattern down and isolated just the horizontal and vertical stitch lines in separate graphics. This pattern is done on a repeat, so you can make your project as large (or as tiny!) as you’d like.  The key to remember is that as you work your line, you are always alternating stitches — one up, one down, one up, one down, and so on. If you skip a space on the grid, it will throw your whole pattern off.

Once complete, wash or spray your project with water to remove the grid lines. Hem or use bias tape on the edges for a nice finish.

You can create different designs by changing the patterns on the horizontal or vertical axis. Enjoy! I look forward to seeing your masterpieces!

step 1: horizontal linesstep 2: vertical linesVoila! the pattern emerges! A sashiko tutorial by Saké Puppets

Persimmon Flowers Sashiko

ImageFinishing this sashiko project was like a deep sigh of relief.  Finally, I did it.

I bought this pre-printed pattern from Hobbyra Hobbyre last summer and have worked on it on-and-off since. This style of sashiko is called hitomezashi, or one-stitch sashiko. Hitomezashi is typically done on a grid with over-under stitches, each stitch and space equal in length and, if done neatly, is reversible. I know you think that is crazy talk, but I’ve seen it done and it is amazing. All you quilters and embroiderers out there know what I mean — typically the first thing I do when examining someone’s work is look at the back, right?! How do they hide all those ends? Well, I know how they do it; turns out I’m just lazy.

hitomezashi sashiko by Saké PuppetsNeedless to say, mine is not reversible. Hobbyra patterns (as well as Olympus) come printed on double-wide cotton, so you can fold and stitch through two layers or use the extra fabric to cover the ugly back when you are finished. This pattern is called kaki no hana, the flower of a persimmon.

This pre-printed pattern was a good introduction to hitomezashi, it just took me a long time to finish. I got bored and put it away, would pick it up again for a week or so, get bored, move on to something else …. you know how it goes. But now I’m so glad I saw it through.

* Update: want the pattern? Now you can find it here!

kaki no hana, persimmon flowers sashiko by Saké Puppets

Stitch Show at Spiral

Hi everyone! I went over to Spiral this weekend (dodging the typhoon!) and checked out the Stitch Show embroidery exhibition they were hosting. I posted some photos over at Tokyo Craft Guide, so if you are interested pop over and take a peek. The exhibition was based on this book, available online. Enjoy!

I’m now feeling really inspired to stitch something. ;)

Stitch Show embroidery exhibition and book, via Tokyo Craft Guide

We Are Champions

I buy many Japanese craft and sewing books. They are my guilty pleasure. Besides fabric, parfaits, wedge sandals, cappuccinos, and macarons.

I like to share the projects my craft books inspire, like my mega hair bows, felt veggies, and embroidered badges. Japanese books have excellent illustrations (as do menus and train safety signs), and with my somewhat-functional language skills I can figure things out with little problem. But this book had me stumped.

下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko Shimoda下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko Shimoda includes 23 techniques for embroidery and hand sewing. It is a beautiful book with stunning examples of smocking, scalloping, gathering and quilting.

p10-11 下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko Shimodap38 下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko Shimodap40-41 下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko Shimodap57 下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko Shimodap62-63 下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko Shimodap64-65 下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko ShimodaAren’t those textures incredible?! I would love to try these smocking techniques on a dress or blazer someday.

For my first project from this book I thought I’d start with a simple rosette ribbon project inspired by these pages.

p42-43 下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko Shimodap44-45 下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko ShimodaThese rosettes seemed like a good beginner project and I dreamed of wearing my ribbon award proudly like a Grand Champion heifer. But I was quickly proven wrong.

p112-113 下田直子の手芸技法 Handcraft Techniques by Naoko ShimodaFor Technique L [Ribbon Work] I was instructed to measure, mark, and pin the ribbon into various folds. My fingers were not nimble and the pins left holes in the ribbon, and my rosette started to resemble an award for Grand Prize Loser.

The project sat on my desk for months, deflated and sad. It wasn’t until thumbing through another craft book about ribbon rosettes that I found a  tip — use a small piece of cardboard to help fold-and-hold the ribbon while you simultaneously tack the bottom edges with needle and thread. Once I got the hang of that, my rosette came together nicely.

Saké Puppets: Grand Champion of Winning!And now I feel like the Grand Champion of Winning.

I’m going to make more of these, since now the only challenge lies in finding interesting ribbons and button centers. Perhaps I’ll present them to my friends and loved ones for tasks I deem prize worthy: 1st Place in Chopping Onions, Grand Prize in Hailing Taxis, and the coveted Mr. Hustle Award.

What awards would you present?