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!

I want to give you my stuff. (A craft kit giveaway!)

- – This giveaway is now closed. – -

Things are getting crazy here my friends. In less than one week I’ll be leaving Tokyo. We are sleeping on the tatami floor and our apartment is filled with half-filled boxes and suitcases. I’m trying to balance my days packing with adventures around town, but struggling. I still have many karaoke songs to sing. It is happening way too fast.packing sucks.Most of my time this past week has been dedicated to making our belongings disappear. Between the two of us we are allowed 106 kilos in luggage, which may seem like plenty but I assure it you it is not. I have been begging everyone I know to please take my hangers/toasters/fabric bits I can’t bear to throw out.  

And now it is your turn. Of the six boxes I am shipping overseas, three are filled with craft supplies. *gulp*

These didn’t make the cut simply because I already have a set. (O_O) It is best not to ask why I ended up with duplicates (craft happens, people!). But my craft closet tragedy is your gain … let’s do a giveaway!

Win these kits!Kits #1 and #2 are cell phone charms. They have bells and pretty Japanese fabric. Each kit comes with supplies to make 3 clown or owl charms. They could also double as cute holiday ornaments.Win these kits too!Kits #3 and #4 are “cute key holders!” made from beads. I have no idea how they come together, so you’ll have to tell me how it goes.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment here, on Facebook, or on Instagram. Each comment is an entry, I’ll compile the comments, do a random selection, and ship four lucky winners each a kit. Comments close in 36 hours! (At midnight Nov 19th.) I’ll mail prizes on Wednesday Nov. 20th so winners, after you hear from me, please send me an address ASAP.

Thanks everyone! Now please, take my stuff.

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

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?

Macaron Craft Kit Giveaway

I am in a macaron phase.

a macaron treatThis was a macaron zipper pouch kit, and according to the package it was only supposed to take me 40 minutes to assemble. Liars!

the guts of a macaron zipper kitAdmittedly, I spent most of my time with the sparse instructions and a dictionary. I’d look up kanji and then with an exasperated eye-roll think, “I know what that means. Damn you, memory!”

The kit comes with a 10 cm zipper, precut felt circles, plastic button parts, and a small cell phone strap. Here is the part that had me stumped:

zipper tricks on the macaron pouch kitThis is an example with a different zipper. Once you sew the ends of the zipper together, creating a zipper-circle, you want to gather the sides with a basting (or running) stitch. This creates a nice bed for the felt-covered button part.

sewing the felt-covered button parts to the zipper on the macaron zipper pouchBack to the real deal, you can see the zipper teeth are the middle of the felt sandwich. The sweet macaron guts.

Voila! A mini macaron zipper pouch, on a string.It is just the right size to hold a 500 yen coin, for those moments when you need an emergency macaron.

And lucky day, I bought an extra kit to share the macaron love!

Macaron zipper pouch kit giveaway! via Saké PuppetsTo enter this giveaway for a strawberry-pink macaron coincase strap kit, which doesn’t make much sense so I decided to call it a mini macaron zipper pouch kit, which makes much less sense, leave a comment on this post telling me what you’d hide inside your macaron. Comment before noon (Japan standard time) on Monday August 5th. I’ll choose the winner randomly.

Good luck!

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

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?

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!