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!

Sweet Sayonaras

One of the things that transpired while I was on holiday was the final step in our plan to leave Japan.

It was a difficult decision and I struggle to explain why it suddenly feels like the right time. But, our jaunt in Tokyo was always meant to be temporary. I can’t express enough how grateful I am for the opportunity to live in and explore Japan, to have met so wonderful people, and to have spent my time doing things that I love: I started my own business and this blog, I learned how to sew my own clothing and how to speak Japanese, I now eat fish guts, play roller derby, and sing karaoke in public. I remember when I was on the plane flying to Tokyo — for the first time, to remain indefinitely — and I was served green tea. It tasted like dirt, and I panicked as I realized I couldn’t say more than arigatou. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Living outside of my element these few years has helped me to become more myself.

Shimokita side streets

And though I love my life here, the future awaits.

So I head westward! Toward the great city of New York to seek my fame and fortune resume my career in museum work. I’ll continue to embroider and sew and craft, so though the nature of this blog may change slightly, I’ll continue to share things that interest me, like sashiko, Japanese craft books, and the occasional bowl of ramen. Looking ahead, I’m excited to tap into all of the amazing resources New York offers, like the garment district and tacos.

There we have it. In 3 short weeks I’ll be on to my next thing. I hope you’ll come along!

To Tokyo, お世話になりました。本当にありがとうございました。

* * *

ps, I’m having a moving sale in my shop – use the coupon code SALE35 for 35% off your purchase ($10 min). Thanks!

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

Summer of Skirts Part 1: The Sound of Music Skirt

Sound of Music play skirt by Saké PuppetsThis was a summer of sewing skirts. Tokyo gets so hot and humid that I frequently find myself a sweaty mess of stink by the day’s end. It is not exactly the type of weather that encourages you to wear anything nice. I decided what I needed this season were play skirts — easy, breezy, and sweat-absorbent.

This summer I created a uniform of sorts, and paired waist-fitting skirts with tucked-in tanks. Everything is interchangeable, which makes getting dressed a cinch. Because sometimes it is just too hot to have to think these things through, you know?

The first skirt in this summer’s trio is an easy flared Sewaholic Hollyburn. I love this pattern and made it once before, so this version came together quickly.

Hollyburn skirt for summer by Saké PuppetsSound of Music Play Skirt by Saké Puppetshow invisible is that zipper! I made pattern view A in a size 8 and it fits purrrfectly, though I shortened the hem so it hits more like view B. I didn’t line this version and finished it with an invisible zipper. The pockets pucker a bit, so I need to work on that for next time.

I bought the gray linen-ish fabric in Nippori for 100 yen a meter with exactly this play skirt in mind. I didn’t realize until halfway through construction that it looks like fabric for curtains. Now all I need is to climb some trees and I’m practically a Von Trapp! Sounds like a great excuse to eat more strudel.

I wish they'd let me join their gang.

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!

A Day by the Sea

This weekend I went to Enoshima. I don’t know why it has taken me 3 years to get there; it’s only an hour from Tokyo by train but it feels a world away. I left the city heat behind me and spent an afternoon near the sea with friends. Lovely!

Our objective was to see jellyfish at the aquarium and eat seafood. Perhaps an insensitive combination. A day in EnoshimaThat ray had the most expressive face.(^O^)

We accidentally caught the dolphin show, which was surprisingly entertaining. I usually dislike animal shows but this one was choreographed with dancing, singing, synchronized swimming girls who sat inside big clear balls and were pushed across the water by a false killer whale. Everyone around me was like, “What the hell?” but in a good way.

Dolphins and smiling rays put up a good fight, but the jellyfish fantasy hall was the real shop-stopper. That, and when I caught a seal pooping.Enoshima jellies!An Enoshima sunsetAfter a walk along the small streets of Enoshima to the top of the peak, we were rewarded with a pretty sunset. And back to Tokyo we went.

Shop sale!

A quick note to share the new kits I just posted in my web shop.

sashiko stash bust!Whew! Say that 5 times fast!

I’m cleaning out my craft closet, which means I gathered all my random bits and pattern pieces and put together some discounted surprise samplers. What fun! For me and hopefully for you, too.

This sashiko grab-bag includes everything you’ll need to make 4 coasters, including a surprise selection of patterns and fabrics. You’ll get a random yet well-coordinated assortment. Let’s get a little sampler-dangerous. 

What, you don’t think embroidery is dangerous and edgy? Then we need to spend more time together, and I’ll show you a stabbin’ dangerous time. (^_-)-☆

More info on the kits here. Thanks!

Tokyo Craft Guide ebook!

I am so thrilled to announce that the new and improved Tokyo Craft Guide is here! Well, it’s over here, but you know what I mean.

Tokyo Craft Guide ebook!

Beautifully illustrated by Hana of ilikesleeping, and researched and written by myself and the lovely Frances of Miss Matatabi, the Tokyo Craft Guide is packed full of our favorite off-the-beaten-track craft shops in Tokyo. We’re giving you all of our secrets, my friends. Six neighborhood maps help you navigate our curated lists of craft shops and cafes. We also throw in a few parks, temples, a ramen shop, and a few bars. But mostly we talk about crafts: over 50 shop listings describing what is special or unique about each shop, where to go for paper or fabric or yarn, who speaks English, and a few words of Japanese to help you in case they don’t.

sneak peek! Tokyo Craft Guide cafes and shops

I’ll still be offering the same free content from the previous Saké Puppets guide, it has simply moved over to the Tokyo Craft Guide blog. Over there we will be profiling larger shops like Yuzawaya and Tokyu Hands, and also posting interviews and craft events happening around Tokyo. But we’ve reserved the special stuff for the book: small, independantly-owned places, young shop owners who stock their friend’s creations, old shop owners who have been around for 50 years and stock beautiful vintage glass buttons — those are the places that make craft shopping in Tokyo so wonderful.

The Tokyo Craft Guide has amazing maps!

I’m in love with the illustrations in this book. Each map guides you on a treasure hunt, sending you into the neighborhood to find secret craft-gold. Also, never have I looked so relaxed or my bun looked so perfectly huge!

relaxed! via Tokyo Craft Guide and ilikesleeping

A special thanks to everyone who helped us on this project, and to those that were so patient waiting for its release. I’m really excited! Maybe I’ll celebrate by … shopping for fabric.  (@⌒ー⌒@)

The Rainy Season Sweat Wicking Dress

Tsuyu, I love you and I hate you.

Rainy season wrap dress, by Saké PuppetsAccording to the Japan Times the rainy season began 10 days early. I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. The bad: damp tissues, moldy sinks, towels that never dry, and the smell of damp feet. The good: I love love love waking up to the sound of rain in the morning. And any excuse to linger in cafes or drink tea all day while sewing or go to movies mid-afternoon. I don’t even mind the crazy curly hairdos. The temperature isn’t too hot or too cold, and the rain is rarely heavy enough to require more than a large clear umbrella.

The absolute worst part of rainy season? The fact that when it is over, it is summer. Hot, humid, and wet but in a different, nastier way. To prepare I am making dresses, and Japanese fabric is perfectly suited for Japanese summers. How convenient.

Rainy season wrap dress, by Saké Puppets. PS, my neighbors have pretty hydrangeas. This wrap dress is made with nani IRO woodblock pocho in gray/green double gauze cotton using Vogue 8646, the first Vogue pattern I’ve tried. It was just OK. I skipped a muslin because it’s a wrap dress (read: easy to fit), and made the size 10 with an extra 1″ in length in the bodice. I could have used another inch, I think. And the bodice feels too big. I hand-stitched the hem around the neckline which gives a nice finish and removed some bulk from the front. I am thinking about adding long ties, to actually wrap this sucker around my body and tighten it up a bit. But for a rainy-season-turned-sweaty-summer dress, it’ll do just fine. Japanese double gauze is like wearing a ShamWow. Sweat-wicking at its finest, my friends.

Rainy season wrap dress, by Saké PuppetsI bribed my husband into taking my picture with the promise of buying him lunch. And then this happened. Whooeee!

whooeee! by Saké PuppetsWe both ordered omurice like 5-year olds, because what else do you do on a rainy day?