A Craft Picnic in the Park

Sunday afternoon was a lovely day in Tokyo. The sun was shining, there was a slight breeze, and the English Craft Club gathered for embroidery lessons and brownies under the shade of a huge somei yoshino cherry tree in Shinkuku Gyoen.

We embroidered tea towels, and after practicing stitches on scrap muslin, we transferred patterns to our towels to finish at home. I imported (translation: my mom shipped them to me) flour sack towels from the US. The towels were way too big for a Japanese kitchen, so I cut them in half, hemmed the sides and added a loop for hanging on a hook.

Other women occasionally meandered by, close enough to peek at what were were doing. They left us with approving bows.

Thanks again to everyone who joined us! The next English Craft Club gathering will be on June 10th, and we’ll be making accessories quilt blocks (sorry about that!) and will be learning all sorts of new craft vocabulary (click here for details). Hope to see you there!

Polka Dot Picnic Quilt

This past weekend I attacked the picnic quilt. I sat and sewed with wild abandon, if wild abandon means straight lines.

Most people probably iron things before they take photos of them for the Internet. Not this girl. While piecing I didn’t use any pins, either. I feel like a rebel.

I made this quilt using fabric I already had in my apartment, piecing as I pleased until it was big enough to sit on. I bought the toile-ish fabric (300 yen per meter) and the neon orange cotton (210 yen per meter) in Nippori, and used an old cotton sheet as batting. I didn’t want it to be too thick — since it’s a picnic blanket, I want it to roll up to carry easily, but it needed something in the middle. Also, with every quilt I make I try to use some fabric that is reused or recycled. It reminds me of a quilt’s origins, of stitching together bits of old clothes until you had something big enough to keep you warm during the winter.

I chose the toile mostly because I liked the way it contrasts with the polka dots but still follows the blue color theme (it’s a very dark navy). Also, its heavier weight and dark color will hold up well to being thrown on the grass. And, it was really cheap.

I’ve been drawn to the neon colors popping up in fashion recently. If something has neon yellow and gray on it, I will buy it. It’s a bit weird when suddenly your pot holders and shoes and throw pillows all match. When I saw this neon fabric, I thought it would be a fun to way to make the polka-dot quilt look a bit edgy, and worthy of a Tokyo-style picnic. Even in the fading afternoon light of my apartment, the orange is bright. I love it.

OK darling, now I’m ready to picnic.

The Current State of Things

My desk offers a good representation of the state of my brain right now: Crowded. Messy. A whole bunch of bobbles and lace and scraps of paper with scribbled notes. And I think there are some old cookies there somewhere too.

The culprit? Midterms. All other projects are on hold and banished to The Desk.

Maybe it is hard to believe by looking at this sad scene, but it used to be my job to be organized. I was a professional organizer. But you know how the story goes, the cobbler’s children never have good filing systems.

And I swear, this photo is only slightly misrepresentative … if you were to pan a few inches to the right, you would certainly NOT see a gigantic pile of books and papers I shoved just out of the camera’s frame. Nope, not there. I’m a professional.

Now, back to the flash cards…

The English Craft Club: 楽しく英語!

On Sunday, May 27th, we’ll hold our next English Craft Club class in Shinjuku Gyoen. Please join us!  (For English, please scroll down)

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The English Craft Club』は、刺し子やジュエリー作りなどを通じて、楽しく英語を勉強するクラブです。毎回のクスごとに、皆さまに各自で作品を作って頂きます。クラフトをしながら、様々な表現や英単語を楽しく勉強していきます。またあわせて毎回異なる身近なトピックスでの会話も行います。


  • クラフトに使用する材料(型紙、布、針、糸、ビーズ、その他道具)
  • 英語の教材(ペーパー)、クラフトの単語集など。
  • トピックス英会話(人気のカルチャーや質問。クラスメイトとアメリカ人インストラクターとのおしゃべりなど。)
  • コーヒー、紅茶、ホームメードのお菓子

『The English Craft Club』に参加をご希望の方は、以下のアドレスまでご連絡下さい。

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トピックス “In the Kitchen”

料理に使うタオルに刺繍をすることを学びます。トピックスはゲストを夕食に招く際の話や、あなたの好きなレシピ、アメリカのレシピ をメートルに換算する話なども含まれています。型紙の写し方、人気のある4種類のステッチをお教えします。これでお友達がきたときに、素敵なキッチンを見せられますね!


The English Craft Club is an English lesson disguised as a craft class — a fun way to learn and practice English while learning new craft skills. All craft materials, snacks, and English lesson notes are provided. Enjoy fun conversation and crafts with new friends!

Each class includes:

  • Craft materials, such as patterns, fabric, needle, thread, beads, tools, and much more!
  • English lesson notes, with craft-related vocabulary
  • English conversation topics and tips – chat about popular culture, ask questions, and have relaxed conversation with your classmates and American instructors
  • Coffee, tea, and homemade snacks
Please email sakepuppets@gmail.com to sign up for the class or if you have any questions (English and Japanese are both OK).

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Sunday May 27th, 2012
1:00-2:30 pm
Shinjuku Gyoen

Topic: In the Kitchen!  Learn how to embroider a tea towel while discussing cooking. Topics include hosting guests for dinner, your favorite recipes, and converting U.S. recipe measurements into the metric system. For this class craft project, we’ll show you how to transfer a pattern onto fabric and embroider 4 popular stitches onto your tea towel, so you’ll have a beautiful kitchen to show friends when they come to visit.

Craft: Embroidered Tea Towel
Materials Included: one cotton tea towel, embroidery thread and needle, embroidery hoop, your choice of patterns, recipe, and lesson notes.
Location: Shinjuku Gyoen (map and location within the garden will be sent after registration is confirmed)
Cost: ¥5000

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The English Craft Club is taught by two fun and energetic American ladies — Angela of Saké Puppets and Kim of The Cat’s Meow. Click here to learn more about them.

A Poppin’ Cookin’ Good Time

A friend and I had a “study date,” which means we watched Japanese animated movies and played with candy and pretended we were learning something.

Popin’ Cookin’ is childen’s DIY candy where the snacks you make usually resemble (and sometimes taste) like everyday foods — hamburgers, ramen, sushi. We tried the strawberry and vanilla flavor cake, ice cream and tart kit.

It came with everything we needed – mini sugar cones and tart shell, mixing tray and spoon, pastry bag for frosting, sprinkles, and the frosting mix. Just add water, and poof! Ice cream! sort of…

The mix smelled of pure sugar and strawberry Nesquik. Surprisingly (not really), I ate it anyway and it wasn’t nearly as sweet as I expected. It was maybe even a little bit good. Maybe. Just a little bit. Don’t judge.

I count this as studying because the instructions are all in Japanese. Maybe I read them, or maybe I just looked at the pictures … I’ll never tell.

We also made a panda cake, because, why not?!

First you draw the panda eyes and such with chocolate, following the pattern printed on wax paper. Then you top him off with vanilla “cake” mix which was more like pudding. I don’t have a microwave, so we put them in the toaster oven for a few minutes.

As you can see, one of us likes to color outside the lines.

Works in Progress: Picnic Quilt

Many of you guessed it…

I spent a rainy afternoon piecing together a picnic quilt. Again, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I had so many blue polk dots stashed away in my fabric closet — I had no idea I had such a polk dot problem. On the other hand, it was fun to simply decide to make something, have the materials at-the-ready, and sew it up in just a few hours. One rainy afternoon later, and the top is pieced and ready for quilting. Huzzah!

This quilt is too late for hanami season, but just in time for my summer English craft class series, 英語でCRAFT: The English Craft Club. More details on that coming very, very soon!

p.s. Thanks again to everyone for the kind comments re: my little write-up at BAB — it was a fun experience, and really encouraging to receive so much positive feedback. どうも!