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?

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!