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?

Spring on Instagram

It may seem like things here at Saké Puppets have been quiet, but on the other side of the Internet curtain I’ve been busy — drafting sashiko patterns, summer sewing, and … drumroll please … finishing up my Tokyo Craft Guide ebook! Woot!

Wrapping up our book has meant a lot of meetings over lattes and days with proof pages scattered across the tatami floor. If you follow me or Tokyo Craft Guide on Instagram you may have already seen some of our behind-the-scenes snap shots. Enjoy a glimps of spring in Tokyo, and see you all back here again very soon!

Tokyo Craft Guide!

Tokyo Craft Guide!

Knot Funny

Special occasion cards in Japan have these cool wire bows on them. They are shaped like cranes or flowers and can get pretty elaborate. Cards like these are meant to hold money, and you can buy a simple one at any 100 yen shop or convenient store, or spend a small fortune on one to hold the small fortune that is your gift.

store-bought mizuhiki

When I first moved to Japan I noticed this type of packaging and thought it was neat, but then gradually I stopped thinking about them. They are commonplace and like fermented beans for breakfast or Auld Lang Syne at closing time, I’ve come to accept their existence without question. On the few occasions when I have needed to buy a fancy card, I asked the shop keeper to help me pick out something appropriate so I wouldn’t accidentally give a funeral card to someone on their wedding day. (Though, that thought is a little funny.)

mizuhiki rainbowmizuhiki, in progress and finished

Dan and I recently went to Nagano and were invited to a craft class to learn mizuhiki, this fancy bow art. Mizuhiki are made from cords of tightly wound washi paper that is starched and colored and twisted into shapes. They were popularized during the Edo era as samurai hair accessories and are now used as decoration to convey well wishes. Our sensei told us to choose three colored cords and because I am a cocky over achiever I chose four. We opted to make bookmarks, followed the instructions printed for us and were left alone to figure it out.

The trick is to maintain the same order of your colors throughout the design, even through the curves and weaving. Tighten one too much and it pops out of place and then you have to loosen the entire thing to right it again. Let me assure you, it is harder than it looks.

mizuhiki steps

ps, you can now follow my blog with Bloglovin. (^_-)-☆

The *New* Tokyo Craft Guide

I’m really excited to share the news — I’m writing a book!

The New Tokyo Craft Guide

My friend Frances of Miss Matatabi and I have joined forces to put together the Tokyo Craft Guide, an ebook showcasing our favorite Tokyo craft shops, cafes, and project tutorials.

*\(^O^)/*

We have accumulated a list of over 50 craft stores (!!) and organized them in a series of craft-shopping-excursions complete with illustrated neighborhood walking maps, shop highlights, and favorite cafe spots. It is like a treasure map with the best kind of treasure – fabric! ribbon! buttons!

The idea for the Tokyo Craft Guide was born when we realized our favorite independently-owned craft stores are sometimes hard to find. They require extra effort to get to, but when you do you’re rewarded with lovely nooks of fabric, supplies and project inspiration, each with its own character or style. This is the type of experience we want to share.

The Tokyo Craft Guide ebook will be available next month, and in the meantime you can visit our blog for additional shop profiles, events and interviews. Much of the content I have offered previously on Saké Puppets will move over there and get a much-needed update, so fear not! You can also find photos and Japanese craft chatter on our Facebook page, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

We’re really excited to finally share this project with you! Please take a look, and thanks!!

splash page_expanded

New Spring Sashiko Kit

Spring has taken hold of me. I ate two sakura-flavored mochi today. No lie.

Every year I put out a sakura-themed sashiko kit because I think sakura and sashiko are such as lovely little pair. And they are fun to say. Go ahead and try it: sakura sashiko sakura sashiko sakura sashiko. Catchy, right?sakura sashiko embroidery kitThis year I designed a pouch kit. These metal squeeze clasps are a new discovery for me and they are great. Easy to use, the metal clasp stays closed tightly and makes such an interesting and unexpected detail.squeeze! sakura sashiko pouchThis sashiko kit is easy to assemble in an afternoon and can be sewn entirely by hand. It is a great kit for beginner embroiderers, too. The finished pouch is 5″ by 6 1/2″ (125 mm by 165 mm), perfect for cosmetics, jewelry, small toys or treasures. Both small and large sakura patterns are included so you can design the layout yourself, and the pouch can be made with flat or boxed corners, your choice!

You can find the kits here. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!sakura sashiko diy embroidered pouch kitsakura trio DIY sashiko pouch

Sashiko Picnic

Today the weather was beautiful. I packed a lunch, hopped on my bike and peddled out for an impromptu picnic.sashiko bentospring sakura sashikoMy neighborhood has a take-away karaage (fried chicken) shop which proves irresistible at lunchtime when they stack bentos in the front window. Next door is a sweets shop, so into my bike’s basket went a sakura-shaped sugar cookie for dessert.springtime picnic lunchsakura wasanbonThe sakura trees are just starting to bloom in Tokyo. I found a few over-achieving blossoms that had already fallen and scooped them up to take along. The wasanbon cookie was stuffed with azuki red bean paste and much too sweet for my liking. It looked pretty anyway.sakura trioThe footpath that runs through Setagaya is lined with small gardens, play areas, and occasionally a small stream. As I ate my lunch I dropped the blossoms into the water. They meandered about 5 or 6 meters before getting caught on a rock. A bit later a small girl noticed them and plucked one out, very proud of her find.floating sakuraAh, spring.

Late afternoon

afternoon sun, stitching, teaToday I have been quiet under the kotatsu. I stitched up a hankerchief and played with the idea of a new spring sashiko kit. The sun shone brightly and Tanaka-san went out for a ride. She, too, has been quiet so I was happy to see her in the sunshine, wheeled away in a bright purple hat but with her face to the sky.

As the late afternoon sun dwindles from my apartment I think about where I was two years ago when the Tohoku earthquake hit Japan. That leads me to think about where I was five years ago, and then 10. Life changes suddenly sometimes.

My heart aches, so as the afternoon sun dwindles I sit quietly on the tatami and I stitch.

Shojin Ryori

I had a fancy meal.

shojin ryori

It was a 3 hour endeavor, and by the end I was so stuffed I couldn’t finish my strawberries. I begged my friends to eat them so I wouldn’t offend the chef.

This is shojin ryori, vegetarian Buddhist cuisine. No animals were harmed in the making of this meal, my friends. Unlike the multi course kaiseki ryori meals I have had in Kyoto, which are very rich from miso and fish, this meal was light and flavorful. Almost refreshing.

Starting at the top left: tea with brown sugar sweets; sesame greens, pickles, and sweet black beans; walnut tofu and soup with yuzu and something that looked like grass but didn’t taste like it. Second row: vegetables and tofu made with a rice batter that puffs when it is fried, dipped in salt rather than a sauce; shitake sashimi that were incredible and tasted like they could have been fish; more mountain greens, a fruit similar to an apricot, and the only konnyaku I have ever enjoyed. Last row: hand-cut soba served in a basket; rice, miso and mushroom soup, and more pickles; finally, strawberries for dessert. I missed snapping a photo of one course, a baked soup with vegetables and a ginko nut, probably because I was getting behind on my courses and was focused on eating everything before they took it away.

This dinner was pricey, but one of the best meals I have had in Japan and the casual yet elegant environment was perfect for a Sunday evening with friends. And who can put a price on that, really.

Itosho いと正 is located in Azabu juban. Check here for a map.

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?

Let’s get to know each other.

Last month I posted a survey and asked you to tell me a bit about yourselves. Many of you responded and left notes that were a delight to read. Thanks again to all of you for taking the time!

When I sat down to look at the answers the first thing I saw was the comment “I love you.” I scrolled over to see it was from a male in his 50s… gah! Gross. I scrolled a bit more, it was someone from the United States, from the same town as my parents … Oh. Thanks Dad, I love you too.

After recovering from that initial gut drop, I was excited to read the results. Something you may not know about me — I am a data nerd. I love spreadsheets and in my pre-Japan life I designed databases for money. And for fun. So these survey results are my bag, baby. Don’t worry, I will spare you the dirty little database details and share only the hits.

Of those who responded, most of you identified yourselves as female with ages ranging from  their 20s to those in their 60s.

who are you?

Together you come from 17 different countries and speak 18 different languages.

where are you?

Most of you did not want to hear my knock-knock jokes. Your loss, folks.

Turns out that many of you come to Saké Puppets to hear about Japan or crafts, or both. This wasn’t too surprising since my most-clicked posts are about sashiko, Japanese craft books, and my reaction to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

sashiko kits

Only 42% come here to spy on my life. Or only 42% admitted they come here to spy. I honestly thought that number would be much higher, since spying is the only reason I read blogs. I am nosey.

I was also surprised to hear that so many of you are interested in hearing about travel escapades around Japan (76%) and the food we are eating (65%). If I have to sacrifice myself to more trips to the mountains for ramen, then so be it!

ramen

Lastly, many of you asked for more sashiko (64%), which is where I am headed in the very near future. I hope to bring you more projects featuring my own unique style and also provide access to traditional pattern resources. I have some very exciting things to share.

Thank you again to everyone who responded! And if you didn’t but are lurking there in the shadows, that’s cool too. Thanks for stopping by! ☆彡