Action Crafts

Handmade quilts and blankets for our Action Craft project have been arriving steadily:

From Natalie in Pennsylvania, USA

From Susan in California, USA

So beautiful!  I love Natalie’s oversize granny square and, what is that on the second one, a lace pattern?  I know nothing about crochet, except that it looks so very classy.  Oh!  And the colors in Susan’s quilt are amazingly vibrant.  I’m certain these will make someone very happy.

You can see photos of these blankets, and all the others as I post them, at my Flickr page.

Much more to come…


Action Craft deadline met!

I completed the last stitches of the binding minutes before the park’s closing music rang through the trees (Auld Lang Syne, in fact — Japan’s universal “Go home already!” song).

This quilt was a joy to make.  I was determined to make something from fabric I already owned, and several times resisted the urge to go out and buy something “just right.”  I knew that would just delay and deter the project.  So I tried to make do and not worry so much.  I machine pieced and quilted it in just a few hours, and finished on Saturday by hand-stitching the binding while sitting in Shinjuku Gyoen.  I hope my lack of crazy with this quilt will carry on to whoever receives it.

Boxes of blankets have been arriving — thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make a little bit of comfort for someone in need.  If you’re still working, don’t worry!  Keep at it, and send me your quilt when you can.  I’ll probably make the drop later this month.

If you haven’t already, please leave me a message to let me know something is on its way.  If your project is still in pieces (it’s OK, it happens to the best of us) perhaps hold off from sending and save your quilt for a shelter or hospital near your home.

Good work, team!


Action Craft is well underway! I’ve received a few shipments of quilts already and I’ve gotten word more are on the way. Keep up the great work, friends! I’ll be photographing the quilts and posting updates here, so keep an eye out for that.

Yesterday I realized we were getting close to the end-of-April deadline I set, and I had yet to start my quilt. Insert nervous-guilty face. So I went digging into my fabric stash, and ended up with this:

I made Dan a tie instead. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and I had a beautiful chunk of Liberty fabric just sitting around.  This tie begged me to make it.

Pro·craf·ti·nation (v.) to delay or postpone one craft with the commencement of another; to put-off doing something with a deadline by making something else for fun

The last time we were in Pennsylvania visiting family, Dan found a stash of his dad’s old ties and pocketed a few. I must have married into a stylish family, because these ties are hip. Not vintagey or trendy, but with some sort of timeless style.  They’re skinny with a square end, which is such a great detail. I could make a joke about square being hip, but perhaps I’ll spare you.

Dan’s mom got word of the tie trend in our house, and sent me a stained one and a seam ripper.

The vintage labels are amazing.  Bonwit Teller?  Where did you go with your classy top hat?  This tie was easy and really fun to make, I even enjoyed the hand-sewing. When I presented it to him (thinly veiling my pure glee), Dan called it “festive” which I choose to interpret as a positive thing. Must not be so bad, since he wore it to work today.

But back to Action Quilt — I did manage to stitch a few pieces together:

Now, back to sewing … or tie-making, or blogging, or grocery shopping or a trip to the post office, or maybe some more sashiko…

Action Craft and #Quakebook

First things first — thanks for all the interest and support for the Action Craft Blankets for Japan project!  It sounds like we’ll have quilts and knitted blankets coming from all over the United States, which is great news.  I’m very touched by all the kind words and generosity, and excited to see what everyone sends over!

A few people have asked what they can do for Japan even if they don’t craft.  Money never hurts.  There are a lot of organizations sending aid into Japan now, so I suggest looking around for one with a mission that you feel strongly about — food banks, temporary shelters, architecture and design for rebuilding, medical aid — check here for many options.

Another great project is #quakebook, a Twitter-sourced compilation of stories and images from earthquake and tsunami survivors,  available soon as a digital publication and later in print.  All revenue from the sale of the book go directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society.  For more information on 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake, check out the link here.  A friend has been working like crazy doing the editing, and I’ve heard nothing but positive things from her about the experience.  Sounds like an interesting project, so I encourage you to check it out.

Life in Tokyo is settling down again.  Lights remain dim, about half of the escalators and vending machines around my neighborhood are turned off.  The local grocery store limits bottled water to one-per-person, but there are plenty available for purchase.  Milk, eggs, bread and rice have all returned to store shelves.  Earthquakes are less frequent, which makes me wonder if they are back to their usual frequency though I’m just more attune to them now.

I’ve returned to my usual daily duties, running errands around town without difficulty.  Dan and I were even lucky to visit Nagoya this weekend, where we stayed with a friend and her parents, visited festivals, found cherry blossoms in bloom, and ate our way through the weekend.  It was really fantastic, and I promise to post more details and photos soon.

Until then, a glimpse of Spring…

Action Craft!

I’ve been back in Tokyo for a few days now.  From my walks around the neighborhood, it is hard to say whether it is quiet or if it’s just my imagination.  Dan reports business as usual at his office, though says his coworkers are less lively than normal.  We both get the feeling that people just aren’t going out as much, instead staying home to conserve energy and resources.  Tokyo with its lights off feels a little sad, though it seems temporary.

I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help.  I want to head north, pick up a hammer or lug boxes, but right now it’s best to let the trained aid workers do their thing without interruption.  And who are we kidding — if I went now, I’d be a blubbering mess.  Those who know me know that I’m pretty good at crying.  I can’t help it, I’m a weeper.  Emerging stories by survivors are amazing and necessary, but heart-wrenching.  Right now, I can help everyone by helping from afar.

I thought about sending a percentage of the proceeds from my web shop to a local charity, but I decided I didn’t want my giving to be dependent on how much I sell.  I’d rather just give something, no strings attached.

Then today it hit me — I can stitch.

Before I moved to Japan I bought this book, Quilting for Peace.  It includes stories about people making quilts for survivors of tragedies, and about how small quilts and blankets, when given to people in need, provide enormous comfort.  I remember one story in particular — about a group of women who made small quilts for their local fire station to have at the ready when a family lost their home and everything in it.  Imagine standing on the curb watching your house go up in smoke, and someone hands you a homemade blanket rather than one of those scratchy synthetic ones.

So that is what I can do.  For now, at least.

And then it occurred to me — I’m a crafty gal with crafty friends.  I bet if I ask nicely, a bunch of you could do the same…  How about it?!  Let’s make some blankets!

Interested?!  Great!  Here are the details —

The plan: Make small kid-sized or lap-sized blankets to send to an evacuation shelter, hospital or school in a tsunami-affected area of Japan.  I’ll do the research, and maybe recruit my Japanese friends to help me find a location.  I’ll keep you all informed as plans develop.

What you, crafty friends and family, can do: Make a small blanket and send it to me.  I know some of you quilt, others knit or croquet — anything works!  Think roughly 36 inches by 48 inches (90 cm x 120 cm), try not to go bigger than that, smaller is OK too.  Be creative!  Feel free to use up scraps!  Tied quilts, machine-pieced, embroidered or not, whatever!  This is a great excuse for those of you who have been wanting to try quilting.  If you need help, send me a message and I’ll walk you through it.  I’ll also try to dig up some tutorials and easy patterns. (For starters, check here.) Please send your blanket freshly washed.

Also, include a hand-written note for the recipient.  Tell them where you live, send a photo or drawing if you’d like.  I’ll translate the notes, gather the goods, and see that they are delivered to a proper location.  If you fancy, I’ll also take photos of the blankets to put on this blog, so everyone participating can see what’s been sent and share encouragement.

Let’s keep this quick, and shoot for a deadline of one month from now.  Try to place your blanket in the mail by the end of April, bonus points if you can get it to me by the 30th.  For questions or a shipping address, contact me at sakepuppets(at)gmail(dot)com.  Also, why don’t you leave a comment and tell us what you’re working on!  All are invited to participate, old friends and new!

Good luck, happy stitching, and がんばって!


To celebrate the arrival of a darling new human into the world, I stitched together a little tummy-time-spit-sopping play mat. For Isley:

I’ve now stitched four quilts, all to celebrate weddings or babies.

The first quilt I completed was for the arrival of my nephew, just over two years ago.  Being my first big quilt project, I found a pattern and followed it religiously.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I read some books and looked at photos online, and in the end produced something perfectly wonky:

This quilt was machine pieced and quilted, using the pattern found here. It looks a little like I’m naked in that photo, but I promise I’m not.

While following a pattern is extremely satisfying, for quilt number two I went without.  Technically the second one I finished, in my heart this is really my First Quilt.  I’d started piecing it together years earlier after I’d picked up a used book on historical quilt blocks.  Then I saw an exhibition on the quilts of Gee’s Bend at the Walter’s Art Museum in Baltimore, and I was hooked.  The quilters of Gee’s Bend follow patterns, but they don’t seem to dwell on precise lines or matching corners.  I fell in love with the willy-nilly nature of their patchwork, with the bold colors and hand stitching. I wanted to try it for myself.

Well, I discovered working that way is really difficult.  Often my blocks came out looking like parallelograms, and I struggled with piecing them together.  This stash of weird shapes materialized into a quilt just in time for our wedding last summer, a gift to Dan of blood, sweat, and admittedly, some tears.

The First Quilt is hand and machine pieced, hand embroidered, and hand quilted.

Remind me someday, and I’ll tell you about the amazing Amish woman who redeemed the project and hand-quilted this queen-sized behemoth for me in 2 weeks.

When it comes to quilts, I like a little order but not too much.  For little Isley’s, I think I really came into my own style.  I pieced squares together until they made bigger squares.  Without much more of a plan than that, I placed larger pieces with smaller ones, until gradually, a quilt emerged.  I had order without a pattern, which was delightful.  I got to take my time, and really enjoyed the entire process.  No blood or tears this time.  Just a little baby drool, the way it’s supposed to be.

Isley’s quilt was machine pieced, hand embroidered and then tied, in my grandmother’s style.