Action Craft News Flash!

A long-awaited update — I’m delighted to finally announce that the Action Craft blankets found a home!

Last month I sent four huge boxes off to Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture. (If you Google Kesennuma, you’ll find many videos and photos of the port town, which was completely swept away.)

The Action Craft blankets were sent to the organization Network Orange, a nonprofit focused on helping children with disabilities in Kesennuma. Since the tsunami they have extended their efforts to include helping others in the community rebuild their lives, and they were excited to receive our donation. I was a bit worried my terrible kanji-writing skills had sent our boxes off into oblivion, but this week I received word that they arrived safely. The folks at Network Orange said they’d try to send photos, but I’ll cut them some slack, since, you know, they’re helping people survive and stuff.

Congrats to everyone who participated. A job well done.

Sweet Dreams

I’ve been digging into the depths of my camera’s memory card and was reminded about the Dream Pillow project I participated in a few months back.

A group of high school students established the project with a goal to collect 5,000 pillows for tsunami refugees. They asked for handmade pillow cases to fill with cotton donated from a futon shop. I sent them a simple wiener dog with flowers motif, which reminds me a bit of Rusty. (I’ve watched that clip 1,000 times, no joke. In my defense, I had a dachshund as a kid.)

I sent my pillowcase off hoping the address written in chicken-scratch kanji was eligible enough for delivery, then promptly forgot about it. About a month later, I received a stack of postcards in the mail.

All handwritten and thoughtfully decorated, thanking me for my donation. Talk about sweet dreams!

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!

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!

Flee-ting Thoughts

Last week I drafted an ornery blog post, but then hit delete. It was on the topic of fleeing Japan. As I sat in my hotel room in Beijing, the stories popping up in the news about foreigners fleeing in the wake of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis made me increasingly agitated. I sheepishly admit, I took offense.

When I hear the word “flee,” I envision people running. You flee from a fire, or Godzilla. People had to flee the tsunami, as in, they had to run so the gigantic black wave didn’t swallow them up. I did not flee from anything. I took a train, and calmly stood in line, and then I sat around in the airport for a couple hours. I played solitaire on my phone. I packed smartly for a week-long sightseeing trip. I’m not abandoning anything or anyone. I’m not fearful.

But the headlines about foreigners fleeing Japan got to me. I feel silly for admitting it, since there are more important issues at hand. Last week I vigorously typed my retort, but decided not to post it because, really, I don’t need to justify my actions to anyone, nor do I need to pick a fight with the internet. I tried to let the issue go and instead focus on something productive.

Then today I came across this article in TimeOut Tokyo. It conveys many of the same feelings I’ve been having — though in a more concise, less ornery manner (and props to my friend Sandra, who is quoted). So rather than retype the sentiments, I’ll just encourage you to follow the link and then add a “Yeah, what he said” to the end.

What I’m Watching

I thought I’d throw a quick post out to share some of the resources I’ve been watching for news.  It’s been my feeling that for information on Japan, it is best to ask Japan.

First, I’ve been keeping an eye on Twitter where folks are translating NHK news in real-time, particularly televised press conferences given by Japanese government officials Prime Minister Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano.

My favorite tweeters have been TimeOut Tokyo and SandraJapandra.  They are passing along good, reliable information.

NHK World has also been streaming a translated news broadcasts online.  Very useful.

The Japan Times now has a website up with a growing list of resources.  Every once in a while I peek at the Japan Meteorological Agency for a visual of aftershocks.

I’ve also kept my eye on the US Embassy’s website, and follow Ambassador Roos’ Twitter feed.

I have not been watching any foreign news, and actually hadn’t seen any until I turned on the BBC in my hotel room this morning.  I was astonished and horrified by the images of body bags and the focus on death.  That is not something we were seeing on NHK in Japan, nor did we need to.

Right now the focus is on rescue and recovery.  Most sources are recommending that those in non-affected areas donate cash rather than goods, and to keep out of the way for the time being.  (For ways to donate try here, scroll down a bit.)  Edano has called for everyone in Japan to conserve electricity, an effort most were taking seriously in Tokyo.  All available resources are being directed north.

Many people are asking me what I’m doing.  Right now… not much.  I feel very helpless.  Dan and I are in China temporarily, where he has some work to do.  I have discovered that many of the tremors I was feeling weren’t actually the ground shaking but my imagination, since the feeling has followed me.  I’ll hopefully learn more in the future about what I can do, or build, or donate.  But for now, we wait.