Monday, 24 November 2014

Japanese Fauna

Over the Summer, the local birds either migrated or were not in need of additional supplies so I stopped putting food out. About a month ago the very screechy Brown Eared BulBuls returned from their summer fun and made their need for feed known in the loudest possible way. The daily bread and fruit resumed.
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The Bulbuls always make me laugh because they often perch on the balcony outside and sit watching me, as if they are people'rs, in the same way that my Dad is a dedicated birder. I have tried them on various different foods but when it is orange, or a mikan/satsuma, the Japanese White Eyes come to visit. These are the beautiful green birds.
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They are an even brighter and more iridescent shade of green in the spring. The little brown tree sparrows also visit and look so utterly adorable when they are all fluffed up.

Meanwhile, back at Chez Cat, the colder weather had meant a return to the heating and a number of the cats have been cuddling up together. This is Little Mum and Sonny.
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Sonny, now fully grown, has a habit of seeking out his Mum and trying to join her wherever she is sleeping. Even if, as in this case, it means sitting on top of her. She lets him about 50% of the time. The rest of the time he gets a friendly cuff round the ear. Bruiser, of course, shares his bed with no one.
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He has started letting me stroke his chin for 2-3 minutes before biting me - a marked improvement. There has also been a lot of resting of heads on bottoms.
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This is Sonny's Uncle with Smoky Tula being used as the pillow.

I'll be so sad to leave them all - cats and birds - when we go!


Sunday, 23 November 2014

A Few Finishes

Some little projects have been finished this week. First, a few xmas presents for my ickle niece. For her dressing up box...
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Instant Rapunzel - as modelled by yours truly. Then a little superhero cape with elastic at the wrists and a velcro neck band.
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A metre of satin type stuff in chartreuse green sewn double did for that one. Then for her toy collection, a drawstring bag for her plastic fruit and veg.
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Then one of my tops sustained a teriyaki stain and needed another patch.
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You can see the first bit at the bottom of the picture. And finally, I completed one of the two kits I bought at the Yokohama Quilt Show.
Japanese house pin cushion - front
Japanese house pin cushion - side
I sewed it all by hand and am very happy with it! I just don't know if I'll be able to bring myself to stick pins in it...

I also get to share a finish from a month or two ago.
Deb's cross stitch framed
This cross stitch was made for my cousin's birthday and she's sent me a photo of it hanging in situ, where it looks very comfortable! It comes from the same book as this one...
Deb's cross stitch framed
...which I used as a prop for my cross stitch workshop just yesterday.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Sometimes, Incredible Things Happen

As I explained the last time I used this quote as a blog post title, this is something a cleaner we used to have once told Pooch and I when asked where some missing items had gone. It is a phrase much used in the Byrne household ever since.

About 9 days ago, something incredible did happen. The company Pooch works for - the company who insisted on the 18 month contract when we came out here a year ago, who have mucked Pooch about through the whole year, the company who just last month asked Pooch to move onto another team for the last six months doing work he was really interested in - told us they were sending us home. Pooch is employed by the European arm of the company and was only seconded here so there's no risk to his job, but it was very unexpected.
Ziva
Even my imaginary cat was surprised. 

This means farewell to Japan, to Tokyo, to the cat cafes, to the twitchingly fresh sushi, to the loaves of bread only sold 8 slices at a time, to the 100 yen shops (sob) and potentially to the role of housewife-without-children.
huge craft mess
Not my actual sewing space, but very similar to what it currently looks like. 

18th December sees us fly back to the UK for Christmas and where we settle is currently unknown. I should know more before that month ends though.
Happy Holidays!
Cats never forget this kind of thing. They are great believers in revenge being a dish best served cold. 

If anyone has been wanting to ask me to act as a postal forwarding station and been too embarrassed to ask, this is your last chance! I'm happy to do so until the end of November after which I'll be too busy. I'll forward on to any country and you can refund me the postage by paypal. Email me to get my address and warn me what to expect. Japanese postal rates are here (in english, and my prefecture is Tokyo) and there'll be a compulsory 'registered' option on all parcels which is an extra 410yen - I don't want anything to get lost and this means it needs a signature your end. And to be honest if you're ordering from Amazon Japan their postal rates are usually going to be cheaper than my forwarding it at the post office, but you never know.


Monday, 17 November 2014

T'was The Night...Bloghop

Many thanks to Marlene at Stitchin by the Lake and Madame Samm for organising another lovely hop. This one is different as it involves a present! The idea was to make something that would only take an hour or two but I suspect from what I've seen so far most people took somewhat longer to make something gift-worthy. I know my gifter did - amazing!
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Isn't it beautiful! It makes me think of something a knitting professor would carry into their lecture hall and put on the desk before beginning today's lecture on advanced cabling.
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It is also huge - tonnes of pockets for my vast collection of straight needles and notions.
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It has this lovely big pocket for those notions. Sadly I only have one pair of straights with me in japan - the rest are safely stored at my Mum's. However, they are now the most secure and snuggly pair of straights in the world! And they will be joined by their brethren next month.
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Thank you so much to the lovely Lakeshore Stitches for such a wonderful gift!

I was sending to Cucki Stitching Cove and as soon as I started reading her blog I could see that embroidery was a big part of her life. I knew what I was going to make her - a Travelling Embroidery Wallet from the book Patchwork Please. I have already made two of these - one for me (left) and one for my Mum (right) - and I use mine constantly.
Two Embroidery Cases
I could see Cucki favoured a delicate colour scheme so I got out some pieces of pastelish flowers and some linen. I also wanted to personalise it so I added a stitched quote from Cucki's blog.
Twas the Night Bloghop Gift
I also kept with my signature could-not-make-points-meet-if-her-life-depended-on-it style of construction. Plus I avoided right angles apparently on purpose judging by my success.
Twas the Night Bloghop Gift
So not exactly a gift that can be made in an hour or two - but one I recommend for an embroiderer.

I did make another little gift for someone else, and this is a good present for any kind of needle user (up to a point anyway) ("point" ha! it's the way I tell'em).
Finished Bottle Top Pin Cushion
I got given the one on the right by a Japanese stitcher and had been meaning to make one for a friend for ages. This is also a recycling project AND a great way to use up scraps. That's ticking a lot of boxes! You just need the top from a plastic bottle, three circles of fabric roughly 15cm across, some scrap paper the same size and something round to draw around. Those of you who are regular readers will no I have no shame and frequently show dud projects. This one isn't that bad but I will point out my deliberate errors - made so that you don't have to.

Gather your materials.
Bottle Top Pin Cushion In Progress
The thing you draw around needs to be the width of your bottle top plus the height. For me this came out at about 6cm (the Japanese only use metric units) but my cup was a bit bigger than this. So I drew around it and then sketched a smaller circle inside. Then I added a larger circle outside for the distance I wanted my petals to stick out plus a bit of seam allowance. The clever among you will be using a compass for this. However, I was too busy deciding my petals should be bigger than I should have gone for. I'll discuss this more at the end.

I cut out the circle and folded it into six segments.
Bottle Top Pin Cushion In Progress
I also drew the outline of my petal on it and then cut this out while it was still folded up.
Bottle Top Pin Cushion In Progress
I then forgot to take any more photos for a while. But...

  • Use the paper template to cut two of these shapes from two fabrics.
  • Sew them together, right sides facing, ALL the way around the outside, using your own seam allowance. 
  • Now cut a line in the centre of the fabric that will be on the inside of your petals and turn the whole shape inside out through this hole. You do not need to sew it closed as it will be glued to the underneath of the bottle top. 
  • Press and, if you want to, sew a line of stitching around the edge of the flower shape. 
  • Using doubled thread, sew a line of running stitch where the top of the bottle top will be once this is gathered. 
  • Gather the thread until your bottle top fits snugly inside the flower. 
At this point I remembered this was supposed to be a tutorial. 
Bottle Top Pin Cushion In Progress
Do not tie off your gathered stitches. First apply a thin layer of glue to the outer edge of the bottle top, where your gathered fabric will meet it. Then sit your bottle top inside the flower, finish gathering your stitches, tie the thread off and ensure the gathers are evenly spread around the top. 
Bottle Top Pin Cushion In Progress
Kind of. 

Now the final step - you need another circle the same size as your original one. Sew another row of gather stitches around the edge and gather, adding a ball of stuffing to the middle. 
Bottle Top Pin Cushion In Progress
Tie off the gather and add a thin layer of glue to the inner rim of your bottle top. Pop the stuffed ball you've just made inside and leave to one side for the glue to dry. 
Finished Bottle Top Pin Cushion
Ta da!

Now for the mistakes:
1. My petals were too big. More modest ones reduce the amount of ruffle. I know Madame Samm likes it but you just want a ripple here, not full on ruffle. 
2. My stitches for the gather of the flower piece were possibly too small. Larger stitches make the ruffling into a subtler affair. 
3. My gathering of the flower shape and adding of the centre left the rim of the bottle top exposed. 
Finished Bottle Top Pin Cushion
It could have been worse, but in retrospect if I had moved those gathering stitches up a few mm it would have gathered just above the rim and hidden it from view. 

Despite these points I am very happy with my pin cushion!

I hope you are enjoying the blog hop. You can find the full schedule here but please make sure you visit my fellow hoppers from today:


Monday, Nov. 17




Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Japanese Online Craft Shops

I could never find a list of these when I looked, so I decided to amalgamate all the leaflets I picked up at last week's Quilt Show. I haven't ordered from these people personally and you'll need to check if they do international shipping if you're not in Japan.



Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Weekend in Hakone with A Finished Quilt

Pooch and I just had a lovely weekend in Hakone with our friends Noriko and Nari. They own a flat there and although Pooh and I were in the area last December we jumped at a chance to spend a weekend in such a lovely location with such lovely people. It was the perfect time of year to visit.
View of Hakone Fields
See the tiny island out at sea?
View in Hakone
View of Hakone River
The yellow is mainly Ginko trees while the red is Japanese Maple. Beautiful! We also got a peek at Fuji-san (Mount Juji).
View of Hakone Lake
See him? Hiding behind the clouds. Let me do a little artistic rendering...
Kind of Mount Fuji
You could see his edges occasionally as the misty clouds moved across him. On the way there we stopped off at Odawara Castle.
Odawara Castle
That's Pooch there in yellow, blending. It's only a little one but it's the only Japanese Castle I've seen so I was quite excited. There was a Chrysanthemum Festival going on, as you do. Pretty amazing creations.
chrysanthemum competition
chrysanthemum competition
chrysanthemum competition winners
Crazy looking things!

While there I gave Noriko the quilt I had been making her and Nari. Pooch kindly modelled it before we left.
Front - Noriko and Nari's Quilt
Back - Noriko and Nari's Quilt
It is a very simple one and I hand quilted it a little bit about a cm outside the edge of the central white square in each block.

As well as seeing them both AND being in such beautiful surroundings AND being fed to the gills with amazing food by Noriko (who was simultaneously giving Pooch cooking and sashimi cutting lessons) was the Lalique Museum. I frickin love Lalique. I did a project on his jewellery at Art College and it's been love ever since. Sadly it was no photos in the Museum itself but the outside was pretty nice.
Lalique Museum Path
Lalique Museum Door
Detail of Lalique Museum Door
The collection included a number of items I had drooled over in books for the last 15+ years so it was thrilling to be seeing them for real. The man was a genius. 

It was a perfect weekend!


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Yokohama Quilt Festival - Part 3

The final part of this write up is all about the shopping. I had arrived shortly after the show opened but it was lunchtime by the time I got to the shopping area. It was filling up and there was a lot to see.
Shopping Area
The big names were there - the sewing machine companies and of course Clover.
Clover Stand
And Olympus, who aren't a name we know in the UK but I'm not sure about the US. In Japan they sell a lot of kits for things featured in magazines.
Olympus Kits Stand
Olympus Cat ad Dog Kits
A big thing on a number of stands was "make your own zip".
Make Your Own Zip Parts
You buy each side of the zip, the pull, the bit of metal that marks the end etc and put it together yourself. I dunno. I guess it was the new product for the year. For me, I was coo-ing over the purse frames.
Plastic Purse Frames
The Hawaiian quilt side of things was well catered for.
Hawaiian Quilt Stand
I realise I didn't post any photos of these, like this one for instance...
SAM_2221
...but they are a big thing here. There is a large Japanese population in Hawaii (and not a lot of people know that) for historical reasons and so Hawaiian quilting is a big thing here. As well as Olympus there were a lot of people selling kits. Some of these stands were mobbed...
Packed Bag Stall
...while others were relatively empty. Just like the waffle and french toast cafes in Omotesanda. One minute you've got teenagers queuing around the block in the pouring rain for a bite of chocolate pizza, next day you've got spiderwebs across the doorway. On another stand I absolutely fell for these house pincushions.
House Pincushions
And almost for the cat ones too.
Cat, Rabbit and Frog Pincushions

So what did I bring home out of this medley? I was amazingly restrained. On the fabric side I did get a few bits and bobs.
Fabric
Some traditional woven cottons and a free Vilene sample someone gave me.
Traditional Fabrics
On the left is a pack of woven, textured cotton from one of the Southern Islands of Japan (I think a lot of people think of Japan as just being one island but it's actually quite a few, some not even that close to the main bit that Tokyo is on). On the right is a pack of woven and indigo remnants. I was deliberately on the lookout for 'japanese blues'.
Indigo Fabric
Then I did buy one of those bright plastic purse frames. I also got a bag pattern from Olympus (just the pattern - not a kit) and a few attempts to save my sore fingertips when I am hand sewing.
Purchases
Lastly, two small kits - one for house pincushion A in the photo earlier in this post, and another for an apple pouch I've had pinned on Pinterest since before coming to Japan was a twinkle in Pooch's eye.
House and Apple Kit
Finally it will be mine!

Overall this was an amazing quilt show. I went on the opening day and got there for just after opening time and was able to see all the quilts without having to use elbows or my usual peer-over-their-heads technique (handy to be 5'7" when your average japanese lady is 5'2") - most of my photos are person-free. This contrasts completely with my experience of the Tokyo quilt show (genuine photo from when I was there in January).
The People
That was swamped - this was much nicer and it felt like it was the same exhibition size, although with more shopping options. I am such a lucky bunny to have had the chance to experience both!


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