Friday, 31 January 2014

At One with Noisy Nature

The Institute for Nature Study is 20 mins walk from the flat so having spent 2 hours up to my elbows in rubber gloves (cleaning), and noticing that the day was a lovely one, I decided to make a break for it. I believe there is an actual establishment there, but basically it is a relatively big forest surrounded on all sounds by bits of highly developed city.

The woodland's history is on the website (and in english) but essentially it's very old and apart from footpaths and the odd bit of tending, it is largely left to get on with it. Bits of tree that fall off or die are left where they are to rot and feed the rest of the forest and plants grow as nature intends them to. It means it is all quite higgledypiggledy.
It also means there are a large number of trees which are too big to get into a single photo.
In my usual way I hopped and hummed my way around the whole place which took about 90 minutes. I wasn't rushing and frequently stopped to stroke the trees and listen to the birds. The trees were highly strokable.
The birds were not so much a delight upon the ear as a cacophany of unavoidable noise. The two birds I have seen most of since I arrived are the common crow, and the brown eared bulbul - and it was these which appear to dominate this location at this time of year. The latter's song is like the cry of a baby bird being slowly roasted to death over a fire (imagine me going "hweeeeeeee" at a really high pitch while simultaneously sounding like I smoke fifty a day, and repeat, and repeat, and you're near), while the caw of the crows is equally pervasive. Combine the two and it really did feel like I was in the jungle of a foreign land.
Me on Safari
Which, me being in Japan and all, is kind of true. The noise of the crows was so incessant and they were so consistently present that I did start to wonder whether perhaps there were not that many of them and I was just being followed around. They are quite clever birds and I have, for instance, played a game of peekaboo with one who likes sitting on the house opposite our kitchen*. They seem to like to see what people are doing so was it truly that a stream of different crows were coming to perch on trees near me and have a look, or was it the same one following me? Does each visitor get assigned a crow by the chief crow, who would be like Baron Silas Greenback, the villain from Dangermouse, although admittedly on further study he is a toad and I had him confused with his henchman, Stiletto Mafiosa, who was indeed a crow. Or have I just been re-reading Thief of Time recently and got Quoth on the brain?

* What happened was I had put some toast crusts out on the balcony outside the kitchen for the birds and one of the crows had noticed. Crows are fairly hated in Tokyo as they make loads of mess trying to get into rubbish bags and bins so they are very wary of people. This one started off by checking out the situation by sitting on some of the power lines outside the kitchen, where I was washing up. It could see me, which it didn't like, so instead of hopping onto the balcony it flew onto the edge of a slightly higher flat roof that gave it a better view into the kitchen. I looked straight at it, and it backed up a little bit, which meant it vanished from my view because of it being on a higher flat roof. I backed up a step too so I could again make eye contact with it and it backed up a bit further. I backed up again and it ducked its head right down for about 30 seconds before lifting it up again to see if I'd gone. I hadn't so it ducked down again. At this point I thought I should just let the little bugger get the bread (I've nothing personally against crows and think they are rather impressive) so I closed the kitchen blinds and retired from the battle of wills.
Welcome to Crow Country
I know we all have a tendency to endow animals with human characteristics, but they do always seem very clever to me.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Cat Interlude

My weekly visit to Calico Cat Cafe took place yesterday and I have to say it was all a bit odd. When I arrived the Cat Tower in the first room was unusually full.
Cat Towers Full
When I headed downstairs the possible explanation of this became apparent. The place was full of men! There were about 10 of them sitting downstairs, unaccompanied by any women. I'm not saying only women go to Cat Cafes but this isn't something I'd seen before. The bemused but sleepy Retro was keeping out of it by going up high.
Cat from Below
While my beloved Gomako, who I usually spend most of my time stroking, was steadfastly sleeping inside a cardboard tube. Very disappointing.

To get my fill of cat booty I bought a little tub of chicken, which is cheating but a girls-gotta-do, the opening of which causes the holder to become the temporary best friend of at least 6 cats. Yashiro is my second favourite after Gomako. Partly because of his face, which makes him look permanently annoyed that he's been bothered, but also because of his intelligence.
Frowning Cat
He has worked out that people order cat food (tiny tubs of real cooked chicken) from the staff so as soon as he sees you sit down and talk to a staff member he comes and sits near you, on the basis that the odds are good you've ordered food. He stays with you until all the food has gone, then turns his back on you to look out for the next person to talk to a staff member while seated. So self-serving and single-minded. Brilliant.

I spent a little while stroking the over flowing Taiga, who is a Maine Coon like Retro, before heading upstairs.
Overflowing Cat
Still on the Cat Tower was Kinako, who is the same breed as Gomako and only 3 weeks older.
Sleepy Cat
Awake, Kinako is pretty freaky looking because she has eyes which are almost rusty red rather than the usual blue or green. It makes her look rather zombie like. But you can't really be freaked out by anything that has such cute little feet.
Cat Paws
Those pads on her paws are a brighter pink than the photo suggests. So adorable!

I've often read that you can judge the health of a cat from their fur - whether they are well groomed, evenly covered and also the softness. I've consistently been impressed with the condition of all the cats and also the love the staff show for them. I see London's first Cat Cafe is getting ready to open although there is no date yet. I'd be interested to hear what it's like if anyone is planning a visit.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Hops and Swaps

I have ended up with two partners for the EPP Swap. The second one is finished while the first is becoming a bit of a how-not-to-do-it lesson. Second first.
Pouch front closed
I am very happy with this with the possible exception of the seam bottom right. Inside I used a vintage seed packed print.
Pouch front open
The EPP is all over the back and flap.
Pouch back and flap
This kind of country chic colouring is not my usual palette so it was interesting to put these low volume fabric scraps together.

My first pouch was the one I blogged about before that went lumpy. It's now been unpicked and I've created a panel of hexagons to go with the triangles.
Not working out
I really must stop starting things without a proper plan or at least a proper sketch with thought giving to fastenings. I now have one of those so am back on plan again.

Meanwhile the She Who Sews Hop, which I am part of next week, has started, alternating days with the Don't Let the Door Stop You Hop. There are some crazy, wonderful projects appearing each day. Go and check what is being made and find the schedule here. There is also still time to sign-up for the next BlogHop which is focussing on Ruffles.

Monday, 27 January 2014


I have just got back from the Tokyo Festival of Quilts which, needless to say, was EPIC!
Tokyo Quilt Show Jan 2014
It took up the whole of the Tokyo Dome, which in real life is a baseball stadium. I arrived just as it opened so as you can see in the picture above it was quite nice and empty. Ha! Little did I know.
Zombie Marches
Minute after minute, hour after hour, they streamed in. I told Noriko it was like a zombie apocalypse with a never ending stream of aesthetically hungry people arriving. I was starting to wonder whether, if enough japanese quilters converged on the same place at the same time, could it become too much for reality to handle and could we inadvertently deform space and time and create a black hole? Even if Stephen Hawking has decided they probably don't exist afterall? Could this be quiltapocalypse? But then that could have been the heat and dehydration talking.

If you look at all my photos from the event (in a set on Flickr here) in order you'll see them go from nicely framed pics of a whole quilt to parts of one framed by heads. I can't imagine what the afternoon would be like (we left at lunchtime) as people were already filling most of the seats to eat lunch while the exhibition spaces and stands were still packed with others. What would happen when they all finished chomping and got back to it?
The People
Quantity-wise you could easily spend 6-8 hours looking at everything, but with the number of people I ducked out after 2.5. That doesn't mean I didn't fit a lot into that time though! I've put a few photos in this post but the rest are on Flickr. They get quite blurry after a while - it was all the jostling. That well-remarked japanese politeness goes out the window at these shindigs.
Starburst Quilt
Starburst Quilt Detail

Framed/Miniature Hexagon Quilt
Framed/Miniature Swirl Quilt
Miniture/Framed Cat Quilt
Stripe Quilt

There were also lots of stands to buy from.
And I did manage to bring a few things home with me. I was only looking for things I wouldn't find in the UK because the japanese colour palette is quite unique. I thought this stand's display summed it up quite well.
Japanese Colours
I tried to explain to Noriko that we just don't get fabrics in these colours in the UK but I don't think she believed me. I'm sure I'm right though - how many shades of muted brown and green does your local shop stock? In the end I ended up with 3 kits...
Japanese Sewing Kits
My creation
And the frame and pattern for a little cottage sewing box.
Wooden House Frame Sewing Box
You can see the finished thing with the 'roof' pinned up on one side in the picture below.
I think the lady liked me because I caught sight of it, gasped and excitedly whispered "Sugoi!", which means "wow!".

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