Saturday, 17 May 2014

First Yukata Making Class

Meet-up.com is a bit of blessing here in Tokyo. I found the Stitch n Bitch group there, the Werewolf people (have I mentioned that before?), the Asakusabashi craft group and now the Onigiri girls who had a chance to make a Yukata listed as a meeting. This post from February describes various traditional japanese clothes and a Yukata is one of them. Last week we met our teacher, a wonderful 84 year old, and the organiser who was also translator, and went to a traditional fabric wholesaler as a group. Photos weren't allowed (boo) but this is what I came away with.
Goldfish Yukata Fabric
You have to buy a whole roll which is 12m long, and they are generally a fixed width with men's designs a bit wider and children's designs a bit narrower. You use the whole roll in your Yukata regardless of your height although seams and sleeve lengths can vary and any extra length is tucked in under the Obi (belt) you wear with it. The rolls aren't cheap - mine was a mid-range one and came in at £35 but they went a lot higher than that and this is simply starched cotton. You can start to get an idea of what just the fabric for an embroidered silk kimono might cost.

Today's class was cutting out and starting to sew and because we only have three sessions there were lots of the Teacher's former pupils and now friends to help out. This is a skilled art form! Patterns need to match with as little waste as possible and apart from height everything else about the person's size is done by eye. It was very impressive.
Cutting out the Fabric 3
Cutting out the Fabric 2
The white mats you can see on the table are vintage cutting mats - "vintage" in that the Teacher got them as new 50 years ago.
Vintage Japanese Cutting Boards
They fold up and are covered with woven brocade. They are the perfect size for cutting out Yukata and Kimono. They were only the start of the specialised tools I saw. One particular beauty was this sewing machine which again she had had since new.
Vintage Rhythm Sewing Machine 2
It was a wedding present and had apparently never broken down. Just divine detailing and perfect stitching.
Vintage Rhythm Sewing Machine End Plate
Teacher Sewing
I think she was a bit surprised about how excited I got about the various notions but also rather pleased too. The other two at this lesson had only really sewn in school whereas I was able to give her the english names for things like tacking, types of seams and so on. Here she is ironing one of those seams. I had never seen an iron like this. A close up:
Traditional Japanese Iron
Apparently sewing schools in Japan still use ones like this and it was very nifty - more like a small plasterer's trowel than a modern iron.

While the machine was used to join lengths of fabric, the seams and hems are all hand sewn. The hand sewing used a cotton thread the weight of lace weight wool - perhaps a light pearl cotton - and a fairly hefty needle so was quite tough on the fingertips. We used two stitches I'll go into another time, but I'd not come across either before. We have been given homework to do before the next lesson in two weeks time but the Teacher helped by tacking the armhole seams in place.
Teacher Tacking the Armhole
Such a dude. Incidentally the white smock she is wearing over her Kimono is what she described as 'mother's uniform' - a traditional apron for wearing over a Kimono and specifically to help keep the dangling sleeves out of sinks, pots etc. It tied at the back and was clearly one of her own creations.

As well as impressive cast steel scissors there were these mighty shears.
Sewing Box with Scissors
And of course she still had the beautiful box for one of the pairs.
Vintage Scissor Box
Everything about her was high class. I'm a big fan of that Teacher already.

The final notion I wanted to show you was one a TV crew had apparently come to film her using because it is only used in this kind of work.
Unique Sewing Tool
You knelt or sat on the bottom bar and a collapsible arm came up at right angles with a cord attached with a clamp on the other end. The clamp in itself was beautiful and had little cork pads were it gripped the fabric. You could then use it to hold the fabric taught as you folded the seam and finger-pressed it. The fabric was quite heavily starched so this gave you a crisp line. I'd certainly never seen anything like this before so let me know if you have and in what context.

It will be perhaps another month before the Yukata is finished but once it is we are all going to go on a little outing somewhere and take photos of each other. Wheeee!


Friday, 16 May 2014

Roses at Kyu-Furukawa Garden

First up thanks to those who commented on my last post. I guess I'll continue blogging for as long as I feel like it and then stop. Basically the same life rule I follow for everything else, especially chocolate.

Yesterday I had an outing in the rain to Kyu-Furukawa garden. There is an english-ish house and a formal english garden, then below that is the traditional japanese section. This was Walk 7 in the Flower Lover's Guide to Tokyo and the book lives up to expectations. You start at one station and end at another so you get to see all the bits in between as well as the garden. Traditional shopping streets...
Komagome shopping street
A Temple (Muryo-ji) - I adore those trees with their balls of leaves on the ends of the branches. No idea what they are called.
Mury-o ji Temple
A pink police hut.
Komagome Pink Police Hut
These are not usually pink but sakura (cherry blossom) seemed to be quite a theme throughout this part of town. For instance...
Japanese Post Box
Plus the buses all had sakura designs on them.

Getting to the garden itself, I was really surprised. I had hoped for Azaelias and I got....roses!
Kyu-Furukawa Garden Rose Bed
Plus a lot of people. I suspect a coach party of retired japanese had just arrived but there were also one or two groups of ladies-who-lunch. Otherwise I suspect I was the youngest there. The photo above was just the one bed along the side of the house. There were plenty more.
Kyu-Furukawa Garden
Kyu-Furukawa Garden
Kyu-Furukawa Garden House and Rose Garden
When the rain restarted there were the colourful umbrellas to contrast with the flowers.
Kyu-Furukawa Garden Roses
I took photos of soooo many roses. I made a mosaic but the individual photos with the names of the roses are all on Flickr.
Roses of Kyu-Furukawa Garden
This is all that was left of the Azaelias - a week earlier and they must have looked amazing.
Kyu-Furukawa Garden
The japanese part of the garden was just as beautiful.
Kyu-Furukawa Garden
Kyu-Furukawa Garden
Kyu-Furukawa Garden Tea House
Kyu-Furukawa Garden Tree
Kyu-Furukawa Garden

There was a lovely viewing platform where you could look over most of both gardens and I spent a while sitting there and mulling over life in general. It was a very pleasant place to be!


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Somewhere...in Nakano Fujimicho...

There is a Temple almost on the doorstep of the Salvation Army Bazaar but I cannot find out what it is called. It says "Ryhhoji" on google maps but googling that isn't getting me anywhere. In any case, it is well worth a look if you are in the area. The day when I took these was crazily bright and sunny so they all ended up looking a bit washed out.
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You can tell a Temple from a Shrine in various ways but one is that a Temple has two Nio (buddhist guardians), one on either side of the entrance. These ones were behind glass and it was so sunny I could only get an image of them from the side.
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This pair were quite amazing and the carving was wonderful. They would certainly scare the bejeezus out of me on a dark night. Traditionally they traveled with The Buddha to protect him from harm.

I had paused outside the Temple to message The Pooch and while doing so was approached by a wizened japanese lady wearing a hand sewn bonnet. She was very insistent I go with her into the Temple and I failed to mime "I'm using facebook messenger but as soon as I find the right Pusheen icon I am going in" so along I went and she was insistent on pointing out to me that it wasn't just the Nio who were on protection detail, but also two stunningly coloured more contemporary looking warriors who literally had their backs.
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There was too much reflection to take the other chap's photo but I liked this one best since he was standing on the backs of his...enemies? slaves? They reminded me a bit of Shrek. The armour the two of them were wearing though was not in the least bit comical.

Inside there was the ritual hand washing area.
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Given the warmth of the day I was more than happy to do this. You pick up the scoop in your right hand and pour water over your left hand, then do the reverse, then finally draw a third scoop of water and run it back over the handle of the ladle itself, thus leaving it clean for the next person. Inside was the temple itself with some lovely carving and the donation box in front.
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The roofs of the Temple and the other buildings around it were beautifully finished in traditional Japanese style and had these fearsome gargoyles on the ends of the ...straight-bit-along-the-top. Coping? Copping? Something like that.
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But then I also spied these little guys - kind of a cross between a dragon and a tortoise.
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Nakano Fujimicho itself is a quite part of town although I did like their street lights.
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I am having some blogging mojo issues at the moment. I read a lot of blogs on Bloglovin and a number of them have only been blogging a year or two but have made them into thriving little businesses. I have always put myself off doing anything like that so it's made me wonder why I am blogging. If it's just a diary then I could do that offline. I think also I have been thinking of myself as a knitting blogger still even though I've been mainly sewing for about two years now. I only go on Ravelry once every 2 months or so whereas it used to be my Facebook equivalent. One sewing blogger asked for comments recently on what readers looked for in a blog and I put something about projects, discoveries and lessons but not too much personal stuff - specifically no dog photos. But then my blog has quite a lot of personal stuff on and multiple cat photos. So am I writing the kind of thing I wouldn't want to read?

Maybe I'm over thinking things.



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