Saturday, 27 September 2014

Fab Fabric

With one quilt nearly finished (the top at least) for an english friend, it was time to start talking turkey with my japanese friend, Noriko, about a quilt for her. I know I have occasionally mentioned her in the past but I don't think I've really gone into how good a friend she has become. She started off as the-woman-pooch's-company-hired-to-help-us-move-to-tokyo. She was awesome at that and made the logistics of the move amazingly simple. She found our temporary first flat for us. She then took us both to be registered as foreign residents, took me house hunting, took me to ikea to furnish the flat once she had negotiated the lease and done all the paperwork, took me to the supermarket to tell me what all these crazy vegetables and sauces were and which went with which. She helped me open a bank account, register at the library, find a doctor...everything! She went above and beyond what the company had contracted her to do and once she found out about my love of craft she took me to craft shops and the amazing Folk Craft Museum, which we actually visited again together a few weeks ago.
Plum Blossom at Ikegami Baien
We soon started going for regular lunches and she would whisk me off to beautiful gardens or lovely shops. Her husband, Nari, is also lovely and it probably helped that he was very into the two games Pooch has been working on - Metal Gear Solid and Pro-Evolution Soccer (called 'World Soccer' in Japan). So I knew I wanted to give them something lasting before I left and a quilt seemed called for.

Noriko and Nari lived and worked in England for about two years and Noriko became a National Trust addict. I wanted to make her something that would tie in with the countryside chic sort of thing and also fit with the decor of their mountain flat where they vanish off to for occasional precious weekends. She told me it has oatmeal walls with white tiles. So countryside chic and neutrals - completely outside my usual palette for a second time! Here is what I came up with.
fabric for noriko's quilt
And the pattern is going to be a simple nine-patch with white sashing.

I used to have no confidence at all in putting together fabrics for projects. It was only after taking an online colour course by Stitched in Color that I really got the hang of it. And while the course was very good, I think it was getting into the habit of choosing colour palettes that helped - overcoming that initial fear and just getting stuck in. My current method for choosing fabrics goes like this...

  1. Think long and hard about the person you're making for, and what kind of things they like. What clothes they wear, how they do their hair, whether they are an angular or curvy person, plain or print etc. 
  2. Go to an actual fabric shop - I am still not confident about choosing online - and spend a long time mooching around. Look at everything. 
  3. Find one print that you think the recipient would like. For me it was the second one from the left in the photo above. Hang on to that bolt of fabric like your life depended on it. 
  4. Carry that bolt around the shop with you and keep laying it next to possible fabrics. Pick out a colour from the print you have chosen and look for fabrics that use that same colour until you find one. Now you're carrying two bolts of fabric. 
  5. Choose another colour in one or both of the bolts you're carrying and find a third fabric. Now you're carrying three bolts
  6. Repeat until you've got enough. 
Of course this is if you're going for a melodious, harmonising colour scheme. If you're making a blue and orange beastie then you'd be looking to make sure your blues and oranges were matching each other and none of the minor colours were clashing with each other. But I would still start with a single, favourite fabric and go from there. 


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Rush Hour Bloghop

Many thanks to Carol and Madame Samm for this one!

I didn't use the specific material but I did stick with the palette. Black, grey, red and white are sooooo not my usual colours so I was left with a quandary as to what to make. Plus I am a lucky housewife at the moment, so I am not even commuting or working. Was there anything I needed that would use those colours that came into this category?!

It was on my way back from the cat cafe (click here for endless posts about Tokyo's cat cafes) that my idea came to me. I had stopped by the supermarket and my tote bag was loaded with groceries, my beloved pepsi and various notebooks, pen and wallets, all sitting on top of my phone and keys. Regardless of the size of the actual bag, the ability for your phone and keys to vanish into it has always amazed me. I cannot begin to estimate how many times I've had to stop and empty out my bag, convinced that I must have lost one or both, only for the missing article to appear in a fold I swear I already looked in three times. Thus I was to be found squatting on the pavement outside my block with the contents of my bag spread out in front of me as I looked for those damned keys/

*gasp*

Hadn't I seen a bag pockety thing on Pinterest a while back?

Wouldn't that be perfect for my pocketless tote bag?

This was what inspired me and this is what I made.
Bag Insert
I used some Marvel comic fabric I had just taken delivery of from the Fat Quarter Shop (my favourite online fabric shop) and some tape measure type printed fabric tape I had left from a previous bag project. I also added a couple of metal snap fasteners so the straps could be fastened around the handles of the tote. So this is the bag closed...
Bag Insert
And this is it open...
Bag Insert
Bag Insert
Travel card, keys and phone, all safely tucked away but - very importantly - easy to find without having to rummage and rummage and rummage for them!

I made this last week so this gave me an opportunity to road test it for a few days.
Route 66

...hmmm...


After three days I threw it away. USELESS! I was deeply disappointed.
Scooter Is Disappointed Again, April, 2010
Now don't get me wrong - the concept is great! It is my design (essentially just flat rectangles) and the length of my straps that were at fault. The key problems I had were...

  1. The pockets were not deep enough so things fell out, leaving me still rummaging.
  2. Something with any thickness (even just the thickness of a phone) in a big pocket meant it was hard to use the smaller pocket, which was effectively on top of the big one. 
  3. The straps meant the top of the pocket was in line with the top of the bag - which seemed sensible to me at first - but then when my phone was basically visible on the top edge of my bag all the time I started getting paranoid about it getting nicked. 

I can see on the original that her main pockets were the full length of the insert and her straps were longer so I am considering this one a trial run and planning to make a second in the next week or so. Luckily I have more of my comic book fabric left!

Here is the schedule for the rest of the hop so please go and visit those taking part!

Wednesday, September 24

Thursday, September 25

Friday, September 26

Monday, September 29

Tuesday, September 30

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sumo-ch to Tell You

Yesterday was my first experience of live Sumo. Needless to say, for a girl who loves WWE and Japanese culture, it was extremely enjoyable. The matches go from about 8.30am and start with the most junior wrestlers, working up through the ranks until the Juryo (second tier) at about 2.30pm and then Makuuchi (the cream) from about 3.40pm. Your ticket is for the whole day but it's quite normal for people not to arrive until 3ish. I got there about 12.30 and the place was fairly empty. See below - photos when I arrived and just before I left.
sumo stadium at 1pm
sumo stadium at 5pm
Yes, we were rather high up. Other photos were generally taken at the maximum zoom of my camera (x18) so that will explain the quality.

The early matches were the junior guys but they were still pretty big.
Junior Match
The guys in black around the edges are the five judges who decide who wins and adjudicate of there is any doubt. That very rarely happens, but excitingly actually did when we were there. You win a bout by making your opponent touch inside the ring with any part of his body other than his feet, or outside the ring with any part of his body.
Junior Match
The status of the wrestlers also dictates the kind of referee you get. The ref in the photo above has bare shins and feet and would not be allowed to preside over a senior level match. I found the robes the refs wore fascinating so made a little montage.
Sumo Referee Montage
Those are all senior refs - indicated not just by robe length but also by their wearing socks and sometimes straw sandals, and also by the colour of their tassels and cords.

While things were quiet I had a good look at the crowd and saw some lovely groupings. Old geezers, who are in fact very rudely pointing the soles of their feet towards the ring - not the done thing.
Sumo Audience During the Junior Matches
Family group with a packed lunch.
Sumo Audience During the Junior Matches
I would have loved to have one of those 4-seat boxes on the ground floor but you have to buy all four seats and it comes to about £200. Our tickets up the top were still about £35 each, although for 8+ hours entertainment that doesn't work out too badly. Meanwhile outside there was major fandom going on as crowds of people waited for the senior wrestlers to arrive. I am not sure who this is but I happened to snap him as I was meandering around.
Makuuchi Wrestler Arriving
They each arrived with a little entourage of junior wrestlers who serve as their assistants/servants as part of their training. This guy was about two metres tall and highly impressive.

Once the junior matches have finished the Juryo wrestlers have their entrance which is very impressive. They parade in and surround the ring.
Ring Entrance of Juryo Grade Wrestlers
They are each wearing an embroidered silk apron, usually presented to them by a sponsor or fan. The guy in the front of the above photo, third from the left, is from Bulgaria and has the country's location map embroidered on his. The guys in this group were noticeably bigger than the first and showed a lot of skill, although that didn't always mean the matches were longer. This one can be described in three photos.
Short Sumo Match 1
Short Sumo Match 2
Short Sumo Match 3
And that's back to the shower.

Then it was the turn of the very senior guys - the Makuuchi. They paraded in in the same way, led by the senior referee.
Ring Entrance of Makuuchi Grade Wrestlers
Once in they stood facing outwards, then turned inwards, clapped and raised their arms.
Ring Entrance of Makuuchi Grade Wrestlers
The guy with his arms still raised here is an Egyptian, and you can see the egyptian cartouche on his apron.
Ring Entrance of Makuuchi Grade Wrestlers
Two to the left from him is a Brazilian with the Jesus status on his. Once they had left it was time for the entrance of the Yokozuna. These are the Kings of Sumo. There can only be a maximum of four at a time and there are lot of requirements about how they must show their prowess before they get elected to this role. It is a huge honour to be made a Yokozuna and when a new one is named there is a big ceremony at one of the biggest shrines in Tokyo. They also get a larger than life size photo portrait of themselves hung in the main hall for all time - you can see some of these in the very first picture of this post. The three current ones are all Mongolian, which has caused a certain amount of consternation within Japan, and two were wrestling while we were there. Their entrances were paltry by WWE standards but what they lacked in 80s metal and fireworks they made up for in elegance and gravitas.
Ring Entrance of Yokozuna Hakaho
As well as the aprons, they wear these huge rope belts with elaborate looped fastenings which can weigh up to 35kg! They also have two attendants accompanying them. Once in they show their flexibility and strength by doing various maneuvers, the exact significance of which were lost on me.
Ring Entrance of Yokozuna Hakaho
The second Yokozuna to enter was Kakuryu, and one of his attendants was carrying a kendo sword.
Ring Entrance of Yokozuna Kakuryu
A great to do was made about some matches which had sumo celebrities in them. This is Kyokutenho, who is my favourite having seen him wrestle on TV several times. His claim to fame is that he is 40 years old and there have only been six wrestlers older than him in the whole history of sumo. I've seen him interviewed and he has such a kind, happy face!
Kyokutenho at 40 years old
He contrasts with this newcomer (below) who is a mere 21 - he had come up through University wrestling where he had been champion and had not yet grown his hair long enough for the traditional top knot.
Ichinojo
Popular matches can have sponsors, and their banners are carried around the ring after the wrestlers arrive but before the match starts. So for instance, this match had two sponsors.
Sponsor Flags for a Match
This guy is also from the Uni circuit and is called Endo.
Endo before the match
He is apparently THE sumo pin-up on account of his good looks (?) and so his match had a few extra sponsors.
Half of Endo's Sponsors
A few? There were so many they had to do the flags in two batches. Each sponsor gives a cash prize to the winner in an envelope so for this match the stack of envelopes (which the ref hands over in a little ceremony at the end of the match) was about 4" high. This is Endo's bottom. Does it not make you want to lean forward and give it a little pat?
Endo's Bottom
Reminds me of my niece. And then this is Endo's match.
Endo on the floor
Yep, he lost in about two seconds, making his result sheet this tournament show seven straight losses. Somehow I don't think he'll be sumo's darling for much longer. His opponent could easily have picked up £50k for winning this match alone on account of all those envelopes. The junior wrestlers get an annual stipend of a few thousand plus their food and lodgings but at the top end there is big money to be made from matches and most of all from endorsements and sponsors.

The only other matches to attract so many sponsors were those concerning the Yokozuna.
Kakuryu (left) vs Chiyotairyu
They each won their own matches, much to the delight of the crowd.

The final stage in the sumo day is the bow twirling ceremony. I think the judges choose someone who has performed well that day to do this but I am not 100% on that. In any case he was very impressive.
Bow Ceremony
He was handed the bow by the senior referee and proceeded to twirl it all over in the most majestic cheerleader performance you'll ever see.

Leaving the stadium, the drums were being played from the top of a tall, free standing tower in the front of the stadium grounds, to let the neighbourhood know that events had finished for the day. The atmosphere outside was lovely - like a happy crowd after their team won at home. There were a number of elderly gents with their elderly friends who had obviously had rather too much beer and were heading back to the station like very gentle dodgem cars. Everyone was in high spirits and personally I would love to go back another day!


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