Saturday, 3 December 2016

I have bad builders karma

I have to face facts, my karma when it comes to employing tradesmen of any kind - builders, electricians, plumbers, kitchen fitters, whatever - seems to be very poor.  I try to do everything right: I seek recommendations, I investigate references, I research online, I do a lot of advance preparation and planning, I get more than one quote....  and still they let me down, don't turn up, don't do what they contracted to do, don't supervise their subcontractors, work erratic hours, go wildly off piste from their instructions, or just do bizarre things like leaving unsightly eight inch gaps between the top of the refrigerator and the overhead cabinet, or leaving me a gap for my dishwasher but not actually providing any electric point to plug it in or any gap for feeding its drainhose through to the wastepipe.

The latest to let me down is a plumber/builder recommended by neighbours for having done a really good job on their recent bathroom remodel. I've been waiting almost two years for the builder we used on the house renovations to find time to put a shower into our main bathroom so we don't have to all use the (leaky) shower in the ensuite, so I was excited that I might have found a replacement.  I sent the new man an email, he didn't answer. I followed up a week later with a phone call and he made a firm appointment for last night. So I spent part of my day off cleaning the main bathroom and ensuite, working on design sketches, pulling together a brief, emptying the walk-in closet that might get converted into a shower so he would be able to measure, and I made sure I was home in good time for work.  Did he show up? Did he even call to say he wasn't coming?  Of course he didn't.  I called after half an hour and left a message, and he eventually got back to me an hour and a half after he was meant to be with me to basically say that he'd forgotten all about it.  Just the kind of business person you want to commit several thousand pounds of work to.  Not.  But I'm desperate so I've made another appointment for next week and hopefully this time he will remember.  Grrrr.  I feel like I have money for this project that I can't give away.

On my day off I once again put some time into dollshousing.  I had already sanded down the filler I spread on the shed base last week and given it two coats of brown paint. So I was able to start the basic flocking with various ground materials.  I was going for a variegated effect but at the moment it is looking too patchy. But I think once I start adding plants and bushes it will look better.  Here's a picture just before I glued the shed in.


And here's what it looks like with the shed glued in (now with
windowboxes and hanging baskets) but without the gap around the
shed filled in yet.


TV knitting this week has continued to be the Gilmore Girls mystery knitalong cowl and I'm almost finished. This is Clues 1-4, each with a different contrast lace pattern. So I just need to knit a couple more contrast stripes and then graft the end back onto the held stitches and block it.


I haven't managed any sewing this week yet (I'm hoping to do some today) but I did cut out a pair of pyjama trousers using the free pattern I got at the Sew Brum day.  I measured a couple of my existing pairs of pyjamas to decide what size to cut out. I also modified the pattern by lowering the front of the waist by a couple of inches as I didn't think it was going to fit very well if the front and back rise both measured the same. My plan is to baste it together and see if the fit needs adjusting any further.  This is cut out in a blue polkadot cotton which is a slightly heavier weight than quilting cotton, that I bought on the market in Leicester before my holiday.


I've been making a bit of a push on my Idrija bobbin lace doiley because I would like to get it finished so that I can start practicing for the Bucks Point class I am taking in March.  It takes me about 90 minutes to do one 'curl' of the outside border, I'm quite slow. I do find having to constantly stop and do the sewings to connect to previous work a bit tedious. I think I prefer Torchon where you can just make the lace stitches without interruption. So I don't know if I will do much more in this type of lace.



We've started putting up Christmas decorations bit by bit.  Last week we did the lights in the trees outside.  I was up a ladder cursing under my breath as I wrestled with the satan's tangle of wires, lights and branches, wondering why we had ever had such a stupid idea in the first place, when a family walked by. The Dad looked up and said how glad he was we were putting lights up again because they had looked so nice last year, and they all beamed at us. Ahhhh, bless....  We did eventually get everything untangled and into the trees and they do look very nice. We;re hoping to go get a tree today.

I also got out the Advent calendars and put them into action on Thursday.  This one is a quilt panel which I made up several years ago and always enjoy using.  You put an ornament on the tree every day until the tree is fully decorated.

The rest of my free time this week was mostly spent on picking photos to go in a 'scrapbook' of our Japan holiday. I have put 'scrapbook' in quotes because it isn't a proper scrapbook like scrapbookers make. It's a child's A3 colouring pad into which I have stuck various maps, brochures and ticket stubs while scribbling a narration in my appallingly messy handwriting.  I've chosen 316 photos to go into it and have uploaded them to Snapfish and ordered prints. I stuck post-it notes onto each scrapbook page with the photo numbers so that when the prints come back, I can stick the correct photos onto the appropriate pages.  This is the first time I've done anything like this but a friend made a simpler version from her holiday and I thought what a better way of preserving the memories than just keeping a couple of hundred prints in a box I never look into. Yes, it would be nicer if it were tidier, but I think the main thing is that it gets done while I can still remember the holiday, ha ha ha.

Have you seen this free knitalong on Ravelry The Night before Christmas by Frankie Brown? When you open the knitted book, it reveals a complete knitted Christmas scene.  It's cute and I think I might have a go at it. I've ordered some plastic canvas for stiffening the pieces. I think Frankie is releasing a free pattern every day in the run-up to Christmas for all the component parts.


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Snuggling down for winter

I hear so many people moaning about the weather and saying things like 'roll on summer' but I have to confess that I rather like this time of year. Last night we had a wood fire in the fireplace as we watched the Gilmore Girls revival and sipped some Lindisfarne Mead that DH found when he was out christmas shopping. I was wearing my felted Arne and Carlos slippers I made last winter and it all felt very cosy. I like bundling up in my woollies to go outside, and I've got two handmade quilts on my bed to stay warm at night.  And anyway, it's very unlikely to ever get as cold here in the East Midlands of the UK as it used to do when I lived in Ottawa in Canada, where it regularly dropped down to minus 40 Celsius in the winter. Although that was a dry cold, and it can feel rather miserable here even at 11 degrees when it's raining and my feet get soaked, which happened on Monday.

Today we are going to go out and try our best with our too-short stepladder to arrange some outdoor lights in our front trees.  We managed one tree last year and it looked nice so we are going to go for two this year.  DS isn't coming home until quite close to Christmas this year, so we can put the tree and decorations up when we choose.  Perhaps next weekend.

I spent a lot of my day off working on dollshouse stuff and I am going to try to keep that up.  This week I was working on filling window boxes and hanging baskets for my shed project and to finish off the Victorian gazebo porch.  I also started work on the base for the shed, riffing off some tips published by Bea Broadwood of Petite Properties in an article about creating 1:48 bases published in Dollshouse and Miniature Scene magazine. After choosing some accessories then drawing around the base of the shed, I filled the terrain in with Tetrion filler and left it to dry. It doesn't look like much yet.


The windowboxes I built myself out of lolly sticks and the hanging baskets are re-purposed bottle caps. I filled them with paperclay then 'planted' them with various bits of greenery.  The wires sticking out everywhere will be the hanging basket supports. I managed to stab myself on one of the sharp wire ends and it wouldn't stop bleeding so consequently there are some interesting 'rust' stains on several baskets.



Saturday I was back at the quilting shop for a sewing day.  I had prepared the rest of the pieces of the appliqued houses tea cosy and finished the quilting on it, so I was able to assemble it first thing in the morning.




I spent the rest of the morning cutting out the numerous pieces required for the honeycomb basket pattern that I bought at the Makit fair in St Ives.  There are seven pockets that all require outside fabric, inside liners, bases and base liners and Bosal stiffening pieces, so it took a while. But it's all cut out now ready to start sewing.

In the afternoon I was chain piecing half square triangles for the saw tooth border of my indigo bear's paw quilt. I was annoyed to find that I was several squares short because I thought I had made enough.  I couldn't face making any more right then so I started to put away my sewing machine. Guess what I found when I shifted the sewing machine?  Yes, a little pile of the remaining squares hiding under the machine. So I was able to complete four strips of sawtooth.  I finished off the day by stitching a very little on my Hawaiian applique quilt.

While we were watching Gilmore Girls, I was working on my Gilmore Girls Mystery Cowl, a mystery knit along organised on Ravelry.  Clue 2 is really long so I am still stuck on that one, but clues 3 and 4 are already published.  I can't look because I don't want to spoil the surprise.  This is what I've got so far.

There are four contrast colours so I am guessing that the stripey section will get repeated in the other three colours.  The lefthand part of the V is on waste yarn so I expect we will be knitting a big loop then grafting back onto the held live stitches to complete the cowl.

I was clearing out some of my sewing room yesterday and came across the Christmas panel I bought a while ago so I am considering whether I want to try to make that up in time to use as a table runner or wall hanging this year. My son was making me laugh on the telephone as he was grumbling about having to pay up for a deposit for a Christmas meal with his office team, his first experience of the non-optional social convention of office Christmas do's.  We only have a small round of those this year: I'm going to DH's modelling club christmas meal and he is coming to my dollshouse club's turkey dinner at the pub. Then we both have separate office christmas meals as well.  Something to look forward to, plus some holiday coming up.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Getting back to normal

We've been home a full week now, and already Japan is starting to seem like it was a while ago.  I'm still trying to weed out photos, I have probably eliminated about 100 so far but that still leaves far too many.  By Friday, work was starting to feel like "oh, so this is my life huh?" so the weekend has been a welcome respite.

I hope some of you checked out my extra posts this past week about Japan.  I have one more photo of stuff I bought which didn't fit in the previous posts:


These are all paper items.  Six cards of classic Japanese woodblock prints which I am having framed into two sets of three.  Two sets of woodblock coasters, two reels of pretty printed washi tape (good for decorating envelopes etc) and a pack of indigo printed washi paper which I'm sure I'll find a use for.  I got more coasters and more washi paper as gifts for my bobbin lace ladies as we seem to have gotten into the habit of bringing each other gifts from our holidays.

Catching up a bit, just before we left for Japan I managed to hotwire my broken overlocker footpedal and finish off my One-Hour top, a free online pattern from Fancy Tiger Crafts.  I wore it to work after I got back.  I don't normally like dolman sleeves but the fabric is so drapey that the excess under the arms didn't bother me, and I quite like this £2/m fabric I got off the market in Birmingham.

I also finished the winter cottage tea cosy I was knitting before we left. This was a pattern 
from Let's Knit magazine but I couldn't find the colour of Aran
yarn they used for the cottage. So I experimented with holding two colours of
DK yarn together but I'm not entirely happy with the
mottled effect this created. Although I suppose it looks brick-like.



 This week I've done some more work on the applique houses tea cosy I started before we went to Japan. (You may be wondering why I need so many tea cosies, lol. I just like making them.).  I've now moved on to embellishing the fusible applique with free motion stitching in black thread.  It's a good refresher on free motion quilting.  This is the first side embellished and I'm working on the second side currently.  Then the background of both sides gets quilted in toning thread to create a textured effect before making it up into a cosy with a padded lining.


We've watched a fair bit of TV this week, catching up on what taped while we were away.  I'm still working on the Drops top-down yoked sweater and have just about finished the yoke now.  I went to get more yarn from my 11-ball stash and realised that I had already used four balls just on the yoke. I panicked a bit and have now ordered a safety margin of more Drops Karisma yarn from Wool Warehouse.  It won't be the same dyelot but I feel better knowing I will have some more in case I need it.

DH had a big finish this week by finally completing the cross stitch blue and white picture that he started several months ago.  I bought the pattern from someone selling off their mother's cross stitch stash, just because I thought it was pretty. I didn't think I would ever make it because it is so big and complicated. DH had done a bit of cross stitch before and having studied the pattern, volunteered to have a go at it. I was sceptical because he didn't really enjoy what he had made before although he likes the end products.  He persisted so I pulled together the supplies for him and ordered some linen evenweave cloth.  He did a brilliant job, painstakingly unpicking anything he wasn't happy  with, and soldiering on through multiple complex charts. He was pretty much hating it by the end but he completed every stitch. The 'white' background of the plate and tea set is all individually stitched, and there was a ton of intricate back-stitch. Doesn't it look great?  I will get it framed and it will go on display in pride of place on our living room wall.  He says he is never doing any cross stitch ever again. :)



It's turned quite cold here so I've been enjoying wearing the Baa-bles hat and mitten set that I knitted last winter, nice and warm.  We went to Oxford on Saturday to visit DS and take him his obligatory souvenir t-shirt (and a few other things). It was great to see him and Oxford is already starting to look quite festive with lights and christmas-sy things.  We had a lovely cup of tea and some very nice cakes and cream scones in the Vaults in Radcliffe Square.  All three of us are feeling sad that this is his last year in such a lovely city.

Hope you are staying warm in your hand knits or under your handmade quilts!


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Dollhouse / miniatures - extra Japan post number four

I had done a little research online before we travelled but couldn't find much about the Japanese miniatures scene apart from a maker of food items in Tokyo and an annual Tokyo show (dates didn't coincide with our trip).

But I was on the lookout all the time in souvenir shops and craft shops for items that might work in my dollshouses. In particular, there is my Italian partwork to make a Japanese Ryokan inn that I bought on eBay last year, still waiting to be made.  It's in 1/16th scale but I was hopeful of finding some items that might fit into it. So I took lots of photos whenever we went into traditional buildings which I hope will help me in creating the interiors.

I was disappointed to find very little in the way of miniatures in the places we visited.  We went to a couple of toy departments but there was no dollshouse section or doll furniture. One toy shop in Kyoto did have an aisle of plastic mini items to furnish little vignettes, but the scale was all over the place. I did buy one card of kitchen appliances which I hope will fit my Ryokan scale.

Some of the doll shops or shops selling altars had no-scale simple furniture designed for use by the dolls/gods.  A couple of souvenir shops had crudely made wallhung room scenes in frames at astronomical prices.  Some of the souvenir shops had miniature sushi platters or food trays, as display items or fridge magnets, but again no particular scale and fairly crude.

We did see some superb scale models in various museums or at sightseeing sites.  In particular, the Edo-Tokyo museum in Tokyo is highly recommended, both for their interesting collections and recreated buildings, and for the extensive and detailed models of historical Japanese scenes and buildings. Here are a few shots of the Edo-Tokyo models.




DH found a sheet of stickers at Daiso (a 100-yen shop) of traditional Japanese woodblock prints which could be used at 1/12th or 1/16th. I also found a miniature rubber Buddha figurine at Tokyu Hands, a tiny ceramic Lucky Cat at a tea shop and a bigger Lucky Cat at a souvenir shop.

On one of our last days, DH spotted an adorable origami miniature doll display, like the dolls they display on Girls Day, which he bought for my birthday.




So I was quite astonished to spot a poster for a dollshouse museum when we were in Hakone-Machi, in the mountains.  The generic map made it seem like it was in the nearby resort of Moto-Hakone, but after conferring with the bus station information assistant (I took a picture of the poster and showed it to him on my camera), we were directed to take a bus up to a remote hamlet.  The museum was directly opposite the bus stop.  It's located in a strange set of linked greenhouses which I assume was formerly some kind of botanic garden. I couldn't help thinking that it is a most unsuitable environment for antique dollshouses due to all the light streaming in and probably a lack of temperature/humidity control.  Most of the labels are in Japanese but in English it explains that they bought several items from the Mott's Miniatures collection when it closed down and also from the sale of the Vivien Greene collection.

According to the poster, the museum opened in July 2015 but they seem to be still unpacking things. There was a large group of antique dollshouses in the last room which haven't been unpacked at all yet, huddled together with their contents in tupperwares.  I recognised items in display cabinets from English makers so I think someone may have made visits to the UK shows. And there around a half dozen thatched cottages from Little Homes of England, obviously someone's favourites.  The collection is a good size and it took us probably 45 minutes to go slowly around the linked greenhouses. There is a small shop area in the reception building with a few  hugely expensive imported minis (nothing Japanese), and a little cafe area.







This pond/water feature was randomly in one building, presumably left over from the days as a botanical garden centre.

 The houses still to be unpacked.

Although mainly of Western items, there were a few Japanese items. These
are some tiny 144th scale Japanese shops.

And this display below was by a Japanese maker, I liked
the unusual structure of the base.

This below is also by a Japanese maker, we weren't sure if it
is meant to be Shaker or if it is a Japanese carpentry shop (because
the worktable is so low). 


So if you visit the resort of Hakone and you are into minis, definitely make the effort to go see this museum. I don't think it would be worth a special trip from Tokyo, but it's relatively easy to get to by bus if you are in Hakone anyway doing the 'loop' around the area. The stop is on the way back to Hakone Yumoto (the main base for the area) from MotoHakone and I think there were at least two buses an hour.

I would really like to start building my Japanese Ryokan kit now, but I know I need to finish all my outstanding dollshouse projects before my club comes to visit in July which is my deadline. At least I have amassed a good photo reference library of interiors and interior items like kitchen items and baskets which I'm sure will be quite useful.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Knitting - extra Japan post number three

My advance research was mainly about fabric, so I didn't specifically go to Japan looking for yarn.  I had already read online that Noro was no cheaper in Japan, which proved to be the case. I saw a couple of very small yarn shops in market malls, and there was a big yarn section in Okadaya in Tokyo, and I found a combined fabric and yarn shop in Nara, plus there were smaller yarn sections in some of the other stores we went to like Tokyu Hands, Daiso, department stores etc.  There was quite a lot of yarn labelled in Japanese, but also some imported brands from America and Italy. I think I saw Debbie Bliss but I'm not sure if I saw any Rowan (which is ubiquitous here in the UK). Sorry I can't remember what brands I saw but it all seemed pretty standard stuff, I didn't notice anything hugely different about a Japanese yarn store from a UK store.  Prices seemed similar to the UK as well.

As mentioned in the previous quilting post, I found decent sized sections for knitting and crocheting books in all the bookstores we looked in. Crocheting seems to be equally popular judging by the number of crochet books, and indeed almost all the knitting books included a good proportion of crocheted items as well. Mittens, hats and scarves were popular topics, as were tops and pullovers. Kids and baby clothes were also popular in both hobbies.  Some books focused on western techniques such as Aran cables, or fair isle colourwork.  I was looking for a book that had clever design and items I wanted to make (I don't crochet) but struggled. In the end I came away with one new stitch dictionary, one secondhand stitch dictionary from Bookoff, and a secondhand book of sweater patterns.  The secondhand prices at Bookoff were hugely cheaper than the new prices: new books were £8-£10 whereas secondhand books were only £2-£4. However the craft section was much smaller at Bookoff and craft books were jumbled together with gardening books and yoga books.  Not reading Japanese, this slowed me down a lot as I had to pull out every book in turn to look at the covers!


The two cute little bags, which are really well made and also lined, were typically on sale at shops selling high-end biscuits or sweets and I imagine are intended as gift bags. However they are exactly the same size as small knitting project bags (like for socks) so I came home with two of them which I shall enjoy using.

The Japanese yarn is from the shop in Nara, and accompanies a cute pattern for a sleeveless cabled top which was on display in the shop.  The assistant had virtually no English and initially we were at a stalemate as she assumed I was trying to buy the shop sample.  I had to resort to making knitting motions with my hand and pointing at the yarn but eventually she understood I wanted the pattern and the yarn. I know I have a couple of articles in my pattern stash about how to read Japanese knitting patterns and there is more information online, so hopefully I will be able to puzzle it out.  I bought two extra balls because Japanese women are generally a lot smaller than me. I made sure the pattern size went up big enough for my metric circumference before I bought it, so I think it will be alright.  The yarn is a blend (not sure of what) and is soft with a slight halo. There are some lovely patterns in the stitch dictionaries which are all charted out so fairly universal.

I took two knitting projects with me to Japan: my second go at the Raindrops Shawl using the tweedy yarn I bought at FibreEast this year, and my purple Victorian Lace shawl.  I mainly knitted on the Raindrops shawl as it is pretty straightforward and in fingering weight.  The laceweight purple shawl requires more concentration so only got a few periods of time on the plane or in hotel rooms.  I felt a bit conspicuous knitting on trains because everybody else is either reading or looking at their smartphone, I never saw anyone doing crafts.  I even Googled it one night in case I was committing some terrible faux pas but I couldn't find anything saying you shouldn't knit in public.  I managed to get about halfway through the Raindrops shawl and also managed not to break any of my wooden interchangeables (although I took spares just in case, or in case Security had decided to confiscate my working pair).  I only saw one other person knitting which was an older lady knitting hats behind a street stall where she was selling the hats. She was actually attracting a crowd, whether because of her unusual activity or because she knew a lot of people, I couldn't tell.

I saw a lot of women wearing knitted hats, knitted scarves and even gloves, although probably most of these were purchased items.  It gets extremely warm in Tokyo in the summer, so perhaps they feel the cold more. On days where DH and I felt pleasantly warm and were dressed in lightweight summer clothing, we saw lots of people bundled up in thick coats and woolly hats  looking quite cold.  Also the public transport, particularly buses and the bullet train, was kept way too hot for us with hot air blasting from the ceiling. We did experience some extremes of temperature: our first day in Tokyo on October 26 was 26 degrees and I was wearing a summer dress and openwork shoes.  Our last day in Takayama it was only six degrees and it was actually snowing on us as we walked to the station to return to Tokyo.  So as you can imagine, it was difficult to decide what to take with me in my suitcase and I was wearing a lot of layers. I stuck to a palette of navy blue so that everything went with everything else. Now that I'm home again I am enjoying wearing clothing in other colours!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Quilting, fabric and textiles - extra Japan post number two

My original intention for going to Japan in November was to visit the Yokohama quilt week, but that event was cancelled for 2016 when the organisers ceased publication of their quilting magazine. Nonetheless, I was still hoping to see some of the wonderful Japanese quilting scene that has produced so many award winners at quilting shows around the world.

While I certainly saw lots of fabric and crafts, I was surprised that I didn't see much specifically for quilters in the places I visited.  For example, we visited a few magazine stores and although there were handicraft magazines for knitters, crocheters, and general crafters, I only found one quilting magazine which was Quilts Japan. We spent a fair amount of time in three bookstores in Tokyo and one second bookstore (BookOff), as well as in the book sections of various fabric and craft stores, and the quilting sections were microscopic compared to the large dressmaking sections or even the knitting/crocheting sections. Tatting and jewellery making were also well represented. And most of the quilting books they had were about making bags and accessories, only a couple were for bed quilts. It made me wonder if quilting isn't as popular right now?

Googling on anything related to fabric in Japan will probably lead you to Nippori Fabric Town, a neighbourhood in Tokyo where there are a lot of fabric stores including the famous Tomato. I also hit a couple of branches of Tokyu Hands (a lifestyle and craft store chain), the Okadaya fabric store in Shinjuku, and the two branches of the excellent Nomura Tailor fabric stores in Kyoto. Some of the shops stocked a lot of imported American quilting cottons, as well as Japanese versions including Japanese copies of Liberty prints.  Most of the Nippori shops did not sell much in the way of small cuts, they wanted you to buy a half or whole metre.  Because of our dire exchange rate at the moment, prices were similar to the UK but I met some American quilters who were exclaiming that the prices for quilting cotton were lower than in the States.  Some shops were displaying made-up samples of bags or clothing, but not any quilts.






I focused on Japanese fabrics as I wanted a souvenir of my trip, but I didn't want to load my suitcases with a lot of yardage so I was fairly restrained.

Above is a Japanese wrapping cloth, these were for sale in shops everywhere we went, 
in hundreds of different patterns. They are used for wrapping gifts or knotted for
carrying items.  I bought this one as a gift for a friend. The fan is for me.

I went to a brilliant craft shop called Sakura Horikiri in Asakusa, which specialises
in kits such as the two on the right above to make pictures by pushing fabric into
slits cut in polystyrene. I saw this type of craft on my trips to the States in the
Noughties but in Japan these were hugely more sophisticated and artistic. There were all sizes 
ranging up to quite complex large canvases, many on a natural theme such as flowers or birds.
 I bought these two small kits which
come with all the fabric required. The kit on the left is for a typically Japanese-style zippered bag, 
found in another fabric store (I think in Kyoto?) which had several kits on offer for bags.

These above are fat eighths (or the metric equivalent) of various
Japanese prints which I found in Nippori. I don't think they are all cotton, but they are like
candy sticks rolled up like this, so pretty.

This all  above came from Nippori Fabric Town. The metric FQs are cotton as is the
lovely yardage below.  I might use the FQs to make a wallhanging like this one below
that I saw for an incredible price in a craft gallery attached to the Amuse Museum in Tokyo.

The same gallery was exhibiting this pretty applique picture but I think they wanted about
£600 for it!

Okadaya had a lot of Japanese fabric including heavier dressmaking weights. They 
also had a range of pretty panels - I bought the geisha one below. Then I chose
the other two fabrics to go with it, but I had to buy one metre of each. I will make
a wallhanging from them.


I saw shops everywhere we went selling a range of cute stuffed and appliqued fabric items made from Japanese printed fabric. I don't know if they were all the same chain or if this is just a really popular type of item in Japan. They aren't just for tourists, Japanese girls were coming in and cooing 'kawaii' [cute] over them. After visiting several of these shops to admire and fondle items such as stumpwork sushi, fabric mobiles, stuffed animals, and hair ornaments, I eventually succumbed
to a handful of cute stuffed and embroidered flowers.


This below is a heavier linen-weight Japanese indigo fabric which I bought
for making a bag. I also bought a metre of a more beige/pastel print
for my m-i-l which has gone off to her as a belated birthday present.
I bought us both a Japanese quilting/bag making book. Mine is called
American Country by Masako Wakayama and has some charming projects with a
Japanese twist. I don't read Japanese, but the metric measurements are given
and there are a lot of diagrams and picture tutorials.


So fabric is readily available in Japan and there must be a lot of people sewing clothes and household items judging by the books and patterns I saw. There were some big haberdashery sections in most of these stores as well, I was tempted by the large selection of bag handles at good prices but as I didn't have a specific project in mind, I didn't get any in the end.  If you do go, I suggest taking a few project ideas with you as it can be a bit overwhelming in Nippori where there is so much choice.

There are many good blog posts online about where to find fabric and craft shops in Tokyo, Kyoto etc so do your research before you go. It can be difficult to find places once you're there as addresses don't really work well in Japan (many streets aren't labelled and they don't number buildings consecutively) so search particularly for written directions on how to find places like Okadaya, and even better for photographs of the shop fronts since you may not be able to read the shop signs.  I took a handful of printed notes with me including photos, directions, screenprints of Google Maps etc which really helped. Don't worry if you don't speak Japanese because the shop clerks will always type out the total price on a calculator if there isn't a till display and show it to you and most of the price tickets have at least the number written out in roman numerals.  Fabric is sold in meters so either learn the numbers up to ten in Japanese or hold up the appropriate number of fingers, or if all else fails use your hands to indicate on the metre stick how much you want. Very likely the clerk will speak some English as it is taught in schools.  Most shops will only take cash, credit cards are not widely used in Japan, but everybody seems to have lots of change so it's easy to break bigger notes like a 10,000 yen note.  Happy Fabric Hunting!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Kimono - extra Japan post number one

We've all heard of kimono but I have to confess I had the vague idea that kimono were a sort of historic folk dress, or something worn just for weddings or on stage.  So I was delighted to find that kimono are worn by normal modern women out and about on their daily business.  And they are completely beautiful and elegant.

We regularly saw kimono being worn by shoppers, passengers on trains, diners in restaurants etc. as well as by shopkeepers and young girls out sightseeing.  Almost entirely by women though. I saw very few men wearing the male equivalent, just a few boyfriend/partners squiring their lovely kimono-clad girls around sights.  It seems to be a thing in Japan for Japanese women (and some tourists) to wear or hire kimono for a special day out such as seeing some of the heritage sights in Kyoto.  I saw many places offering 'the kimono experience' by the hour or for a day, some throwing in professional photo shoots and even videos.

I asked our female tour guide when Japanese women would wear kimono.  Basically the answer seems to be for any occasion where we in the West might dress up as well: dining out, special occasions, parties, visiting family, festivals, dates etc.

It's not considered polite in Japan to take pictures of strangers unless it is a general shot of a scene, so I had to be discreet about taking photos.












I saw some gorgeous antique kimono in museums.










Kimono are very expensive. There are shops specialising in selling on secondhand kimono and also yukata (cotton summer kimono). I saw many of these shops on our travels.  So colourful.





Kimono-clad dolls are popular, both with tourists as a souvenir and for normal Japanese as gifts to young girls on Girls Day for display in the home.

An Empress and Emperor set of dolls in Kyoto.  The Empress wears the 12 layered kimono of the highest nobility

An exquisite doll from a high end shop called Kyugetsu in Asakusa in Tokyo.


Naturally, as a self-respecting tourist, I wanted the opportunity to wear kimono.  I did this at a historic Kyoto home being run as a museum, called Tondaya, located in the former textile area of Nishijin.  This was 'kimono-light' as it went on over my street clothes, but still involved a surprising amount of layers.  There was an undercollar, the kimono itself, an under-tie, a firm 'stomacher' to flatten the midriff, the obi, and the final tie over the obi. The end result felt a bit like wearing a corset over a dressing gown.  I felt very cinched in around my middle, the obi layers creating a stiff barrier from around my bustline down to the top of my hips. No wonder all the kimono ladies I saw were sitting so upright!  Sadly I look more middleaged and portly than the slim elegant Japanese ladies...  DH also wore a kimono and looked quite good.



We spent a morning in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto, where I loved an art installation called Kimono Forest at the tram station. It was a short walkway lined with clear pillars protecting all different kimono fabrics, so colourful and pretty. Lots of Japanese and foreign tourists were posing for their photos on the walkway.

 
A couple of the hotels we stayed in provided yukata for lounging around in.  I also bought a couple for myself - they're a bit wrinkled in the photos from coming home in my suitcase.

This is a tourist yukata with a self-belt, which I 
bought at the Oriental Bazaar shop in Tokyo. It's short enough
to wear like a dressing gown.

This is a real Japanese yukata, which I bought in
a secondhand kimono shop.  It's much longer as it's designed
to be worn with all the underbelts and an obi, and the 
excess length would be bloused out over the belt and hidden under
an obi.  I may shorten it to wear as a robe, or I may
cut it up to use the cotton fabric in a project.


This is one the extra daily blog posts I am making this week about my holiday in Japan, there will be another one tomorrow. Hope you liked this one!

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