Saturday, 2 February 2019

Pip Flowers Necklace

Life was super busy for most of last year but I did manage to finish a few projects. I finished a beaded kumihimo necklace for Steph's birthday present around Easter time. The design was Pip Flowers by Janet Nijman. I had seen pictures of the completed necklace on Facebook and was looking for an excuse to make it. When Steph blogged about her planned travel wardrobe for 2018, I realised the colours of the necklace kit would complement Steph's travel wardrobe. 

Stringing the beads was the hardest part. Although it would have been easier if I had the read the instruction to load the beads in sections. It was great fun to make, particularly seeing the flowers appear and the effects on the pip beads are so pretty. 

Steph visited the UK around her birthday, so I was able to give her the necklace face-to-face. I'll count the necklace as a success because it was pictured in her post about the completed travel wardrobe for her UK visit.

Last year I finally tried the Print and Cut feature on my Silhouette Cameo.  I used it make a sewing themed birthday card for Steph using a card design by Lori Whitlock. It took a bit of fiddling to get the Print and Cut feature working because the registration marks  in the silhouette design software default to US size paper but once that was sorted, it worked really well. It's so quick to make cards lake this, it feels like cheating to call it handmade.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Tokyo Sightseeing

It has been almost a year since my last post about my trip to Japan in 2017. I will continue to work my way through the trip but I can't guarantee how long it will take as life does have a habit of taking over.  I hope to visit Japan again in the next couple of years and having a record or where I visited will help me plan the trip.

After the excitement of visiting Shizuka Kusano Studio, it was time for some sightseeing. Our energetic tour guide for the whole trip was Keiko and we soon got used to looking out for her multi-coloured flag. 

The first stop was Hamarikyu Gardens. A landscape garden right in the middle of Tokyo, surrounded by skyscrapers. Gardeners were busy pruning many of the trees. I don't know if trees this size can be classified as bonsais, but they get the same level of attention.

Then there was the opportunity to have matcha, the traditional tea. We didn't have a full tea ceremony, which was a shame, but the matcha did come with exquisite sweets. 

 The next stop was Sensoji temple, which is Tokyo's oldest temple. It is a very popular tourist spot.

I was drawn to paintings on the ceiling inside the main hall and particularly the dragon panel. I wish I had taken more photos now.

The main entrance to the temple is the Thunder gate which features a large paper lantern.

 The street beyond the Thunder Gate was lined with souvenir  shops as well as restaurants, with the ubiquitous realistic plastic food advertising the menu options.

I also found the first fabric shop of the trip displaying some lovely shibori kimono fabrics. After that it was back to the hotel and our first full day was complete.


The next morning the official itinerary was a visit to the National museum followed by a trip to Nippori fabric town. Some of the ladies in the group headed off to the Amuse Museum, which specialises in Japanese textile culture. I chose to stick with the official itinerary  but if I mange to get back to Japan, the Amuse Museum will definitely be on my todo list. Although just in the last few days I have heard the Amuse Museum will be closing soon and relocating to somewhere else in Japan.

The highlight of the National Museum had to be the kimono collection . I have to apologise for the quality of these photos. The kimonos were behind glass and it was difficult to take pictures. I am convinced the kimono in the photo above was not hung up at the ridiculous angle it seems to be in my photo.

The embroidery on the kimonos was gorgeous and there were nice examples of shibori as well.

On this this yellow and blue kimono I recognised the blister effect I learned in "Bouquet from the Heart of Japan".

Of course there was also the round and round couching which I did more a little of for "Butterfly Panel". I think this example must be outside in because the variance in shape.

The design subjects were familiar as well. This black kimono reminded me of the new JEC design Genjiko

Genjiko is described as a fragrance identification game based on the Tale of Genji, where each fragrance relates to a chapter in the book.

The collection also included colourful Noh theatre costumes.

Then it was off to Nippori Fabric town, the fabric shopping district in Tokyo. This is somewhere I definitely plan to visit again. We only had one and a half hours in Nippori before we needed to catch the train back to our hotel. I was prepared that this would not be a long trip, so I did not plan to buy much and treated the time as preparation for a future visit.

The main purchase of my trip was fabric for a JE friend's son who has a business called Creations of Curiosity, making accessories out of comic themed fabric. I decided my best approach for this was to head to one of Tomato's shop and show the staff pictures of the fabric I was looking for. It worked well and I found a couple of shelves of suitable fabric.

I wasn't a complete martyr. I did buy myself some bargains from the remnant basket. Two 1.7 m pieces of fabric for ~750 yen each. Both pieces were big enough to make into bags for Japanese Embroidery frames. I have to confess, I didn't make them myself but commissioned Creations of Curiosity to make them for me instead.

There was enough spare for a frame cover, which I did make myself.

Once our time in Nippori was over, we headed off to Tokyo train station to catch the bullet train to Kyoto.

On the platform the train departure sign alternated between Japanese and English.

I was fascinated by the pit crew of ladies in pink uniforms and men in blue uniforms, ready and waiting when the train arrived, so that each carriage could be serviced in a super speedy time.

I had the get the essential photo of Mount Fuji from the train. Maybe on a future visit I will get a chance to see it close up.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Peacock Bauble

This must be some kind of record. I finished my first project of 2019 at lunchtime on New Year's Day. Although in reality it is more of a late finish for Christmas than an early finish for the New Year. I enjoyed making the Dragon Bauble kit so much last year, I made a beeline to the Spellbound Bead stand at the Ally Pally Knitting and Stitching show, to buy their new Peacock kit. I was warned it would take a bit longer than the Dragon kit. It turned out to be true because I started both kits at the beginning of December. While the dragon was completed just in time for last Christmas, the peacock was still coming together on Christmas Day this year. 

There were some parts  I ended up redoing due to silly mistakes - the floral motif at the front of the net was done 3 times. It was the thorax that gave me the most trouble. If I followed the instructions I ended up with too much thread in the covered bead to pass the supporting wire through. After several attempts I came up with an alternative method which required fewer thread passes through the central bead. It looks a bit more organic that the original version but it does the job.

The tail is my favourite part. It used similar techniques to the Emperor Bauble It was however another reason for the slow progress. When I do these bauble kits I leaves the threads on as long as I can in case they are needed to attach later components. It is much easier to do this than start a new thread. But the loose threads were forever getting caught on the tail feathers - another exercise in patience.

I also bough the Vela Star kit at Ally Pally. This was a much quicker kit to do and I was able to make one star for my parent's tree and one star for my tree before I embarking on the great peacock adventure.

Like last year we had two trees in the house. The girls made a beautiful job of the family Christmas tree in a gold and white colour way. It went very well in out newly decorated playroom.

My resolution last year was to "Create a sacred space" by tidying something every day. I can't say that I achieved that but at least the playroom  looks better than last year. I will admit that was due to Graeme's efforts rather than mine. So I will continue trying to get on top of the clutter in 2019.

I am also going to challenge myself to get out of various ruts. Work was very busy last year, particularly in the first 6 months and I gave myself lots of free passes. I didn't exercise as regularly as I should and the weekly menu became very routine. I have already started addressing the exercise part. I started going to a Zumba class just before Christmas and am taking advantage of a small yoga studio which open on the High Street in town. The weekly menu is going to take a bit more effort because my family quite like the routine. Fortunately as none of them read my blog, they don't know what is heading their way!

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Shizuka Kusano Studio

Day 2 of the Colouricious itinerary for the Creative Japan tour was the clincher for me when I was deciding whether the book on the trip because it included a visit to Studio Shizuka Kusano. The visit included a workshop in a nearby community centre and a lecture/demonstration at the Kusano-san's studio. Because there was so many of us, we were split into 2 groups.  The group I was in, did the workshop first, which was taught by Kusano-san's assistants.

Kusano-san came into the classroom at the end of the workshop, in her beautiful kimono. Through an interpreter she explained it was her mother's kimono and that she had embroidered the goldfish on the back

There was a line of embroideries across the front of the classroom. I managed to take a couple of photos before we headed off to the studio.

When we arrived at the studio it was setup with tables, so that we could eat our lunch. We were surrounded by amazing embroideries and I was delighted to be sat next to the Poppy Panel.

The Poppy panel was a group project, stitched by Kusano-san's students. The top of the right most panel was stitched by UK embroiderers and I had the privilege to stitch 2 of the flowers. It was fantastic to see the completed panel. 

The panel is inspired by the poem "On Flanders' Field and a wide variety of techniques were used to stitch the poppies. 

While we were looking at the panel I was introduced to a stitcher, who had embroidered a poppy at the bottom of the panel that came to the UK. We both pointed at our poppies and there was lots of smiles. I wish I had thought to take a photo.

After lunch, Kusano-san gave us a demonstration, explaining the tools and materials used. The piece she was working on looks like it's going to be another stunning kimono. 

After the demonstration Kusano-san unrolled the fabric which had already been embroidered and allowed us to have a close look. I just love her birds.

Kusano-san then talked about the various embroideries displayed around the room, including the PoppyPanel.

One of the kimono's displayed was inspired by seeing William Morris designs during a visit to the UK a couple of years ago.

It's fascinating to see how the familiar Morris-esque design elements have been re-interpreted for Japanese Embroidery. This kimono, called "Queen Victoria" was on display in Tokyo in January as part of a collection of kimonos "Embodying the Soul of Historical Characters".

We also had a sneak preview of another kimono in the collection. This delicate pink and green kimono covered in beautiful butterflies, was inspired by Yang Guifei, a notorious Chinese beauty and concubine.

Kusano-san generously shared this work in progress and allowed us to take photos.

After the talk Kusano-san encouraged us to try on her beautiful kimonos and of course I jumped at the chance. I recognised the kimono I was wearing from a book on my shelf at home. I never dreamed I would end up wearing it one day.

I have to say I was more than a little bit star-struck meeting Kusano-san and felt very honoured to visit her studio. So I didn't really take a coherent set of photos. For a better set of photos, I recommend having a look at the Colouricious facebook page here and here . I'll finish off with 1 last photo of my poppies, which are  2nd and 3rd from the left.