Sunday, 26 May 2019


I am so far behind with blog posts, it is almost a year since I finished Himotaba, my phase 5 Japanese embroidery piece. Cords are not general popular with JE students but I like their rhythm. When I first came across, Japanese embroidery, this was the design that drew me in so I was looking forward to stitching it. 

It took me about 5 months to complete but in that time I reworked many of the cords to get more practise. I found the blue cord, which uses the wicker technique, the most challenging to stitch. In the design, this cord goes round a very tight curve early on and it was difficult to keep the balance of the two sides of the stitch. 

I also found the cord end fade outs difficult to achieve. Even after many attempts, I was still not sure they look natural enough but in the end I came to the conclusion it was time to move on.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Kyoto Workshops

I was attracted to the Colouricious trip to Japan because it included a selection of workshops giving a taster of Japanese crafts. Our first workshop in Kyoto was a calligraphy class. The class was held at a women's organisation - I would like to think it is a Japanese version of the WI. During the class we concentrated on the kanji character for happiness. This was my first attempt at calligraphy and I must admit a found the technique of using the brush difficult.  I was given a lot of help by the teachers, which probably means my technique needed a bit of work. We had several practise runs and then we given a nice thick piece of paper for our final attempt. Similar to a Japanese embroidery class, the teacher asked us to meditate for a minute to slow our breath and calm our minds before applying the brush to the paper. I think it must helped because my last attempt was much better than my practise runs. That's not saying much though!

We visited the same women's organisation again the following day for an ikebana class. At the start of class we were given some guidelines on design and how to use the kenzan, a metal plate covered in spikes, used to hold the stems in place. 

My selection of flowers looked like they came from another planet, so they made for quite a quirky display by the time I was finished. I enjoyed the process of focusing on each stem as the arrangement came together and would like to have another try some time in the future.

Once all our arrangement we done we headed upstairs to try on kimonos. Looking back at the room, it was interesting to see the variation in the arrangements.

After an introduction talk, our hosts took us in small groups into a changing room to pick out the kimonos and obi we wanted to wear. We were dressed in under kimonos and wrapped tightly around the middle before putting on the kimono itself.

I picked out a teal kimono. The red obi must have been a suggestion from the Japanese ladies because it is unlikely I would have chosen such a contrast on my own.

It was fascinating to see the other ladies on the appear in their kimonos. It was such a change from everyone's normal casual appearance. You can see a video of the group here.

Our tour leader, Keiko, was dressed in a beautiful pink kimono with deep sleeves, which would traditionally be worn by a young girl. Once we were all dressed up, whe entertained us with a traditional song and dance.

While we were dressing up in our kimonos, our ikebana displays were arranged as a flower show in the classroom downstairs.

Personally I think our efforts were not bad for a first attempt but I wasn't brave enough to ask for constructive feedback!

I think the purple flowers in my arrangement were alliums. Serendipitously, I visited at the Chelsea Flower show this week and managed the see the amazing allium display in the show marquee.

That's given me an ideas of planting some alliums for myself but we need to get the garden a bit tidier first.

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!