Crafting together

I went to a Crafternoon, and made this little skull. But it’s not the important bit… I loved it, the chance to talk with some great women.  About adult things.

I didn’t know anyone else there, except the hostess.  So it could have been really akward. Instead, it was affirming, to find out how much we had in common. To explore where our perspectives met, and where they divered. We talked like adults, I’ve missed that! We didn’t talk in the coded way parents must, when they know children are nearby, listening. And yes, we did discuss our children, amongst other things.

Best of all, we were able to move from the personal to the political. So often, with mothers I know well, who I see everyday, we just swap anecdotes and personal stories. Without drawing the political conclusion, making the link to what’s going on in society. I’m sure we all see it, but we don’t say. This Crafternoon, it was refreshing to say it.

I spent quite a while deciding whether my skull badge should have googly eyes. It looked cute with… but scarier, more real without.

Yes, I’ve changed the blog again. New background, new name.

The joy of craft classes

DblCrochetI’ve taken a couple of craft classes recently: decided I’d learn something enjoyable before Uni holidays end and my mind fills up with real study. I did Beginners Crochet and Adult Sewing. Took my kid, M, along to a class for toddlers too, before her school starts. Love her swooshy painting, she had fun. Also in the photo, the double stitch crochet square I’ve finished in spare moments.

It is lovely doing a class: being with other people excited to craft; discussing by pointing, touching and showing; hearing things you never thought to ask (machines can knit, but there are no machines that crochet, it’s always totally by hand). And it’s such a confidence boost to know most of my self-taught ways are actually the “proper” way!

I’ll be back at my desk, in my usual creative space next week. But I must say I’ve enjoyed being out and about.

Why I don’t sew my own clothing

DressYes, that’s a photo of me in a dress I sewed for myself (burda 07-2009-132).  I wore it at my sister-in-law’s wedding. And only 2 weeks before, I’d sewn a dress and worn it for her hen’s night.

Sudden productivity. It’s been a long time coming.

The backstory

You see, in 2007, I decided I wanted to sew my own clothes. Started collecting burda magazine. Didn’t sew anything, spent the year reading about sewing. That’s OK: I’m a read-everything-before-I-start type person.

In 2008, I made my first skirt and a couple of tops. A little too big, interfacing a little too stiff. And, admittedly, rather too complex patterns for a first-timer. An eight-piece pattern, top-stitching, self-drafted cowls. Asking a bit much of myself.

Then we moved to Tokyo. I thought I’d sew there, but really, I was too busy going out, exploring, trying to interact (and cope)…

And 2009? We came home. And? Nothing. I’m not generally lazy, so what’s stopping me sewing?

Shopping vs. sewing

OK, suppose you go into a shop, looking for clothes. You’re thinking whether the clothes will fit, look good on you, and be appropriate for the occasion. I mean, you usually know you want something for work, or something for a party, something for the beach…

Fit? Well, you know whether something fits or not once you get into the changeroom. And flatter? By now, I know what I think looks good on me. I mean, if it makes me feel ugh, there’s no point, is there?

So in a shop, you spend most of your time thinking about the occasion. Who else will be there? What will they wear? If I wear this, what will they think of me? Do I want them to think of me like that? It’s complicated. It takes a lot of thought, but in the end you can decide. Sure, budget’s always a factor. The rest of your wardrobe might be a factor too, if your wardrobe’s bigger than mine!

Why is sewing so hard?

I don’t mean sewing is difficult: it takes practice, but I’ll improve. What I mean is, mentally.

There’s no fitting room. Sure, I can measure, “tissue-fit” (hold the pattern up to me) but, well, I’ve still made plenty of mistakes. I’m never sure what I sew will fit. And flatter me? Even reliable looks for me: V-neck, fitted top with an A-line skirt… well, it turned out horrible. I’ve never shown you. Sure, I can analyse why: I’d simply never tried on a dress like that before. So two issues that are easy to eliminate when you’re shopping, they’re unknowns, right until I’ve completely finished my sewing.

Then the occasion. Yes, that’s still a worry. Particularly weddings, you know?

Plus, there’s the guilt. It’s nice fabric, will I ruin it? Is this the best use for it? Should I save it for something else?

And the decision paralysis. I mean, theoretically, I could make anything I want. I’ve collected burdas since 2007, that’s roughly, umm, 1440 patterns? In various sizes: no, don’t even get me started on sizes and the possibilities of grading! Or I could try to draft my own…

And that’s why I wasn’t sewing. Too much thinking. Too many worries.

How I solved my problem

I bought the fabric specially. Silk, usually an expensive fabric, but cheap if you sew your own.

I gave myself 3 days to worry, to re-decide a thousand times.

And then I said to myself: I’ll stop. The deadline for worrying has passed. It’s time to focus on making the tracing accurate, the cutting neat and the sewing right.

And so that’s what I did. Focused. And finished.
(Even though I’d picked the wrong size and had to design extra side panels, hah!)

Tokyo craft shopping: a rant

Because what’s a blog without a rant or two?

Hopefully, this rant about Tokyo fabric and yarn stores will leave you feeling virtuously frugal  or at least  proud to buy local …  in these post-Credit Crunch times.  And yes, I’m planning a few rant-free  posts on the topic,  too!

Reading my favourite craft bloggers,there’s nothing but praise for Japanese craft books, Japanese fabrics, dinky little Japanese gadgets … and always glowing reports of Tokyo craft stores.  So my expectations where high, too high.  But hey, anywhere’s got to be better than Craftlight, right Aussies? (Perhaps think Joann’s if you’re American … but I’ve never seen a Joann’s, maybe they’re excellent in comparison to what’s usually available in Australia …)

Anyway, on to the story…

I started at Yuzawaya, that huge craft store in Kichijōji.  Phew, found it.  Pot plants, both fake and real, lined up outside the door.  Hmm, gardening’s definitely creative …  not totally sure about the fake plastic stuff, looks a bit like a $2 shop back home, nevermind…

Through the door, and the first thing I see is a giant Disney-esque Princess and fairytale character clockwork display.  Now, one reasons I’m into craft is I don’t want my 2 growing up with a Princess Complex

Next thing I see, a totally ghastly (for the daughter of an artist) European-style oil painting in a giant gilt frame for an obscene amount of money…

And then there were the goods themselves, the stuff for sale … it would’ve looked perfect at a cut-price chemist’s liquidation sale, you know, the “Bargains galore, everything must go!”-style chemists: chipped white melamine tables dumped with cheap lipsticks, nail polishes, mascaras … totally NOT what I was expecting.


Around the corner, oh great, “character goods” … pencils, stuffed toys, hankies and so on, designed as tie-ins to a variety of American and Japanese animations.  And to complete my catalogue of the ground floor: dog toys.  Cat toys too, presumably.

By this stage, I wasn’t sure I was in the right store, and I went up the escalator with some trepidation.  More of the same: it was April, back to school time, so there were rows upon rows of “character” lunch boxes.  And “character” backpacks.  And “character” jigsaws … and a few globes which yes, I agree, did look educational.

Next floor, men’s underwear, WTF?!  I mean boxers, briefs, socks … perhaps there was some women’s underwear too.  (I went back later, on purpose, with Husb, but the men’s underwear had gone… must have been a back-to-work special, only women’s underwear is there normally)

Fourth floor, finally!  Dressmaking fabrics, nice ones, too.  Liberties, which I haven’t seen since I was a kid, good quality wool plaids, organics, linens … ah, this is what I was after!  Although, to be fair, at least a quarter of the fabrics are those fluro sequined Lycras Craftlight specialises in … And half the total floor space is devoted to knitting and weaving supplies (not forgetting the reasonable-sized selection of fake furs, eyelash yarns … you get the picture).  (Nice) buttons, (sensible) sewing machines, notions and wigs (!) round out that floor.

Fifth floor, quilting fabrics, children’s prints, some traditional-looking Japanese indigo prints, and … pots and pans.  Rather nice ones, I agree, but again, not what I was expecting.  The upper floors are all a blur … there is some tapestry and embroidery stuff, bear making, leatherwork, patchwork, temari and so on.  Art supplies and calligraphy, too, but by that stage you can hear the top floor … arcade games, I’ve always wondered if they’re designed to soften kids up for pachinko later in life… (cynical, who? me?)

Now, I’m not dissing Yuzawaya, I respect that they honestly DO have dressmaking fabrics, not re-purposed quilting fabrics.  And Yuzawaya has enough yarn for anyone to find something they’d like … and more high-quality notions that I’ve ever seen. Ever.  But I’d just like a little more perspective, when discussing Japanese craft shops, I’m kinda trying to balance up all the praise I read before I left Sydney, and my own dreamy imaginings …

And it’s not like Yuzawaya is exceptional … all its competitors are the same.  Okadaya in Shinjuku is probably my favourite store, I even took my Mum there when she came to Tokyo.  I hadn’t told her the name, but as we approached I said “Look, it’s the one next to the shoe shop”  “I know” she said.  “How do you know?” “Well, it looks like a craft shop” she said, pointing to the tacky plastic bangles, hair ties and nail art on the ground floor.  She’s right … she’s been to Craftlight in Sydney, too.

Kinkado in Ikebukuro is reached through a 100 yen shop and cut-price cosmetics store.  And Tomato, in Nippori … well, if you hate the disorganisation of Craftlight, the rolls of fabric draped onto the floor, the slimey polyesters in clashing prints … I’m not sure you’ll fall in love with Tomato.  Although you CAN find amazing dressmaking bargains, and the patchwork fabrics on the top floor are neat and lovely…

Recently, Husband explained it all: these stores are for housewives, hence the lingerie, toys and saucepans along with the sewing machines and fabrics.  He’s right, I’m sure.  But the militant feminist in me feels somewhat uncomfortable …

this is … the space in which I create

this is …meme, done around about a week too late?

But I couldn’t resist, and yes, that’s my new sewing machine, just unpacked, exciting!!!

And yes, more prosaically, that’s my washing because it’s been raining all week, and yes, behind there is the oshirei*, the lower part of which has become a cubby hole for the kids, doubt that’s traditional … kid’s craft on the wall, glimpse of the bed, it’s a pretty small flat, oh and the table folds up totally, it’s really nifty, from a 2nd hand store 😉

* Think that’s how it’s spelled … traditional Japanese closet for futons, anyway.