Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My favorite Japanese fabric store!

As many of you know, Japanese import fabrics are kind of a big deal.  So when I found out I was moving to Japan, I was excited about the prospect of finding awesome Japanese fabric.  
Well, it wasn't that easy.  
Just like in America, there are all different kinds of fabric stores here - some with designer fabrics, some selling the lower end items.  But FINALLY, about 3 months ago while my mom was here, we discovered the best fabric store.  

It's called Swany and it's located in Kamakura- about 15 minutes from my house.  In the main building it has three floors of gorgeous fabrics - Liberty of London, wools, home decor, laminates, quilting cottons (although no Anna Maria Horner, I'm pretty sure her designs are way too colorful for the Japanese).  

There's also a bargain annex, with really great prices - because the regular stuff isn't cheap. 

If you thought you could come to Japan and buy Japanese import fabrics at a better price - you'd be wrong.  Everything is expensive here, which is why it's kind of amazing that they have an entire building dedicated to markdowns and discontinued.  I couldn't take any pictures inside -that's very frowned upon, but I thought you might enjoy seeing where I go to pump up my stash :)  And let me just say - thank your lucky stars Americans, that you have Joanns, or Hobby Lobby, or Michaels.  Shopping in those places makes crafting and sewing so easy, and (especially compared to here) inexpensive.   But it is a neat experience to learn about the Japanese way of sewing and crafting.
Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Fighting Gator Quilt - my WIP...

Well, I've been really busy working on this quilt...but I couldn't show it to you because it was my Christmas gift to the Officer!  In case you didn't know, he went to UF for grad school and we are serious Gator fans.  I've been wanting to make him a Gator quilt for some time now, but I couldn't find any inspiration that I liked.  I don't really care for any of the Gator printed I wasn't sure what to do.  Then, while my mom was visiting, she was telling me about a paper-piecing class she and my sister were going to take.   
That inspired me.  
To be able to piece anything that I could draw?!  
Wow, that seemed perfect.
Well, let me tell you - it wasn't perfect and it was a lot of work.  
Creating your own pattern for paper piecing can be rewarding, but it is not for the faint of heart.  I had to completely set aside my constant desire for instant gratification sewing, and realize I was in for the long haul.  
I looked at this pic for inspiration:

And here's my original drawing onto several sheets of graph paper I had taped together.
(I just snapped this pic on my phone)

I then had to lay tracing paper over this original, divide it into squares, and then draw each individual piece.  It took 375 pieces to produce the final gator (and he's only 19"x26").
It was worth it though because I'm really happy with the result.  
Here are some up close pics:

I appliqued the F onto his jersey.

What you see in this post is just the center panel of the quilt - here's a drawing of the concept for the entire quilt.
I still have some work to do :)
It was extra challenging to make this lil' guy because I didn't want the Officer to know what I was doing.  So that meant I had to work on it while he was at work...and I was home with the girls...not such an easy task. :)  But it was a labor of love, and it will certainly be a one-of-a-kind quilt.  

In case you're wondering, I'm not really planning on making any more of these - I'd have to charge $1000.00 to make it worth my while(totally not exaggerating).  Unless Coach Muschamp calls me up and orders one...I might make an exception.  Or Tim Tebow (are you reading this Timmy?).  
In another post I'll share some of my tips for paper piecing - I learned a lot, but am certainly no expert.  So tell me - have you ever paper-pieced anything?  How did it go?  I certainly ripped out many many pieces in order to get it right...
Hope you have a great day!
p.s. Go Gators.

Monday, January 14, 2013

{DIY}The Fat Quarter Infinity Scarf

**I've recently started blogging again! Come see what I've been up to: click here**

Meet my newest cold weather accessory - the fat quarter infinity scarf.

I really really love infinity scarves.  
You know why?  
They're easy.  
Easy to make, easy to wear.  What more could you ask for?  I recently made one for a friend, and decided I needed one too.  The scarf comes together in about 30 minutes, but the handwork took several hours.  I used two fat quarters(which makes this scarf inexpensive too!), and since fat quarters are usually used in quilting, I decided to make my scarf like a mini-quilt.  It has batting inside for added warmth, and then I hand quilted it (but you could machine quilt it if you're in a hurry).
Here's the tutorial if you'd like to make your own!

2 Fat quarters (fat quarters are 18"x22")
a piece of batting 63"x 5"
Sewing machine/thread
Perle Cotton Thread (if you want to quilt it)
Quilting Needle

Step 1:
Cut both fat quarters into 3 pieces 6"x22"

Step 2:
Choose one fabric and sew the three pieces end to end, right sides together, to create a long strip 6"x64"(this number may be a little different depending on the seam allowance size you use).  
Repeat with the other fabric.

Step 3:
Choose one of the long strips and lay the batting on the wrong side.  Use a basting stitch (the largest stitch on your machine) and sew down the center of the batting - this will hold it in place until you quilt it.  Lay the fabric strips right sides together.  
It should look like this:

Step 4:
Pin along the two long edges, making sure to mark a space to leave open near one of the ends.  Your opening should be about 8".

Sew along the two long edges, except for the opening.  Leave the ends open.  Turn right sides out.

Step 5:
  Take the end with the opening near it, and pull it inside out until one end lines up with the other end.  You must be able to see the 8" opening.

Line up the ends and pin.

Step 6:
Sew, right sides together, all the way around.  
Now reach through the opening and pull the scarf right sides out.

Step 7:
Hand whip the opening closed.

Now you are ready to quilt your scarf, either by hand or with your machine!
Once you've quilted it, you can remove the basting stitch, and it's ready to wear!

Hope you're staying warm this winter!
love from Japan,

Linked to this party today! :)

Tip Junkie

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Made with love...

Well about two months ago I turned 30.  
Even though I had to celebrate it on the other side of the world, I felt so much love from my family and friends that it was as if they were all here with me.  My sister created a "box of 30" with something for me to open each day the entire month.  Some days I opened little gifts such as C.D.'s or Starbucks Via. Some days I opened a note from a friend - wishing me well as I turned 30.  I also wanted to showcase the quilt my Momma made me - it's really beautiful and so thoughtfully designed.  
The girl is hand-embroidered, and rising from her coffee cup are 30 appliqued hearts.

Isn't that lovely?
The back is pretty too!

Thanks to everyone who has made my life so beautiful, including those of you who read Sew Homegrown.  Turning 30 has been wonderful.  
During the past 10 years I have been challenged, stretched, and grown more than I ever thought I would, but as a result I feel comfortable in my own skin - something I thought I may never achieve.  My twenties held some really wonderful times and some really dark times, but the love I am surrounded by has carried me through all of it, and I am so grateful.  I truly hope you too can become comfortable with who you are - we each have so many unique things to offer and we can learn so much from one another.  Thanks for your support and I know we're going to have a great year ahead!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Feng Shui Revisited

About 2 years ago I wrote this post demystifying Feng Shui and explaining how I try to implement it's principles into my life.  Well, now I live in Japan.  Hello - Feng Shui Land (what if that was an actual place, like a theme park for really organized people...?).  The Japanese seem to have mastered the art of being clean, organized, and keeping their homes simple (yes it is an art-requiring study and practice).  After all - most Japanese live in small apartments, and it can become cluttered and crowded very quickly.  Therefore everything (and everyone) must be efficient and purposeful.  About half of every ¥100 shop is cleaning and organizing supplies - items such as collapsible colanders and storage bins of all shapes and sizes. 
As you know, we just crossed over into the new year and guess what many Japanese people do during their time off work?
They spend it cleaning.  
Clearing out the old and preparing for the new.  A philosophy that really seems to resonate with me - more so than spring cleaning.  In my previous post I explain that I don't really worry too much about the spiritual or financial associations with Feng Shui.  I focus on the flow of energy or chi.  The way you feel in your home - do you feel calm and refreshed or frustrated and stressed? 
Basically, your home should work for you
Things should be easy and comfortable in your own home. 
In the outside world, things are complicated - not designed specifically for you - stressful.  
But your home should be a retreat.  
Calm.  Simple.  
Your home should work for you.  
This being said - Feng Shui will look like different things for different people.
Practicing good Feng Shui is more than organizing, although that is a large part (you might want to purchase a few baskets or bins).  I can have an organized closet yet still feel stressed - like if my shoes are hard to reach or if it's too dark to see properly. 
So here are a few principles and practical examples of how I use Feng Shui to make my home work for me.

  • Things you use daily should be easy to reach and stored beautifully and simply. 
Example 1: We were keeping our dishwasher detergent under the sink in the original box.  I really hate sticking my hand down into that cardboard box to pull out a packet.  It's scratchy and annoying and difficult.  Bad Feng Shui.

So I took the packets out of their box, and now they are sitting in a nice shallow box that is pretty and easy to access.  Simple solution: Good Feng Shui

Okay so you might be thinking - "this lady's got problems if she's complaining about sticking her hand in a cardboard box..." but these small annoyances add up very quickly.  Why should you ever be annoyed about anything in your home?  It's your home.  Make it work for you. 

Here's another example:
Example 2: The lids to our pots and pans are always shoved into the cabinet with the pots - laying on random pans, or over to the side.  Every time I try to take a pot out the lids crash and fall.  Bad Feng Shui.  I put them in a nice basket.  Now nothing comes sliding out of the cabinet when I open it.  Good Feng Shui.
Example 3: I recently reorganized my sewing cabinet.  The fabric had been stored on the bottom 2 shelves of a wardrobe - meaning every time I wanted to search for fabric I had to bend down and dig through a dark shelf. Instead of enjoying my fabric stash and feeling inspired about a new project, I felt uncomfortable and frustrated that I couldn't ever find what I was looking for. Bad Feng Shui.  Now all of my fabric is in baskets or bins on the top two shelves - more light shines on them and I'm not hunched over digging.  Good Feng Shui.

I really could go on and on with these examples - my tea cabinet, my laundry closet... all of these areas were a bother to me when I was trying to find something - have you ever opened a drawer and thought "aaaarrrrrrggghhhjddfjdisuesoeiruoeishjaklsdglkasjdf"? Bad Feng Shui.

my Feng Shui'd tea/coffee cabinet
  • Different family members probably have different Feng Shui.
The Officer and I are very different in a lot of ways (mostly complimentary ones) and things that bother him, I usually don't even notice.  Things like a crooked picture, a buzzing sound from an appliance, the way the dishwasher is loaded...
It's important to ask your other family members (including children) if there's anything in the setup of your home that particularly bothers them.  This is a great way to honor your family and teach your children respect for one another and their possessions.
Here's an example: We had a cute rug on the floor, but I noticed it was really scratchy for our girls when they played on it.  That's bad Feng Shui.  So I moved it to a closet and replaced it with a softer one.
Another example would be our storage solution for Charlotte's toys.  I had organized them in fabric drawers on shelves.  I thought it looked nice.  However, Charlotte was constantly asking "what can I do?"... and not playing with her toys.  I realized that she hated digging through those fabric bins, therefore wasn't playing with any of the toys in her play area.  So I placed half of her toys on the shelf - similar to a display at a toy store - and put the other half in the fabric bins in the closet.  It changed her behavior immediately.  She could see everything at once and knew her options.  I rotate these toys out every few weeks and it's working very well.  Changing these things will increase our family's feelings of comfort and peace - who doesn't want that?

 So what to do now?  Our first job is to recognize the things in our homes that are bothersome.  Maybe even write a list.  Then slowly, perhaps choosing one task a day, begin changing these areas of bad Feng Shui.  Don't worry about tackling it all at once - this will likely increase your stress levels even more.  In doing this, we can gradually free ourselves from the daily frustrations in our home. 

I hope this post has helped you in some small way.  I certainly don't profess to know everything about Feng Shui - and people who are really into it may not agree with everything in this post, but that's okay with me.  I am on a journey to make my home the best it can be - this is one of the ways I accomplish that.  We can create homes that are filled with peace and order - it just requires a little bit of awareness and planning. 
Happy New Year and Happy Homemaking!

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