General


Seems there’s a new theme or challenge every other day lately. Pirate Day. Secretary Day. Rooster Appreciation Week.* This month there’s Dry July – giving up alcohol for the month and raising funds for those affected by cancer – and there’s also Plastic Free July.

Yeah, you only get one guess which one I’m talking about.

It might not come across in my blog posts, but I’m really a bit of a hippie. Possibly it’s from growing up on a property in the beautiful Central Queensland bush, and this is probably going to sound corny, but I do feel a strong connection to the earth. Nature is a wild, terrible, beautiful force, but it is something that so many of us take for granted.

Recently I went for a long bike ride, something I haven’t done in a couple of months. There’s a lovely cycle path near me that follows a river route. It’s pretty flat, not to strenuous, through lots of parks and nature reserves. There’s one section where the mangroves are right next to the path. I’ll be the first to admit that mangrove swamp doesn’t smell delightful, but in this case I was bothered a lot less by the smell than I was by the garbage heaped – and I’m not exaggerating – heaped over the muddy riverbank for several hundred metres. Plastic bottles, plastic takeaway containers, chip packets, styrofoam containers, even one of those hateful yellow bicycles. It  was pretty depressing. It saddened me a great deal that there’s still so much just being ‘chucked’ – out of car windows, off bridges, left on park benches. People can be so damn lazy.

Anyway, shortly after that, Plastic Free July popped up on my Instagram feed and I was like, ‘yeah!’ Maybe I can change a few more habits, and save the planet a little bit more, and raise some awareness too.

It’s going to be a bit of a challenge this year though. Let’s have a look at some of the things I already do, to reduce my plastic footprint.

No Cling Wrap! I have had the same roll of cling wrap for over four years now, and it’s been gathering dust for at least three. I use containers or jars for everything I put in the fridge, and beeswax wraps or reuseable dish covers for anything that needs covering. I admit to using a lot of ziploc bags too, but I wash and re-use these most of the time.

No Plastic Cutlery! I do eat out occasionally, but if the restaurant uses plastic knives and forks, I will invariably whip out either my retractable chopsticks (like these) or my travel cutlery set (something like this, but mine has a knife as well). These are possibly the most useful items I have ever owned. I take them everywhere!

No Keepcup, No Coffee! I have a Contigo mug for tea and an Oasis Eco Cup for my weekend soy latte. At work I use a ceramic mug. That’s it. No takeaway coffee unless it’s in one of those. (This rule has started saving me money on coffee, too!) Check out some of these beautiful ‘keepcup’ options!

DIY Shopping Bags! Although I have a tonne of fabric shopping bags, I do forget to take them with me; or, I’ll be out and realise I need to shop, and only have my one Loqi tote in my handbag. A couple of weeks ago, I made a couple more market bags which now live in the car. No more plastic shopping bags!

No Bottled Water or soft drink/soda! It’s been years since I bought a bottle of water. I have a couple of stainless steel drink bottles – one at my desk, one by my bed, one in my sports bag, one by the sewing machine – wait, that’s more than a couple, isn’t it? And I don’t drink soda as a general rule (the one exception being an occasional ginger beer, which comes in glass anyway!) so that removes the plastic straw issue as well.

So clearly I’m an awesome anti-plastic environmental warrior already, right? Right? Errr…. no, not really.

What more can I do, then? Well, actually, quite a bit. I took a look at my grocery basket last week and there’s plastic there I didn’t even think about. My rolled oats were in plastic. My strawberries wer in a plastic punnet, my chickpeas were in a plastic-lined tin, the cat food was in plastic pouches, and the chicken was in a plastic tray, covered with plastic. Yikes!

Let’s be realistic. I’m not going to be able to go totally plastic-free overnight. But for me, participating in Plastic-Free July is to become aware of where improvement can be made. ‘Improvement’ is the important word here, guys. Not ‘complete change’. Improvement. As in, somewhat better than before. Which means finding small ways to reduce my plastic consumption, and keep following that path as much as I can, in the future.

Okay, so what are my plastic-free goals for July? Let’s make a list!

MicroFibres management. I exercise a lot, so I wear a lot of polyester and nylon blend fabrics. Unfortunately, while these are great for working out, there’s an unfortunate side-effect from the laundering process. Teeny, tiny micro-fibres will break loose every time you launder, go out in the water and end up in our oceans, where they attract lots of nasty toxins, then get eaten by ocean life, who not only suffer from that ingestion but may end up in the human food chain… which means we might be eating plastic, too. Yuck. So I’m investing in a Guppy Friend bag to wash my activewear in. These ingenious items will capture those nasty microfibres, and probably increase the lifespan of my clothing, as well! You can get these direct from Langbrett, and although you will have to pay in Euro, they didn’t charge me shipping to Australia. Winning! (Patagonia Australia doesn’t stock them yet, and Patagonia.com doesn’t ship to Australia. Boo.)

Groceries. My rolled oats on the weekend was a bit of a light-bulb moment. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t considered some of my prepackaged pantry items as plastic-wrapped. I know that there’s more than one bulk goods store within easy reach of my home (in fact, there’s one closer than the centre where I normally do groceries!) so I’ll try hitting them for things like oats and beans. I’ll also look for cardboard packaging (but not the kind that has an plastic bag inside the cardboard!) Also, remembering to take my Onya mesh bags when I do shopping for fruit and veg. I try not to use those convenient plastic bags in the fresh food section, but buying three loose apples is a lot easier to manage than a double handful of snow peas. And I do love snow peas.

Condiments, also – I LOVE peanut butter, so I’ll be only buying it in glass jars from now on. That’s okay. I recently discovered Urban Pantry Peanut Butter. I don’t think I’ll ever look back. Nom nom. Anything else that might have been in a plastic bottle or jar, I’ll be looking for the glass option instead. Oh, and I’ve recently started making my own cashew nut butter – delish!

Eating Out. I went to buy my lunch one day last week, and I tried to do it with no single-use plastic; and as an experiment I went completely unprepared. Boy was that hard. Thai, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese – all come in single-use plastic takeaway boxes. The burger place uses cardboard, so that was an option, and the Vietnamese rolls are in paper. Japanese – my favourite! – was in those cute, but oh-so-single-use, plastic bento trays. No good. I ended up popping into the grocery store, but I couldn’t get a prepack salad cos it was in a plastic bowl. Plus, I had forgotten my shopping bag, so when I eventually bought some loose fruit and veg, I had to nick a cardboard box to carry it in. This plastic-free thing is hard if you are unprepared!

I’d love to hear if you are trying to reduce your plastic consumption, and the kinds of things you do or would like to incorporate into your lifestyle. We only have the one planet, after all, so it behooves us to be responsible for how we look after it!

 

 

 

 

*I may have made up the one about the roosters.

Advertisements

Okay so this jacket makes me look super-tough – but it wasn’t that tough to make!

This is the Evergreen Jacket from Hey June Handmade.

 

The fabric is from Nippori Fabric Town in Tokyo, on my first trip in 2016 (yes, I bought quite a lot of fabric there, and I don’t regret it!) It’s a heavy stretchy fabric that I am calling scuba because I couldn’t read the tag (it was written in Japanese!) It does have a similar weight and stretch to other scuba knits I have, although the print side has a slightly papery feel, as if it might be water-resistant. (I haven’t worn it in the rain or done any moisture tests thought!)

I bought the long zip online from ZipperShipper.com. I also bought two short zips to match but when I got them, although they were the length I had ordered, they weren’t the right length for the pocket openings – I had somehow messed up the length of the zip TEETH compared to the length of the zip TAPE. The zips from ZipperShipper were a really good price but of course they are in the US so shipping to Australia was not exactly low-cost. So I ended up finding a couple of very similar metal zippers at Lincraft.

Most of the seams were sewn using a triple-stretch-stitch (AKA lightning bolt) and I used my serger on some of the seam allowances to neaten up the inside, as this is an unlined jacket. Most of the topstitching is just a regular straight stitch, although I did use the triple-straight in a couple of places I though might need a bit more flexibility. However I’ve worn the jacket several times since I finished it and had no popped stitches, so I got that right!

The pockets are lined with some scraps of scuba from another project that I haven’t blogged! (A close-fitting active jacket using scuba knit from Spotlight and a 1980’s Burdastyle Magazine pattern – not a complete success, but not a disaster either). I love that little peek of colour as I open the zipper!

(I do wear that activewear number in one of my early Sewing From The Stash videos, but I warn you that it’s from 2016, well before I really had the hang of recording or editing!!)

Party in my pocket!

Although the entire project took almost two years, from buying the fabric to finishing the final details, the actual sewing was not that difficult. The main delay was the zipper length issue – I shelved the whole thing for nearly six months while I sorted that out. The pattern instructions were great as were the illustrations. I followed this one to the letter as it was my first time sewing anything like this, and had no trouble at all. It did take a while – there are a lot of pieces and lots of seams to sew and finish – but it was totally worth the attention to detail.

The most complicated bit was probably the pocket zippers, and they are completed very early on – so once you have tackled those, the rest is pretty much straight line sewing!

The jacket got a lot of wear during the late summer and early autumn – scuba is not an especially warm fabric, but is just the right weight for throwing over your t-shirt on a cooler autumn evening.

Have you tried the Evergreen Jacket pattern, or considered it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!

Hello sewing friends!

I’ve made a lot of things, but have been very slack with the blogging side of things! I hope to rectify that over the coming weeks with a series of catch-up posts, highlighting some of my favourite makes over the last six-or-so months.

I don’t know about you, but I often get so caught up in the making process, that I forget to take any in-progress photos! This is one of the reasons – well, okay, excuses – for not blogging these makes. However I realised I can still take photos of the finished garments that show plenty of construction detail! So the next few posts may be shorter and less picture-heavy than previous ones. But hey, we are all time-poor these days anyway, right?

First up is two tops made from the same pattern. This is Simplicity 1463. It’s a super-easy make with only three pattern pieces (four if you count the neckband!).

The first version of this was made in a teal-green textured knit from the remnant table at The Remnant Warehouse last winter. I made View A. The dropped hem is quite graceful and even though this is an oversized top, the drape and dropped hem make this a really stylish and flattering look.

I love pairing this with my kimono jacket – purchased for $10 at a garage sale!

I loved this pattern so much I immeadiately made a second one!

This fabric was purchased in Japan in 2017, in Nippori Fabric Town (you can read about that haul here.) It was very much an impulse buy – I found it in the queue for the cutting counter! I call it the carnival top.

However this fabric was quite thin, so I decided it would need a lining to be decent! At The Remnant Warehouse again, I found some slub cotton knit – also quite thin, but perfect for the underlayer I wanted.

To make this top a bit different to the previous version, I made the lining pieces a couple of inches longer than the outer layer. The slub cotton was pretty in its own way, and I wanted to be able to see it.

Because this top is so simple, lining it was a dream! One full set of pattern pieces (front, back, cuffs and neck binding) were cut from the carnival knit, and one front and back from the black slub knit. I sewed the side seams, then basted the neckline and cuff edges together, and simply sewed the cuffs and neck binding on both layers! Hemmed both layers and voila!!

Inside out closeup of the cuff join.

Because the slub knit was so lightweight, it was a little slippery and shifty to work with, and I think it did end up a little off-grain, but it seriously does not matter. The loose, drapey design hides that sort of thing easily!

I love both these tops and wear them all the time. The carnival top is especially versatile as the extra layer makes it wearable in cooler weather as well.

Soon to come – more sewing from April and May 2018!

So it took quite a while, but I finally finished my Cooper Backpack!

 

This is from Colette Patterns – I’ve had the pattern for a while, but it has taken some time to gather the supplies. For instance, this awesome pineapple-print cotton canvas was purchased in Japan in 2017 (read about that haul right here) . I bought the fabric with a bag in mind, but I needed the perfect lining.

Enter Voodoo Rabbit! A few months ago this gorgeous pineapple cotton appeared on my instagram feed and I basically leapt from my chair shouting ‘hooray’ – it was exactly what I wanted!! It is Oasis Pineapples Blue By Timeless Treasures and it is still available in their shop. Most of the hardware for this bag is also from Voodoo Rabbit – they have a great range of bagmaking supplies. The blue webbing was actually from my 2018 Japan fabric haul, though. Like I said, it took a while to gather the supplies!

The Cooper can theoretically be made as a backpack, messenger bag or satchel. Orginally I was aiming for the messenger bag, as I love wearing cross-body bags, but as I got further along the bagmaking process I realized it would be much too big for me to comfortably carry that way. So I did have to unpick a few inches of the side seams to add in the backpack straps and top handle, but that was actually pretty easy.

 

The pattern uses contrast fabric for some of the panels, but I wanted it to be pineapples all the way. So to break up the print a little, I used some yellow tonal print (a fat quarter found at The Fabric Cave for about $1) to make some bias strips, and added some flat piping in a couple of the seams and around the top flap and the sewn-on feature straps.

I also didn’t have quite enough of the blue strapping, but luckily I had some pieces of pineapple canvas leftover. A few inches of that, padded with some light cotton batting, added onto the ends of the webbing, created the top sections of the straps.

There was barely a few square inches of the lining fabric leftover too!

You can see I had to piece the lining of the flap to make a big enough piece! Luckily I had this blue tonal print in my stash – it worked perfectly there and for some of the pocket linings and inner pockets, too. I used a teeny scrap of pinapple lining to bind the top of that inner pocket. Cute!

It’s a pretty roomy bag – definately too big for me to carry as a messenger bag!

It is a little ‘floppy’ too – I think it could have done with a bit of interfacing to stabilise the main bag walls. However I am pretty stoked with the end result – I think it looks amazing! And it’s definately an eye-catcher of a bag!

I think I have caught the bag-making bug – it has been a while since I made any bags (apart from some zippered pouches as Christmas gifts) and I had forgotten how very satisfying it could be. I discovered a pile of great bag patterns on Craftsy (some free ones there too!) so I’m off to have a peruse of those. I have another backpack in mind, but I’m looking for the perfect pattern as this one is going to be even more special than the Pineapple Bag. Do you have any favourite bag patterns, or designers? I’d love to hear your thoughts – please leave me a comment below!

 

 

This year I concentrated my fabric shopping obsession (and yes, I think I really do have a problem!!) in Osaka, so I’ve written this post to help any other travellers wanting to have a sticky beak at the lovely shops in that city!

If you want to have a look at my ridiculous haul from this trip, I wrote about it here.

A couple of things to note about shopping in Japan: most shops don’t open until 10am, but many will stay open until 7 or 8pm, depending on their location. Some shops that are multi-level will require you to make your purchases on each floor, but others let you wander from floor to floor with a basket of goodies. Tax in Japan is 8% – this is usually not included on the ticket price, so remember to factor that in when you are working out the prices.

If you are shopping in Tokyo, obviously Nippori Fabric Town is the place to go – a whole street of fabric shops! I didn’t go there this year as I was spending my spare days in Osaka. However, the days I was in Tokyo for the karate seminar, I was staying in Kamata, and there is a Yuzawaya store about 200m from my hotel! So of course I paid it a quick visit!

Yuzawaya

Yuzawaya in Kamata is a massive store – with three shopfronts, two of these have 5 floors and the other has 3. Covering all aspects of craft, from sewing to knitting to papercraft to flowerwork and everything in between! If you can only get to one store in Tokyo, this is a good one!

To get there, take the Yamanote line (green) to Shinagawa and change to the Keihin-Tohoku line (blue) towards Kamata. In only three stops you’ll be in Kamata.

When you come out of the ticket gates, turn right and head out of the station via the stairs or escalators (if you go past Starbucks you’re heading the wrong way!)

You’ll come out into a pretty plaza area with a couple of shopping arcades on the other side. Turn left and walk down the covered street, past the Tokyu Store and in about 50m you’ll come to the first of the Yuzawaya shopfronts on your left!

After Tokyo I headed down to Osaka on the bullet train (yes, I did Bento on the bullet train – such fun!) I had three shops to visit there, and found another couple on the way as well.

Toraya

Once I got to Osaka, the first place I visited was Toraya – again this one was very handy to my hotel. Thanks to the excellent directions from Betty Stitchup in her blog post I found it first try. If you are doing the Shinsaibashi Shopping Street, just keep walking south and it will become the Ebisubashi Shopping Street. Toraya is near the Namba end of Ebisubashi, sort of diagonally opposite McDonalds. There are a confusing number of exits from Namba Station, and you can even end up in a different underground section called Namba walk. Look for an exit that takes you to Midosuji, that is the major street that runs parallel to Ebisubashi.

Toraya is three floors of fabric fun with a small haberdashery section in the top floor. It uses a truly fascinating purchase system. Once you have decided which fabrics you want (this could take a while!), get the attention of a shop assistant (they all wear a little tool belt). They will cut two little samples of your fabrics and staple them to a reciept with the fabric code number and the amount you want. You get one copy of the reciept and the other goes in a pneumatic tube to the top floor. Ten minutes later you rock up to the cashier on the ground floor and present your receipts and your fabric will be there waiting!

Pneumatic Tube System!

The fabric range is good, less crafty prints than Yuzawaya and more dress fabrics. Lots of plain wovens in a great range of colours, textures and content types, and the upper floor of more fancy evening fabrics was lovely. There is also a remnant shelf on that floor – I did have to restrain myself!!

Although many shops in Japan are cash-only, Toraya will take both Visa and Mastercard (I didn’t try AMEX so I’m not sure). The store is open 10am to 7.50pm.

 

Also, if you are looking for somewhere to eat, from Toraya go west down the side street and across Midosuji – there are a bunch of restaurants in the side streets around here that look fantastic!

Otsukaya

A very similar store in content to Yuzawaya, Otsukaya is a beautiful shop with five floors of stunning fabric and haberdashery.

Again I was able to find this easily via Betty Stitchup’s blog, although the walkway she mentions was partially closed for renovations and I went a slightly different way.

From Shinsaibashi Station, take the Midosuji line to Esaka. Head towards exit 4 & 5, and you can go straight ahead into the building there. There’s a bookshop dead ahead and coffeeshop on the ground floor if you need refreshment! Walk downstairs and take that exit near the coffeeshop, then turn right into the walkway. Turn left onto the street, cross over – watch out for bicycles! – and walk on towards the big Pachinko parlour, then right down that street. Walk about 2 blocks and Otsukaya is on the left hand side, opposite the waffle rocket (you’ll see what I mean).

Ground floor is wovens, loads of crafty cotton prints in various weights, plus plain drill and a great range of denims too. Second floor has patterns, stretch fabrics and more fancy wovens, including some nice-looking athletic fabrics.

Third floor has haberdashery, and masses of beautiful kimono crepe and cotton, and more evening fabrics. There’s a Marimekko corner too! As well as what looked like a tailoring or class area.

Fourth floor is furnishings and more haby (bag making supplies!) and patterns.

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the 5th floor sign and I can’t remember specifically what that floor contained – it was certainly more fabric, and I think it was suitings and high-end textiles.

Otsukaya is closed on Wednesdays, but open 10am to 6.30pm for the rest of the week. I paid with VISA and with cash, but I beleive they accept Mastercard as well.

Prices were very reasonable, especially on the denim and the bagmaking hardware!

Nippon Chuko

I discovered this place via Yelp but found my own way there – getting a tad lost on the way! Nippon Chuko is an online wholesaler, but the Osaka store is open for retail. I beleive they also ship international from the online store.

On the Midosuji line, take the subway north and get off at Hommachi Station. You can walk from here, or you can go one stop east on the Sakaisuji line to Sakaisuji Hommachi station. From Sakiasuji Hommachi station, take exit 7 and turn immediately left at the top of the stairs. Walk along towards the big green Fanbi Town sign. When you get to the intersection with McDonalds above Kohyo, turn left and Nippon Chuko is a few doors down on the left.

There are lockers at the front of the store where you can stash your bag while you shop (don’t forget to take your wallet with you into the store) for a returnable 100Y coin. A blessing if you’ve been humping your backpack or a heavy handbag around all day!

This place is less about fabric and more about craft – but again, 4 floors!! There is SO MUCH HARDWARE here – if you are into bagmaking at all this is the place to go. I have never seen so many handles, straps, brass, leather, snaps and clasps in one place!

There is also an extensive range of threads and zips – and I mean extensive!!

There are some basic woven poplins & cottons on the second floor, and a lovely assortment of heavy kimono cottons on the top floor, as well as some quilting cottons.

You can grab a basket and shop all the levels, and bring your goods to the cashier on the ground floor for a single purchase. There are cutting tables on the fabric floors where the staff will cut & bag your fabric for you to take to the register. I used a VISA card here with no problems.

Nippon Chuko is open 9am to 5pm, closed on Sundays.

 

Torii

In between Nippon Chuko and the intersection, there is a shop called Torii. Reminiscent of the consignment fabric stores right here in Sydney, this place had a two-metre minimum purchase. I arrived there only 15minutes before closing so only had a breif glance around; there seemed to be plenty on offer, heavy on the upholstery & decorating fabrics.

 

Embroidery & Ribbon Shop

Also in between Nippon Chuko and the intersection is a lovely little shop specialising in ribbons and embroidery. Again I only had a few minutes for a quick glance around but they had an amazing range of ribbon and a second floor that I didn’t even get to.

Random Designer Fabric Store

Across the road from Torii, I spotted a shop with literally MOUNDS of fabric piled up at the entrance. I popped over and discovered more mountains of textiles piled up in there! I’ve really no idea if this was some kind of consignment store – I don’t have enough Japanese language skills to really ask the staff.

However, after a quick poke around, I realised that most of the fabrics were high-end designer pieces – I’m guessing end-of-roll stuff. I saw a gorgeous embroidered silk velvet that was Y64,800! (Although maybe that piece was a sample, and the price was per roll?? I’ve no clue!)

 

Atelier for Nani Iro (& craft beer!)

The Atelier for Nani Iro is a small studio with a range of Nani Iro fabrics available to purchase, and a rack of beautiful sample garments to browse. No photographs allowed in this beautiful, light-filled studio, although I did convince the staff to allow me to take a a picture of the label, from the fabric I bought.

I found the shop easily, with the excellent pictorial instructions provided by Japanese Sewing Books.

Take the Midosujui subway line (I was taking it from Namba station) and disembark at Higobashi station. Take exit 7, and walk straight ahead towards the blue Aoki sign. Walk a couple of blocks, until you see a Yoshinoya on the next block – turn left before that. You’ll go another couple of small blocks, passing a car park on your left, and then you will reach a park on the right hand side. Nani Iro is directly opposite the park, on the second floor of the bulding with the gold lettering.

And if you (or your travel partner) needs refreshment after (or during) your shopping, there was a tiny craft beer garden only a couple of doors away from Nani Iro – I didn’t drop in but it looked totally sweet!

Handy Shopping Phrases

Here’s a couple of very basic phrases to help you shop for fabric in Japan!*

I-ku-ra des ka? (How much is it?)

Ko-re wa o ku-da-sai. (This one please.)

Ichi metre o ku-da-sai. (One metre please!)

Ichi metre goju o ku-da-sai. (One metre fifty please!)

Ni metre o ku-da-sai. (Two metres please!)

Credit-o card-o deska? (Credit card okay?)

Su-mi-ma-sen, ….. doko des ka? (Excuse me, where are the ……?)

Toy-ret-u wa doko des ka? (Where are the toilets?)

Ko-re wa ko-tsu-ton des ka? (Is this cotton?)

Ari-ga-to go-zai-masu! (Thank you!)

(*Disclaimer: Please note, I DON’T speak Japanese, so I’m not promising the above phrases are grammatically correct – but that’s all I needed to do my shopping, so you could find it helpful. And if all you can remember is please and thank you, that still counts for a lot in super-polite Japan.)

And if you have limited time in Tokyo and can’t devote several hours to Nippori Fabric Town, I recommend Tokyu Hands. There is one near Shinjuku Station which is surrounded by shopping malls. Tokyu Hands has a craft and homewares section which is fun to browse, even if you don’t buy! (There is also one in Kyoto, not far from (on the same street as, in fact) Nomura Tailor.)

I hope this post is helpful to anyone headed to Japan who might be interested in a side trip to one (or more) of these shops. Great places to get some sewing souveniers!

I’d love to hear about any other Japanese sewing adventures – please leave a comment below!

 

It’s that time of year again – my psuedo-annual trip to Japan for a karate seminar, with a generous helping of fabric shops along the way!

Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo.

My trip started with a single night in a capsule hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo. If you haven’t tried a capsule hotel they are excellent value for a single night, and a fun experience (in my opinion, anyway!) Japanese hotels are scrupulously clean and this one was no exception.

I was up early the next morning and on the bullet train to Nikko where there are several beautiful temples and shrines in and around the town of Nikko. I’m going to gush about the ryokan I stayed at there – I wish I’d had more than one night! It was a sweet little Japanese-style inn called the Turtle Inn. (The Discworld approves!) My room was furnished with a futon and low table and a washbasin with running water. The fact that the bathrooms were shared was entirely made up for by the fact that both single bathrooms had onsen – ie, a private hot tub!! After a long day travelling and looking around temples, a long hot soak was just what the doctor ordered.

After two days wandering around shrines, temples and underground caverns, it was time to head back to Tokyo and my hotel in Kamata. By happy accident, the hotel I stay at for the seminar is only a few hundred metres away from a big fabric store, Yuzawaya – so that was my first stop!

Yuzawaya (Kamata, Tokyo)

The first time I visited this store – my first visit to Kamata, two years ago – I didn’t have time to really appreciate the size of the store or the volume of products available. This time I made sure I had time for a really good wander, even though I wasn’t intending to buy too many things (I needed to keep plenty of room in my suitcase for shopping in Osaka!)

With three shop fronts and several floors to each shopfront, there’s plenty to look at in Yuzawaya! I was very disctracted by the fabulous range of denims right at the front of the store – and I did end up buying 2m of a really nice dark stretch demin for Y580/m – amazing value!!

But what I was really looking for here was scissors. I had promised myself a pair of Shozaburo scissors on this trip, and Shozaburo scissors I did get! For Y11000 I purchased a pair of 26cm shears which are an absolute dream to use. I have been using them since I came home and seriously they are like magic!! It’s almost as if I can just wave them at the fabric and the pieces cut themselves 🙂

I couldn’t resist that teeny pair of snips with the beaded handles, either. too cute!

Toroya (Namba, Osaka)

I ended up hitting Toraya twice! Overkill? Nah. On my first trip, there was one fabric I couldn’t decide if I REALLY needed it, so I didn’t buy it. But I decided to go back on my last day to have a second look at their denims, and decided I would get it after all!

At the bottom of the pile is 2m of midweight rigid denim. The purple/green print is a drapy twill knit, probably polyester. The whacky chair print is a light knit fabric. The 80’s denim-look squiggle print is a woven cotton, as is the big floral, although the big floral is a heavier weight.

I got some bag hardware here, and some red velcro – they had sooo many colours of velcro! And the little cat-face things are iron-on felt patches. Kawaii-desu!!!!

Otsukaya (Umeda, Osaka)

I was so silly and didn’t check the opening times of this shop, and turned up on a Wednesday – the only day they are closed!! Luckily my schedule was pretty flexible and I ended up going back there the next day. Boy, was it worth it – this shop is so gorgeous!! (There’s a follow-up post in the works with more about the shops themselves, so you’ll be able to appreciate it!)

See how beautifully packaged they are? Each floor was wrapped separately. On the left is some heavy cotton tape destined for a bag project – probably not the bag pattern shown here though!

Fabrics left to right: upholstery cotton in a deco fish print; two-way denim; Nightmare Before Christmas cotton craft print; floral loopback sweater knit; purple geometric athletic jersey; multicoloured athletic jersey.

No, I didn’t just stop at fabric. There were dozens of cute bag patterns, but I really fell for this simple school bag. Why I bought pins, I’m really not sure – seemed like a good idea at the time. The brass ring is actually a thread cutter you can wear – genius! Can’t wait to try that out. I got some more bag hardware here, too – those turtle magnetic snaps were not being left behind!!!

After that it was time for a brief stop in Dotonbori for some okonomiyaki – yum!

Nippon Chuko (Hommachi, Osaka)

When I first walked in here, I was pretty overwhelmed – I don’t do a lot of bagmaking, but there was soooo much hardware it was hard to not be inspired. When I spotted this wood-panel print I exclaimed out loud – it is EXACTLY what I was looking for, for a project that has been percolating in my head for several months. So of course I ended up finding nearly all the other hardware I needed as well!

 

The white zig-zag piping and red linen strapping were actually from Toraya – I got my bags of goodies confused when I was photographing everything!

A red/brown chunky zipper, which will go in the same project bag as the woodpanel print, as will the other brass hardware here. The dragonfly print is a kimono cotton, destined for a gift; the dark green textured kimono cotton is for me. I grabbed some coloured elastic too because I couldn’t resist, and a pre-made bag strap which may work with the bag pattern I got at Otsukaya. The fabric pens caught my eye early on – I’ve been playing with fabric decoration lately, and they seemed like good prices, so I selected a few colours.

Atelier to Nani Iro (Osaka)

This shop was gorgeous, but not as cheap as Toraya! I did buy a piece of fabric which I probably don’t need, but this one is most definitely for the ‘collection’. I don’t own many designer pieces so this was a bit special for me. I was tempted by the pattern book as well but decided I own too many patterns already!

I purchased 1.5m of this green spot double gauze. It’s so soft and lovely! It came with a little lookbook of the latest fabric range, which is a symphony in black and white.

I rounded out my trip with a visit to the stunning Osaka Castle. I found it ironic that this castle is contained within a fortress (complete with moat) that was built to withstand an army; and yet today an army walks through the castle gates every day!

I must also mention a very cool spot in Osaka, for the cool people. One of my Discworld friends recommended to me an establishment called The Hearth Cafe, in Osaka in the Namba area. It’s a gaming cafe, and while I don’t game (although LARPing is still on my bucket list), they do a seriously good cheesecake! I was pretty happy sitting at the bar with these guys:

I’ll be following up this post with one detailing more about the shops I went to, and how to get there should you ever get to go fabric shopping in Osaka! If you have been there and shopped your heart out, leave me a comment – I’d love to hear about it!

Also, I’ve been doing youtube videos over the last year or so (could explain the lack of blog posts…. ) so pop over and say hi:

There’ll be a video coming up where I show off this fabric haul in all it’s glory, so don’t forget to subscribe!

 

Cashew Nut Bliss Balls

Easter is just around the corner, along with all the temptation that goes with it! Weather you are partial to bunnies or eggs or hot cross buns, it can be tough to say no to all the sugary treats we’ll be faced with!

Why not curb your cravings with these delicious Cashew Nut Bliss Balls? With freshly-toasted cashews, vanilla and cacao nibs, these little guys will soon be your favourite Easter treat!

To whip these up, I made my own cashew nut butter! Yep, it’s really pretty easy. I don’t have one of those really serious blender machines, either – I used my coffee bean grinder. It’s perfect for doing small batches! All you need is a little bit of patience.

Although I roasted this batch of cashews myself, you could easily use purchased roasted nuts (and I’ve totally done that in the past!). If you do, grab the unsalted ones – the salted kind will make your butter too salty.

To roast your nuts, preheat your oven to about 160C (a bit less if you’re fan-forced). Chuck your nuts on a baking tray (make sure they’re not too crowded)– and let them toast for 10 – 15 minutes. If you have a timer, use it – you don’t want them to get too dark – just a light golden colour is perfect. Take them out and let them cool completely before grinding.

Fill your grinder about three-quarters full and fasten the lid. Power on!

You’ll first get to the ‘flour’ stage, which looks like this:

Hang on though, you’re not done yet!

Add a dash of salt at this stage  – only a dash, mind.

Keep grinding until the oils start to release and the mix becomes creamy. You might need to stop and loosen the mix with a spatula a couple of times. I found pulsing the blades to be an effective technique at this stage.

If your nut butter is stiff or your blender doesn’t seem to want to get to the creamy stage, you can add a little oil (almond oil or peanut oil if you can handle peanuts). Just remember to use something with a very mild flavour.

And your nut butter is done! Bliss balls await!

Ha. Looks like icecream!

You could use a purchased nut or seed butter but these often have sneaky added sugars – remember to check the label! The Macro brand Cashew Spread has no additives – 100% cashews.

I only make small batches of these, so I use a mini-processor most of the time.

Cashew Nut Bliss Balls

¼ – ⅓ cup Cashew Nut Butter

½ cup Dried Dates

⅓ cup Regular rolled oats

¼ tsp Vanilla Extract or paste

1 tsp Rice Malt Syrup (optional)

1-2 tbsp Cacao Nibs

Throw your dates in the food processor in the food processor with the nut butter and oats, and whizz until it starts to come together in a paste.

Add the vanilla and rice malt syrup, if using. Give it another whizz to get everything nice and combined. Lastly add the cacao nibs and pulse once or twice just to distribute the nibs.

Roll teaspoonfulls into small balls. You could sprinkle the balls with some more cacao nibs if you wanted.

Now put them on your prettiest plate and – enjoy!!

Next Page »