Thursday, November 15, 2012

Janet Trippin in Japan

Since I started midstream last time I could not wait to see what the new assignment was going to be. I decided my square would be based on the first thing that came into my mind. I logged on (suspenseful music buildup), I saw the word, (suspenseful music here leading up to climactic moment) and the first thing that came to mind was...basketball. Ahh nuts.
In 1984 one of our former Japanese exchange students we had hosted invited us to visit her for a week. At the time you could purchase with your thirty day visa a Japan rail pass. So I thought why not visit them for a week and spend the rest of the month traveling around Japan on the train. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. So I packed up my 3 ½ year old son, three hard side Samsonite suitcases without wheels, a bag of toys and books and set off. I will let your imagination fill in what the trip was like from there. The highlight of the trip was being there for New Years Day. It is traditional to wear kimonos and you get a real sense of what Japan looked like before they became so westernized. It is a day of visiting and hatsumode, going to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple to pray and tie your wishes to a tree. Then prayers are said followed by washing yourself with (I'm not making this up) holy smoke to bind your prayers. My hostess hand sewed a kimono for Justin and me and the ladies woke me up at six o'clock to start the long process of dressing. Guests started coming about eight with gifts for me and money for Justin. It was a long day because you can't bend, you sit on the floor all day and nobody spoke English but our exchange student. It was a wonderful experience but exhausting.
I've been wanting to learn sashiko stitching for quite some time now and this is the perfect project. I know that it is traditionally done on dark blue but I simply cannot see the markings not even with two pairs of glasses on so I stitched my kimono on that old traditional Japanese cloth Belfast linen. My husband, who also quilts, let me go through his stash and use a beautiful blue ombre piece that he had. Kimonos are classified by the shape, print, and color and since I was a married woman and visiting for a holiday mine had an overall pattern in blues and gold called a homongi. The crests down the side of the square represent the five family crests that men wear on their kimono. The crests can be a family crest or one that is commonly used. These represent starting from the top: kotobuki (good fortune), matsu (pine trees), shiro (castles), noshi (extension of good fortune), and kiri (crest of the Imperial family in the 8th century).
Finally, the first day of stitching I broke the eye out of the needle trying to use the sashiko thread with a regular needle. FYI, I ordered Sashiko thread only to find out it is just Perle cotton. In Japan they have an annual festival on February 8th called hari-kuyo where they take their broken needles to a shrine and put them in blocks of tofu, putting them to rest. I love this. They honor the object that enabled them to make something beautiful and ask for the ability to sew better in the coming year. As a sign of respect to my broken needle and to honor my original intentions for this square mine is resting in a basketball, a Baylor basketball of course.


12 comments:

  1. Wow! What a beautiful and fantastic experience! This is such a wonderful story and I was really able to visualize what you told us. Thanks for sharing.
    I was lucky enough to see it tonight when I went over and it is exquisite! I could study this for ages and I still don't think I'd see all of it.

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  2. What fun to start with a laugh! But wow am I amazed. Judy's comments answer my questions...everything must be hand stitched. Super from beginning to end. I have enjoyed doing Sashiko, but I believe the thread I get here is different from Perle, but Perle can be used of course. So lovely, both pieces...one the craft and the other the idea...both art.

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    1. Yes everything is hand stitched, my husband got really tired of looking at me sitting with a pair of magnifying glasses over my glasses. The reason basketball came to mind first is that traveling is the only referee signal I know. So I ordered sashiko needles and thread from a store in Washington state and what they sent was Perle cotton. So please explain a little more, I would hate to leave the wrong information on the site.

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    2. Yes everything is hand stitched, my husband got really tired of looking at me sitting with a pair of magnifying glasses over my glasses. The reason basketball came to mind first is that traveling is the only referee signal I know. So I ordered sashiko needles and thread from a store in Washington state and what they sent was Perle cotton. So please explain a little more, I would hate to leave the wrong information on the site.

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    3. That is so funny. I had not made the connection with the referee signal...love it! Just a little Googling and I feel sure you will find what is sold on the East Coast in museums and quilt stores as Sashiko thread. It is smoother than Perle and very interesting.

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  3. Janet, what an asset to this group you are! Your quilt is lovely. I've tried my hand at Sashiko, but for you to produce such a lovely piece of art with your first try....amazing! And how clever is the back! Thank you for joining us, and thank you just for being YOU.

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  4. I'd really like to see this piece up close. Our master bedroom is decorated with authentic Japanese items and the bed quilt I made consists of 48 kimono pieced blocks from all different oriental fabrics. My husband is 1/4 Japanese and since childhood I've been partial to Japanese culture and would someday love to visit there. I have Sashiko books but haven't tried this embroidery method yet. Not only do I love your art but the story you shared as well. Thank you.

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    1. The most beautiful place I have ever been. The attention to even the smallest detail is unbelievable. The taxi drivers wear white gloves and have doilies on the head rests. Just an amazing place, I so hope you get to make the trip. I don't recommend taking a three year old :).

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  5. Just amazing! Both your adventure in Japan and your gorgeous hand-stitched quilt...and the back: love the humor! Like Judy W, I'd love to see this piece up close sometime!

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  6. Janet this is wonderful and I wish I could see it up close. You too paid great attention to detail. Basketball is one of the first things I thought of too and I love the way you tied it in to the front on your quilt back. I've been to Japan twice (once to visit a friend and once as port stops on a cruise) and I adore the country and want to see more of it. I've seen hanks of white thread at quilt festival labelled sashiko thread that seemed to be softer than perle cotton

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  7. Oh Janet, I just adore your quilt AND your story. How I would love to have had your experience! I had to giggle when you said you were going on a train with your 3 year old! How brave was that! When I finally get to meet you, I want to see this quilt! It is exquisite and so beautifully stitched! So glad you are a MM! Now I will have to try Sashiko!

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  8. We will have to meet in Waxahachie at the Dove's Nest for lunch and I will tell you the story of taking a three year old to Japan, and then a week layover in Hawaii. I wish everyone could see the piece up close. My hand work tends to be tight and I got an unexpected pucker effect on the kimono that feels really good. Every time I walk by I run my hands over it, it feels so good. Why is it when you see a quilt you automatically reach out to touch it?

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