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.