Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Making needle books for Blue and White - bliss!

In the past few months I've been working on a special project, designing and making little needle books.  It is so fun and satisfying.

Amy Katoh, owner of the iconic Blue and White shop in Azabu Juban, liked my samples and we made a plan.  She asked to specify the fabric, giving me a bag of vintage indigo scraps to sort through, as well as beautiful washi buttons to use.  You KNOW this made my heart go pitter patter.  I liked the challenge of working with the quirky and limited palette she gave me.

So, I set out to work, washing the fabric, sorting it into usable/not usable (stained).... and made more samples to show Amy...

Then upon approval, piecing piecing piecing, in full production mode the past couple weeks:

The pages are woolen and felt, and the ties vary from French ribbon to organic Japanese cording, to flax.

When I brought them in to Blue and White, Yoshiura-sensei patiently taught me how to finger knit my own cording...... which could be a great possibility for future books (time allowing).

The theme is mottainai - nothing wasted.  For me, nothing could be better than playing with fabric, piecing and creating one little panel after another, and sew them into something practical, and pretty.   I'm pleased as punch that they will be offered at Blue and White, a shop I admire so much. 

And speaking of shops, my buddy Kazuko K (she blogs at cocolog-nifty here) took me to the cutest embroidery/fabric shop, in Jiyugaoka.  She's a delight to spend time with - a really remarkable person.  Anyway the shop is called Hobbyra Hobbyre and there are branches here and there - so special. 

Kazuko also showed me to a little indoor mall also near the train station - a very eclectic mix of specialty shops all lined up.  Tiny shops - stalls really.  You name it - clothing, birds (!), bags, kimonos, office supplies, a deli....

and yes, a little fabric shop called Pico.  Only in Japan!

That's all for now.... looking forward to the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival next week.  Bracing myself for the crowds, and anticipating lots of inspiration. 



  1. The needle books are tiny treasures! How fun to work with the vintage and antique indigos. The shop look so fun too.

  2. So fun for you to have access to those little pieces of vintage fabrics to play with to your heart's content. Can't really call it work when you're obviously having a blast making up these little treasures. Each one is a unique tiny piece of useful art. Win-win all the way around. Looking forward to your photos from the quilt festival.

  3. Oh my goodness these are beyond charming, Cynthia. They are gorgeous! I want to touch them, unfold and refold them, look at and examine them. What a treat it would be! It must be just thrilling to play with that vintage and antique fabric.

    Those little shops look so interesting. What an experience to live in Japan!

  4. Wow Cynthia, I sort of lost track of your blog for a few posts... you've been busy! It sounds like you're having the time of your life - sewing, cooking, shopping etc. and even creating a little side business. How adorable are your little needle cases! Will you be exporting them any time soon? ;-)

  5. These needle books are so so lovely and special. I'm sure they will sell quickly. Hand knitted cording? sounds interesting and a new skill for you.
    I always appreciate you sharing snippets of life in Japan. The hidden mall of small good stalls looks fun and the little fabric shop looks good!

  6. What fabulous little gems! I can't imagine a more perfect project for you to work on in such a limited space. I'm guessing they will not last long in the shop and you will be busy for a long time. Have a wonderful time at the festival. I think it must be the most fabulous quilt exhibition ever!

  7. Yippee!! Your needle books are definitely Yippee worthy - practical and pretty and mottainai! An amazing capture of the magical combination of doing, seeing and living in Japan.

  8. I love your needle books and the idea of nothing wasted. I make my own needle books and use every bit of scraps I can find. They are small and don't make any mark on the scrap pile but, still, it's beautiful fabric that gets used.

  9. Such wonderful little needle books. That is so cool that you were invited to sell them in that great shop! Kudos!!
    I love the look of that little mall with the specialty shops.

  10. Wow...I am totally impressed...These are wonderful..

  11. Ooh, these are fantastic looking! So rich looking. Very sweet.:)

  12. Wow! Your little needle books are amazing and beautiful! And I love that you're re-purposing the fabrics. I want to hold them in my hands and get a really good look at (and feel) the wonderful indigo fabric! They make my heart beat a little faster!

    How fun to get to live and spend time in such a fascinating place!


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