Of Yarn and Kimonos

It was almost time for my 60-day visa to expire and I had to leave China to renew it. So off we went to Tokyo. My first priority was yarn. I googled yarn stores in Tokyo and several blogs had recommendations. I made my list and went in search of yarn.

My first attempt was a fail. We took a long circuitous route in search of Mother Earth supposedly located at 3-3-39 Minamiazabu Minato-ku. We strolled through some very interesting neighborhoods, but no Mother Earth.

The second attempt was also a fail. I was in search of Avril, which is known as Habu Textiles in the USA. From examining a Tokyo Metro map, the stop was somewhat off the grid. Given that I had some lovely yarn from Habu Textiles in my stash already, I decided to forego Avril.

Attempt #3 was a home run. We took the Tokyo Metro from the Roppongi Station to the Shinjuku Station. According to Wikipedia, “the station was used by an average of 3.64 million people per day in 2007, making it … the world’s busiest transport hub.” I believe it.

Finding the yarn store required navigating the streets with our smart phone map. It isn’t too far from the station, but it is tucked away on a busy pedestrian street. Okadaya is an arts and crafts store. Different floors house sewing supplies, buttons, ribbons, wigs, and yarn. Photos are not allowed but just imagine yarn nirvana. There was Noro, of course, but I selected Japanese brands that I had not seen in the United States.

First I found Sonomono in this natural color. Each ball is 40 grams, 64 meters of 40% Alpaca, 30% Wool and 30% Linen.

Sonomono Yarn 1

Sonomono Yarn 2

After my husband checked on me to make sure I had not suffocated in a crate of yarn (I guess I was up there a long time), I picked up two of these cotton cupcakes by Nicotto. Each cupcake is 30 grams, 50 meters of 100% Cotton.

Nicotto Yarn 1

Nicotto Yarn 2

We also took some time to visit a couple of museums. The Tokyo National Museum was a highlight with its display of beautiful kimonos from the Edo Period (17c-19c). The garments were in glass display cases so the photos may have reflections.

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Mantón Bordado

When I travel, I always try to bring back something that will remind me of the place I visited. Something a little more meaningful than a key chain but not too excessive (and that will fit in my luggage).

I brought back this mantón bordado (embroidered shawl) from Madrid. They told me it was hand embroidered (although I have some doubts). Nonetheless, the vibrant flowers and flirtatious tassels remind me of Spain.

I also picked up this set of toallas bordadas (embroidered towels) with a crocheted border. I like their simplicity and elegance.

Here are a few other images captured on the streets of Madrid.

This 20 ton bronze statue of a bear under a strawberry tree (el oso y el madroño) is located at the Puerta del Sol. The symbol of the bear (which apparently used to roam in the forests outside the city) and the strawberry tree are emblematic of Madrid.

A shop window with traditional flamenco dresses.

I couldn’t help but snap a photo of this storefront. Why can’t we all just get along?!

Los Petrificados (the petrified ones), one of many street performers in Madrid. At first glance, I thought it was a statue until someone dropped a coin in a box in front of them. The woman’s eyes moved and the man looked up while he poured the water.

I have other pictures to share. Hasta la próxima. (Until next time).

Contemporary Craft in Houston

Some time ago, I discovered the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) located in Houston’s Museum District. The HCCC focuses on arts and crafts made from clay, fiber, glass, metal, wood or found/recycled materials. In addition to a variety of exhibitions, they have an Artist Residency program. When you visit the museum, you can see that each artist has their own workspace for perfecting their craft.

When I visited the museum, the Contemporary Handweavers of Houston (CHH) was holding its Artisan Market. Occupying the large display rooms were booths of textiles, jewelry, rugs, clothing and yarn. Weavers were working on large looms and spinners with their whirring wheels were scattered around the rooms.

I had to bring this small guest towel home only because it was handwoven and embroidered by 104 year old Tilly Marchwinski. Mrs. Marchwinski was not present but it seemed that everyone there knew her. They told me that she never missed the show but was a little under the weather that day.

This next item was the perfect sunglasses case. I loved both the vibrant colors and the texture produced by the swirling pattern.

This large basket was filled with handspun, hand dyed yarns.

This hank of yarn was handspun by Peggy Barnette of Sky Loom Weavers. Fiber contents – 80% BFL Wool, 20% Silk, 2 ply.

Normally I am drawn to rich, vibrant colors but I couldn’t resist the sheen of this soft brown yarn called “Chocolate Mint.” It is a 2 ply yarn spun from 50% Alpaca, 50% Bamboo by Penny Nelson also of Sky Loom Weavers.

Follow these links to learn more about the HCCC and the CHH. According to their website, the next CHH Artisan Market will be held on September 6-8, 2012 at the HCCC.

Cross-Stitched Magazines

I was struck by the artistry in these cross-stitched magazine covers and newspapers. Another instance of finding threads in unexpected places. The artist, Inge Jacobsen, has taken an everyday disposable item that displays one-dimensional images of beauty and fashion and converted it into a unique piece of art. I learned about this artist from an article in Design Milk, Stitched Magazines by Inge Jacobsen | Design Milk. Here are a few cross-stitched images from her website at Inge Jacobsen.

Cross-stitched Vogue magazine cover. According to the artist's website, a cover like this can take 50 hours to create by hand.
A cross-stitched Beyonce from the cover of Dazed & Confused superimposed on a page from a magazine or photograph.
Three cross-stitched super-models from a page in Vogue magazine.

The embroidered images on newspaper is surprising and refreshing. The image of the woman almost floats over the page.

I like this last one in particular because we see violent images like this repeated in the media so often that we become anesthetized to them and stop seeing them. The artist has taken a hazy picture of a violent scene and forced us to take a closer look.

Visit Inge Jacobsen’s website to read about the philosophy behind her art and see more of her handiwork.

Not-So-Common Thread

I ran across this great post on Design Sponge and was amazed by the beautiful hand embroidery by Maricor/Maricar. The attention to detail is exquisite and I love their use of color – the embroidery pops off the screen. I am always on the look out for unique and  modern uses of the “domestic arts” of the past and Maricor/Maricar’s work brings embroidery solidly to the present. The post by Design Sponge does a great job of telling you about their work so please read it here. Also, visit the Maricor/Maricar website and blog.