Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Christmas Gift Planning

I know, the 'C' word twice in 2 days, I'm not even going to apologise.

If I don't get my head around gifts now I will be stressed to the eyeballs. Anyway, I like lists, in fact I love lists. And September through to December are really busy birthday months for friends and family too - just bad planning all these people being born in the autumn/winter!

I have a Christmas system (who'd have guessed?). I have a little notebook that I carry with me and I list who I'm buying for and jot down as I pick stuff up. Immediate family in the back of the book, everyone else at the front - basically I work towards the middle. This means I have several years worth of info in there and can ensure we don't inadvertently repeat an idea. I guess this sounds overcomplicated but we buy for lots of children, little ones get stuff passed down from older siblings - it's no good buying a game for Little A if we bought it for her big brother 3 years ago. And our Stocking gift model requires it's own rule book - makes sense to me but new inlaws have been mind boggled so I guess it's evolved over a period of time and it helps if you were in from the beginning!

I'm trying to move to using my iPad but am struggling, I do love notebooks, some kind of stationery fetish obviously.

To add an extra level I come from a big family, we gave up buying for everyone years ago. We each buy for one other person (little children get dispensation - for me Christmas is about the children, I love that they believe in the magical aspects of it, we keep that going as long as we can manage). This really works for us, we mix it up, try to make sure it's not the same person we're buying for every year, share ideas and aim for each of us to get one thoughtful gift parcel from 'the Tribe' and minimise the financial impact, it's all about the level of thought and effort.

Now is the time for this to be planned, it's a feat of negotiation but all part of the build up for us. And the master list goes in my book - yes, we did have one year when P and I ran round on Christmas Eve because somebody (Star Wars name Lando Calrissian for exactly this reason, cannot always be relied upon in a tight spot!) forgot who they were buying for - good grief.

Thanks to some travelling this year I already have a pretty good stash of novelty stocking gifts - result. I am planning to make some things too but I need to be realistic about what's achievable. So I'm going to keep a check on myself by listing on here, a combination of motivation and realistic expectations, not an easy balance for me.

I'm starting by signing up for Karen's Apronalong at Did You Make That? The Pyjama Party was great fun earlier in the year and I've got several potential recipients for aprons, and not insignificant amounts of fabric! I'm not going to buy the pattern Karen is using, I have promised myself I won't buy any new ones unless I stumble across a total bargain in a charity shop (ie under £1).

This is my 'No Buying Patterns until after Christmas Pledge'! It's out there, I'm sticking to it!


PS - yes, I am the eldest sibling, I know, textbook case!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Is it time to get up? Fabric shopping in Tokyo & a Giveaway

As I'm sitting in bed at 3am with a cup of Earl Grey and a cereal bar I thought I might as well do something constructive - and it's a bit early to get the sewing machine out!

So, here is what I bought in Tokyo (I didn't go looking for fabric when we were in the mountains). I'll do another post with more details of plans for each fabric but here's an overview:

This little lot was bought over 3 separate days and adds up to 29 metres, do I have a problem?

I actually found the experience quite stressful which seems ridiculous because I was so looking forward to it. I'm clearly a total muppet but here's the thing - I am just not used to having the choice, it was literally overwhelming. P, J & F were so supportive but it was a group trip and I didn't want my craft buying to take over. We split up and did our own thing when P and I went to Nippori which was totally the right thing to do. I read a lot of advice before travelling to Tokyo but, for what it's worth I'll add my view:
1. If you only have time to go fabric shopping once go to Nippori - it's easy to get to, the public transport system is great. The shops are condensed on one street and over a few blocks. It will look overwhelming at first but you can eliminate some shops by type of fabric they stock. Tomato is brilliant and spread over 5 locations, by fluke I realised I actually made all my fabric purchases in branches of that store. You will not get fabric cheaper than in Nippori in a store*. Buy it, you'll regret it!
My Nippori stash, laid out on the hotel bed.

2. Do not expect to find bargains in fabric stores - I'm not saying this is a problem, you will actually find amazing choice and beautiful fabrics and notions but they will not be cheap, I found no significant difference in prices to the UK. Liberty fabric and american quilting fabrics were well stocked but far more expensive for obvious reasons.
These are my purchases from Yuzawaya. There are branches all over the city. We went to the one in Takashimaya Times Square building in Shinjuku. If you're travelling with non-fabric buyers this is great as there are lots of other stores for them to visit in the same complex and restaurants (very important if you travel with my brother who needs regular cake and coffee!). Tokyo Hands is also in this building - go there, it is brilliant, we got fabulous things for Christmas stocking gifts. (Apologies if I've offended anyone by mentioning the 'C' word in September - I'm a planner!).

The fabric shopping trollies in Yuzawaya were perfect.

3. Get yourself to a flea market* - this is where you will find bargains outside Nippori. We were limited as we didn't have a shopping Sunday in Tokyo and that's when most of them take place. However, F found one on Saturday and it was amazing! There was an entire Craft section, we all bought loads of different things, a great way to spend the morning. I loved this fabric shopping the most, I think I enjoy the randomness of what you'll find, finding a use for something no longer wanted or needed by the previous owner - or I'm just cheap! I don't have photos, it wasn't appropriate and I didn't want to offend anybody there. Do an internet search before you visit, F found it easy to get info, and you may well get to see an area of the city you wouldn't have visited.
My fabric finds at the flea market - 10.4 metres in total for about £12. I'd have paid far more than that for 1 of the cat fabrics at home.

And these are the non-fabric crafty purchases I made:
There were loads of stores I didn't get to, Marunan in Shibuya being one on my list, but I did OK, no complaints. And my non-sewing travelling companions were the best and a bit disappointed that I didn't buy much - seriously!

Having bought myself so many things it seemed only right to have a little giveaway. I'm still slightly bemused that there's anyone out there reading my ramblings, let alone taking time to leave comments, I do appreciate it. I'll happily post anywhere so, if you're a follower, please leave a comment and I'll adopt the really technical approach of putting names in a hat. You've a good chance of winning on my little blog, here's what's up for grabs ...

A bin kit (the beautiful paper is for covering the bin and it's perfect table-top size for threads etc when sewing), 2 buckles (1 navy, 1 brown), a brooch kit (as with the bin the instructions are mostly drawings so I think will be easy to follow), 2 rolls of sewing themed washi tape (close up below) ...

Don't you just love it? The gift rolls are still pristine and wrapped but tricky to photograph, the opened ones above are mine.
Deadline for comments is Sunday 30th September - good luck.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Jet Lag is Not My Friend

We had the most wonderful time in Japan, we met family there too as my brother Yoda and his partner flew from San Francisco which made the trip even more special. We packed so much into the week but knew we'd never manage to do everything on our cumulative lists - still, we gave it our best shot.

But I am knackered, properly "can't retrieve the correct words" weary. I was just getting over the jet lag on the way out and we got on a plane and flew home. My brother spends his life flying long haul, I have no idea how he does it.

And Blogsy is not playing ball today, I don't have the foggiest idea why not but have no energy to wrestle with it!

So, here are a few photos of random wonderfulness, if you ever get the chance to visit Japan I'd recommend you grab it with both hands.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shibuya crossing

Tokyo Skytree

Sensoji Temple with Yoda (Brother No 1)

Paper shop in Asakusa

Tsukiji fish market
The Three Wise Monkeys at Nikko

Our amazing room at Hotel Honke Bankyu, Yunishigawa-onsen
One of 15 (yes, 15) beautiful courses we ate for dinner
I'll plough through the washing today! Perhaps take a little nap, and then photograph my purchases (there were a few!) to share. I even have a little giveaway planned by way of a thank you for following my ramblings - Arigato.

Friday, 14 September 2012


And we're off ... one more sleep. I am knackered, too excited to sleep properly this week, really busy at work and social commitments for the last 3 evenings. I'm ever hopeful this means I will sleep on the plane ... Something I am hopeless at. I'm so glad I broke the back of the packing on Sunday. Just need to throw in the last few bits, paint my toe nails and we're good to go!

When do you feel like you're actually on holiday? My boy is taking us to the airport tomorrow and we need to be there at silly o'clock in the morning so traffic should not be an issue but you never know with the M25. For me it's once we've checked in - I love that pottering about at the airport stage, having a cuppa and browsing through the Duty Free (which I never, ever buy but just have to look at, I think it's compulsory isn't it?).

So this is where I plan to be next week:

Woo hoo!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

No Sewing Week

There will be no sewing this week, in a moment of illumination I realised I'd stress myself out entirely if I tried to finish off 'just one or two' things before we go on holiday. We were away in May for two weeks and I had sufficient clothes so I know I have plenty for a week! Despite my best efforts realistically work is going to be manic this week, trying to hand jobs over to other team members. 'Be kind to yourself' I said, and it feels great because I did this ...

Yes I know it looks like a dining table, that is apparently it's function, but ordinarily you can't see it for sewing machine, cutting equipment etc. We actually sat here and had dinner - oh, the novelty!

And this ...

In the spirit of complete honesty, my craft room does not usually look this organised!

We're in Japan for a week, then I have the following week at home, so this means I can come home with a new stash and crack on with some sewing in a lovely clear space - brilliant!

In my absence I'm leaving Little Doris in charge ...

Now, off to search for my last post which has disappeared into the ether, perhaps I tidied up too thoroughly!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Fabulous Auntie S & a little bit of shopping

I had a lovely day on Thursday as I had the day off work and took P's Auntie S to the Prima Homemade Craft Show at Bluewater. It's not far from where I live, and Auntie S is en route so it was a good venue for us.

Auntie S is special to me, she's always treated me with kindness and we have a crafting bond but when I wasn't feeling at my best earlier this year she was an absolute brick. She's taught me lots of new skills and I've tried crafts I would not have contemplated before, a lovely no-nonsense lady.

Here's Auntie S in her latest homemade skirt, finding out about The Knitted Garden

We enjoyed the Craft Show, it's on today and tomorrow too I think. We've been to other shows in the past that have been very paper craft focussed (not a problem as we both make cards) but there was a bit more variety here. There are some beautiful film costumes by the entrance on the upper floor, beautiful beading work. The Phantom of the Opera costume was my absolute favourite because of the hat.

My friend J gets married next May, I'm making the stationery so I know her colour is purple - too much do you think

Auntie S and I loved the knitted garden, there were lots of contributors and it had obviously taken a great deal of work. Auntie S has arthritis in her hands now and, having been a prolific knitter all her life, can only take on little projects now but she still appreciates the quality of work by others - in fact we saw a beautiful knitted bag on the WI stall, very delicate work. Her next project is to improve my knitting (dire!).

I was a very restrained shopper, knowing we fly to Japan next Saturday (still 'skipping level' excited!) and I have great fabric buying plans then. I bought a few card making bits but these are my sewing related purchases:

This is my favourite, although I'm going to have to invest in different underwear.
Planning to make view B for work although I think the photo is awful! My only concern, having checked it out on Pattern Review, is about bust fitting. I'll definitely have to make a muslin.

I'm planning to make the top first to hopefully sort out fitting issues.

I think both of these will be perfect work skirts

I got all 4 of these for £4.50 as they were discontinued patterns, I actually had about 20 patterns in my hand but Auntie S made me helped me sift ruthlessly.

The broiderie anglaise was £3 pm, I have enough for 2 tops (1 for me, 1 for my daughter A) - definitely room for more Bow Sorbettos in my life and I really liked the daisy style flowers.
This superfine lawn was £8 pm, I have enough for a blouse, I have a grey pencil skirt this will look great with.
And the irony, Japanese superfine cotton lawn, I have a dress length for £9, and am dithering between 2 patterns. I have shoes in the taupe colour already. I have an interview on the horizon, if I can do a good enough job I think this would make the perfect interview dress.
Right, off to think about packing - did I mention Japan?! :)