Category: travel

Extra! Extra!

The Destination collection was released by Blue Sky Alpacas earlier this summer and I was happy to contribute to this curious new series with my own adventure. I’ve got to think of my design and play with the new yarn while still in Japan. And even though I’ve traveled a lot and seen so many landmarks and architectural wonders that inspire me, somehow I ended up with the image of Tokyo Tower to remind me of my life in Japan. Particularly the last months of my residence I have gotten to greet the tower as my old friend over coffee and a baked treat while en route to teaching my classes. Painted in brightest orange red, my favorite color, it feels soothing and majestic at the same time. In earlier days we’ve visited the landmark and even went up it, but also once going up Mori Tower observation deck in Roppongi Hills, it presented a great view of my “friend”. It’s also hard to miss, Tokyo streets are quite easy to get lost at as there are no street names or numbering system that might make sense to a westerner, so Tokyo Tower saved us with its beacon several times.

TokyoTower

Once folks at Blue Sky Alpacas supplied me with a challenge of presenting a design reflecting Japan, I didn’t have to think long that it would be the favorite landmark. Then it was onto the task which technique to use and how I would portray it. I’ve chosen lace on a solid knit fabric to give the outlines of the Tokyo Tower simply that it was one of the ways using only 1 skein of yarn of new scrumptious Extra and produce a wearable quick accessory. But also since I don’t get to see my “friend” anymore every week, it almost looks like a fizzing image in my head.. it’s there, but so far far away! It was a beautiful memento, which makes me think of Japan every time I put it on.

BSAExtraColors

New yarn – EXTRA – comes in an exciting palette to satisfy probably the pickiest knitter with tons of neutrals (I’d take all the greys, please!) and vibrant brights that are always great for quick gifts and bigger garments. The yarn comes in hefty 150 gram skeins which is enough for almost any accessory and the nice tight twist is great for exploring the range of various gauges. I would go from US 8 (5mm) to US 11 (8mm) and it will still render beautiful fabric once washed. The baby alpaca content gives the slight fuzz and extra warmth while merino provides a great drape and structure. Tokyo Tower Bandana compiles elements of a cowl and a triangular shawl in one. Worked top down, first in the round, then flat. It still might rank among TV knitting, but only in the beginning, the lace part is custom and quite tricky so might require more concentration on that part.

TokyoTower-6_960x1281photography © Blue Sky Alpacas

TokyoTower-5_960x1281

photography © Blue Sky Alpacas

And now onto even more fun part of this post! A giveaway and a Knit-A-Long announcement! I understand that getting your hands on new and exciting yarns and patterns is not always that easy, thankfully team at Blue Sky Alpacas understands that and  kindly sponsored this giveaway! I am giving away 2 skeins of Extra accompanied with my Tokyo Tower Bandana printed pattern in a cool new format that includes photography of the details and beautiful layout and packaging.

Just leave a comment below, making sure to link to your contact information, letting me know which is your favorite landmark that you might have grown up around or encountered during your travels by end of Sunday, August 17th. And I will announce the winners on Monday, August 18th.

Concurrently, starting Monday, August 18th I will also run a week long Knit-A-Long in Friends of Blue Sky Alpacas group on Ravelry. So please join me as we knit our Tokyo Tower Bandanas in which mine will, of course, be grey.

tokyotower_giveaway

Back to school

Or rather I have been back to teaching knitting since last November.

And I meant to talk about it sooner, but just never got to it because of packing, moving and all the fuss. Last November I was introduced by Marianne Isager to textile artist and textiles designer Reiko Sudo. If you know something about Japanese textiles, you may know that Reiko Sudo and Jun-ichi Arai started NUNO back in early 80ies. Reiko now is the directior of NUNO and NUNO textiles are known all over the world on their novelty and mind-blowing texture. Meeting Reiko was an extremely humbling experience for me since I have been doing research on NUNO while writing Ori Ami Knits. And I was lucky enough to visit “Fabrics of Feathers and Steel: The Innovation of Nuno” exhibit back in 2009 in The Textile Museum in Washington DC prior to our move to Japan and admire those textiles in person. Imagine my awe when upon our meeting Reiko became so fascinated with my work in knitwear that she asked me to teach her and several NUNO members. I know I was questioning myself whether that was real life or some illusion! At the time of our meeting I had only 7 months left in Japan and she wanted to start classes immediately and every single Saturday I would travel to Tokyo to share my knowledge with one of the most revered Japanese textile artists. Below is the photo of our last class. Reiko’s apprentices have become textiles artists of their own and they are NUNO members as well.

Left to Right: Gaku Masui, Yuki Abe, Kazuhiro Ueno, myself, Reiko Sudo, Yumi Yasue and one is missing – Bun-chan!

After our last class my students gifted me this funny drawing of ourselves drawn by Yuki-san.

Reiko is also a professor at the Tokyo Zokei University of Art and Design in Japan. Last spring I was invited to give a guest lecture along with Reiko who also helped to interpret. The lecture was for her 4th year weaving students and the subject of it was 3 dimensional knitwear, explored through a variety of my designs that they continued on working.

 

 

 

And this morning I found out that those students completed their projects and then some! The students took their own approach with creative modifications of the existing pattern designs. But what is even cooler that their finished knits were turned into exhibit and are now on display at Tokyo Zokei University and Reiko named it creatively after my book title “Ori Ami Knits”!!!

 

 

This is such honor and these images are truly heartwarming, just like when I see photos of newly finished projects of others knit from my patterns!
I am really missing Japan this crisp Fall afternoon… And winter is coming soon, so time to be knitting away on those woolies and get ready. But it’s also time to get excited for my classes in the States are coming soon!

Winter walk in Enoshima. Part 2

To continue the story of our walk on Enoshima island…

 

Ever since starting to notice the amazing designs of manhole covers in Japan, now a mandatory photo of the manhole cover on the island. Looks like cypress trees.

 

Our visit coincided with winter tulip festival at the garden and it was truly great.

 

To view all these vibrant colors among dull colors of winter.

 
 
 

The Sea Candle is what they call the lighthouse atop Enoshima Island. Since the island itself it quite elevated, we could see Landmark Tower all the way in Yokohama. Which is amazing, it’s almost across entire Kanagawa prefecture.

 

Linear texture on the observation deck is quite modern and minimalistic.
But the sun was going down and once it was gone it got quite cold.

 

So it was time for some jasmine tea and a french toast in a neatly located cafe by “Miami Beach Square” in the garden.

 

And as we were leaving the dark grew thicker around and the lights came on. I know Xmas and New year holidays are all over, but the illumination still remains to cheer up visitors.

 

 

As we were walking away from the island, the view of the lighthouse became even more spectacular. So it was great to explore the entire island through day time and enjoy its appeal during night time.

Winter walk in Enoshima. Part 1

 

Last Monday was a US holiday, but it was a normal work day in Japan, so using an excuse of sunny weather (at least it was when we left) and hoping for little crowd (a rarity in Japan) we decided to explore a place we never been to before. Enoshima island. Lighthouse on it can be seen even far from outside our window. And on a very clear day there is a great view of Mt. Fuji. Alas not this time.

 

The trip starts with a walk from a train station on Enoden line, where I discover these cutest and I think first time I have ever seen actual yarn bombing in Japan. These little birds were all donned in capes and little berets.

 
 

It’s common in Japan for a building to get “dressed-up” if it’s being repainted. This tower in particular had a huge installation that created a really cool geometric pattern.

 

The knits for sale, I wouldn’t dare to spot their origin, but it looked very Peruvian/South American. But knowing it is not likely to be locally made. Just happy to see knits.

 

The bridge that connects mainland to the island has ornate marble lanterns. Just look at the eyes of that dragon.

 

The view of the island opens up to a interesting statue, which actually hosts a full spa right behind it.

 

Patina-ed old Torii gate starts the main market street leading up the ascent and numbers of shrines.

 

Must be a very popular spot for street food.

 

Later, when the crowds dissipated, I got one too – tako sembe (flat bread with octopus). Ones with jellyfish and shrimp were also available. But believe it or not… I broke mine in half not even a minute later (it’s very thin) and that half floated down the street like a frisbee.

 

Wall of o-mikuji.

 

Path map of the island between shrines and lighthouse.

 

Wooden boards with wishes for love written on them.

 
 

The island is a popular residence for many cats. They are all domesticated, they will let you pet them.

 

Nearby food stalls feed them and I saw some cats even sleeping in people’s laps. It was cold, so I am sure they could use some warmth.

 

To be continued…

Rakurai

Past December marked my 3 years of living in Japan. In a way it feels that time flew by so fast and at the same time I can’t grasp all I have seen and done while living here. Not that I have done a great amount of traveling around the country. But there are these weekends and holidays in this freelancer’s world when I get a chance to get away and appreciate what surrounds me and marvel at it!

Not to be rude, but I think many visited 1 day tours take us to popular touristy spots so I lost count of all the castles that we got to visit and I can’t identify many of them because their architecture quite honestly the same. Kakegawa castle or Odawara castle.
However, being me as someone obsessed with details I always tend to remember surroundings and the grounds more vividly. In this case, I just love these geometric streamers that most sacred places in Japan are decorated with. To my westerner eyes they look very origami and very Japanese – called “shide“. In Shinto they represent a lightning, sacred trees and many places are marked with a thick piece of rope and shide. Then last year I happened to visit famous Ryōgoku Kokugikan Stadium in Tokyo for sumo wrestling and I noticed that these same streamers are decorating the belts of most prized fighters, but in this case they are called “gohei“. In either case those lightning looking streamers are used to bless and cleanse.

 

To embody this geometric detail into my work I have decided on the zigzag looking scarf that is made in an unsual sort of way. 落雷 RAKURAI (jap.) (noun) – means “thunderbolt”, bolt of lightning”.
It’s a fun scarf that is worked in the round while those hills and valleys are shaped at the same time. It’s completely reversible and is worked using only a single skein of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in this gorgeous color called Tomato. A vibrant orange with enough red to make this accessory pop! Winter in Japan in most parts is very grey and snowless and it gets dark very early, so the need for brighter object around to liven up an eye feels like a necessity.

 

My main goal while working this fabric was to try to keep it flat and pointy just like a piece of paper would. But it would still look great if you try to wrap it around your neck and not just look decorative on your coat. And voila – an origami, or in this case more 2 dimensional kirigami for your neck!

 

Here are some pattern specs:
LEVEL
Beginner Intermediate

FINISHED MEASUREMENTS (blocked)
Width 3.75”
Length 56”

YARN
Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light (100% superwash merino wool; 420yds/384m; approx.115g);
1 skein in Tomato
OR 420 yds of any other fingering weight wool

NEEDLES
US 3 (3.25 mm) dpns or 2 circulars

GAUGE
28 sts and 36 rnds in 4”/10cm over St st swatch worked in the round

On Ravelry

USD 6.00

And to kickstart good will of this New Year (even though the Holiday festivities and gift giving season is already over for most part) the upcoming posts featuring my 3 different scarf designs are going to have a giveaway attached to it!!!

 

The haul to the winner!
A pdf copy of Rakurai Scarf pattern
1 skein of Madelinetosh TML in Tomato (original yarn and color used for Rakurai scarf)
A set of US 3 double pointed wooden DREAMZ needles by Knitter’s Pride
A tape measure from Namaste
A needle gauge wheel from Craftsy

What do you need to do to enter?

Leave a comment on this post telling me what was the scarf pattern you knit last or knitting at the moment with valid contact information (Ravelry ID, email)

Like Olgajazzy page on Facebook and remember to mark to get notifications

If you are already a fan of my FB page, join Olgajazzy group on Ravelry

Make sure to do all that by end of Saturday, 11:59pm EST,  January 12, 2013. Thank you all for participating! Entries are now closed!
And I will announce the winner Monday!

Good luck and Happy Knitting!

Summer Travels

It has been a while now since I blogged last but the summer is seemingly fleeting this year and yet preparations for it started all the way in March. I decided to attend The National Needlework Association show in Columbus, OH this June. Not just attend, to be an exhibitor for the first time and present my line of design in person to retailers attending from all over, not just US…
Not an easy task to travel half across the globe to get to a place, let along bring bulky things with you. Lots of careful planning and logistics and actual designing turned my entire spring into a mad race since I needed to get everything done before flying to the States. But leave it to me to make things work and put more challenges up by having to flying on a military plane from Japan to wherever base on the US West coast.

As I was leaving in early June, Japan’s annual rainy season has already been in full swing. Weather this year has been weird all over and here we didn’t really have nice days between cold and hot. It all turned into muggy, sticky, hot mess.

So what a girl to do to get on a military flight from Japan to US? Bring lots and lots of necessary paperwork – check!
Pack a suitcase for 40F to 104F weather range – check!
Leave the house at 5am, switch 5 different trains, get a cab and get to an Air Force base – check!

Be lucky enough (thank the stars and the rain!) to get the LAST seat on a C-17 plane going to sunny California!!! It’s like winning a lottery let me tell you, such an emotional roller-coaster, it takes up to 3-5 attempts to get on a flight at times, that’s why need to try leaving much earlier.

The moment the plane took off it was time to relax a bit, well for 10 hours of non-commercial seating and no entertainment, yet feeling hardcore that is what I get to do to for work! Ear plugs and all. Plus check flying aboard C-17 off the bucket list.

Unplanned mini work+vaca-tion in San Francisco and seeing friends – double check!!!
The week of absolutely delicious food, amazing wine and great company!!!

California greeted with early morning clear skies and warm temperatures.

Unprecedentedly SUNNY and hot weather has certainly made it feel welcome while catching up with Vanessa and Cookie. I’ve got a chance to visit local yarn store mecca A Verb For Keeping Warm in Oakland and meeting lovely Kristine, her staff including ever adorable dog Cleopatra Antonia. Seeing some of the fabrics there certainly started sewing bug anew for me. I picked up some lovely cotton and locally printed linen.

To be perfectly honest it felt amazing to be back in a real yarn store with yarn brands that I am familiar with and seeing what’s new in the market and just enjoy colorful feast for your eyes and hands. Especially since my last time in any LYS was over a year ago. Certainly gives you much more appreciation when living very far from one. Kristine’s shop is known for sewing, knitting, felting classes as well as classes that teach you how to spin and to dye with natural ingredients. Here is the line of yarns that Kristine dyes herself. I am dying over a skein in French Monk’s Finest (which is incredibly gorgeous but hard-to-dye shade of mustard) and Indigo… My only regret is not living closer to this store so I could learn more for myself, motivate to sew more and be craftier all around besides being close to a great source for all things DIY!

Best coffee in your life – check!

We tried siphon coffee for the first time in Japan, but nothing stands close to Blue Bottle Coffee‘s fresh coffee beans. Coffee connoisseurs will approve! Here is a video filmed at that same location in Mint Plaza. The process is amazing and looks really like a project in a lab.

While enjoying that coffee spotted something new to me.. food trucks are apparently old news, now it’s boutique trucks – fashion on the go! We need more fashionable people in the world!

Before long though it was time to head down to HOT Columbus and get excited about the booth set-up and the show!!!

To be continued

Movement

I have been back to Japan for a month now and it has been so incredibly filled with events. Work to catch up on, visiting places around Japan, trying to appreciate every single day I get to spend here. We went to Kakegawa Castle and visited 7 waterfalls in Shizuoka Prefecture. Have also visited heart of Edo period in Japan which is in Kawagoe and got to see where one of the most popular shoguns was born and resided. Life seems moving forward, Japanese are so resilient and signs of disaster are almost not there, they certainly appreciate all the business and nothing makes them happier than seeing tourists and people visiting their historical places. So we try to show our support as much as possible.

As rainy season sets in, I try to find some comfortable clothing to get through it. And my rainboots… I am so happy I’ve invested in them last year because I literally live in them.. Last Saturday we set on our way to Hakone and Lake Ashi in the mountains. When we got there, weather looked like a hurricane and besides treacherous winding roads you could barely see anything, complete white out. And today it’s raining again…

Paper crane garlands in Buddha Museum

This week was also another exciting development. I have bought a knitting machine, a Japanese one and I love it! My Australian knitterly friends have been at it recently A LOT!
With a help of my Japanese friend who helped me sort out through some Japanese Yahoo auctions, I have bought a brand new, as in very very old, but in original packaging and never been used Brother machine for almost nothing! They stopped production of Brother machines in 2000. I looked on eBay, but no one would ship them to me. I have always wanted one, I was afraid that it would eat into my hand knitting time, but fear not. It’s solely for making some fine knit clothing. The kind that takes forever to knit on tiniest needles (not like I haven’t already done that before). Whole concept of machine knitting is more technical and I find hand-knitting still more methodical and appealing to me. But it certainly triggered more ideas for designs. Funny thing how inspiration works.

General life of a crafter consists of dipping into other kinds of it as well. I have been really into making some funky and simple jewelry. I am sure many of your have already heard of Pinterest and it is just an amazing source for pinning all things that interest you… instead of saving all those images on your computer. You get to organize and remember them!

2 weeks ago I went to Yuzawaya, got a box of paper clips and electrical tape. $4 dollar necklace. Yes, please!

Inching along

If someone told me in the past 2 months that I would have to make SO MANY decisions and follow up and then change them in order to adapt to a situation, I’d say they were talking about someone else’s life. Firstly, thank you to everyone for your immense support!!!

For the past month and a half I have been displaced from Japan as in “voluntarily departed” for the time being till the situation got stable. Such a funny work to think of right now.. stable, it would take years to see the damage from what happened. I have been blessed enough with many generous and kind friends who offered me shelter stateside. Not to speak of all my knitterly friends online who were “with” me till the moment I left. I can’t complain that I spent my nomadic “vacation” in Los Angeles, city I once lived long long time ago. I tried concentrating on the positive in every single little bit of the day – sunny weather, fact that I was in good health, delicious and missed foods, swam in a pool, even saw Taylor Swift shopping in Anthropologie, but not without that buzzing noise in the back of my head “what’s next, when can I go back home to Japan?” The worry and stress got to me eventually and I have been down with a nasty cold for 2 weeks, what else can top this cake… BUT (trying to look and stay all positive)..

It was so nice catching up with fashion and knitwear designer friends and finally meeting them in person, Wendy of Knit and Tonic fame with her wonderful family who extended their kindness to me. Many smiles and laughter moments shared while we visited historical Farmer’s marker and the Grove and food food food.. I must say, I haven’t grown that fond of most Japanese food as huge amount of it contains rice or noodles of some kind and it’s always hard to find flavors palatable to a Westerner. Oh I am sure you wonder if there was yarn involved.. Even better – yarn and button store in a very close proximity to each other!

I got to meet mia meraviglioso amica italiana Francesca of fluffbuff and have a delicious lunch at a mozzarella bar in Westfield mall, I believe I haven’t eaten mozzarella and prosciutto crudo that good since I lived in Italy. I really wish by the time I felt better I could do more and see more friends, but by some strike of luck, my fashion designer friend took me to Santa Monica one afternoon and we dropped by Wildfiber store unplanned and it was my luck to have met Grace, Terri and Natasha and their team who hosted Ori Ami Knits trunk show and book signing prior to my going back home.

Now I am back in Japan, with new digits in my year count, life seems restoring and sad to have missed “hanami” and so much to do. In fact I haven’t told you stories of 3 new designs that I have already published but all about them in upcoming week.

I gave myself a promise to blog more this year (yeah, right!) as my New Year’s resolution, only to get slammed in January with all these projects, this exciting work that I can’t talk about yet or show you my living room filled up with yarn.. where cat and husband can be spotted occasionally.

Day to Day

Though it was a sunny awesome day here yesterday and 77F weather really teased with a dress and sandals, today it is back to cold day in Japan with pouring rain all day long. Many say it does rain here a lot in spring but usually very warm by now… But weather did give us a couple of single days suitable to enjoy the Hanami season.

And when the wind is blowing it is snowing millions of pink petals.

On Sunday morning I was thinking through a new design and had one of those light bulb moments, just had to sit down and do it right away. At least, it was morning time, not my usual 2am when those strike! 2 attempts later at this wretched hem, by Monday afternoon it is done and well underway along with a surprising find in my needle stash. I have discovered a pair of Addi Turbo, not lace ones, but regular ones with a sharp tips and that just makes my knitting glide! (Wonder when and where those were obtained?!)

Decided it is time to share more process photos of the projects and my general sketching, tools and place where “magic” happens. Today only the light is horrible, so this is for something to see in the future.

I have found watching or rather listening to movies can be an entertaining background while I work, but discovered a better source than just music. Audio books – they are much easier for this purpose and one can find lots of them free online. And just perfect, I don’t own a Kindle or Nook or iPad but audio books really took away my guilt for not reading more books, so instead I listen.

As any spring, this one wasn’t any different about my sewing bug. I see many quilting these days, it is of an epidemic proportions, but that is a hobby I really don’t have room or patience for though. So have been inspired this year to incorporate some knit details into my sewing. Like I did a couple years ago on a jacket. Here it is … yummy silk jersey

I have been on a hunt in a couple of yarn stores, crafting places in search of cool and mind-blowing fibers to explore.. I must say I have seen a very puny share of what Japan has to offer. So I have started with a reliable store before, not in person yet (as they are located all the way in Kyoto), but via amazingly fast Japanese mail! The site is in English as well, as well as great customer service! Now just to think of what other wonderful things to acquire from them!
LIN-NET.COM

This wonderful linen is currently on my needles and is being made into something fabulous.