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…