Crafting Across Cultures

(Or why we love Uwajimaya.)

Maybe it’s because we both lived in the international dorm in college, went to grad school oversees, did a fair amount of international traveling (before the dollar tanked and it was actually affordable to travel) and possibly even because Josh has a degree in International Studies, but we are both really interested in books, magazines and publications about sewing and “making stuff” from around the globe. (We also are both compulsive consumers of books and magazines on all sorts of subjects, so this feeds multiple interests at once…)

One of our favorite Portland grocery stores happens to be Uwajimaya, way over on the west side (it may technically be Beaverton, actually). Uwajimaya is an Asian supermarket with lots of wonderful foods are very wonderful prices. They have interesting vegetables, noodles of all kinds and more sauces than you can imagine. They also have a fascinating assortment of Hello Kitty merchandise, Japanese cookware, a Shiseido shop and all sorts of odds and ends. But the gem at Uwajimaya is the Kinokuniya Bookstore, which is a chain of bookstores in Japan that has a few branches in the U.S. as well. Whenever we do some grocery shopping at Uwajimaya, we always spend a fair amount of time poking around the bookstore at the interesting magazines (the men’s fashions magazines are amazing—especially the single-topic ones devoted to things like canvas sneakers or jeans) and the gorgeous craft books. In fact, we’ve accumulated quite the little collection of Japanese sewing books.

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The photography and styling in these books is just beautiful.

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When we stopped by Uwajimaya this weekend, they were featuring Japanese craft books as part of their “Japanese Crafting Books Fair.”

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Which was less of a “fair” per se (but it was still more than usual), and more of a special table set up with a display of unique craft books. This was our favorite that they selected for special display:

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In addition to the “Handmade Dog Dresses” book above (which we resisted buying, but it sure took a lot of self-discipline and reminders to ourselves that the dog mind not ever forgive us), there was a huge knitting book selection (Japanese knitting uses charts, so the language issue wouldn’t be too bad), softies, crochet, beading and embroidery as well as the awesome sewing selections.

We’ve been exercising restraint with the unnecessary purchases lately, but had to get the latest issue of “Female,” a sewing magazine.

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The reason? TEN HAT PATTERNS! The perfect companion for the Idea Hat Recipe Book! Our hat-making power has almost doubled. (Perhaps we have an unusual enthusiasm for hat-making? Just maybe?)

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Even though the patterns are complicated-looking because 1) neither of us knows a word of Japanese (okay, Sarah knows how to answer the phone in Japanese due to having a roommate from Japan for a semester) and 2) the pattern paper is crazy, with loads of intersecting lines, our (really Josh’s) first foray into sewing hats using the Japanese patterns really helped us develop an understanding of how hats are constructed and what shapes make up the various styles of hats. It’s pretty fascinating, really.

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The perfect accompaniment to a fresh set of Japanese hat patterns? A bit of fabric from Heather Ross’ Rabbits and Racecars line for Kokka of Japan (purchased at Bolt after our trip to Uwajimaya). This may just need to be a driving cap…

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~Sarah & Josh

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6 thoughts on “Crafting Across Cultures

  1. I love Umajiwaya, too! But when you say “way out on the West side,” it makes me a little sad, as I have to travel East in order to get there. :-)

  2. Hats! I love them! I placed a big ol’ order last year from Amazon Japan since there isn’t an Uwajimaya in a couple thousand mile radius from Austin, and got a great little Japanese hat book. In fact, I bet you own it, too, from Clover, I think. Anyway, the styling in these books is fantastic and I can’t wait to see what you make! That Heather Ross fabric also caught my eye at reprodepot.com several months ago. Good luck with it! :)

  3. Pingback: CraftyPod » Blog Archive » Japanese Craft Book-y Goodness

  4. Pingback: Oh so pretty… | Sewer-Sewist

  5. Hello! I was looking around, and came across your site, and my first thought was, oh, hmmm….nice to know who the competition is (fist shaking in the air with a big grin and crinkly pirate eye to boot)! Meaning, I just knew someone was beating me to the other hat books at Kinokuniya! HaHaHa! But, alas, I am now sure that is just some of the other 1 million people up here a little further north in Seattle. I also love love love that store for the same reasons (well, and the wonderful food next door, and all the other amazing things it has to offer, but crafting sure is one of the most fun for me).

    I also wanted to let you know that I have a very interesting book put out by School House Press (Elizabeth Zimmermann’s family press?) that is a knitting translation book and it includes some crazy amount of foreign languages, including Japanese. Which, you are right, of course, isn’t that bad while knitting because of the charts. I used it with Japanese books and also with a Norwegian wrist warmer book that I probably never would have figured out had I not found this book at the annual Seattle library sale for a cool buck.

    Thank goodness that in the hat books there are all kinds of pictures before the crazy quilt patterns commence-I think it is like playing that kid game memory cards or something. That is how I have kept it straight so far (just beginning). But I really admire you guys and dolls-I already know how a hat is constructed, so it is fairly easy to decipher. I would have been really discouraged otherwise.

    Anyway, thanks for a great blog! Have a great time at Owa. and Kino.-and a smooth holiday season, zophie ;-)

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