Pornography for the Hand Sewer

Back when I was in the remodelling phase of home ownership, I used to watch shows like Bob Vila and This Old House. (We didn't have cable, thank god. If I had be able to watch HGTV I would never have gotten off the couch.) I called these programs "Pornography for Home Owners" in respect to the fantasy world depicted therein. I knew that in real life, my husband and I didn't change into our fresh new LL Bean khakis and re-plaster the ceiling without getting a speck of dust on us or maintaining cordial, expletive-free conversation.

Now, I live in a co-op and don't have to worry about the resale value of my home. I am blissfully reno-free. But I still live in a fantasy world! I have a nasty little habit of living vicariously through Japanese craft magazines.

Check out this soft focus image of a woman peacefully sewing in an immaculately clean and elegantly decorated room!

Or this one - she's got a Juki! Sigh...

I could probably make a perfectly pieced quilt too if my sewing room was this well organized. Did they oil up those machines or are they just naturally glowing?

Look at these rolls of cloth! Hey, wait a minute - have they been airbrushed?

How stacked can you get ...Oh, okay, I'll stop with the bad jokes.

Seriously, this just makes me weak in the knees.

My friend Jean Pierre, who got me hooked on the sordid world of Japanese craft magazines, tells me this alternate universe really exists. He said in a recent email,
"Craft is generally a very female world out here. There are lots of cooking/craft programs on NHK (national station) and it's always women, except for a famous male sweater knitter. Men in Japan go to the office and women live in their own worlds. It seems quite segregated but it satisfies the women I think. The coffee shops and restaurants and stores during the daytime are full of women plotting the education of their children and how to spend the retirement bonus once the men are finished working."

Hmmmn, doesn't sound very 21st C. Ah well, to each his (or her) own. My fantasy world remains captured between the pages of magazines I don't even know the name of - since they're all in Japanese kanji. If anyone is interested in checking out this world, try googling Japanese Craft Books - there are lots of links. And if your credit card can stand it, try Amazon Japan - there is a button you can click for English translation.

I haven't even mentioned that if you get past the typically gorgeous photography of these books, the project instructions are excellent. In graphic form, they are clear, detailed and quite possible to follow even if you don't read Japanese. I tend to go for the more traditional books on embroidery and quilting, but there are oodles on arumigami, soft toys, bookbinding, flower arranging, knitting, you name it.


  1. O what a lovely picture fantasy. If my space was that clean and pretty I might faint. But its nice to visit.

    I guess i will just have to live in my yarn knitting beading mess.

  2. Anonymous11:12 AM

    i have never ventured into this japanese craft magazine area, probably fearing i would never get out, look at the stack of those mended textiles, i want to faint.

  3. I also admit to having a little Japanese craft mag obsession. There's just something about the design aesthetic in the projects that makes me want to ... well, do all sorts of things I don't normally do. Like felt, for instance.

    What also amazes me is that I can follow the instructions without speaking or reading a WORD of Japanese. The pictures really are worth a thousand words in this case.

    Now, this famous Japanese guy who knits sweaters... I am DYING to know more about him! Can your friend tell you anymore about this mysterious knitter? Name? Links? Anything?

  4. Anonymous4:58 PM

    Hi there,

    I'm sorry I turned you into a Japanese craft-porn addict. I had know idea.

    I like your comments on the magazine photography. Yes, everything is perfect and brought out in glowing light. You know, there used to be this house reno TV show in Japan called Before and After. They would take some really , really miserable house (box) owned by a fragile old couple or a family with 10 kids and COMPLETELY redo the whole place. Often the only thing left from the old house was some little fragment that was kept to remind the family of granpa's hard labour as a young man or the joy everyone had living on top of each other. It's great story-telling.
    They also really exploit the romance/nostalgia inducing warm lighting when the family moves back into the renovated house. It's so moving. I often cried myself. I think that's a difference between Japan and North America. There seems to be a special talent here for bringing out the heart-warming drama in an inanimate object here. Maybe it has something to do with Shinto. Maybe it's kitsch. Whatever, it's done REALLY WELL.

    As for the Japanese super-star sweater knitting man, I'll have to get back to you on that. His name escapes me just now but I saw a TV show about him last week. It was fascinating. They told his entire life story, from childhood to present, and it seems all along the way his knitting talents were supported by kind individuals who helped him climb the knitted ladder of success. During one segment of the show the super-star was paired with a tough looking, typical non-knitting cameraman from the TV show for a period of one month. The super-star taught him how to knit his own sweater. The poor camerman almost broke. The super-star was very severe and let it be known when a bad job was a bad job. The camerman almost gave up when the super-star unravelled his poor knitting efforts right before his eyes and told him to START OVER AGAIN! I didn't know about the hardship of knitting before.


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