Hari Kuyo

design, just a thought, needlework, quilting, sewing, tools

February 8 marks the Hari Kuyo Buddhist and Shinto Festival in Japan that began 400 years ago. Hari Kuyo refers to the festival that celebrates broken needles and sewing. Typically women dress in kimono and take their broken pins and needles to their local temple where they place them in a block of tofu. Many believe that while sewing life’s sorrows can creep into the needles. Burying the old needles in tofu softens them and allows the sorrows to be transported to the gods and away from the sewist. Hari Kuyo is also an opportunity to pray for better sewing skills.

I love the idea of showing gratitude for our tools and for acknowledging that our tools develop an emotional patina through extended use. For those of us who aren’t able to attend the Hari Kuyo Festival, how about taking a moment to give thanks for the tools that help us create and make beautiful things? And while you’re at it, this is probably a good time to change your rotary cutter blade and get rid of those bent pins and broken needles that have served you well.

pocket pet fleece hammock tutorial

cooking, design, family, general crafts, sewing, tools

Our pocket pet journey began at Christmas when our 10-year-old daughter asked for a hamster. I decided to buy her a magazine called “Critters” which I bought at Petco. When I went to pay for it the young cashier said, “If you’re thinking about a pocket pet, I’d get a rat.” “A rat?! Really? Why?” I asked. “They’re smart, they’re social and you can train them to do stuff. Mine sits on my shoulder while I do homework,” she responded. She had me at “sits on my shoulder while I do homework.” I had a gerbil when I was Sophie’s age and I had no affection for it at all. It didn’t interact with me and seemed to resent contact with me.

So I bought the magazine, which explained the benefits and limitations of gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, sugar gliders, chinchillas, ferrets and yes, rats. Sophie read every word of the magazine over Christmas break and decided that she too wanted rats. Adding a pet to the family is a serious responsibility and an added monthly cost. I told her that she needed to make a written proposal to us including researching how much a cage, food, bedding, etc would cost. She needed to think about her schedule and commit to a time that she would play with them and clean their cage. Rats don’t like to live alone so it would be two rats to consider. We had her do this proposal because I wanted her to know that being prepared and organizing your case is how you get people to listen to you and take your request seriously. She did the proposal and we began looking for young rats because they only live a couple of years and we didn’t want to get one that might be at the end of its life.

Long story short, we got these rats, Taffy and Toffee, last weekend and the woman we got them from gave us a hammock to borrow until we could make our own for them. I decided to post this tutorial because the hammock is appreciated by all manner of pocket pets and is the perfect project for small scraps of fleece. The rats have been a lot of fun and are indeed as social as we had hoped.

Pocket Pet Fleece Hammock Tutorial

You’ll need:

a 12″ x 24″ piece of fleece (size is a guideline – it can be smaller)

4 shower curtain hooks

4 extra large eyelet (also known as grommet) sets and the tools for setting the eyelets

small, sharp scissors

a sewing machine and thread

1. Turn under a 1/2″ edge on both of the short ends of the fleece.

2. With right sides together, bring the ends to the center of the fleece so they meet in the middle.

3. Pin in place and sew the sides.

4. Turn inside out.

5. Place one of the eyelet pieces on the fabric and trace the circle on the inside of the eyelet onto the fleece.

6. With either a leather punch or a pair of small, sharp scissors, cut an X through the center of the circle large enough to accommodate the shank of the eyelet. Cut just a little at a time and try to work the fabric tightly around the eyelet piece. If you make it too big, the eyelet won’t hold so smaller is better.

7. Following the instructions on the eyelet set, assemble the parts and hammer until the metal shank overlaps the flat part of the eyelet. We put the nice side of the eyelet on the flat part of the hammock because that’s the side that’s visible from outside the cage.

8. Repeat the eyelet setting for the other corners of the hammock.

9. Using the curtain hooks, hang the edge of the hammock from a point that the pet can reach but that allows that hammock to move freely.

10. Pocket pets are sensitive to smells. So when you introduce a new hammock to them, fill it with bit of fabric or toys that already smell like them so they’ll feel at home.

a girl and her table saw

design, experiences, general crafts, tools

All of my life I’ve wanted to learn woodworking. It seems so amazing that you can just take a bunch of wood and make it into beautiful custom furniture. But woodworking requires a lot of space, a lot of tools and a willing teacher, none of which I’ve ever had access to.

Maybe it was turning 50 that did it. Maybe it was the $1,800 bid for the window seat we wanted to build in our kitchen. Maybe it was the deaths of two friends my age last September. Maybe it was seeing all of the tools sitting around during our home renovation. For whatever reason I told Bill that as soon as the house was finished I would be starting woodworking classes. “I knew it was coming,” he responded.

Our contractor suggested that I look for classes at the local community college. Yep, there it was. Basic Woodworking – $106 for 10 classes, 5 miles away, 7-9:45 Wednesday nights. Done! Bill and I discussed projects and although it seemed ambitious I started wondering if indeed I could build the window seat.

I started breaking it down in my mind. It’s basically a pair of boxes. We had some extra legs from our kitchen renovation. We’d need some drawers in the boxes but a thick foam cushion (which you can custom order online) would cover up most of my mistakes. Really all I need to look really good is the side of it because the other sides will be covered up by the cushion or walls.

I talked to Jerry, the instructor, about my plan. He gave me this look that said, “Are you kidding me? You’ve never used a table saw and you plan to make a custom window seat with drawers?” “But I have 10 weeks, right?” I interjected. “I’ll just take it a cut at a time but I have good hand skills and I’m extremely motivated.” “OK” he sighed unconvinced. I thought, “Oh Jerry. You’re on such a long, long list of people who underestimate me. Don’t let the 5′ frame fool ya. You wait. I’ll have a window seat at the end of this and you too will realize that I do NOT mess around.”

So next class comes and I have taken all of my measurements, gone to buy my first sheets of plywood, drawn up how to most efficiently cut the pieces from the plywood and researched the general strategy for assembling a window seat. It’s so much like making quilts. I show Jerry all of my notes. He’s unimpressed. Seriously, this guy has been doing woodworking for 40 years. He’s the guy you’d cast if you were doing a Ferris Bueller sequel that involves a high school wood shop. At this point I have this image of Jerry going home to his wife each Wednesday night saying, “How many weeks left do I have with that woman? She’s like an overly eager puppy! Oh my goodness. She’s gonna be the death of me.”

There is an eensy part of Jerry that doesn’t want to admit it but I think is really cheering me on. He sternly shows me how to cut my gigantic plywood sheets precisely. He chastises me for the way I’m measuring the distance from the blade to the fence (the thing you push the wood up against as you cut). “Why ya doin’ it that way?” he barks at me occasionally. “Because I haven’t done this before and I need you to show me the correct way to do it,” I respond casually.

Week by week I work away building the boxes that will be the base of my window seat. Each Wednesday night, covered in sawdust, I drive home through the dark exhilarated that I’m finally doing it. I’m learning woodworking. There’s progress each week. It’s starting to look like something. I think about my next 100 projects. I mentally rearrange the garage to figure out where I might be able to fit in a small wood shop this summer. I think about the day I bring the window seat home and how proud I’ll be to show it to guests. Our family will sit on it, looking out at the rose garden we’ve planted outside its window. And I’ll think, “Yeah. I made this.”