Mission Inspiration: Helsinki

City and Sea

Photos from walking around Helsinki in January. I convinced my husband to walk around Helsinki for hours by luring him with the promise of food at Hietalahti Market Hall. It was a loooong nice walk and the food was good.

I really enjoy scandinavian food. The bread is always good and hearty, there are lots of sandwiches with vegetables. I’m totally into sandwiches since I got back.


For some reason I didn’t take any pictures of the Marimekko shop. I love their prints but the clothes just don’t work for my body type. There are many Marimekko shops in Tokyo. I like the simple, minimalism design I saw. The clean lines make me feel really relaxed.

Some Helsinki winter color palettes:

Yarn Addiction Thursday: Wrist-warmers in Alpaga Teint

Early Spring was really chilly for my fingers. I had a nice toasty electric blanket for my lap but my fingers got stiff from typing and being cold. My solution? Procrastinate on my writing-work-in-progress by making some wrist-warmers. This project had two-extra bonuses: I could use it for stash busting, and since I had more appointments and commuting time than usual I could feel productive while waiting.

I wanted something warm and fuzzy, yet a little bit lacy. I had made valentine wrist-warmers from the wool I bought at Lil Weasel in Paris. They are super cute, but for a second pair, I wanted something a bit more sophisticated.

half-made wrist warmer
Hanging out at a museum and crocheting while waiting for an appointment.

I had some extra alpaga teint from La Droguerie that I thought would be perfect. Alpaga is a 100% alpaca plied texture wool, fingering weight (4 ply).  In my stash I had some grey and some light aqua blue which made for a subtle combination.

So I had my wool. I needed a pattern. I started looking on ravelry.com for a pattern. Most of what I saw was really cute, but most patterns were long and slouchy. I wanted something fitted, especially around the wrists. Not really finding any, I decided to try to make my own pattern.

I used Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia by Robyn Chachula.  I got the Kindle version so that I could refer to it while on the train.  I crocheted a few swatches of different patterns but settled on the fairy shell. I used a 3.0 hook. I crochet really tight. It’s a problem, but I don’t favor loose stitches so much, either. This will probably change as I mature as a crochet-er (is this the correct word? Seems odd.)

crochet swatch of fairy shell pattern
My swatch of fairy shell

The cuff is made by single crochet in blue and double crochet in the grey, crocheted flat. For the body I added five stitches, joined the ends together then crocheted in the round leaving a gap for the thumb. The thumb was tough to make. Keeping the pattern while expanding and decreasing the stitches was hard. I’m not really satisfied with the thumb, but done is done. The finger-edge trim is  done in a modified fairy shell pattern.

I used old buttons that came with shirts I bought long ago to use up stash. I tried two different ways to fasten the wrist portion. The left hand is a single crochet loop and the right uses three buttons. The three button was necessary because just having the end two buttons allowed the inside edge to poke out. For some reason, the crochet loop doesn’t have anything poking out.

I did really well to use the alpaga I had. Too well. I didn’t have enough to make the second wrist-warmer. I ended up going back to La Droguerie to finish the project. So much for stash-busting. I ended up buying even more yarn! I did manage to restrain myself from buying more buttons, cute and tempting as they were. La Droguerie is such a feast for the eyes and drain on the pocket book.


So these wrist-warmers are my second attempt at making my own pattern. I enjoyed the process but endured a lot of stitch ripping and do-overs. At some point, I’m going to try my hand at writing out the pattern. Maybe re-photograph the wrist-warmers, too. It is shockingly hard to photograph your own hand for demos.

If anyone has any great sites or tips on making patterns, particularly for thumb gussets, please share. I’d love to see them.

Yarn Addiction Thursday: Noro Kama Cushion Fever

I’m back with a cushion project for Yarn Addiction Thursday.

Noro Yarn: Kama in Emerald. (no longer produced)
Noro Yarn: Kama in Emerald. (no longer produced)

I originally bought Noro Kama yarn for a Christmas scarf project for a friend. This beautiful green yarn was on sale because it was no longer produced. It’s a loose-twisted aran-weight yarn  made from alpaca, silk, mohair and angora. I planned to use alligator crochet stitch and make a dragon scarf for a Welsh friend. I thought by using a thick yarn using a large hook, the project would go more quickly. It didn’t work. The yarn was just too bulky too look good in the proportion I wanted. I soon noticed how much yarn and how much time Alligator stitch took. I only had two balls and I’d been targeting quick and easy. After doing ten cm I bailed. I still made the scarf for my friend but I used a new stitch and and bought different yarn. Now I had two large soft balls of soft bright green happiness taking up space in my house. With only two skeins, my future Noro kama project had size limits.

I decided to knit a cushion. I was inspired by Naomi, in my stitching group, who makes the most amazing blankets for the home. I didn’t have a pattern but a cushion is two squares sewn together, right? I decided I would knit one side and sew on fabric for the other side. Maybe I’d use buttons or a zipper. I wanted a largish pillow so I knit out a square about 60x65cm based on an odd-sized zabuton (Japanese flat, square cushion) I have. The knitting went well enough. I cast on a couple of times, knitting a few centimeters trying to get a size I liked. I eventually settled on eighty stitches and stocking-stitched my way to a satisfactory squarish shape. Then the knit square languished in the to-do pile for a while. I couldn’t find fabric I liked. The square did make a lovely background for another Yarn Addiction Thursday post. It was tempting to leave it for a photography background but I wanted a cushion, so I needed some fabric.

I wanted something simple but graphic, either in black and white or greens I liked. I kept getting stuck between something too cartoony or something Liberty cotton. Something Marimekko-like would have been great if not at the Marimekko price.


I checked out Spoonflower.com. A person could get lost looking at all the great designs but I didn’t see one I liked for the cushion. I decided to try my own design. I drew a few sketches then played around on Adobe Illustrator. This was the result. I don’t mind it at this size, but on a larger piece I found I didn’t like the way it striped. I was trying for a more wavy organic pattern. The greens aren’t quite right for the yarn. either. Someday I will play with this design and get it right. But that unfinished cushion was really nagging at me and my design inspiration was at low ebb.

Then while shopping with friends at Shinjuku’s Okadaya (fabric store) I found a polka dot pattern I didn’t mind. I liked the idea of contrasting the striped knit fabric and dots. The dot colors were similar to the yarn–bonus! Still stuck on earlier ideas, I got the idea of painting the fabric.  Thank goodness for friends who tell you when to stop. I grabbed a green zipper and was excited to get started. Except… I don’t know how to sew a zipper. No worries. Two YouTube videos later  and way more confidence than I should have had, I was ready to give it a try.

This first video was good for an overview of the process. It’s about making cushions for outdoor furniture but it’s great for concepts. They also cover measurement concepts.

The second video, by Anna Bartlett applied more directly to what I made. It’s part 2 of a series but I skipped part 1. Part 1 is about piping. I don’t have piping. Below is a task list I made from watching the video. It’s worth watching the video. She has many useful tips. My list is very generic.  This video gave good visuals about positioning with the zipper foot. I found that surprisingly difficult.

Inspired by  decided to be ambitious and try for an invisible zipper. I used XXX’s method for laying out the fabric. I wasn’t too concerned about matching but I tried to make the fold so that circles aligned and that both pieces were on the same bias (thanks for that tip, Mom!). Sewing the knit material to the fabric was not too hard. But I pinned it a lot and I used a 2 cm seam allowance. My mom gasped when I told her, but I found if I was too close to the selvedge of the knit material the edges got caught in the pressing foot or the material pulled funny. Two centimeters in made everything flow just right.  I’m really glad I was ambitios. My original plan was  to do the zipper on an edge. I’m glad I didn’t. I think it would have been tricky to sew the knitting to the zipper fabric.

HOW TO ATTACH A ZIPPER (as I learned from Anna Bartlett’s video.)

  1. Cut to pieces of fabric on same bias to same width. Don’t worry about length. Trim later.
  2.  Sew around edges to prevent unravelling
  3. sew one side of the zipper to one side of the fabric
  4. sew on the other piece of fabric to the zipper
  5. do zipper up, fold fabric over to cover zipper and iron flat
  6. sew another line down the zipper to fasten the flap
  7. Pin the knit material to the zipper side, right sides together, cut off the excess length from zipper side of cushion. If you wait to cut the length you have more freedom to place the zipper. (Learned that trick from the video) NOTE: she doesn’t pin as much as I did. I had fussy wool. And I need all the help I can get.
  8. BIG TIP: MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE THE ZIPPER PARTLY UNDONE SO YOU CAN TURN IT RIGHT-SIDE OUT WHEN YOU ARE DONE SEWING. I heard the tip and understood it, but still, I caught myself just in time.
  9. Sew the edges together
  10. Turn rightside out.

I got lucky and didn’t have to take the zipper sewing apart more than once and that was soon after starting. Once I figured out the zipper foot is was… fairly painless. Here are some shots of the finished cushion.

Finding a cushion to fit ended up being a bit of a challenge, but I found one at Franc Franc in Jiyugaoka for ¥2600. I love my new cushion. It’s soft and surprisingly good back support.






Snowmen Fight: Samurai vs Ninja. Get Your Winter War Mittens Here!I A Post in 2 Parts. Part the Second.

recycled sweater into mittens
Recycled sweater with my own felted design. Fighting snowmen. Ninja vs. Samurai

Today, I finish the article of the making of the Fuyu no Jin Mittens. As I wrote in the previous post Fuyu no Jin means a winter war in Japanese. Traditionally, it’s army against army in winter but my mittens are going small scale. Yes, I’m taking a lot of liberties.

The previous post was about the designing process. This is about the construction process.


100% wool sweater to be recycled
Felting wool in 5 colors

  • White or ivory
  • Grey
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Red

Embroidery thread
4 tiny black beads for eyes
Needle Felting Gear

  • Felting Needle
  • Sponge (for underneath the needle and project
  • Liquid soap
  • Water (warm to hot)

Sewing Machine or Hand Needle and Thread
Needle for sewing details
design for felting
Mitten Template (made from tracing hand or a template you like)

Pattern to Sewing
1.  Make a template to trace out the mittens.

  • I searched the Internet for a nice template but never really found one. It seems like thumbs are the trickiest part. This time I added thumbs separately.  I ended up tracing the outline of my hand with a 1 cm allowance I wanted tighter mittens rather than loose and the sweater I was recycling has a lot of give.

2. Trace or pin the template to the sweater and cut it out. I traced one side then flipped the template for the back reverse side then traced, cutting the body of the mitten as one piece and one seam. Thumbs were not part of this template. I added thumbs by draping material over my thumb.

  • If I had to do it again I would trace the whole hand, thumb included then just flip the template. I did that with a second pair. Construction was easier and it didn’t feel different to wear.

3. Sew the mittens up. I hand-sewed these and it took a couple hours for each mitt. I used a sewing machine on a second pair and it went much faster.

  • I first tried to felt the seams. That didn’t go well. It might have worked if I’d allowed more than a .5cm. The seam felting was wasted time.

Adding the Design
1.  Put the mittens on the hand and mark out the part the design will fit into.

2.  Trace the design onto the mitten.

  • I redrew the design from the sketch on the mitt rather than trace. I used disappearing fabric marker which became a bit troublesome. As time passed, I had to redraw on the mitten. This happened several times so the design morphed a bit. Rather than getting upset, I just consider this transition part of the process.

3.  Put the sponge inside the mitten and under where you will needle felt.

4.  Needle felt the design. I followed the instructions from this website for how to felt a design onto a surface. I think their instructions were good. Rather than repeating them here, I recommend you check out the link.

1.   Hand-wash the design using hot water and liquid soap. Gently rub the design to felt the fibers. You might want to wear rubber gloves if the water is hot but still be careful about burns.

2.  Roll the mittens the mittens in a towel and allow to dry flat. Be gentle!

3.  Check the design when dry and use the felting needle on loose parts or tidy up the design.

4. Repeat steps 1 and 2 if needed.

5.  If the design is secure and you are happy with it embroider embellishments.
On these mittens I embroidered a mouth and sewed on two onyx beads for eyes.

These mittens might survive a machine wash, though I wouldn’t care to test it. I recommend gentle hand-washing and drying flat.

I’ve used the mittens for daily wear and bike rides and they worked well.  When I made felted seams, the seams opened up during a bike ride. So far, the hand-sewing has been durable and no problems with the designs.

If you have any suggestions of feedback about making the design or construction process easier, I’d love to hear.

Thanks for taking the time to read the article. Hope you enjoyed the two posts.

Snowmen Fight: Samurai vs Ninja. Get Your Winter War Mittens Here!I A Post in 2 Parts. Part the First

recycled sweater into mittens
Recycled sweater with my own felted design. Fighting snowmen. Ninja vs. Samurai

Time: 10 hours (depending on skill and gear)


100% wool sweater to be recycled
Mitten Template (made from tracing hand)
Felting wool in 5 colors
Embroidery thread
4 tiny black beads for eyes
Needle Felting Gear
Sewing Machine (or Needle) and Thread
Needle for sewing details
design for felting
(for a more complete materials list, check out part 2)



I attended a local Stitch and Bitch but I hadn’t any current, portable projects to work on. I showed up because it’s a nice crowd and I decided I’d work on an idea of something to make. I had an old cashmere sweater that was just too short for me and thought I’d recycle it. I’d recently seen some needle felting and it occurred to me that I could felt a design onto recycled mittens. I had no idea really what I wanted to sketch so I just let my pencil wander.

I was a bit surprised that this is where I ended up. I love to draw snowmen (in Japanese they are called yukidaruma). I wanted the snowman to have a little bit of character and something Japanese-styled. All I can say about the ninja is that I must have seen something on TV around that time. The way I drew the mask is a little bit like the female ninja character, Nezumi Onna (mouse woman) on a jidai-geki.

The snowflake above the head was supposed to be a shuriken/snowflake. I loved the idea but I quickly gave up the shuriken idea as being too difficult to for felting and the size.

I’m not sure how authentic nunchuks are for Japan and ninja.  I don’t think they are very authentic but they were fun and easy to do, so I used them.

So I had one hand done, but didn’t want to have ninja vs. ninja. So a samurai was the next logical choice.

I had this idea of them fighting on a bridge with a castle in the background and snow falling. Then I had a reality check. This was my first needle-felting design project and I wanted it to looks good and be simple. I still like the idea so I might actually do this as a drawing someday.

I was really happy with how I got this snowman to appear to have more dynamic movement but still be round and weighty. His chomage (the samurai hairstyle) at this point looks ok. The clothes are suggestive of Japanese men’s kimono rather than representative.

That’s a Fun Sketch, but Can You Felt It?

So I had two simple designs that I really liked. Before I started to make the mittens, I wanted to make sure that I could felt the design well enough to satisfy me. This was my first time to felt a 2-D pattern, not to mention one of my own design. I didn’t want to go through the work of making mittens only to mess them up with shoddy work. I needed practice. In all honesty, the project languished at this stage for a few months.

I started with the ninja.

I did a bit of research and found this site for felting designs with a felting needle. I checked out a lot of sites but this was the easiest for me to understand.

Felting test #1. Ninja

I cut out a strip from the sweater and drew the design on the wool. It’s not easy to do a good sketch with a fabric marker on wool. I made an underbody of the snowman before felting his clothes on. I don’t know if I would do it that way again. I didn’t with the samurai and that was easier and less bulky.

When I finished I was pretty happy with it. Since I liked it quite a bit and didn’t want to waste the effort, I made it into a bookmark. The pink border in needled felted from some felting wool I had so that the sweater background wouldn’t unravel.


Next up was the samurai.

Having learned my lesson from the ninja (taken out of context, that sounds much more interesting than needle-felting), I didn’t put an underbody and felt clothes on top. The effect is a bit different. It gives the work a bit of a pieced effect, more pronounced lines between the colors. Sometimes it made a bit more of a gap than I would like but maybe that’s just the medium and I have to live with it.

Felting Test #2: Samurai

This time I didn’t make a bookmark. The piece I cut was just large enough to test my design. I felt confident with the felting technique after the ninja. I wanted to practice the samurai before doing the mitten. Now I regret not taking a bigger piece to make a bookmark of the samurai. I’ll maybe felt it onto a larger piece someday.

Which brings us to the end of the design and practice portion of this entry. Check out part 2 on Friday.
If you have any suggestions of feedback about making the design process easier, I’d love to hear.

Thanks for taking the time to read the article. Hope you enjoyed it.

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