Back to life, back to reality

Some days ago, we returned from spectacular two-week trip to Japan. I’ve talked a little bit about my background in this post, but part of my family came from Japan several generations ago. I’d wanted to go since I was a kid, but somehow this was my first trip. I’m not sure I can adequately express my excitement and my expectations before going, or the mix of familiarity and strangeness of a culture my family came from many decades ago.

crabandbee.com | Roscoe Dress

What made the trip feel less overwhelming and the country more accessible was information and welcoming from sewing friends. I reached out to Gillian, Inna and Sanae with newbie questions about what to do, where to stay and how to get around, and they did a better job of getting me oriented and even more excited about the trip than any guidebook.

crabandbee.com | Kyoto

And as luck would have it, Inna and I overlapped by one day in Kyoto, during which she took me on an amazing whirlwind tour of the sewing shops near the indoor markets. Our menfolk met up afterwards for a fun little dinner. The very next day, we left for Tokyo by train and I got to meet Yoshimi, Novita, and Chie for tea! Talk about spoiled. (And I apparently managed to miss Amy by some minutes in Nippori Fabric Town!)

crabandbee.com | Nippori Fabric Town

For the past few years, I’ve intermittently asked myself if I want to continue blogging and why. It does require an investment of time, and I am purely a hobby blogger. The online sewing world is growing exponentially and becoming more commercial, and I wonder if I’m short-sighted for meandering along without any particular goal beyond sewing and writing/reading about it.

And then something like this trip happens, where I’m nearly 5,000 miles from my home and I have sewing friends to meet up with. And they’re just like they are on their blogs, only more interesting!

crabandbee.com | Tokyo bloggers

The trip revealed my infrequently-seen maximalist side. We walked over 10 miles a day for two weeks, pushing ourselves to see a tiny fraction of what was beautiful and strange in Japan, consoling ourselves with thoughts of a return trip. But now I’m back, adjusting to my regular life and have had some time to reflect on how grateful I am to all the sewing folks who made our trip wonderful.

crabandbee.com

Now, to make some time to sew up the fabrics I bought in Japan…

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51 thoughts on “Back to life, back to reality

  1. This is amazing Morgan! It sounds like so much fun that you met up with sewing bloggers in real life. I’m always scared to reach out to people, but I love it when other bloggers do. It seems like you had so much fun, to go to the country that you have a connection to without ever visiting there.

    I’m kind of in the same situation as you are, not knowing whether to continue blogging or not. I’m a hobby blogger, too, but I want to have a direction. I’m slowly getting back to it. I love reading your blog because you inspire me with my sewing. I aspire to get to your level!

    1. I hear that! I’m not a natural socializer/networker by any means, but meeting sewing folks feels more natural and exciting because of the common ground of a sewing obsession. And thank you for the kind words! (Although I think we’ve been making the same things – except for those gorgeous complicated bras you make!) What you said about having a direction resonates with me; what do you think you’d like yours to be?

  2. Hi Morgan, have you written a travel blog about your trip at all? My husband, son(28), daughter (26) and I are hoping to go to Japan next spring and are fact gathering at the moment. We live in the UK and are particularly interested in the ancient culture of Japan. Kyoto is on our list, but any suggestions would be much appreciated, especially accommodation.

    1. Hi Debbie! I haven’t blogged about it elsewhere but I’d be happy to share a bit about my experience. AirBnb was a great option for us, and we used it for our Kyoto visit. We stayed in Kyoto for a week, and still could have stayed longer. We also had a wonderful time in the Japan Alps staying in a ryokan, which are traditional Japanese guest houses. You can experience more of the traditional culture in a ryokan, and they can range from bare-bones to fancy; the trick is finding one that will accommodate making reservations in English if you don’t speak Japanese. I would start looking online now for one if that interests you! Hope that helps 🙂

      1. Thanks for the reply. We are looking into airb&b, but I certainly didn’t know anything about the other-sounds very interesting. My daughter has been teaching herself Japanese but, whilst we will endeavour to learn ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, I think the rest of us will have to rely on a smile!

        Those materials look fantastic. With regards to the blog, there’s room for everything and I must say I prefer occasional blogs, especially when they’re as interesting as yours.

        >

      2. Both have their pluses and minuses! I liked AirBnb for the independence, but I liked the ryokan because it was a more immersive experience. TripAdvisor was helpful for finding ryokan; English-language reviews were a good sign that it would be possible to make a reservation!

        I sadly don’t speak Japanese aside from a few words, but I think anything you can learn – even the polite way to say “do you speak English?” was a big boon! Speaking English was not as common in Japan as it might seem, especially outside of Tokyo. Not learning more Japanese before going was one of my biggest regrets!

  3. Sounds like so much fun! My family lived in Japan when I was a child and I have so many cool and weird memories from that time. I’ve visited twice since and felt so at home despite it being so different to New Zealand.

    I’ve met up with bloggers in Australia and had the best time. It would me amazing to meet up in a place even farther afield.

      1. From ages 3-6, so I was really young. My sister was born while we were there and the two of us spoke Japanese like a first language. I really wish I still could!

  4. I can see the Japanese in you now! Sounds like a wonderful trip. I’ve never been to Japan but it totally fascinates me. I definitely don’t think you are short-sighted for being a hobby blogger. I think of it as a way of expressing and sharing creativity and connecting with other like minded people. Reading blogs and blogging my own projects have also improved my sewing. All hobbies take an investment of time and energy (and sometimes money) but ultimately I think they are good for people, especially when done for the sake of enjoyment and happiness xxx

    1. My mom’s complexion is on the very pale/blond side of the spectrum so sometimes my background isn’t quite as obvious! It was funny, I bought a hat in Japan because the sun was so hot and whenever I put it on, people spoke Japanese to me.

      It’s strange, whenever I start questioning my blogging M.O. I always decide to keep going – usually with some minor tweaks about what I’ve been writing about or how I’ve been writing. I do love it, though 🙂

  5. Glad you had a great time! As I told you on Instagram I’d love to go, and how wonderful to have that experience enriched with the assistance and company of kindred spirits! I like having a meandering, fairly pointless blog – but as you say it takes up time, and I have little wish to fill it with filler content. And it too has lead to some lovely friendships. Can’t wait to see what you make with those gorgeous threads!

    1. I’ve read articles on how to write a good blog. I’ve mindlessly accepted some of those rules in the past before realizing that generating lots of content just doesn’t make sense for me at this point! That said, I do like staying in touch with people through blogging – reading what they write and contributing myself. I have those questioning periods, but I come back! The Australian blogger gatherings always look amazing, btw!

  6. Your post made me tear up~ I completely agree, I love the online sewing community so much! To have friends whom you’ve never met but share your passion, take the time to show you the best fabric places is so wonderful. And then to be able to spend time with them chatting and shopping….I can’t seem to express how this touches me. Your trip sounds wonderful. I’m so happy for you Morgan!

  7. Welcome home! Sounds like a really wonderful trip. I still find it amazing that people who sew always turn out to be the nicest people, but seems to be universally true! Like you mentioned, this is one of the main reasons that I keep blogging, just to connect with other like-minded people. Since I have no aspirations of “competing” with commercial blogs, it keeps the pressure to a minimum. Plus I enjoy having an all-consuming hobby to distract me from work. 🙂

  8. Wow, this sounds like such a dream of a trip! I travel so rarely and am very much stuck in my own insular little bubble here, but when I have ventured out and met other sewing folks in real life I’m always staggered by the expansiveness of this world, and of course the kindness and generosity. The community and the conversations is so much more important to blogging – for me – than anything else. I hope you keep it up! Your blog is one of my favorite places to visit!

    1. I’m the same! I rarely make more than one plane trip a year, and usually then it’s on the west coast. I love being home, what can I say? This was a HUGE trip for me in almost every way – in duration, in personal significance, just jam-packed with activity, and of course the wonderful people I got to meet – and it’s insufficient to say I was glad to have gone! I do love blogging and have no plans to stop. I just enter into these questioning phases, you know? I think it helps me refine why and how I want to continue. Like you said, community and the conversation is the most important aspect!

  9. I’ve wondered about my blogging from time to time as well. I have no desire to start a pattern company or sell fabric or anything of the sort. It’s always been just my diary of sorts, the sort of thing that I wish I’d started doing sooner so I’d have a record of the kooky, skill-expanding things I made as a teenager/college student. But what makes me want to stay is the community. I don’t have friends around here who sew, so it’s great to have friends around the world who do, even if I’ve never met any of them in person! Your trip sounds like it was a great time, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with your travel souvenirs.

    1. It’s amazing to have a record of your progress as a creator! It’s easy to forget that we didn’t always know how to pick a suitable fabric for a design or finish our seams. I forget about the archival value of my blog even though I refer back to it all the time! Thank you for the reminder 🙂

  10. I’m so happy you had a good trip! Sounds utterly magical. I hope you stick around; I always like catching up with you over the internet. I think the key is just doing it when you feel like it and not feeling pressure to post when it feels like a chore.

    1. No plans to stop blogging – I just tend to go into these questioning periods where everything in my life is on the table for assessment! It helps me figure out how to proceed and if I need to make any changes to what I’m doing. Like you said, posting when I feel like it is the best way to make it fun! It’s a balance, though – if I leave my blog silent for too long, I feel like I’ve fallen out of touch a bit.

      Are you all settled in after your big west coast adventure??

  11. My own blog has more or less fallen by the wayside, but yours is one of my favourites to read. The hobby/non-commercial nature of it is a real plus. Did you have any relatives to visit in Japan? I’ve only been to Sri Lanka (my dad’s country of origin) once and was really lucky to go there with my grandparents – so I felt like I was getting an insider’s view. I also went to Japan once with a youth orchestra but didn’t get to see much except motorways and the insides of concert halls! The blue/black gingham looks especially nice; excited to see what you’ll make.

    1. Nope, we didn’t visit any relatives. I think the relatives left in Japan are quite distant? How lucky you were able to visit Sri Lanka with your grandparents! At the very least, I would like to visit the area my family is from on the next trip. Thanks re: blue/black gingham! I fell hard for that one.

    1. I will say I think Japan would be an awesome place to visit with your kiddo at some point… Even the teenagers traveling with their parents looked like they were enjoying themselves!

      I’m not sure if it was the fabrics but the urge to sew is back! I’m working on a long-ago promised jacket for my husband and I finally sorted out the sleeve fit, which was baffling/sewjo prohibitive. I can’t wait to dig into that striped double gauze after I finish.

  12. Sounds like a lovely trip! I spent a year in China and can relate to how familiar and yet foreign the experience of return can be. Ultimately really rewarding and worthwhile, as it sounds like your trip was :-).

    I can also relate to your ponderings about blog direction, especially since so many people seem to be transforming their blogs into platforms for something else. However, I personally love reading blogs for the personalities that shine through and the stories they tell – as humans, one major way that we connect is via stories – and I think you have a lovely aesthetic and storytelling voice. Honestly, that’s why I love reading your blog, but I also recognize that it’s an investment (hello, that’s why mine is so silent, and why it still says that I live in Boston, even though I since moved to CA and then to Portland OR), so whatever and however you decide you want to continue, definitely supportive! In the meantime, if you’re ever down this way, do say hello! (And use the gmail version of this address, yahoo is for airline tix etc.)

    1. A whole year! How wonderful! Did you speak the language before you left, or pick up much when you were there? Not knowing more Japanese was one of my biggest regrets.

      I do try and visit Portland every so often and will reach out next time! I just love it.

  13. Hi Morgan,
    I’m headed to Japan in January (Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka), and I’m more excited about fabric shopping than just about anything else. Any chance you could share a list of neighborhoods and shops for sewists? Thank you!

    1. Hey Liz! Lucky you! I would recommend reading Inna’s blog post on Kyoto: http://www.thewallinna.com/2013/08/kyoto-craft-shopping.html and Jenny’s post on Tokyo and Kyoto: http://www.cashmerette.com/2015/05/guide-fabric-yarn-shopping-japan.html.

      One spot in Kyoto I don’t think either of them mentioned was in the basement of Kyoto Tower called Yoshikawa – it’s not the cutest shopping experience but it’s packed to the gills with fabric and craft supplies and probably a good spot for deals. The only place I went in Tokyo was Nippori Fabric Town. I’m easily overwhelmed by shopping, so I focused on two of the Tomato stores and just peeked into a few other stores that caught my eye. I’m not sure what’s in Osaka!

  14. Hi Morgan,
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience in Japan with us. I loved that you were able to connect with sewing bloggers who made your trip even richer. RE your comments on blogging. I too have no direction and only started blogging a few months ago with hopes of making some sewing connections and friends the way you have. I’m not sure this is possible because I am so late to the game and the community is so overwhelming large now. It is time consuming but I do like having a log of my makes and thoughts at the time. No desire to make money or start a pattern company. I love your blog and your natural style!

    1. Hi Diane, welcome! I don’t think there’s such a thing as too late in the game to meet some like-minded sewers. If anything, it just gives you a lot of choices! I remember when I started blogging, vintage-style sewing was huge. But as more people started sewing and blogging, the styles people sewed increased exponentially and I found more people who shared my style. A bit of a silly example – I read plenty of blogs whose writers don’t share my style – but more blogs = more options!

  15. What a great trip Morgan! I have the same thoughts about blogging, I think the main reason I blog is for the community. To share and comment, and to just be part of this amazing group of sewists. I’ve made some great How cool that you were able to meet up with some blogging/sewing friends abroad. The internet has really made our world a smaller place.

  16. How exciting for you! And the fabric shopping aaargggh! Yes, totally agree that the bloggy friends make it all worthwhile. I feel like I could travel anywhere in the world and meet up with someone I’ve met through blogging. Pretty cool, really. Look forward to seeing the fruits of your Japan fabric shopping :p

    1. Eeeek I can’t wait to sew those fabrics up! I’m being very virtuous right now and focusing all of my sewing attention on a long-promised jacket for the husbo, but I’m scheming hard on what to make next.

  17. What a fantastic trip! Life has never really allowed me to travel (except family visits and whatnot…) so hearing about people’s travels is always fascinating. And I think there is definitely room on the internets for the hobbyist. The hobby bloggers are by far my favorites to engage with!

    1. Yes, I agree! Those are my favorite blogs, too. I think these periods of questioning allow me to ask what I want my blog to be, and so far the answer has been “devoted hobbyist blog with sporadic posting” – ha! PS my folks really kicked off their international travels after my sis and I were really and truly out of the house and now they travel way more than us – maybe there are some adventures in your future!

  18. I am so glad you had the opportunity to go to Japan. I am half Japanese & love Japan. It’s amazing to get back to ones heritage. And – don’t stop blogging. Some of us still love the personal, non commercial community. Love your blog.

    1. Thank you, Tommie! Visiting Japan really helped make sense of a lot of things – my family and my upbringing – as well as being a ton of fun. Do you visit pretty regularly? I’m hoping it can become a more frequent destination for me!

    1. Yes! It was strange – while I was in Japan I didn’t think too much about sewing (well, aside from fabric shopping…) or do much with social media. Yet both of those outlets enabled a lot of special experiences while I was traveling. A paradox!

  19. eeek, i’m so green with envy!! to be able to go to Japan, get those cute Japanese fabrics, AND meet up with those sewing gurus sound too good to be true! i hope you’ll share more of your trip (and what all you got from there) soon! 🙂

    1. My backpack was already suuuper heavy so I had to exercise restraint! Aside from some trims and non-sewing souvenirs, this is pretty much all of what I bought. I don’t usually feel this way, but I’m still regretting a few things I didn’t get 🙂 But yah, I feel so fortunate to have been able to take this trip – really the trip of a lifetime!

  20. I’m so glad you are blogging even though it is a hobby and not a business! I’m firmly in the hobby blogger camp ( sporadic though it may be), so you are not alone! It feels great to be part of a community of people who share that hobby and I really like reading about everyone’s experiences, business or otherwise. Thank you for sharing the pictures of your trip!

    1. I’m glad you blog too! I agree, I love hobby blogs and there are also are some business blogs that I really enjoy – the ones that feel interesting, forthcoming and in love with the craft of sewing.

  21. It looks & sounds like you had the most amazing time in Japan! That’s so great you got to meet up with other sewists too. It’s pretty wonderful to have all these virtual friends to meet up with for real when you travel!

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