Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sewing Tatami Heri Bags

It started with my friend, the bag lady, sporting a tatami heri bag she made after spotting one at a quilt show here in Japan. Experienced sewer, she stared at the Japanese pattern illiterately long enough to give it a whirl and managed to sew a beautiful bag. Once she began using the said bag she garnered attention. As the clamoring grew so did a sewing circle with a promise that we too, The Short Bus Sewing Circle, could learn how to make a tatami heri bag. I was dubious.

Tatami heri is the edging that comes in five, ten, twenty, and even forty meter rolls and lines the edges of tatami mats, a traditional Japanese flooring material made from rice straw. Some crafty Japanese ladies must have thought to use it to make purses? I know in this corner of the world, quite a few of us were intrigued. When my sewing teacher said it was time, I went at it half hearted. Maybe it was, in some way too, knowing that the end of our time was in sight.

I take full responsibility for making a lot of sewing errors on my own with my bags. I did not realize the implications of some of the steps until I did them and saw the result. I have to see, do, and redo many times to learn something. These are my initial baby steps at both the pattern construction and the using of the tatami edging material. I have plans to make a few more bags before I leave, but I'm not sure when I will find the time to fit the sewing into my cramped schedule. I depart Japan in twenty-two days.

The first one is on it's way to a birthday girl. The second one is awaiting the addition of my spiral copy of Recipes from a Gaijin for my cooking sensei. I loved constructing the bags and seeing how the pattern came together. Details like sewing straight stitches and getting all the flaps and folds in the right places were beyond my ability the first time around. I will try, try again. Now that I can see the importance of paying attention to the folds, I will be sure to check them. I was thrilled to have made the bottom insert it's own sleeve on the suggestion of another sewing friend and to finally learn how to put magnetic clasps into the bags, easy peasy.

Perfection they are not, but this is a beginning. It was a thrill to have them look mostly how they were supposed to look. I tend to dismiss directions, more of a bootstrapper really. Sometimes one should read the manual, but in this case it would require the ability to read Japanese sewing instructions. Many thanks to my more artistic friend for sharing her time and talent.

1st Tatami-heri Bag
2nd Tatami-heri bag