I have been a huge fan of the blog Pink Penguin by Ayumi Takahashi for quite some time now. (Make sure to go check out her blog- she is seriously talented!) It started when I saw a pattern of hers on Pinterest to make a bento/lunch bag. Her tutorial was easy to follow and straightforward, even for a beginning sewer like me! The bag turned out absolutely adorable, too. (Again, I will post pictures when I get a new camera!)
Well, I have been following her blog now for several months, and finally got up the courage to ask her if she’d be willing to answer a few questions. I was very intrigued – she lives in Japan and sews/quilts over there, as well as designs her own fabric. So, I went out on a limb and asked her if she would be willing to do a quick little Q&A with me. I really expected her to say no, so imagine how surprised I was when she said she would be happy to!
So, without further ado… Here you go!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Ayumi Takahashi and I blog at Pink Penguin. I was born and raised in Japan but I spent 8 years in the US where I went to a college and also met my husband. We moved to Tokyo 4 years ago, had our first baby a few years later, and the next one will arrive in September this year.
2. How did you get into quilting and/or sewing?
I was much inspired by sewing/quilting blogs I randomly found online. My mother-in-law was also huge inspiration because she is a great quilter. She convinced my husband to get me a sewing machine for my birthday several years ago. (The best birthday gift ever!!) And I never went back to life without sewing regularly.
3. What is your favorite part of the process?
Thinking/designing a new project is so much fun! Choosing fabric for it is also thrilling! I like to learn new techniques, so if my project has any process that requires a new technique, I am intrigued. When I think I master the skill, it satisfies me and I love it!
4. What is the most challenging?
Finishing a project lol! It is very easy to start a project, but I get side tracked by other projects so easily. I have boxes filled with many work-in-projects from years ago!
5. Of everything you have done, what was your favorite project? Why?
I love paper-piecing, especially designing a paper-piecing pattern. I discovered love for paper-piecing from joining a quilting bee called Ringo Pie bee where we made many original paper-pieced blocks. I enjoyed making all my blocks, but if I were to pick one favorite, I may have to say it is this popsicles block
6. How did you get into designing your own fabric?
I had an annual column for a Japanese magazine called Patchwork Tsushin. The chief editor introduced me to a fabric manufacturer, Kokka, who was then looking for a designer who would design a fabric collection for patchwork/quilts. I was very nervous but thought it was a great opportunity to turn what I love into fabric I can sew with!
7. What is the biggest difference between living in the U.S. and in Japan as a sewer?
I wouldn’t say there are a lot of differences since I now have access to as many supplies as I used in the US. Some things I miss are rulers/measurement tapes/ cutting tables in inches. Everything is in metric here, but my brain still prefers inches/yards. I miss easy access to a lot of American quilting weight fabric too. Another difference is that quilting is still for older generations in general in Japan. There are a lot of younger people who sew but they often make zakka items like bags and clothes. Quilts are not often used practically here. They are rather art to put on the wall. I feel very lucky that I have spent enough years in the US to appreciate practice use of quilts.
8. How do you think up your designs for your fabric?
I had some ideas for my first fabric collection, Lighthearted, from a long time ago which were
Plaids by Ayumi! (Borrowed from her Etsy shop)
– Small kitchen design that can be fussy cut for hexagons etc.
– Plaid because I just love plaids in general
– Text design because I can rarely finish a project without including a few texty prints
– Small polka dots for blending
– Little floral design which can be used for clothes making etc other than patchwork/quilting
Basically Lighthearted was a collection of all the things I love to use for my patchwork projects.
9. What is the hardest part about designing your own fabric?
I designed using my computer and was quite surprised when I first saw samples of printed fabric. They were pretty different from what I thought they looked on my computer. Unlike simple designing on the computer, there is a lot of knowledge you need to have about colors when it is actually printed on fabric. There are some colors I needed to give up because they just wouldn’t look good on fabric even if they were beautiful on my desktop screen. The stronger contrast is, the finished fabric comes put prettier, which I didn’t know, so working with color with consideration of a limitation due to nature of fabric printing was very difficult for me partly because it was fully my first time.
10. Could you tell me a little bit about the timeline of creating your own fabric line?
My manufacturer was hoping to debut Lighthearted in April 2014, which is about 4 months after I begun the whole process. It didn’t give me enough time, so the debut month kept extended til September 2014.