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Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Cotton Time Christmas

Are y'all familiar with the fabulous Japanese craft magazine Cotton Time? It is very difficult and expensive to get here in North America, but I treated myself to a subscription for Christmas 2009.

I first encountered Cotton Time years ago at sewing Expo in Puyallup, Washington. I had never seen Japanese crafting magazines before and they blew me away. I believe it was in back issue of Cotton Time that I saw a project that haunts me to this was an Advent calendar, done all in the most subtle, sophisticated neutrals. It depicted a landscape, with a road leading to a tiny, hilltop house. Santa was just about to climb down the chimney, and the little pockets depicting the 25 days of Advent were, I think, included in the roadway itself. But the magazine was pricey, and I had already seriously overstepped my sewing expo budget. I passed on that magazine and have regretted that decision ever since!

The text of Cotton Time is, naturally, entirely in Japanese. And you read it "backwards", starting at the right hand cover and and reading right to left toward the left hand cover. The instructions are reasonably well illustrated; most intermediate seamstresses would have little difficulty working out construction strategies. The projects mostly fall into the Zakka category; handmade items for the home with an adorably decorative twist.

In each issue you generally find these Zakka projects for household items, both utilitarian and decorative, a crochet or knitting project, lots of handbags, and some clothing, usually a matching mommy-daughter set.

The designs are unusually restrained, yet joyful and celebratory, and demonstrate a careful use of subtle colour. The use of neutrals to ground and control the designs is masterful. And nowhere is this more artfully demonstrated than in the Cotton Time Christmas editions, which generally come out in November. Below is a lovely shot from the November 2005 issue:


Note that in stark contrast to most western Christmas craft publications, Cotton Time depends heavily on neutrals and understated, primitive colour schemes, a technique which not only lets the design elements shine through, but gives the projects a timeless, classic quality immune to "dating".

So after a disastrous run in to Christmas 2009, in which new work commitments took over my life, and left several Christmas present projects languishing on my work table (now destined to be presents for Christmas 2010!), I resolved to work on my life/work balance, and begin early in the year a couple of simple holiday projects. What better place from which to draw inspiration than Cotton Time. On the hunt I went, and immediately found this image, containing an irresistible project...can you spot it?


Yes, those yummy shadow boxes. I am determined to make a montage of 5 Christmas shadow boxes modelled on this Cotton Time photo, a little village on a snowy Christmas eve, with one shadow box featuring Santa and his reindeer flying high in the moonlit, snowy sky. I will document the process in a series of entries here on my blog...hope you all enjoy the process and my struggles!

Meanwhile, as I gather materials and energies, I will search for this particular Cotton Time issue, and all the more recent November issues I can find!


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