Friday, October 18, 2019

Literary Sewing Circle: Finale & Project Link Up!

Today is already our final day of the Literary Sewing Circle focusing on A Tale for the Time Being! I hope you've had the chance to read the book, and both the first and second inspiration posts, and are getting lots of ideas for a project of your own.

The project linkup will be added to the bottom of this post: as soon as you are done your project, just pop a link to your post into the linkup and we will all be able to visit your blog/instagram etc. and explore your creation -- remember, it can be sewn, or knitted, crocheted, embroidered... any textile art that you practice.

Photo by Gabriel Gabriel on Unsplash
Today's post also gives us the chance to talk about our reading experience a little more. If you haven't yet had a chance, check out our first discussion post for some specific questions and feedback from readers -- also take a look at our feature on Ruth Ozeki and how her writing reflects her Buddhist approach to life, and see if it raises any questions for you.

Did you enjoy this novel? Did you have a favourite character? Was there a theme which particularly resonated? What part of it stood out for you as your inspiration for your project? Was there anything you didn't like about this novel? Had you heard of it prior to this readalong? Did you recognize any of the character quirks in the story? What did you think of the mix of narratives? How about the idea of time as a fluid concept? Do you think that the role of writing and storytelling was important in this story?

Photo by Tomas Sobek on Unsplash

Here are some of my thoughts on this novel.

I read it first in 2013, when it was published. I loved it then, and I've really enjoyed rereading it and digging right into it looking for deeper themes and details. 

As I shared in all the previous posts, there are so many things I love about this book. Both the storylines, of Ruth and Nao, are so compelling. Each of them is dealing with elements of their lives that they aren't thrilled with, though I think we can agree that Nao's reality is a bit harsher. As Sara pointed out in the last book discussion, they are both facing compromises that have been or must be made, not always by their choice.

And I find the settings so similar even if they are half a globe apart. Though Nao is in a busy, crowded city, she's still isolated and alone. She's quite literally isolated, as if she isn't even there, by her cruel classmates in their final ploy to harass her. And both of her parents are absorbed by their own concerns and distress, leaving her to manage the emotional distress she faces all alone. I just realized that both Ruth and Nao have absent mothers, and perhaps a strong need for that mothering that they are missing.

And of course, the life of Jiko is such a rich vein. The way she represents the best of Japanese culture, history, and religious thought, as opposed to all the terrible, shallow and dangerous currents that Nao moves through in daily life, is so powerful. Jiko is calm, a rock in the centre of this tumultous sea. There are so many of these contrasts in the story -- between Jiko's life and Nao's school experience, or their cramped apartment and Jiko's large empty temple in the countryside -- between the quiet, sparsely populated BC island where Ruth lives (but where you know everyone) and Nao's frenetic city where you know no-one -- between middle aged Ruth and teen Nao -- so many more contrasts to highlight the themes of the book.

I also love the scientific themes in the book. From Oliver's trees to Cassie's barnacles, from the discussion of the ocean gyres and the effects of plastic pollution all the way to theoretical physics and concepts of time, there is so much to think about and talk about and make a reader dizzy! I hope you were inspired to think and create while reading this book, like I was.

Now as to my project, I have a lot of ideas! I just hope I have enough time. I might try to do two projects because I just can't decide on one. But as I am also a Time Being and a busy one, I'm not sure about that ;) 

I am going to start with a dress made from a fabric I mentioned in a previous post, a Michael Miller Katamaki print that I picked up at Goodwill quite a while ago. It's a pretty big print but I want to see if it will work! I'm inspired by the presence of many cats in this novel, and by the visit to Arigato Sushi in "The Liver". After that, if I finish it, I want to try one of the pieces from one of the many Japanese pattern books I've been sharing over the last month. Or maybe a Waffle Patterns Snowball Dress! If you are currently making plans, please feel free to share them in the comments, too -- I'd love to see them. 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
What project have you made, inspired by your reading of A Tale for the Time Being? Share a link to your project post here! Links are open until NOV 15 so you have a full month of sewing time to finish and share.

Don't forget that any finished project shared by the deadline will be eligible for a draw for a 30 Euro coupon from our sponsor, Waffle Patterns! (approx. 3 patterns) Get your projects in! 


  1. Hi Melanie,
    Do you think that the role of writing and storytelling was important in this story?

    Such an interesting question. I believe the role of writing and storytelling is not only important in this story but it is the story! It is a vital concept around which the whole story pivots (in my mind).
    I can think of so many references, apart from Nao's and Ruth's obvious roles as writers and story tellers, which support this and make you think. I automatically thought back to the part when Nao wanted to open the box on the family alter (which actually held a piece of paper saying one word from the government – 'remains'), Jiko was too tired to talk about the box. Nao had protested, saying she liked Jiko's stories, and Jiko replied '… Life is full of stories. Or maybe life is only stories …. '.
    This book is about the stories of the life of these characters. When we reflect on our own lives, we have memories, but as we share them, they are stories. We choose what parts of our story we will tell,. We choose what part of other people's story we will tell. And they are stories.
    Jiko's character had so many insightful comments to make.

    I am STILL thinking about what to make. Regardless of what I make, I have been inspired to purchase 'Yoko Saito's Japanese Taupe Color Theory, A Study Guide', by Yoko Saito. How to make so many similar colours sing. It is a lovely book. But I am leaning to Waffle Pattern's Arare Pullover. I have the pattern and the enthusiasm.

    1. You are absolutely right, there is so much direct reference to writing, storytelling, memory and the things we tell ourselves in this book! Jiko was so wonderful at pointing out so many of these aspects. It makes me think of one of my favourite Muriel Rukeyser quotes:"The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms." Thanks for sharing so many of your thoughtful comments on the book, and for getting a lovely project done already :)

  2. I have added my finished photo to instagram. Hope it got through and entered properly. I don't have a blog to use the link.

  3. I really enjoyed the book, and hope to make some detailed comments soon! This sewalong finally pulled me out of a long dry period of no sewing. Will be linking up my make soon.

    1. That's super news! Glad you enjoyed the book. And will look forward to your project too.

  4. I enjoyed the book and especially the thought provoking physics section near the end. I listened to it as an audio book so I may have to go and read the last little physics section again; I retain things much better when I see them.
    I've enjoyed your reviews of the Japanese pattern books as well and was so taken with the idea of the convertible harem pants/skirt in Shape Shape 2 I bought the book. Now that the sailboat skirt is off my plate I'm going to get started on a winter version of the SS2 skirt.
    Thank you for this sewing circle. I would not have discovered either book otherwise.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the read/listen, and found lots to think about in it.

      And I'm thrilled that you wanted to check out those convertible pants. If you make them before I do I'll have to get your tips!

  5. I just ran the random number generator, and this round's prize of a 30 Euro voucher from Waffle Patterns goes to Sara for her Blue Blouse! Congrats Sara :)


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!