Tohoku Grannies

Tohoku Grannies

In March 2011 in tsunami ravaged Japan, Japanese born Swiss Designer Kazu Huggler wanted to do something to help the people of Rikuzen Tata rebuild their lives.

Born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and a Swiss father, Kazu was raised in both Japan and Switzerland. Kazu’s designs, although inspired by her Japanese background – she uses kimono patterns and ancient printmaking – are all geared for the global marketplace and made in Switzerland.

Enlisting the assistance of Bernina International, Kazu founded the Three Cranes Association, and encouraged the groups to start sewing projects.

One of the groups Three Cranes supports is the Tohoku Grandmas, a group of women from the fishing community, who, by their own admission “are not used to such delicate work”

Example of pin cushions

Example of pin cushions

Using sewing machines donated by Bernina, Kazu encouraged this group of approximately 14 women, who were living in temporary accommodation, to take their sewing one step further.  Teaching these women to use these sophisticated machines allowed them to create simple and attractive objects using local textiles, as well as unique KAZU prints.

In the few short months since then, the Tohoku Grandmas have made a hugely successful name for themselves. They have taken hundreds of orders for their charming creations. These include delicate textile-filled porcelain sake cups that serve as pincushions, and a range of artistic tote bags. Practical yet beautiful items, they are a poignant symbol of hope following disaster.

The Three Cranes Association is about work, not charity. They believe that helping people in distress lies in rebuilding communities and infrastructures. Guided by the three fundamental values of endurance, longevity and prosperity, they aim to provide rich, ongoing support in the realms of fashion, textiles and art.


While the main focus is on rebuilding the community, and providing the Tohoku Grandmas with purpose and hope, Three Cranes is also hoping to bridge the gap between European and Japanese cultures.

Quilt Direct are lucky enough to have a small quantity of these adorable pincushions available for sale on our website. Help the Tohoku Grandmas rebuild their community by buying one now.




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