Early this year Jolly Red was invited to take part in Hankyu’s annual British Fair in Osaka, Japan. The British Fair gives visitors to the store the chance to meet the faces behind British brands – such a lovely idea!

The Fair dates were 9th-15th October and to begin with I was reluctant to leave Somerset at such a busy time in our tapestry world. After gentle persuasion from many sides, I agreed to go and soon became very excited about this wonderful opportunity to to meet a new Japanese audience and to explore a whole new culture.

On 6th October I set off to Bristol airport with my son, Calum. I don’t leave Somerset very often and if I was to go all that way – with connecting flights – I needed a companion!

The British Fair is held on the 9th floor of the Hankyu department store and is the most popular event in the store’s calendar, bringing in thousands of visitors for the week-long show. And what a show it is!

The organisers had already shipped over a selection of our kits so we were soon ready for the first day. They’d even made little buttons and brooches with images of our designs, as these are very popular items in Japan.

It was so lovely to meet new customers, and a huge delight to be able to put faces to names of old friends of Jolly Red. Tomoko and her daughter and future son-in-law travelled all the way from Fukuoka to see us, bringing with them two of Tomoko’s Christmas stockings.

Tomoko teaches tapestry from her home and has been providing Jolly Red kits as projects for her students for many years. It really was such a pleasure to meet in person.

A happy customer, with her Cats and Dogs Christmas stocking.

These smiley ladies came back to the Fair after their first visit to show us how they were getting on with their kits!

Here’s Calum, getting stuck in to stitching a Silent Night Christmas stocking. To say that Calum is a regular stitcher would be slightly inaccurate. Let’s just say he’s picked it up again very quickly after rather a long gap!

It was great to have Calum with me. He stitched whenever I needed a coffee break, or to go off and stretch my legs explore a little. The Hankyu ladies brought him cups of Harrods iced tea to keep him going!

Calum seemed to attract quite a crowd whenever he was stitching. Here he is again, working on Flying Felines which will eventually become a cushion for his girlfriend, Victoria.

We really did meet some lovely people. Our immediate neighbour was Corinne Lapierre, who was at the British Fair with her adorable felt kits. Like us, she quickly sold out of some favourite designs!

We also met Emma Ball, who spent her days at the Fair simultaneously painting, while signing coasters for her many Japanese fans.

We knew of Emma Ball’s work before we went to the Fair but had no idea that her product range was so extensive!

When the show finished, Calum and I spent two nights in Tokyo before flying home. We were so lucky on our complete day in Tokyo to be given a tour of the city by the very energetic Kyoko – who, incidentally, used to be Tomoko’s teacher. What a small world! We have been supplying our kits to Kyoko for many years, first when she had her shop, and now from her base in Ebisuminami where she continues to hold classes.

Kyoko took us to see many sights that we would never have found on our own including temples, The Old Asakura House and the famous Hachiko statue, ending with a visit to Tokyo’s Skytree. Thank you, Kyoko, for an amazing day!

The British Fair was such an eye-opener for us, and we learnt so much…for instance, who knew that the Japanese people are so fond of scones or of fish and chips! First thing in the morning when the British Fair opened there was a controlled stampede for the scones, with orderly queues soon developing while people waited patiently for this special British treat. Likewise with the fish and chips.

A big thank you to everyone who came to our stand at the show and if you bought one of our kits we hope you are enjoying it. We’d love to see pictures of how you’re getting on, so please do share if you can.

For me, my feet are firmly back on the ground in Somerset as we start our countdown to Christmas!