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'Girlie' Needle And Thread help Japanese Men to De-Stress

Tokyo: A group of men aged 40-someting have added a different stitch to the stereotypical Japanese man - a needle and a thread. Members of a men's only sewing club meet once a month to beat// the stress of their jobs as marketing professionals, computer engineers and film directors/producers.

As the club's seven members do not consider themselves experts in sewing, their stitches are not aligned, fine seams are nowhere to be seen, but their works are creative.

"We decided that we don't have to be perfect," said 42-year-old sewing club leader, Shoichi Ishizawa, a fashion designer. "We can make a moving salamander toy, but we can't even sew buttons."

Their latest project was to make creative covers for "The Protector", emergency buzzers children carry for safety. The male sewers made key-chain holders for the beepers shaped as primitive bears, spiders and other animals.

Ever since Ishizawa invited his drinking buddies over for a sewing session in December 2003, their club activities have expanded to holding exhibitions and their membership has opened to children, called the Minis, and to women, called the Flowers.

Visitors to their exhibitions are keen on buying the frog-shaped purses, children cling tight to sheep-like toys with a long nose and a cloud of puffs, while others ask where they too can learn to sew.

Ishizawa begins every session by first opening a can of beer as he proposes the day's projects. Then the members choose a needle from Ishizawa's set of more than 30, as if they were picking a favorite truffle out of a box of chocolates.

After threading the eye with a colorful thread, they choose a piece of scrap fabric to shape into something creative and maybe even useful.

"It's just like mothers thinking up a dinner menu out of what's in a refrigerator," Ishizawa said. "We don't measure every kind of seasoning. It's like we taste too much salt in our dish, so we
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