Classic Elegance

It feels like I’ve been doing a fair number of casual and non-traditional outfits lately, and while there’s nothing wrong with that I was in the mood for a little classic elegance. To me, there’s nothing like the graceful simplicity of a kurotomesode to really demonstrate the luxury and refinement of kimono.

Admittedly, I still managed to inject some of my personal style and preferences into this outfit. Typically, a kurotomesode should be paired with a metallic fukuro obi and white/metallic accessories. However, this kimono actually occupies a strange liminal space between kurotomesode and houmongi. The black base colour and five crests imply the highest level of formality, but the fact that there is pattern, however subtle, on one sleeve, knocks it down a peg. Because of that, I knew I could get away with deviating from the norm a little bit.

I thought it would be a good time to use this gorgeous tsuke-obi that I got recently, It was clearly a fukuro obi at some point in its life, but was converted to make it easier to wear. However, whoever converted it did so with their specific body in mind; because of this, it was an absolute bear to tie on the mannequin. Both the obi and the kimono were too big for her, which is not a problem I come across very often! However, this does mean I could probably wear this outfit myself if I lost a few pounds. It’s always good to have one very formal outfit ready to go, I suppose. I went with olive accessories since there’s a very similar green in both the kimono and the obi. Thanks to the gold accents, they still feel appropriately formal but feel a little more interesting than plain white would have been.

Overall, I really like how this looks. It conveys the traditional mood I was aiming for but still has a sense of unique personality.

Items used in this coordination

Gothic Wa-Lolita Inspiration

I’ve done some wa-lolita coordinations before, to varying levels of success, but somehow it wasn’t until I got a solid black mofuku kimono that it occurred to me to do something using this skirt! I found this incredible Alexander Henry Midnight Pastoral skeleton toile fabric a few years back, and Naomi was kind enough to make it into a skirt for me. 💖

I decided to stick to the sort of gothic/Victorian vibe the fabric brought in and paired the solid black kimono with a high-collared white blouse and a black lace choker with a skull cameo on it. In lieu of an obi, I used a wide studded leather belt which worked alright out but I think next time I’d prefer something with a little more volume in the back. As it is, the front of this outfit has much more interest, and feels a little unbalanced because of it.

This didn’t start out as a memorial outfit, but as I was working on it I realised I had Rick Genest/Zombie Boy on my mind. He was certainly not as much of a household name as David Bowie or Anthony Bourdain, but he was a true original and a Montreal native, as well as being an artistic muse to so many misfits and creatives. The repeated skeleton motifs in this particular outfit, as well as the use of the mofuku kimono, seem like a fitting tribute for yet another flame snuffed out too soon.

Mofuku Obi Remake & Giveaway featuring Cutting Edge Stencils

Odds are, at some point in your life as a kimono collector, you’ll end up with one or two mofuku (funeral wear) items in your hoard. Wearing them as-is can often feel disrespectful or inappropriate, but upcycling them into something new and wearable is a wonderful way to give a piece new life. Not only does it make something more wearable, it also fits perfectly with the Japanese theory of mottainai, a disdain for waste and a philosophy of recycling.

I’ve paired up with Cutting Edge Stencils to take this obi, which is in excellent condition but relatively unwearable due to the funerary associations, and turn it into something new! They have a fantastic selection of Japanese inspired wall stencils, but what really caught my eye were the ones inspired by botanical mon, the round family crests found on formal kimono. I love kiku, so of course the Chrysanthemum Twist stencil called out to me the most strongly, and it’s the one we’ll be using today.

Painting over items (particularly black silk) actually has quite a long tradition when it comes to kimono. The technique is often referred to as pente, and showed up frequently in the post-ration era after WWII when access to more traditional techniques and materials was slim. Those of you who are familiar with my amazing lobster tsuke-obi might recognise it as being pente. So this project is really quite appropriate!

What you’ll need:

  1. Solid coloured Nagoya obi
  2. Small-sized (8″) Japanese mon stencil from Cutting Edge
  3. Stencilling brushes
  4. Something to hold down your stencil (I used Zots, which are super useful repositionable sticky dots)
  5. Fabric-safe paint (I used Finnabair’s Art Alchemy Sparks in Butterfly Spells and Unicorn Hair which look amazing on the black fabric)
  6. Painting supplies (Water, paper towels, drop cloth)
  7. Not pictured: Fine detail/line brush, paint in the same colour as your obi

Using an existing Nagoya Obi for reference, determine where you want your stencils to go. I went with a very standard arrangement, the full design on the wide drum and a smaller accent on the front. I used low-adhesive paper tape to delineate my areas because a white fabric pencil could potentially leave visible marks on the black silk.

Lay your stencil out on the drum and use your temporary adhesive of choice to fix it into place. You want to make sure it’s not going to wiggle. Cutting Edge’s stencils are made thicker than a lot of other stencils, so they’re nice and weighty and lay very flat, but you still want to be certain there’s no shifting while you’re painting.

Dip your brush in the paint and wipe off as much excess as possible. When stencilling, it’s always better to start light and add another layer. If you start out too heavy with the paint it can bleed heavily under the stencil and you won’t have clean, crisp lines (note: a little bit of bleed is unavoidable, we’ll be fixing it later, but using a light touch now will save you work and heartache later). Using a very light hand and a gentle swirling motion, begin filling in one colour. I started with the foliage but you could just as easily start with the flowers.

You might be tempted to lift the stencil and paint the front part, but it’s best to leave it on in case you need to do a second coat. Getting them lined up perfectly isn’t worth the hassle. Do your two coats if needed, and then carefully lift the stencil away. No matter how careful you are and how high-quality the stencil is, odds are high there will be a bit of bleed. This is to be expected when painting on a soft, absorbent surface like fabric. Once the paint is dry, it’s time to do your cleanup. Using your liner brush and acrylic paint the same colour as the obi and carefully paint over any messy edges. Take your time here, it will be slow and tedious but the results will be so much better, I promise. Once you’ve cleaned up your edges, let the obi dry completely overnight to ensure you don’t inadvertently smudge any paint. I also used the same stencil to decorate the front, only filling in one flower and a couple of leaves.

I can’t get over how beautiful the finished product is! They may be marketed as wall stencils but you can’t tell me this design isn’t absolutely perfect in this context, both in size and subject matter. Of course, as soon as I was certain it was fully dry I had to see how it looked on the mannequin. I also couldn’t help adding a few adhesive rhinestones as a finishing touch, I love how they pop against the metallic paint and look like drops of dew.

These stencils can obviously be used on fabric and look fantastic on the drum of a nagoya obi, but they would also be beautiful on walls, or used to make pillows or artwork. Cutting Edge actually sent me a couple of smaller bonus stencils, including a swallowtail and a koi fish. I used the swallow and more Art Alchemy Sparks in Mermaid Sparkle to make this pretty trinket dish, and I love how it turned out! I can’t wait to use the fish for something, I just need to figure out what.

Giveaway Time!

If you’ve read all the way down here, congratulations! Cutting Edge Stencils have also been generous enough to organise a giveaway! One lucky reader will receive an amazing $50 towards the stencil of their choice. The beautiful stencil I used is only $12.95 so that’s quite a fantastic offer. All you have to do is browse their site, and then comment below on this blog entry before August 31st with which stencil is your favourite and what you would do with it if you won. Be sure to include your email address in the proper field so I can contact you if you win. For an extra entry, comment on this facebook post!

*Winner will be chosen using Random.org and must be of legal age and a resident of Canada or the United States*

Items used in this coordination

 

 I received this item from the manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site. 

#MonoKimono Challenge – Plummy & Crabby

Well, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve done an outfit on the mannequin, hasn’t it? Between events, injuries, heat waves… it just got sort of pushed to the wayside. But I was determined to keep going with the monoKimono challenge this weekend!

A dear friend sent me this kimono a few weeks back, and since it’s a beautiful solid colour I knew it would be great for a monochrome outfit. Problem is, it’s that very difficult shade of royal purple that kimono fans all know intimately; it’s hard to coordinate, it’s hard to photograph. Even the catalogue photo of it looks a bit off, since I had to process it to make the kimono colour accurate.

The only obi I had that was in the same cool-toned range was my beloved crustacean chuuya obi, so that was a done deal. Rather than try to hide the orange accents in the obi, I figured I’d use them as a pop of contrast and emphasize it with the accessories. The outfit still feels primarily monochrome, but the brighter salmon tones help break it up and keep it visually interesting. The haneri is a lighter shade of purple, but I think it still works well and echoes the white in the obi. Overall, the outfit is even more successful than I thought it would be, which pleases me immensely.

Items used in this coordination

 

Tea Time – Tea Forté

Today I have a beautiful assortment of teas from Tea Forté as well as their incredible KATI steeping cup in Hanami design. I received these for review purposes back in early June, and have been trying them out for a while to make sure I could bring you the best review possible. It’s just my luck that I get a selection of hot steeped beverages to work through while we’ve been hit with the hottest summer on record here in Montreal, but I’ve persevered! It was worth it!

To begin with, here’s the Matcha Collection; a beautiful presentation box with single-serving packets of matcha. Included are Chai Matcha, Chocolate Matcha, Coconut Matcha, Ginger Matcha, and Pure Matcha.

This is a beautifully cohesive, well-designed sampler. There are three packets of each variety, perfectly measured to make one cup of tea each. I love how thoughtfully designed the packets are, they’re very pretty to look at as well as being practical. They prevent the tea from being exposed to light and are very easy to open. so they would be great to travel with or keep at your desk.

I started with the Pure Matcha, because it was the most straightforward and I wanted to taste it clean before digging in to the interesting flavour combinations. It was earthy and grassy in just the right way; if you’re familiar with matcha you’ll know what I mean. It whisked easily just using a dessert fork, if you don’t have a proper chasen (bamboo whisk).

Next up was the Coconut Matcha. Full disclosure here, I like coconut by itself but tend not to like coconut-flavoured things. They almost always remind me of sun block or soap. I’m very glad to say that was not the case with this one! The coconut was delicate and natural-tasting, and didn’t overpower the fresh green taste of the tea. I do think I’ll be giving the other two packets to my mum, who is a coconut fiend, but I definitely did find this one more pleasant than I was expecting to.

From there, I started venturing out to the stronger and more adventurous combos, starting with the Ginger Matcha. This one was delicious – very heavy on the ginger, spicy and warming all the way down my throat. Which I probably would have appreciated a little more were we not in the midst of another oppressive heat wave! I did find the ginger overpowered the matcha itself a little bit but since I love ginger that wasn’t an issue personally. If you prefer your ginger milder, however, you might want to give this one a pass.

That brought me to the Chai Matcha, which struck a perfect balance between the grassy tea and spicy herbs. There’s also ginger in this one. but it’s not as up-front as the previous tea. There are also beautiful notes of cinnamon and a few other subtle spices I can’t quite pin down. This would also be incredible iced, or blended with a milk or non-dairy beverage of your choice.

I left the Chocolate Matcha for last because, to be frank, I was a little wary of it. I know it’s not uncommon for matcha to be paired with white chocolate in desserts, but the idea of it as a warm drink struck me as more than a little odd. Thankfully, the geniuses at Tea Forté clearly know what they’re doing, since this was unexpectedly delicious. It’s a little sweet without being cloying, and there are definite notes of cocoa in the blend that somehow pair really well with the matcha. This one would be a lovely dessert tea, and I’m going to try baking with it soon.

Next up is Hanami, another lovely presentation box filled with ten individually wrapped pyramid infuser bags as well as a pretty and sturdy tin of loose-leaf. This is a new addition to their product line and has already won a silver medal at the 2018 Global Tea Championship

This tea starts out with delicate sencha green tea, carefully blended with sakura essence and rose petals to bring a beautifully balanced floral note. This particular style of tea (green with light floral notes) is one of my favourite ways to drink green tea, so it’s no surprise that I absolutely loved this one. When mixing floral notes into tea it can be easy to go either too heavy and have the tea overpowered, or too light and make the floral almost undetectable, but there’s a reason this one’s an award winner. It’s spectacularly balanced!

This also shows off their fantastic handcrafted pyramid bags very well, and aren’t the little leaf tags adorable?! The bags are incredibly sturdy and allow for excellent water flow which makes for a very smoothly brewed tea. This isn’t really related, but I received this amazing mid-century tea cup from a friend years ago, and it’s one of my favourites. I don’t use it often because I’m afraid of breaking it, but this seemed like an appropriate time to bring it out.

As amazing as flavoured and speciality teas are, one of the best tests is how a pure, organic tea with no additions tastes, and their Organic Sencha is no exception. This is a beautifully gentle, clean, and fresh green tea. These tins have steeping instructions on them which is one of those little touches that make such a huge difference, especially when it comes to green teas. They’re quite sensitive to time and temperature, so having precise numbers to work from helps ensure optimum enjoyment of the product. This tea is clean, fresh, and just a tiny bit grassy/earthy, which is exactly what you want in a green tea.

 

The KATI cup is also absolutely gorgeous. It’s a really weighty, solid-feeling ceramic with a beautiful design of sakura on it. There’s a very fine mesh strainer that fits into it, perfect for loose-leaf teas, and a ceramic lid to keep your tea safe and warm. The cup comes in a ton of other beautiful designs, if the cherry blossoms aren’t your style.

I can’t get over how much thought and effort were put into every aspect of everything Tea Forté offers. From the flavourful, delicate, and well-balanced teas themselves to the design and aesthetics of the packaging. They feel so luxurious, and would make incredible gifts. I highly recommend everything listed here (assuming the products are to your taste!), and I’ll definitely be buying from them in the future.

 I received this item from the manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.