Japanese-Inspired Dollhouse

 

Something a little different today! If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Instagram, odds are good that you’ve seen little bits and pieces of this Japanese-inspired dollhouse project I’ve been working on for quite some time. It’s finally complete, and it’s so satisfying to see everything together.

I started with this Romantic Nordic Cottage kit, but essentially only used the base structure and wiring kit. I liked the clean lines and open feel of it, and thought it would suit a Japanese aesthetic well. I kept the basic layout the same and used a few of the pre-cut pieces but also added a lot of custom furniture and accessories. I made a functional tansu and a sort of tokonoma out of popsicle sticks and stained with cherrywood stain markers. The markers made things so much easier, the small tip is the perfect size for this scale. The walls were covered with an assortment of embossed paper in neutral tones instead of using the busy and overly shiny print-outs included in the kit.

The bedding, hanging kimono, zabuton cushions, and chair upholstery are all actual kimono fabric scraps, as are the items inside the tansu. I tried to use pieces that had smaller-scale designs, to fit the general scale and dimension of the house. While I tried to make or at least alter nearly every piece, I bought the sushi, edamame, and dishware at a miniature expo. The decorative bowls and small cooking pot in the kitchen came from there too.

The original kitchen included in the kit had no sink, and the oven front was nothing more than a print-out I was supposed to glue onto a piece of wood, but it looked very unfinished. I used some heavy reflective paper to make a metal sink and build an oven door out of more of the same paper and some matchsticks. I even put on a tiny tea towel, made of shibori fabric.

The aquarium is quite possibly the thing I am most proud of. It was my first time working with resin, and I’m so pleased. I built the structure out of more popsicle sticks, used some gorgeous chiyogami paper from The Rare Orchid as the background, and I decorated the inside with some plant matter, teeny tiny shells, and polymer clay goldfish. I also had so much fun making the kokeshi doll in the little decorative shelf. Pretty sure that’s the tiniest face I’ve ever painted!

I really loved doing all the tiny detail work and decoration. I used a lot of beads and minuscule little knick-knacks I had lying around, and these sorts of things really help the whole thing feel like a real, lived-in home. There’s prints in the kitchen, including some vintage Japanese advertising and an adorable Sushi Cats print, and the art hanging in the tokonoma is by Ichiro Tsuruta, whom I’ve mentioned here before.

The tatami flooring is actually tatami repair stickers! The tile in the kitchen is adhesive vinyl cut into 1cm squares, and the flooring in the dining area is  more of the same imprinted heavy paper used on the walls. To give everything a more polished look, I finished off the edges with more stained coffee stirrers. It’s hard to see, but the bathroom is also “tiled” with more self-adhesive vinyl, and I made a mirror with the same reflective paper used in the kitchen. There are little bottles and toiletries made of beads. The initial kit just had clear acrylic walls in the bathroom, but that felt very exposed to me so I used some semi-opaque paper and decorative wire mesh to give a feeling of privacy.

This project was a labour of love, and reinforced how much I love working with miniatures.

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Tsukihana, Custom Geisha Monster High Doll

Hello everyone! I’d like you all to meet Tsukihana! Back at the beginning of the year I got a bee in my bonnet and decided I wanted to customise a doll. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely seen sneak peeks and progress shots, but she’s finally complete and I’m so excited to share her.

She started life as a Draculaura doll I bought on the cheap off eBay. I chose Draculaura because I liked the shape of her face, and her skin colour was close enough to a normal human skin tone that it wouldn’t be too difficult to tone down the few visible bits. I also wanted a doll with primarily black hair, but that ended up not mattering in the end.

I started out with her face. I stripped down the original paint, toned down the back of her head and neck with soft pastels, and used white chalk paint as oshiroi. The face details were a combination of pastels, watercolour pencils, and acrylic paint. The Draculaura doll’s face sculpt reminded me very much of a now-retired geiko named Mamehana, so I referenced the following photos of her quite heavily while painting. (1, 2, 3).

My next step was to change the colour of her hands from pink to a more natural tone. Somehow during this process, I lost her hands. I looked for them for literally months, but they’re just… gone. In the end I gave up and bought a replacement set on eBay. I toned them with brown and yellow chalk pastels that helped neutralise the bright pink tone.

When it came to repainting the face and body, I found Dollightful  and Poppen Atelier, two very helpful YouTube channels with lots of information on customising Monster High and similar dolls. Initially, I’d planned to style her original hair using these traditional katsura styling videos but in the end her hair proved too stubborn and poofy, and it looked pretty awful no matter what I did, so I chopped it all off and sculpted a hairstyle out of clay. It’s primarily based on the tsubushi shimada, but I had to take a few creative liberties. Her kanzashi are beads and charms I had lying around.

The outfit was a co-production. Makiko of JaponSakura (who also made this beautiful Pullip kimono) was kind enough to custom-make me a plain black hikizuri-style kimono and coordinating obi using the fabric I selected, since it reminded me of the moon. Once I received it, I painted the plum and bamboo design around the hem and the custom crests myself, I thought since it was such a small scale, using regular acrylic would be fine, but if I were to do another custom like this I’d definitely invest in fabric paints instead. The crests might seem a bit proportionally large by modern standards, but any smaller and they would have just looked like blobs. Her momi (the red fabric wrap geisha wear beneath the obi), juban sleeves, and underskirt are just scraps of red fabric I hand-sewed and tacked into place. The zori are a pair of MH shoes I repainted and modified slightly – they originally looked like this. I removed some of the strap bulk and painted some white to make it disappear a little. I did debate reforming her feet so they would be flat, but I was hesitant to experiment that much and risk ruining the doll. Makiko also included tabi with the kimono but they made her feet too bulky to fit in the shoes, so in the end I just sanded some detail off her toes and painted her legs with the same chalk paint I used on her face.

Her shamisen was improvised, made from foam board, stir sticks, and gorgeous washi tape from The Rare Orchid. I got a bunch of beautiful paper and tape from them, a full review is coming!

This beautiful lady has been a labour of love. For my first custom doll, I think she turned out spectacularly. I don’t think I’ll be doing this on a regular basis, as she was a significant investment in time, workmanship, and materials, but I might make her a friend or apprentice maiko in the future. I’m also seriously considering turning a Skelita Calaveras into a very stylised Jigoku Dayu but that will definitely be a much longer and more detailed project if it ever comes to pass.

DIY Tabletop Shoji Screen

When I said I was inspired by the ikebana displays at the Botanical Gardens this weekend, I bet you didn’t think this was what I meant! But I was so charmed by the smaller-proportioned tabletop shoji screen  used as a backdrop for one of the arrangements, I knew I wanted one as soon as possible. I browsed around and found one online but the cost + shipping came 0ut to $60 US, which was more than I was looking to spend. So I hit up the local Michael’s craft store yesterday and bought a couple of supplies, and with two short afternoons of work out on the back deck enjoying the lovely weather, I’ve got something that I’m really quite proud of. It’s incredibly light and easy to store. It is a bit fragile, but since it won’t be bearing any weight or staying on display for extended periods of time that’s fine with me.

If you’d like to make one of your own, just read on! I will give the exact measurements for this one, which comes out to three feet wide and two feet tall, but you can absolutely scale up or down for your needs. You can also dress it up with fancier paper and different stain or paint on the wood if you want to. I plan to use this as a neutral backdrop for ikebana and product reviews, amongst other things, so I went with plain white and a fairly mid-range cherry stain.
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Quick & Easy Obijime Tassel Storage Solution

Finding a practical storage solution for obijime is one of the great conundrums of kimono collecting. They get tangled, the tassels get ratty and frayed, and most of the storage options I’ve come across involve wrapping the tassels in paper which gets tedious and wasteful if you use them frequently and have to redo the wrappings every time.

I wanted to find a quicker and more practical way to store them that would also be affordable and easily accessible. After a couple of experiments, I think I’ve found the perfect solution and wanted to share it with you all – bubble tea straws! You can also find them listed as milkshake or smoothie straws, you just want to make sure they’re a wider width than typical drink straws. They’re available on Amazon as well as at nearly any grocery store, they’re very inexpensive, and they’re much more durable than paper.

To begin with, I steamed. combed, and trimmed the tassels on my obijime. For a really great and thorough tutorial on cleaning, steaming, and maintaining obijime tassels, please check out Naomi’s “Project Obijime” blog post. It’s really thorough and clear, and a great place to start.

After all your tassels are tidied up, what you need to do is cut a piece of the straw slightly longer than your tassel and then slit it up one side. Insert the body of the obijime in through the slit and then slide it down to protect the tassel. Then just store however works for you – mine are simply folded in half and then in half again and put into divided boxes by formality and shape. The great thing about using straws like this instead of paper or something else is that you can pull it off and slide it back on as many times as you’d like! No need to take the time to re-wrap them, and no waste.

The only time this feels like a less-than-perfect solution is with very wide and flat obijime, which are more common in vintage collections. Just be careful to make sure that you’ve pulled the straw down completely onto the tassel so it’s not causing the obijime itself to curl because they will stay that way and need steaming again to flatten out.

I hope you found this helpful! It’s such a simple little thing, but personally I think it makes a huge difference when it comes to storage and tidiness!

 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. 

DIY Obi Remnant Purse

Eons ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, a bunch of my friends and I went in on a huge obi bundle and separated it amongst ourselves. Mixed in with all the obi was this piece of lovely karabana fabric. It had a few small pleats in one end, and I suspect someone had grand plans to turn it into a pre-tied obi. However. there was just barely enough to make the otaiko and nothing that would have worked for the waist part. So for the longest time, it just sat in my to-do pile, while I pondered and waffled and tried to figure out what I could do with it.

As you can clearly see, I finally found the time and inclination to turn it into a very unique purse. The obi remnant was just about the perfect size to make a roomy satchel with a flap closure. My initial plan was to simply sew the back to the front and make a sort of a thin clutch-style bag. I searched for hardware at a few places here in town but wasn’t finding anything I liked. My next plan was to order parts online, but I figured before I did that I would hit up my favourite local thrift store and see if there were any bags I could cannibalise for parts. I found this absolutely perfect beige suede bag with soft gold trim and hardware that just happened to be an exact match to the soft gold in the obi fabric. The bag was under five dollars, which wouldn’t even have been enough to cover the shipping for buying parts online. It was meant to be!

Instead of just sewing the sides shut, I inserted panels from the exterior of the purse. This not only makes my bag look much more finished, it also makes it nice and roomy inside. There was also a rusty orange lining that matched the orange flowers on the obi fabric, so I carefully picked the inside apart and used the inside pockets to give myself a little extra storage and organisation. I also pulled the snap closure off the thrifted purse and inserted it into the fabric, adding a small filigree metal piece and a fabric flower to reinforce the snap closure a bit. The last touch was gluing on some ribbon trim along the top edge of the purse interior, because the fabric is quite old and I was worried about it fraying from the strain.

I couldn’t be happier with how this purse turned out. It’s a great size, my Surface even fits snugly into it for travel. My only concern is that since the obi fabric is quite old, I’m worried about snagging or staining it. If it weren’t for that, I’d be using this bag every day, I think.