Miniature Washitsu Project

One thing you may not know about me is that I am completely fascinated with dollhouse miniatures. I find something incredibly awe-inspiring about tiny, realistic objects. My father and I built a dollhouse for some of my figurines and decorating it with miniature food and accessories was my favourite parts. Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll just browse through online retailers and on eBay, admiring the painstaking detail put into these things.

I’m honestly not sure what put the bee into my bonnet in the first place, but I recently decided I wanted to make a traditional miniature washitsu (Japanese room) diorama, and I wanted to make as much of it from scratch as I possibly could, using found objects or bits and bobs from the dollar store. The room started out as a cardboard mailing box. I covered it with brown craft paper. The roof is more cardboard, covered with pieces of a bamboo beach mat. The tatami mats inside were made out of more beach mat, adhered to foam-core and decorated with washi tape. The wood flooring is popsicle sticks, and the screens are sheer mylar with more popsicle sticks and match sticks. They slide open and closed, too, which I am very proud of! I made the zabuton out of leftover indigo fabric from my recent sashiko project. The table is a coaster and a napkin ring, and the console is the holder for the coasters.

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Most of the food and accessories are Re-Ment miniatures I already owned. The tiny bonsai I made myself, using a beads, and a bottle cap and some washi tape for the containter. The kakemono was printed and adhered to origami paper and toothpicks. The only items I purchased were the tiny geta, the vase (the pussywillows in the vase were made with wire and pearl flower pips), and the adorable little bowl of goldfish. The lighting was a happy accident; I made the two small fixtures and went looking for a small set of LEDs to light them, and found some at the dollar store that came with the adorable red lantern! I had to incorporate it!

It may not be perfect, but overall I’m so happy with how this turned out, and I suspect I will be making more dioramas like this in the future. I’d love to do a dressing room with a tiny tansu at some point!

Kimono Colouring Books

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As you’ve likely heard, colouring books for adults are all the rage right now. They’re a great way to slow down and focus on something tangible in today’s increasingly hurried and digital world. My mother bought herself a couple some time ago and I found myself increasingly curious so I sat down and tried some out. They’re incredibly relaxing, and there is something very rewarding about watching the image you’ve chosen come to life as it fills with vibrant colour.

Of course, I was curious to see if there were any kimono or Japanese image colouring books easily available, and did I ever hit the jackpot! There is a very wide selection of colouring books featuring Japanese patterns, ukiyo-e artwork, and the like. Many of them are published in English and available at most large-scale book-sellers. I’ve been working on all of these books on and off for several months now, which has been ample time to compare them. Hopefully if you’re considering getting into this fun pass-time, these mini-reviews will help you choose a book or two for yourself.

For each book, I tried to test a variety of tools. Inexpensive children’s markers as well as alcohol-based illustration markers, and inexpensive coloured pencils as well as high-end watercolour pencils. In each case, if some particular pencil or marker worked noticeably better or worse, I’ll include a note of that.

 

Michaels’ Creative Inspirations Japanese Designs Colouring Book(s)

This book is marketed as “two books in one“, and while I originally thought that was a bit of a stretch, it’s actually fairly accurate. There are two categories of images in it. One side has ornate patterns and woodblock-style portraits of beautiful women with heavy black borders and filled-in areas. This side of the book results in bold and dramatic end results. If you flip the book over, the other side has more delicate line-work and focuses more on traditional patterns. Both sides are surprisingly accurate when it comes to traditional details and motifs, but there is plenty of room for creative liberty.

The printing in this book is one-sided; the back of each page is blank, which makes it suitable for any lightweight media from coloured pencils to alcohol-based artist markers. It’s also a great bargain, especially if you take advantage of one of Michaels’ frequent coupons or sales.

I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.

Pepin Press Kimono Colouring Book

This book is something special. There are only sixteen pages in it, but each page is acid-free heavyweight watercolour paper, suitable for all types of media. The lines are also printed in very pale grey, which means that once you fill them in the outlines are nearly invisible. When complete, these aren’t just “colouring book pages.” They’re works of art, appropriate for framing and displaying. I tried them out with a combination of watercolour pencils and alcohol markers, and the results are gorgeous.

The images are all faithful reproductions of famous woodcut prints, lush portraits beautiful women dressed in the soft and relaxed kimono style of the Edo era. However, due to the detailed nature and pale outlines, I would not recommend these for people who are only looking for something fun and laid back to colour. These require more patience and finesse, but the final outcome is definitely worth it.

I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.

 

Creative Haven Japanese Kimono Designs Colouring Book

This is a great casual book. It’s quite easy to find and very affordable. The pages are perforated for easy removal and printed only on one side. The paper’s a bit thin and alcohol-based markers do tend to bleed a minuscule amount, but in most cases the outlines cover any overspill. The designs are lovely, ranging from simple portraits of a lone woman in a fairly plain kimono to much more elaborate group shots with very ornate patterns. There’s a fairly wide variety of historical outfits. In a couple, it feels like the artists have taken a bit of creative liberty but there’s nothing painfully inaccurate.

I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.

和のぬりえ帖 (Coloring Book of Traditional Japanese Pattern)

Locating copies of this one may be a bit difficult. It’s available on Amazon Japan (above link) if you’re able to navigate that. My friend Heather purchased this copy for me from the Kinokuniya bookstore in San Francisco.

What little text the book has is in Japanese, but this isn’t really a hurdle since it’s a colouring book. This one is of particular interest to kimono collectors, since each pattern is replicated from an actual katazome stencil. The patterns are wide and varied, from ubiquitous sakura and ume to more esoteric things like bats!

The paper is quite thin and it’s printed on both sides, making it most suitable for coloured pencils. With a light hand, some water-based markers might not bleed through, but alcohol-based markers and watercolour paints are a definite no-go. However, if you’re really determined, you could remove the pages, scan them, and print as many copies as you like! The pages are also printed edge-to-edge which can make it a bit fiddly to colour right near the spine of the book, but it doesn’t detract from the beautiful patterns.

I received this item as a gift.

Japon Eternel (Eternal Japan)

This is more of an art therapy colouring book than the previous ones. It’s full of funky, repetitive-style patterns and mandalas and bold, graphic interpretations of traditional Japanese imagery.  It’s got everything from maiko to torii gates to tentacles! It may not always be accurate, but in the case of this one accuracy isn’t really the point. It’s fun pop art. It’s also much smaller than all the previous books, which makes it great to toss into a handbag or backpack. The pages are perforated and printed on both sides, which makes it most suited to coloured pencils. I even used good old-fashioned Crayola crayons to do a couple, since the areas are so large and bold.

I received this item as a gift.

 


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Happy Hina-matsuri!

Today is 雛祭り or Hina-matsuri! Literally translated as doll festival, it’s also referred to as Dolls Day or Girls Day. Dolls representing the Emperor and Empress (and, should you have the space and budget, also members of the court) are set out on a display and people pray for the happiness and health of any girls in the household.

Originally, I had planned to do a coordination on Tsukiko, something girly and pastel and princessy, but that idea got a bit derailed today. I might give it a shot tomorrow.

Instead, I remembered I had a new kimono doll post in the works, and figured what better day to finish it up and post it than today? These kimono dolls posts continue to be some of the most popular features on this blog if my back-end statistics are to be believed. I’m glad people enjoy them as much as I do. Especially with my health issues, and living in a country where it can go from -40 to +40 in the span of a few months, these dolls give me a way to enjoy coordinating and experimenting with kimono in a way nothing else can. Kimono and wafuku continue to grow in popularity and their presence is becoming more and more mainstream, which means lots of fun new dolls to play with! Here are a few recent ones I’ve found and particularly enjoyed.

cde-seikoSeiko Dressup - A very cute, chibi-style doll with lots of wardrobe options. She's got a selection of traditional and hime-style outfits, and the option to mix and match top and bottom halves. There are accessories to play with and you can change her makeup, but the doll base is fixed.
cherry bloom girlCherry Bloom Girl - A fairly decent selection of kimono, obi, accessories, and hairstyles. However, not all accessories fit with all hairstyles, and not all obi fit with all kimono. Still quite pretty and fun to play with though.
coupleRoyal Couple - Cute graphics, and lots of pretty options for the Empress, but I feel like the Emperor was an afterthought. He's got way less options, and most of his outfits feel more like yukata than courtly wardrobe, so there's a bit of a disconnect when the two are together.
japanese girlJapanese Girl - Despite the name, the doll in this game doesn't strike me as very Japanese-looking. She's pretty though. There are a few hairstyles to choose from, and ten kimono. However, the kimono and obi are connected, so there's not a huge amount of mix-and-matching here.
kitcuteKit the Kimono Designer - This is one of the best new kimono dress-up/creator games I've seen in a long time. It's got a very sweet hand-drawn art style and a ton of customisation! You can customise all aspects of the doll base and then create hundreds of possible kimono variations by mixing a huge selection of colours and patterns. Be careful with this one; it would be very easy to lose track of time while playing with it!

I also made my own origami Obina (emperor) and Mebina (empress) origami dolls. You may have seen them already if you follow me on Instagram, but here is a better photo.

hina

Heart Obijime Knot Tutorial

Recently, someone posted a photo of this adorable heart-shaped obijime knot in a Facebook group I’m in. I fell in love and decided I would figure out how to tie it, and it’s surprisingly simple! It works best with a slightly longer than average round obijime. The one I used has contrasting colours which looks very sweet and also makes the tutorial easier to follow, I hope.

Step 1 – Begin with a standard obijime knot (if you occasionally have trouble with this, don’t fret! A lot of folks do. This tutorial is a great place to start).
Step 2 – With the long ends of the obijime coming out of the top of the knot, tuck them down behind the cord around your waist.
Step 3 – Make loops with the long ends and bring them back up behind the central knot.
Step 4 – Bring the long tails in front of the obiime and through the loops made in Step 3.
Step 5 – Tighten and adjust the loops and tails as need be until everything is nice and snug and in the right shape. Cross the tassels over each other, and voila! A sweet heart knot, perfect for Valentine’s Day!

I hope that was easy for you to follow. If you try this knot, I would love to see it. Please feel free to post photos or links in the comments. ♥

A quick taste of things to come

Not a huge post today, I just wanted to give you guys a little sneak peek of a few things I’ve got in the works. I’ve recently received some really great books I’m going to be reviewing, and today I found a beautiful Fuji Musume doll at a second-hand shop, and I’m going to be taking better photos of her soon! I was just very eager to share. Sorry for the terrible phone camera shots.