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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O-Hanami & Taiko at the Montreal Botanical Gardens

On Sunday, a few members of the Montreal kimono club got together at the Montreal Botanical Gardens to have our own little O-hanami. The climate here isn’t ideal for sakura, but we’ve got lots of crabapples which look almost as lovely and are almost as transient and ethereal.

I had a blast. We met lots of awesome people, posed for a bunch of photos, and generally had a great time. Although it was slightly marred by me tripping at one point and pulling the hanao out of my zori. I spent the bulk of the day walking in tiny awkward steps, gripping my shoe with my toes to prevent falling off. Eventually I just gave up and walked around in my tabi, since they’d gotten dirty when I tripped initially. A bit gauche, I know, but better than spraining something. Especially since I’m still recovering from falling down the stairs a few weeks back.

This post is going to be incredibly image-heavy, because everything was lovely and also we’re a bunch of silly people who like to ham things up. Click through for kimono, taiko drumming, and a lovely ikebana show!

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Review – Musubi Diary & Pen Case

I have a little something different for you today! From Musubi Atelier, a set of absolutely gorgeous diary and pen case. They are crafted from an assortment of Japanese fabrics with traditional motifs and colours, and the notebooks are filled with unlined Japanese paper that’s incredibly delicate and smooth but still somehow durable. It’s really a work of art. Even the presentation packaging sleeve is solid and high-quality, and feels luxurious. It makes me a little bit sad that the pen case wasn’t packaged similarly, but it doesn’t detract from the item itself.

I chose the Maneki Neko motif journal in Murasaki (purple) and a coordinating pen case in Murasaki Seigaiha. They’re not a matched set, per se, but they do look lovely together. For the journals, there are lots of patterns available, from more mature and subdued geometrics to cuter motifs like rabbits and owls. Currently, the pen cases are only available in different colours of seigaiha, but there may be more options in the future.

One of the most amazing things about Musubi, however, is not the style or quality of their merchandise. It’s their mission, their ethics, and their craftspeople. You can read their entire story and statement on their website, but here is the most touching and important bit.

Our twin operations in Singapore and Indonesia exemplify our philosophy of direct impact: in Singapore, our bookmaking atelier employs only persons with physical and intellectual disabilities, providing them the employment stability and opportunities they previously lacked. In Indonesia, we train women from abusive family backgrounds in the same high-tech methods used to make our pen cases, providing them the skillset necessary to gain financial independence and escape their unfavourable circumstances.

My journal even came with an insert signed by the person who made it, which I think is an amazing touch.

One caveat – these items are not cheap. The journals vary from approximately $80 USD to approximately $130 USD and the pen cases are approximately $65 USD (these are estimates, as site prices are listed in Singaporean dollars and the exchange may vary). These are not “buy a few and throw one in your handbag” notebooks, they are meticulously hand-crafted works of art. They would make a beautiful gift for an important milestone like a graduation, a new job, a wedding, or an important anniversary. You’re paying for fantastic quality and very high-end materials, and more importantly, you’re bringing a better quality of life to the artisans who make them.

 I purchased this item at a discounted price for honest review purposes. 

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. 

Kurotome & Jacket Experiment

Last October, amazing and modern kimono stylist Akira put out Akira Times – Wafuku Anarchist, a book of his work. On the cover is a gorgeous woman in a fantastic, punk-feeling kitsuke with a leather jacket over top. Needless to say, I fell in love immediately. I knew I wanted to try something similar, but somehow never got around to it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was reminded by Nichole Fiorentino, who also does some utterly gorgeous and aspirational kimono styling, when she posted older photos of her doing a similar kitsuke with holographic accessories and a holographic leather jacket. I knew the time had come for me to do a kurotme & jacket experiment of my own!

Amusingly enough, the jacket itself came from another dear friend named Nicole, and it’s one of my favourite things in my wardrobe. I knew I wanted to use it, instead of a plain black one, so I chose this vintage kurotome because of the similarities in colour accents, and the flower motifs. I figured since I was already doing something “wrong” I could just throw caution to the wind and have a little fun. I pulled out some really bold accessories, and went with the narrow band of my hakata tsuke-obi since the back would be hidden anyway, and it helped to reduce bulk under the jacket.

While I can’t say whether or not I’d ever be confident enough to wear something like this out in public, I do think the experiment was ultimately very successful and I’m glad I did it!

Items used in this coordination

(and one epic jacket!)