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. 

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. 

Origami Ikebana

Sometimes, when you combine two very traditional Japanese art forms, you get something delightfully modern and original – like origami ikebana!

A friend of mine just bought a new condo and is having a get-together this weekend. I wanted to bring her a little something but plants or real flowers were out of the question due to a very clever and curious kitty friend. I tried to think of something I could make that would be bright and cheerful and pet-friendly and it struck me that I could make paper flowers and do a traditional arrangement with them! I made three salmon lilies, two purple flowers that don’t really look like anything specific, and lots of foliage. The centres of the purple flowers are rolled and curled yellow paper, and the lilies have floral wire and pearls. The stems are just floral wire and floral tape. The thin wire gives the lilies some movement, but they can be manipulated into place if necessary. I admit, I did use some glue to attach flowers and foliage to the stems, but most of this arrangement is held together with nothing more than sharp folds and hope!

I’m really happy with it overall. I just hope my friend likes it!