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!

Subtly Spooky

Happy Halloween, everyone! I had tons of fun last year doing a month’s worth of various Halloween coordinations but this month was too busy to devote myself to anything like that. I knew I had to do something though, and that’s where this suitably subtly spooky outfit came from!

The starting point was unsurprisingly the obi. Obi with seasonal, spooky, or gothic motifs tend to be quite popular, and as such, also quite expensive. This one cost me nearly nothing, since it’s the reverse side of an obi I already owned! I found this gorgeous iridescent gemstone skull sticker at a craft store. It’s actually a Martha Stewart brand product, of all things. Once I had the skull, I knew I wanted to decorate an obi with it but I was worried it would be too plain, but then I found a spool of adhesive ribbons and trims and I was all set.

I knew I wanted a fairly plain kimono so that the focus would be on the bling-tastic obi. I waffled over a few choices, debated buying something, and then I remembered I had this little beauty, a gift from the same dear friend who sent me the vintage kakeshita a while back. This piece is quite old, and quite fragile. The silk itself is very clearly sun-damaged, faded in spots, and has several tears and frays where the seams are coming apart. It’s also one of those odd hybrid kimono that we hardly ever see anymore. From a distance, it is (or was, before the fading) a solid uniform purple shade with a single crest, which would place is straight in iromuji territory. But up close, it’s shot through with gold stripes, which is not something you’d generally see in a modern iromuji. Whatever you want to call it, I’m so glad I finally found a way to use it!

The finishing touch for this outfit is a brooch I made a while back with supplies from the very same craft store. It wasn’t made with kimono or any particular event in mind, I was just feeling creative. But it works so well with this outfit, you’d think I’d done it on purpose! I tied everything together with black, red, and dark raspberry pink accessories and came up with what I think is a very spooky but also very wearable coordination!

Are you dressing in kimono this halloween? If so, please share photos!

Furisode Dress Tutorial

Several months ago, some photos started making the rounds of an awesome way to temporarily modify a kimono to wear over a Western-style dress, as a sort of reversible fusion of traditional and modern. I was determined to figure out how to do it, and I think I succeeded quite well back then. While commonly suggested for a wedding, these would also be a really special and unique outfit for a prom, ball, sweet sixteen, quinceañera, or any other event where a ballgown would be worn.

Since then, several people have asked me for a tutorial and I kept getting sidetracked by other projects and my own squirrel brain. The original photos, as well as new ones, are now making the rounds again so it felt like a good time to revisit it and do a proper step-by-step breakdown for you all.

This can be a bit tricky, so if you’re hoping to do it for an event I’d absolutely suggest practising a few times and having someone to help you out.

You will need:

  1. Dress with voluminous skirts
  2. Kimono (furisode work best)
  3. Fukuro obi
  4. Obijime
  5. Obiage
  6. Koshihimo (several)
  7. Kasane-eri (optional)
  8. Accessories (optional)

Other dressing accessories such as an obi-ita, obi-makura, dressing clips, etc, are optional but helpful, depending on what kind of obi musubi you have in mind. Make sure you have everything near at hand, because once you start tying and bustling the kimono it’s not the sort of thing you can pause and walk away from.

Step 1 – A naked mannequin! How scandalous! Seriously though – if you’re dressing a mannequin this is your starting point. If you’re dressing yourself, put on whatever traditional foundation garments you’d wear under your dress. Forget kimono underwear now, just wear something comfortable that won’t show under your gown (unless that’s what you’re going for, in which case, you do you. A harness bra would add a really fun gothic element with the right kimono)

Step 2 – Put your dress on, make sure it’s fully secured and done up. It will be carrying some extra strain, so you want to make sure it fits you properly and won’t go sliding around when you adjust the kimono over top.

Step 3 – This is where things get fun. Pick up your furisode and hold it up in front of you, with the back facing outwards. You’ll be putting it on backwards. Find the centre point of the collar, align it at your sternum. If you want to add a kasane-eri for a bit of colour and contrast, now’s the time. Once you’ve got your kimono arranged across your bust, wrap it around your torso and hold it snug while you tie everything in place with a koshi-himo. Make sure to leave the sleeves free, you will be adjusting them later. This is where a second set of hands definitely helps. If you have someone to hold everything in place for you while you tie the kimono in place, it will be much easier.

Step 4 – Once you have the kimono tied snugly in place, you can start pulling up the excess and folding it over the himo tied at your waist. If you’ve worn kimono traditionally, this part is very similar to adjusting your ohashori. You can have some fun here; there’s no specific length that the kimono has to reach. You can hike the kimono up far enough to show the hem of your dress, or you can have it almost dusting the ground.

Step 5 – Once you have the length determined, arrange the sleeves behind the dress and snugly tie everything in place with another himo. You can arrange the sleeves in the back like this, and it almost forms a train. You can also have them draped around the front like I did with the previous furisode dress, which gives a more youthful vibe, almost reminiscent of an apron or jumper. Have fun and experiment.

Step 6 – Smooth everything out with an obi-ita, and take the time to smooth everything out. If you need an extra koshi-himo or two don’t hesitate to use them. Make sure everything is snug and secure, especially if you’re dressing yourself (or another person) and not a mannequin.

Step 7 – Once everything is good and tight, you can begin wrapping your obi. This part is going to be essentially the exact same as when wearing kimono. Wrap twice around the torso and use the rest to tie your musubi. You can have fun here too; this outfit is so non-traditional you can really go wild with how you tie the obi. For simplicity’s sake I did a sort of bunko variant but there are really no rules here.

Step 8 – Secure the obi with an obijime, make sure it’s good and snug. If you used an obi-makura, hide it with an obiage. Even if you don’t need the obiage, it’s a nice way to add a little more colour and texture to your “dress”. Again, have fun! We’ve broken so many rules by this point there’s no real reason to worry about the others.

Step 9 – Voila! Your new ballgown is ready for the runway, with no modification or damage to the kimono.

I hope this is easy enough to follow along. Feel free to ask for clarification if you need help, and if you attempt this I would love to see photos!

Affordable and Accessible Display Rack

Yesterday evening, yours truly managed to get her finger caught in the exterior door while it was closing. Thankfully nothing is broken, and it was my most useless finger (left hand, pinky) but it’s taped up and quite painful at the moment so unfortunately the Princess Project will be on a short hiatus until likely sometime next week. Thanks for understanding!

Since I can’t dress the mannequin, I figured it would be a good time to share something a little simpler, how I display and photograph my collection. Naomi recently asked me what the rig I used to display my kimono was, so here’s a simple breakdown of what all went into it for those of us who may not have the funds or access to a traditional ikou.

I started with the Honey Can Do expandable garment rack. It has a maximum adjustable width of 60″, and the interior measurement not including the extendable rods was nowhere near wide enough to put a kimono on, so rather than using the included cross-bars, I picked up some 1 1/4″ diameter solid (not extendable) closet rods and cut them to 60″ length. You can do this using a hacksaw but it will take hours, so I recommend a power tool. Ask someone for help if you need to, this isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I also picked up a couple of narrow black tension rods to stabilise the base. I can’t find similar ones online, and these aren’t entirely necessary, they just help the unit look a little more balanced and keep the feet from rotating.

The last step was to make a pair of decorative clips to hold the kimono open during display/photography. I used a pair of inexpensive alligator clips and glued some cute rose cabochons to them to make them a little nicer to look at. You can really be creative here. Fans are a very traditional motif for these clips, but go wild and use anything you like! Once you’re happy with your clips, use some sturdy elastic or nylon thread to attach them to the uprights of the rack. Don’t tie them on too tightly so you can slide them up or down as needed. The top half of the rack can be slid down for storage, and if you make the clips too snug they can get in the way.

To take the photos I’m using in my new visual catalogue, I start by setting up my tripod. I actually use the exact same spot in the house as I use to take the mannequin photos. My backdrop is simply a plain white flat sheet with the top hem carefully sliced open at the ends so I can thread it onto the curtain rod. From there, I just put the rack in place, take my photos, and pack it all up until I need it again.

I hope you found this post helpful if you’re looking for an affordable and accessible solution for display or catalogue purposes! If you make a similar stand, I’d love to see it 🙂

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Art Gallery – Fuji Musume Doll (and repairs)

You may have seen the little souvenir doll I fixed up recently, and maybe even the ceramic hakata-style dancer I refinished, but this pretty Fuji Musume has been waiting for her moment in the spotlight since February of 2016! She had a very brief cameo on my Instagram account but has been in hiding ever since, unless you’ve been in my bedroom.

I found her in an antique shop near my house before I found the other two dolls. The owner tried to tell me she was in “perfect condition”, but once I took her out and had a good look at her I could see that absolutely was not the case. The delicate painting on her face was faded and chipped, her wisteria branch was sun-damaged and brittle, the structure under her hair was almost bleached, and there was a not insignificant crack in the bisque on the back of her neck. I managed to talk him down to a more than reasonable price for her and her glass case. I knew I wanted to restore her beauty, but I had no idea where to start, aside from the obvious things like getting her a new wisteria branch. While that was in the works, I focused on the other dolls and the things I learnt doing those two helped prepare me for more on her.

Jess from Tiaras ‘n Teakettles came to the rescue for the wisteria! I sent her photos and measurements of the original branch and she crafted this beautiful tsumami branch by hand. It’s got a lovely weight to it, the dangles flow gracefully, and it fits perfectly between her hands. I didn’t even have to glue it, it balances so well.

Once that was sorted I knew it was time to tackle the more serious issues. Her lips were lacquered in an almost glassy red that had cracked and split and faded over time. I ended up having to use Tamiya paint thinner to strip the original off properly, and then used watercolours to repaint her lips and add a tiny hint of red to her eyes. I feel like it helps breathe new life into her facial features.

Next up was the most challenging bit; repairing the cracked bisque on the back of her neck. Thankfully it was just a surface defect, not a structural one, and with the way she stands in her display case it’s virtually unnoticeable, but I knew it was there and I wanted to fix it. I tried a few different things before stumbling upon crafting chalk paint. It’s easy to find in any large craft store such as Michaels. I bought a bottle of white and mixed in the tiniest amounts of peach and brown to make it warmer and less stark. I worked in incredibly thin coats, brushing it over the crack and wiping away the excess each time, essentially filling the crack in with the chalk paint and blending the edges out with a wet brush. If you’re right next to her or looking through a camera lens you can see it faintly, but it’s nearly gone.

Finally I used a black marker to fill in the bald spots on the sides of her hairstyle, repositioned her obiage and gave her a new obijime. I felt that the original one she came with was too big in scale and to starkly white, but I found this thinner gold cord that works perfectly.

I am so glad I waited to work on her, because I know I’ve done the best job possible instead of eagerly rushing through things as I am sometimes wont to do. I love her to bits, and she occupies place of pride on a table next to my sofa now.

Also, you may be thinking to yourself “Isn’t this primarily a kimono blog? Why aren’t you posting any actual kimono lately?” and I would like to address that briefly. I’ve been feeling under the weather, and combined with the heat and humidity this summer, I have no energy to even wrestle with the mannequin. However, I do have a big project in the works, and hopefully it will make up for the sparsity and somewhat disjointed nature of the posts lately! I just need the weather to calm down a little, and the last of the pieces I’ve ordered to arrive in the mail.