The Finnish-Ing Touch

Recently, a friend posted that she was going to be de-cluttering her collection and generously giving some of her pieces away. I fell in love with the rich green colour and charming, almost naive design of this houmongi, and somehow managed to claim it before anyone else did. After nearly a month in transit (what is it with me and mail delays lately?!) it finally arrived safe and sound, and I couldn’t wait until I was able to do something with it.

I don’t know if it’s just my imagination, because of where I got it, but there’s something that genuinely feels very Finnish to me about it. It reminds me of some Marimekko designs, or possibly the background of something drawn by Tove Jansson, Can you not picture a Moomin hiding behind one of the trees?

While it will definitely look wonderful with a more classical, elegant coordination (I’m looking forward to pairing it with my gold Tokaido fukuro obi in the future), I knew that initially I really wanted to play up the fun and quirky quality of it. This tachibana obi seemed like a good choice, since it’s got an almost naive, storybook style to it. Pink accessories made the light pink trees in the hem pop, and a gold kasane-eri was the perfect finishing touch to break up all the heavy green up top. I really love how this all came together, and I hope Jenni thinks I did it justice!

Items used in this coordination

Queen Serenity

Eons ago, I found this pretty rhinestone moon-and-star pendant at Michaels, and my mind immediately went to Sailormoon. I’d been trying to figure out how to do an outfit inspired by Queen Serenity, and the other day while chatting with a friend I finally got the spark of motivation I needed. I took inspiration from the Mulan kitsuke I did. The under-dress is the same one. The fact that it matches the kimono so well was a happy coincidence.

I love the soft, flowing layers of the ivory kimono over the ivory dress. I played up the metallic accessories both to evoke the gold ornamentation on the inspiration image and to tie in the pendant that inspired the whole project. I tied the soft gold obi in an improvised bow somewhere between a bunko and a cho-cho musubi, to echo Queen Serenity’s wings. In a perfect world, I’d have a shimmering gold darari obi to get more length and volume to it, but they’re not exactly easy or affordable to get hold of. An obiage that leaned more gold would have also been an improvement over this very yellow-toned one, but again, I used what I had on hand.

One thing I was not expecting is how elegant and wearable this actually looks. I could see this sort of a combination being worn to a wedding, bridging the gap between traditional and modern aesthetics. Heck, I could even see myself considering an outfit like this if I were ever to get married. Not that it’s remotely in the plans or anything XD

Items used in this coordination

Hinamatsuri 2019!

Today is Hinamatsuri (雛祭, doll festival, girl’s day), a day for girls to celebrate, to set up an ornate display of dolls inspired by Heian emperor and empress, and to wish for love and health in the future. I don’t have a proper set of dolls, but I do like to do a small DIY every year and celebrate by making a sweet, girly coordination on the mannequin.

This year I wanted to feature this green obi with pastel designs, and thought this blush pink houmongi with sagara embroidery of a shifuku (silk pouch to protect tea ceremony tools) with a rabbit on it would be perfect. It’s adorable and feminine and the colours play off the obi so well. Rabbits are also commonly used to represent people in their hina-matsuri doll displays, representing a young girl’s wish for a large family when she grows up. The whole outfit feels sweet, girly, and spring-like, which is exactly what I was going for. The blue beaded obijime was chosen to echo the texture of the embroidery on the kimono, and I tied it in a wisteria knot just because I think it looks pretty.

And of course, I couldn’t let hinamatsuri pass without doing some sort of DIY display. I’ve done origami, perler beads, nanoblocks, and illustration. This year I decided to do some adorable sashiko!

Items used in this coordination

Art Gallery – Takarazukushi Motif

Happy March! Spring finally feels like it’s within reach after this miserable winter. Something about the change in the air has got my creative juices flowing. I got the idea for this pattern while stuck at work earlier this week and spent my day off getting it out of my system. I was inspired by the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram motif in both the traditional brown colourway and the neon colours, combined with simplistic kamon-based representations of Takarazukushi (宝尽くし, mixed treasures).

Typically the combined motif has seven of these treasures, and which seven varies from representation to representation, but I couldn’t decide which ones I like best so I drew them all. It was a challenge, but a fun one. They are:

  • nyoihōju (jewel of one’s wishes)
  • kakuremino (cloak of invisibility)
  • kakuregasa (hat of invisibility)
  • chōji (clove)
  • uchide no kodzuchi (fortune-bringing small mallet)
  • hōyaku (treasure key)
  • kinnō (money bag)
  • makimono (scrolls)
  • fundō (counterweight)
  • gunhai (war fan)
  • shippō (seven precious gems)

See if you can figure out which one is which! The three triangles that look like the Triforce from Legend of Zelda is uroko (鱗 fish scales motif), often paired with takara. I wanted something a little simpler and more neutral for the smaller repeat, and think this worked out great.

Feel free to download these patterns and use them as wallpapers (right-click and “Open as new window” to get the large version), phone lock screens, or whatever other personal use tickles your fancy. They’re seamless so they’ll repeat very smoothly. Just please don’t use them on things you plan to sell.

These patterns are available on all sorts of cool products over in my Society6 shop, along with prints of some of my other kimono-adjacent artwork. Please do check them out, it helps the blog out enormously when people buy things from there!

Tea Time – Tea Squared Selection

Today for you I have a great selection of green teas from Tea Squared. They were kind enough to send me a variety of loose-leaf green teas as well as some flavoured matcha latte powders. They’re based in Canada, so if you’re like me and looking for new tea suppliers without having to pay through the nose in shipping and duty, they’re a great place to check out. I’ve been trying them out for a week now, and ready to share my thoughts!

First up, we have the green teas. I wanted to sample a variety of these, to get a feel for the tea in its purest form as well as how it blends with other ingredients.

Sencha Fujiyama – This is a classic loose-leaf sencha tea. I always think teas like this are the best way to tell if a company knows what they’re doing. It’s very easy to mask a mediocre tea leaf with flavours and additives, but in pure form like this the tea itself has to be good, and Tea Squared got it right here. It’s light, fresh, and grassy. The colour is lovely, a bright clear green. If you’re looking for a clean sencha tea to go with everything from meals to sweets, this is definitely worth a shot.

Ryokucha – This is a blend of  sencha  and matcha tea with roasted rice. It adds a wonderful, earthy, toasted note that pairs so well with the light taste of green tea. It’s one of my favourites, and I have several different brands floating around the house. This one compared fantastically to them all. It strikes the perfect balance between the tea and the rice, and makes a great comforting cup.

Sencha Sensation – This is familiar sencha tea with a fun and colourful blend of natural ingredients like fruit, nuts, and pink peppercorns. I was very intrigued by the combination, and very pleased by the results. I was a little worried the tea would get lost under all the strong aromatics, but it’s very well-balanced. It’s a little fresh, a little fruity, and a little spicy. I can’t wait until the weather gets warmer to try this one iced and sweetened with a little honey!

These teas were all great, and I would recommend any of them.

After the classic sencha teas, I tried a couple of their Ma-Cha line of matcha lattes. These are meant to be mixed with a small amount of boiling water to create a sort of concentrate, which is then mixed with steamed or cold milk.

Vanilla Almond Ma-Cha Latte – This one was deliciously sweet but not overpowering. Personally, I noticed the vanilla more than the almond, but that’s not to say the almond wasn’t present – it was definitely noticeable. I made it with the unsweetened cashew milk I had on hand, and it was absolutely delicious. I bet it would be even better with almond milk, but I didn’t have any on hand. Once I’ve gone through the large bag they sent, I’m definitely going to be buying the individual packet size of these to keep at work and for travel.

Naughty Cacao Ma-Cha Latte – This one ended up being much darker than I expected. It looks like a really rich chocolate milk than a matcha drink. Heck, it tastes like a really rich chocolate milk, but with those familiar earthy notes from the matcha that pair incredibly well with the chocolate. I thought the chili would be a gimmick but it’s definitely present, and you can feel a lovely warmth build up in your throat as you drink it. Nothing unpleasant or overwhelming but it definitely makes its presence known. If you’re really not a spice fan, this one might not be for you.

There is one negative with these, minor as it is. You’re probably thinking it. Yes, the lady on the packaging is a little cringe-inducing for anyone familiar with geisha and kimono in general. I suspect she’s from a stock photo site, and I don’t fault the company for using her. I do hope they find a more authentic-looking image if they redo the packaging in the future though.

If you’re looking for an authentic matcha experience, these won’t scratch your itch. However, if you’re looking for a healthy and delicious alternative to some of the drinks at your local coffee-house that has the familiar earthiness of green tea with some interesting overlapping notes, they’re absolutely worth a shot.

 I received this item from the retailer or manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.