Say Hello to Akane!

Everyone, please say hello to Akane!

I found this little lady on a shelf at my favourite vintage shop. She’s not particularly old; she’s made of a sort of soft vinyl instead of ceramic and gofun, and seems relatively mass-produced. Nonetheless I was utterly charmed by her and knew I had to bring her home. I was drawn immediately by her bright red kimono, which inspired me to name her Akane (茜), which means deep red and is a traditional girls’ name.

Unfortunately that kimono was pretty much all she had! There was a piece of cardboard wrapped in pink satin tied around her waist like a sort of obi, and a scraggly little piece of twine in her hair, but she had no real accessories or anything, so I decided to make her some custom pieces as well as give her a bit of a glow-up. I did take photos of the whole process, but since it was done more to relax and unwind I took the photos on my phone, wherever I happened to be working so I apologise for the quality and messy background of some of these.

Her face shape is adorable, but it felt very flat due to a lack of shading. She did have some pink blush on her cheeks but aside from that, she honestly looked like a cute potato. She also had lower eyelashes but no upper ones, and nearly invisible eyebrows. Using a combination of actual cosmetics and chalk pastels I gave her some shadows and contouring, deepened the flush on her cheeks, and gave her eyelashes and more defined eyebrows. It’s a subtle change, but she’s gone from a potato to a peach. You can also see the false eri I sewed for her to give the impression of a proper under-layer.

Next up was fixing her hair. Her bangs were quite uneven, but much worse was her hair in the back. I’m not sure if someone tried to trim her hair at some point or if she was made this way, but her hair was very lopsided in the back! I straightened it out and snipped away any broken or kinked hairs I could find. Then I tucked these cute little plum blossoms Kansai_gal sent me. They’re actually from packaging or something but I like that I’ve given them a second life. Since her head is vinyl I was able to just push a straight pin through them and they’re very solidly anchored in there.

With the cosmetic aspects taken care of, I got to work giving her a proper obi. I used some scrap kimono fabric and sewed a cute little tsuke-obi, and used some of the same textured white fabric from the eri to make an obiage. The whole thing attaches with a magnet and then a length of gold cord works as an obijime. Her socks are a bit of a cheat – they’re simply two fingers off a pair of white cotton polishing gloves! They fit her more perfectly than anything I could have sewn.

I’ve never named a doll I’ve fixed up before, but none of them have captivated me nearly as much as this little girl has. All the others reside in a display cabinet but she lives on my bedside table. Maybe I should sew a little zabuton for her to sit on. XD

Tea Time – DIY Floral Tea Blend

Today I have something a little different for you guys! You all know I love tea, and I love flowers, so this nifty DIY floral tea bag project on the FTD By Design blog was right up my alley. This is a great way to make a custom tea blend that’s perfectly suited to your tastes. With Mother’s Day coming up here in North America, these would make a really unique gift!

The post has some great selections of food-safe dried flowers to work with. I actually had a harder time finding some of them than I anticipated, oddly enough. I’d suggest hitting up bulk food stores and organic speciality stores.I chose to start with a base of the wonderful organic sencha tea the lovely folks over at Tea Forte sent me, and added dried rosebuds and hibiscus blossoms. I remembered we had some dried lavender from our garden and decided to add a little of that too.

The DIY includes incredibly thorough instructions on how to make your own tea bags using items you probably already have at home, and offers some super cute printable tags. Personally, I’m in favour of loose tea, and prefer not to create more single-use waste, so I chose to print one of the adorable tags and package the tea in a mason jar. However, if you’re taking it to the office or offering it as gifts, the DIY bags would be a fantastic idea.

The tea blend I made was really nice, the florals didn’t overpower the earthiness of the green tea but they were definitely noticeable. It also turned a really pretty pink colour. I’m glad I made a bunch of it, and I can’t wait to steep myself another cup.

Thank you to FTD for sharing this tutorial. I hope you check it out and have fun as well!

DIY Sanjuhimo Tutorial

While not necessary, a sanjuhimo (三重紐, triple string) is one of those tools that is an enormous help when making big ornate furisode obi-musubi. They can be a little hard to find online, especially if you’re only able to use English-language sites, although KimonoPoncho on Etsy often has them for sale.

Today was a damp, dreary day and I’m feeling a little under the weather with no energy to go out or do anything big so it was a good time to do a little crafting. I thought it would be pretty straightforward to make my own, and I was right! If you’d like to make your own, just keep reading.

You will need

  1. 2.5cm(1″) wide durable non-stretch trim – I used rug-binding tape, which works very well
  2. 2.5cm(1″) wide elastic
  3. Strong thread – I used cotton-wrapped polyester
  4. A strong sewing needle
  5. Scissors
  6. Measuring tape or guide

 

  • Measure out three pieces of elastic 25cm (10″) long, and two pieces of the non-stretch tape 60cm(24″) long.
  • Thread your needle with a doubled length of thread for extra reinforcement.
  • Overlap the three pieces of elastic and one piece of cotton tape by roughly 2.5c(1″).
  • Using small stitches, sew the pieces together using a square shape with an X in it. Since this will be pulled taut and supporting the obi, you want to make sure the tension is spread across a wider area than a single line.
  • Repeat this step with the other tape and other ends of the elastic, so you now have three strips of elastic in the centre of a long band of cotton tape.

That’s all there is to it! Simply tie the sanjuhimo around the top of your obi, like you would with an obi-makura, and have fun experimenting. For some really great video tutorials using a tool like this, check out さんさんmama on YouTube. If you make one and use it, I’d love to see!

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! – Giveaway now closed 01/09/2018

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 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.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.