Back to the Classics

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It feels like sometimes I get so caught up in my kitsuke experimentation, be it kimono-as-costumes, turning a kimono into a ballgown, steampunk hime-styles, or one of the other multitudes of things I’ve done lately, that I forget about the timeless simplicity that drew me to kimono in the first place. So for this outfit, I decided to go in a very clean and traditional direction that’s all about the little details. I paired up my sagara embroidery tsukesage with an obi I got in the infamous obi bundle and hadn’t used yet. Accessories were plain and classic, a casual obijime that reflects the colour of the kimono and an obiage that adds a little bit of sweetness while still being quiet and discreet. This obi’s motif placement is very strange, and I had to cheat a fair bit while tying it, but isn’t that what mannequins are for? 😉

I doubt I’ll be reaching for this obi again any time soon, which is a shame because the soft embroidered details on it are so pretty. It’s just too much of a nuisance.  But I very am glad I decided to drag these two pieces out of storage and do something with them. I’m working on a bunch of new stuff behind the scenes, so this may be the last outfit post for a few weeks. I’m glad it’s one I’m proud to leave on the mannequin.

Items used in this coordination

Back to School, Meiji-Style!

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I have always loved the look of the traditional Meiji/Taisho era schoolgirl outfits; the youthfulness of the hakama, the timeless feel of the yagasuri kimono, the modern and almost masculine touches of little leather ankle boots. When I splurged on this teal hakama a few months back, I’d imagined pairing it with my red and white yagasuri komon. What I hadn’t thought of was including this vintage taffeta haori I love to death, but as soon as I saw the three pieces sitting together in a pile I knew I’d found the perfect finishing touch to this outfit and with lots of schools starting this week, it seemed like an ideal time to pull it all together.

I knew I wanted to use a black obi to help anchor everything, but I don’t actually own a black hanhaba obi. Thankfully, because I was just dressing the mannequin, I could fudge things a little. I used the waist part of a two-piece tsuke-obi and a big obi-makura in the back to give the hakama something to anchor to. The plum motif of the haneri might not be totally seasonally appropriate for a “back to school” outfit, but the colours felt so right I had to run with it.

Aside from the haori (which is incredibly narrow, even by vintage standards), these pieces are all quite large which means I can totally fit into them. The hakama especially makes it easier and more comfortable for me, so expect to see this coordination on yours truly at some point in the near future. A cute pair of ankle boots would make things easy and still be appropriate to the ensemble. I just need to invest in a proper black hanhaba obi and then find somewhere to go and hope that the cooperates!

Items used in this coordination

Baby’s First Sashiko

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Growing up, all the women in my family did (and still do) some sort of textile-based crafting. Needlepoint, embroidery, knitting, crochet; you name it, my mother, aunt, cousins, grandmothers, etc, were probably skilled in it. I’ve done some needlepoint in my life, but generally I’ve never had the knack for this sort of thing… until now!

My friend Carol (of KimonoMomo on Etsy and the Ardent Thread blog) recently set up a crowdfunding project to help fund a trip to Japan to meet with textile artisans and as a thank-you for contributing, she sent me this nifty sashiko kit. Included was a large piece of rough indigo, two pieces of beautiful quilting cotton with parasols, and three skeins of coordinating thread. What I loved about this project was that theres’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. It inspires a great deal of creativity and freedom, which is what I think was missing from my previous attempts at any sort of needlepoint craft.

When I opened the package, I knew I wanted to feature the parasols centrally, so I cut a few of them out of the fabric and appliquéd them onto the indigo fabric. I spent some time looking up different styles of sashiko stitching and then decided that I would fill the background with “clouds” of differing stitches and colours. Initially I was going to do each segment in a different pattern but I worried it might look too busy and stuck to two – one following the print on the base fabric, and one of seigaiha (waves). I loved how organically the whole thing came together, and whenever something didn’t quite work out I could simply undo it and try something else. I also chose to accent the ferrule of each parasol with a little pink quartz, and threw a few other random beads into the background to add a little texture and interest.

 

Overall, I am utterly thrilled with how my first sashiko project came together. It was very relaxing, challenging enough to keep my interest without being frustrating, and the end results are totally unique. I think they’ll make beautiful gifts full of love and meaning, and they’re very soothing to do. I’m certain this won’t be my last one! If you’re looking to get into sashiko yourself, Carol’s Etsy shop has a fantastic selection of needles, threads and fabrics, as well as a wealth of knowledge to share.

I received this item as a backer perk for a project or product that was crowd-funded (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, etc)

Traveling down the Tokaido Road

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This is an entry that’s been a long time in coming. It may get a bit verbose, and I apologize. If you’re not interested in personal ramblings and art-related discussion, feel free to skip it.

My interest in kimono stemmed from an interest in traditional Japanese aesthetic in general, which I believe I inherited from my grandmother. I have always been fond of traditional woodblock prints; landscapes in particular.

The Tokaido Road is a highway connecting the New Capital, Edo (tokyo), with the Old Capital, Kyoto. There are 53 famous way-stations along this road, plus the start and end points. Edo-era artist Hiroshige Ando became so enamored of the views of these stations that he produced several series of prints, known as the “Stations of the Tokaido“. There are four editions of these, each from slightly different vantage points and during different times of year. The most famous, however, is the Hoeido Edition, and is the one I will most often be referencing here.

About a year ago, I found an obi on Ichiroya of a snow-covered cabin in the mountains. As soon as I saw it, I felt an immense pull and a desperate desire to have it. As I’ve mentioned before, my best friend lives in Colorado, and I often go visit him (sometimes buying kimono while I’m there), and I initially chalked the nostalgia the obi made me feel to my love of the mountains there. Naomi‘s darling husband Arian took pity on me and my obsessive infatuation, and bought me the obi as a gift.

The more I thought about it though, the more visually and emotionally familiar it felt. It took me a while, and a great bit of help from Erica, it finally hit me. It was a creative interpretation of Station 15, Kambara, with the people removed.

This discovery, unfortunately, created a torrent I’ve since been unable to stop. I dove headfirst into more detailed research of the Stations of the Tokaido, mostly on the internet, but in my own bookshelves as well. I’d actually purchased books about Hiroshige years before, and one that’s always come in handy is Hiroshige In Tokyo, by Julian Bicknell. Armed with a new wealth of information and a new obsesson, I dove in. I made the unfortunate discovery that these prints are a fairly popular motif for kimono and related items – obi in particular. With that knowledge in hand, I have begun to amass a “collection within a collection,” if you will.

Since that first obi, I have acquired several more, and a decorative dance fan. My ambition is to eventually have items with all the stations on them, but that is a long-term goal for when I have much more expendable income!

I am not sure, but I believe this is an interpretation of Station 14, Yoshiwara. As always, if you have further information or can read the text on it, by all means let me know.

This one is also very special to me – I have mentioned before my love of hakata, so when I found an obi that was both hakata weave and several stations, I knew I had to have it. I saved up, and the day I was ready to purchase it, someone I know online bought it for herself. I’m not going to lie, I was devastated. Through her own kindness, and the helpfulness of Yuka at Ichiroya, the obi found its way to me. I love it to bits. It contains stations Kuwana, Mariko, and Hakone.

The last obi is another one of Hakone. I already had the hakata one at this point, but I loved the soft pastel colours on this one and it was a bargain, so I couldn’t pass it up.

The last item I currently own is not an obi, but rather a nice, solid dance fan. It has the starting point (or station 0 if you will), Nihonbashi Bridge.

I am, in fact, so obsessed with this that I am currently coveting a particular nail polish – NARS Tokaido Express. Those of you who know me well are aware that I also have a passion for doing my nails and ferreting away a huge collection of nail polishes (I have over 200 at this point). When I found this polish, I knew I had to have it! The fact that it’s a gorgeous rich espresso brown with purple and gold shimmer doesn’t help! Unfortunately, it’s an expensive designer brand and actually more expensive than several of my cheaper kimono! I will have it eventually though! Probably much sooner than the kimono-related goal.

If you would like to learn more about Hiroshige or purchase prints of his work, please check out the Utagawa Hiroshige page on Artsy.