Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Thrifty Kitsuke (Part 2)

Welcome back to Tips and Tricks Tuesday, where  you can expect to find a wide range of tips and curios that might not otherwise have a forum in my regular crafting or kitsuke posts.

I missed posting this last week as I was recovering from an absolutely amazing experience at Clockwork Alchemy. To anyone who has found this blog after attending my panel, 'Don't be That Gaijin,' welcome!

As I mentioned in my last installment, I've been a long-time fan of thift-store shopping, for day-to-day wearables as well as more unique treasures. I've had a lot of luck in finding kimono and accessories in thrift stores, but I know that not everyone has time or luck, so I thought that I would spend a little more time this week talking about finding kimono in online venues.

You won't be able to handle the garments as you would if you found them in person, so you have to rely on the information the seller provides to determine if the garment will fit. For this to be a successful venture, you need a little information beforehand, specifically, your own measurements.

To get the best, most accurate measurements, have a friend help you figure out the following: Height, 'Wingspan' (the distance from wrist to wrist across back with arms outspread), and Hip Circumference. Make note of these measurements in both inches and centimetres, as not all sellers will list measurements in both systems. Once you have these, you're ready to venture deeper into the web to find your own kimono.

A quick google search will show you that you can buy kimono (or garments calling themselves kimono) from a multitude of places. Amazon has listings for kimono, for instance, but many of these will likely be of synthetic material and more appropriate for use as a dressing robe than wearing out in public. If you are looking for more authentic garments but are not ready to go down the etsy/ebay rabbit hole, I recommend starting your search at Kimono Flea Market Ichiroya.

Ichiroya has 15 years of experience in selling kimono on line. They are very thorough with their documentation of any stains or flaws in their pieces and the information is always clear. New items are added almost daily, so there is always something different to see. They are based in Japan, so shipping might be a little pricey, depending on where you are, but there is no doubt that you can buy from them with confidence.

Another kimono-exclusive vendor from whom I have received excellent service is Ai no Kimono. This is run by a kimono enthusiast living in South Korea. Updates are not as frequent as Ichiroya, but the quality is always well documented, and the vendor is very easy to communicate with. I have made purchases from her in the past (this is where I found my bat komon hitoe), and I was absolutely delighted with the service.

If you are feeling adventurous, then ebay or etsy might be the place for you. I would still recommend having a good look at Ichiroya, though, because their listings can be an education in kimono vocabulary and will give you a better idea of terms you might want to use to refine  your searches. They are also the best example of the sort of information you want to find from a trustworthy kimono vendor.

I would like to stress this last point because your success with ebay or etsy is going to rely on the fact that you can not only refine what you're searching for, but be able to recognize authentic kimono from 'silk robe.' Sellers will tag or title items with a myriad or descriptors that might not have anything to do with what you're looking for-- they're just trying to get as much visibility as possible. Even if you are searching for specific terms like 'yukata' you may come up with things that sellers have mis-identified, or accessories that go WITH yukata, like han-haba obi.

Beyond what I mentioned above, both ebay and etsy have pros and cons when it comes to kimono shopping, even once you have found some items of interest. With ebay, you have the chance of finding quality garments for a lower price, whether the listing be auction style or 'buy it now.' It's more likely that in this venue, you will then be contending with shipping from overseas which can sometimes cost as much, if not more than what you paid for the garment itself-- and can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to arrive.

On etsy, I have found that the price is likely to be a little higher to start,but your only option is to buy, rather than bid, so you don't have to worry about being out-bid. You will still be contending with shipping, but that shipping may be from within your home country, so you won't have to wait nearly as long for your item to arrive.

I have had a great deal of success in acquiring garments and accessories from both ebay and etsy at what I consider to be bargain prices (remember, if you buy several items, the seller will often reduce the shipping cost!). My success has a lot to do with patience, diligent searching, saving sellers whose offerings I like and service I trust, and waiting for items to be on sale. With the pointers I've offered, I'm sure that you, too, can expand your own kimono collection to suit your tastes, and not hurt your wallet (too much).

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Crafting: Hadajuban (Part 4)

Welcome to the Workspace Wednesday crafting series. This week, we're concluding our inaugural project, sewing a hadajuban. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here, and here. Part 3 can be found here.

This week, we're going to pick up with finishing the neckline of the garment, and we'll also cover final steps for finishing! After today,  you should be able to complete your own hadajuban! This week's entry is a little lengthy, but I didn't want to stretch this out for another week, so let's get started!

The instructions in the Folkwear pattern are very clear for the stay-stitching. I recommend starting at the bottom of the slant on the left overlap (because of how the fabric will feed through a standard machine) with the recommended 1/2" seam allowance. As you approach the the beginning of the neck, you'll want to ease that seam allowance out to 3/4" and by the time you hit the back and are headed towards the back seam, you will want to be at a full 1" for your seam allowance. Stay at 1" across the back of the neck opening until it's time to ease around that curve into 3/4" and then back down to 1/2" for the rest of the front of the body and overlap.

You should be able to make out the curving guideline of stitches. Getting a neat curve can take some practice.

If your sewing machine does not have guidelines going up to a full inch, you can use a small ruler and put down a line of masking tape to mark where the edge of your fabric will be when it is an inch from the needle. This has been an invaluable marker on my own sewing machine, given how often I find myself needing it for projects like this.

Once that line is in place, we are ready to really diverge from the pattern and set down our bias-binding finish for the neck edge!

For this, you will want double-fold bias binding. You can use a complimentary or contrasting color-- no one but you is likely to ever see this. I like using the double-fold bias binding because it keeps all of the edges clean and is actually a little easier to ease around the curve of the neckline because of the slightly stretchy nature of fabric cut on a bias. You should only need one pack if you aren't making the binding yourself, but it's better to get two, just in case.

Open double-fold bias binding pinned along the stay-stitched guideline

When you first open your bias binding, you should note that one edge is slightly wider from fold to end than the other side. You'll want to use the fold that is closest to the narrower side as your guideline for pinning. This will make our final finishing steps a little easier. If you can't tell, or it seems the the folds are equidistant, then don't worry, the bias binding will still do it's job.

Pinned bias binding eased around the curve.
You're going to be applying the bias binding all the way around the same area as  you would be applying a regular collar-- along the sloped edges of the overlaps and around the neck. The straightaway isn't a problem, but that pesky neckline curve is. You can do a preliminary pinning, starting at one end and working around to check how much of the binding you'll need, remembering to leave a little extra at each end to tuck into themselves to finish.

For the actual pinning, you'll want to be sure to open one side of your bias binding. The fold-line is going to be what you line up with the stay-stitching, as you can see in the photos above. Start with the center of your length of bias binding, and pin to the center back of your hadajuban, right sides together (the valley of the fold will be facing up, so that when it's sewn down, you can fold it towards the edge of the fabric, then around to finish). I like to pin working from the center around to one side, and then from the center to the other side.

By starting from the center and working out, you have a lot more play in the fabric to ease around that curve. You want all of the fabric to sit flush, without any tucks, wrinkles or folds getting caught. It sounds very counter-intuitive to be able to take a straight piece of fabric and work it around a curve without folding, but it's totally doable!

First seam is done! You can see a few stitches peeking out, but this is pretty normal and they are easy to remove with a seam ripper. Remember, those were just there to be a guideline.

Once you have your first seam done, fold the bias binding up to check for any tucks or folds that may have gotten into your seam, particularly at the curve of the neckline. If all you're seeing are a few little stitches like the ones above, you're doing great! Those stitches can be picked out, by the way-- they're not integral to the structure of the garment. Just be careful that you don't rip the fabric when you pick out the stitches.

Next, we're going to trim the excess fabric from our neckline. Trim carefully, and leave at least 1/4" inch of fabric in your seam allowance-- you don't want to risk getting too close and cutting into the seam you just sewed. This does mean that you will be trimming more fabric away from the back of the neck than you will be from the front, because of where the stay-stitching guideline ran.

Trimming excess from seam allowance.

Next, we're going to fold our bias binding over to hide all of these trimmed edges to give our hadajuban neckline a more finished look. Because the bias-binding has folds already pressed in, it will fold back on itself quite neatly. Remember to tuck the little bit of excess that you should have left at the ends back on itself before pinning closed. This way, you won't have raw edges at the bottom of your neckline. If you forgot to leave excess, don't worry-- this is underwear, after all.

Using the 'stitch in the ditch' method for an invisible seam on the right side of the garment.
Once the bias binding is pinned down (the image above shows the right side of the garment up, with pins on the inside. This is not ideal for pin removal during sewing, but this is what I usually wind up doing anyway.) you have two options. You can sew the bias binding down with the wrong side facing up, so that you can be sure you are catching the folded edge in your seam, or you can utilize the method in the photograph above.

At the top of this post, I suggested looking for a slightly narrower side to the bias binding and using that to pin down. All that comes into play here-- by having that wider edge folded over, it should overlap the original seam by just enough that you can 'stitch in the ditch,' running the needle very carefully in the space where the two fabrics meet, and catching the folded edge on the reverse side. This method offers a much cleaner finish on the right side of the garment, but it can be tricky. Pin carefully and sew slowly, and you shouldn't have any trouble. Once you've sewn the length of the collar, be sure to turn it over and check for any places where the needle didn't catch the bias binding.

Now that the neckline finishing is done, we can finish this garment!

Sleeves are Step 3 in the Folkwear pattern and I mentioned early on in this project that the sleeves were optional for the hadajuban. If you decide not to attach any, you'll need to figure out how wide you want your arm opening to be (you can use the marks on the Folkwear pattern as a guideline) and finish that area in a manner similar to how the overlaps were finished before sewing your side seams.

If you do decide to attach sleeves, you can still use many of the steps outlined in the pattern. The biggest difference is that we're making tube-sleeves, not kimono sleeves for the hadajuban. You'll want to finish one edge of each sleeve with a hem, and this can be done before attaching the sleeves to the body of the garment so that they are easier to manage.

Your other option for finishing your sleeves is to attach them to the body first, then sew your tube closed. In the photo below, you can see how this hem catches the seam allowance so that it is not sticking up like a little tab.

Hemming tube sleeves with 1/4" hem, similar to how the overlaps were finished.
This will definitely give a cleaner finish to the sleeves, but it can be a little tricky if your sewing machine does not have a drop plate to accommodate the sewing of sleeves.

After your sleeve is attached (or not!) all that remains is the side-seam and hem! These fall under step 4 of the Folkwear pattern. As this is an undergarment and should have minimal seam allowances, we don't need to worry about the finishing notes that the pattern gives. A simple seam at your usual seam allowance will do the trick.

Once the side seams are done, you'll want to head back to the ironing board to press the side and back seams open, and to make sure the overlap seams are pressed towards the overlap. This will reduce bulk in your hem when you go to sew and helps the garment to have a more even drape overall.

For my hadajuban, I pressed up about 1" for the first fold in my hem. All pressing for hems should be done to the wrong side of the fabric so that the folds are not visible from the outside.

Unfinished hem

Next, I made a little triangular fold, bringing the bottom edge of the outside fold even with the inside unfinished edge. Repeat this for the other overlap edge.

Fold one in creating a neater hem.

To finish the hem, brought the folded edge to the wrong side of the garment, all the way across the bottom, again using 1 inch for my guideline.

The angular fold keeps unfinished edges away from the outside edge and creates a cleaner, more finished appearance overall.
Once you have pressed and sewn this hem, your hadajuban will be completed!

If you have followed along for this project, I would love to see some of your own completed works. If you have any questions that will help you finish your garment, I would be happy to help you with those as well!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Thrifty Kitsuke (Part 1)

Welcome back to Tips and Tricks Tuesday, where  you can expect to find a wide range of tips and curios that might not otherwise have a forum in my regular crafting or kitsuke posts.

I've been a long-time fan of thift-store shopping. It's amazing what sort of treasures can be found if one has the patience to look. It's always a bit of a gamble, as thrift stores are reliant upon the people who make donations, but with patience and perseverance, some really quality items can be added to any wardrobe. I know that I'm not the only one who thinks so, too. Tami, over at Thrift Shop Commando, is one blogger I found during the A-to-Z Blog Challenge, who has a lot of fun with her thrifting adventures and was partially responsible for my inspiration to do this post.

Accessories that can be adapted for kitsuke are certainly the most easy to find, but even kimono and obi can be found in thrift stores. Finding these will take a sharp eye and some knowledge of how garments are likely to be sorted, as well as frequent trips. Turn-over of items can be fairly quick in some thrift stores, depending on region and the sorts of donations the stores have to work with in the first place.

The easiest additions to find in a thrift store are accessories. Sheer or lightweight scarves can be used as obi-age, and these can be found practically everywhere, at any time of year.

Fans and handkerchiefs can also quite easy to find, and are very useful. They may not be directly kimono related, but if I am out in kimono, I am always carrying at least three different handkerchief with me (and I explain why here!). Fans, too, are a lovely accessory to kimono and in the summer months I am always sure to take one with me.

Another accessory to look for in your thrifting excursions are geta and zori. Spring and summer are generally the best time to look for these as many thrift stores are usually savvy enough to rotate seasonal stock. As these are shoes with a familiar shape to many people (think flip-flops), they have a broader appeal outside a kimono-wearing audience and are therefore more likely to show up in a thrift store.

More difficult to find, but not outside the realm of possibility are kimono, haori, and obi. The best place to look for kimono garments in your own local thrift store is to check any section that looks like it has bathrobes, either men's or women's. I have found a number of yukata (summer cotton kimono) in these sections at my own local Savers stores. Haori might also be found tucked in with women's blazers or light jackets, as they are shorter than kimono, but it's just as likely they might be sorted in with robes as well.
Women's kimono, found in a section for ladies' robes and nightwear.

Men's haori, found with men's pajamas. It was also hanging inside out, so the green of the lining was what caught my eye.

Some stores may even go so far as to sort out anything they consider to be 'ethnic' clothing, like one of the Saver's I frequent. Even so, I have found kimono at this store that were still tagged and stocked as 'bathrobes.' This shows very well that there can be little consistency in how garments are sorted and tagged, and that it can depend a great deal on who might be working and sorting behind the scenes.

Finding obi in a thrift store environment can be the most challenging, as there are several ways that a person not versed in kimono might decide to sort what, to them,is just a very long piece of fabric. Housewares might be a good place to start, especially as a popular use for obi that can no longer be worn is to feature them as table-runners. If your thrift store has a 'crafts' or 'fabric' section, this might be another good place to check. The men's obi in the photograph below was found sorted and hanging in a section usually devoted to yarn and sewing patterns.

Men's kaku obi
If you are comfortable with a sewing machine, and are anything like me, you probably already check the fabric sections of your local thrift stores. This is a great place to find fabric to make your own juban or other undergarments, or even a kimono! I've certainly found quality cotton yardages for juban, hadajuban and suseteko on more than one occasion, and once, I even found a tan for kimono. If you've never worked with a tan of fabric before, it is significantly more narrow (about 14 inches from selvage to selvage) than the fabric you find in your local fabric stores, so keep that in mind as you're shopping!

I found this hanging with other yardages of fabric at a local Savers. The photo is not the clearest, but this is the full width of the fabric, about 14 inches from selvage to selvage.

I admit that living in California, in an area with a thriving Japanese-American population, gives me a certain advantage when it comes to finding actual kimono in thrift stores. However, there are many other articles you can shop for and repurpose for your own kitsuke practice, so don't give up!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Crafting: Hadajuban (Part 3)

Welcome to the Workspace Wednesday crafting series. This week, we're continuing our inaugural project, sewing a hadajuban. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here, and here.

Last week, we finished our pattern layout and cut the pieces we needed. We should have two large pieces that make up the body, two overlap pieces and two sleeves. If we were making kimono or yukata, we would have additional pieces, such as a yoke (a piece used on the inside of the garment to stabilize the neckline), a collar (eri) and half-collar (han-eri). As we don't actually want a collar that will be visible when worn with yukata, we can omit all of these pieces.

This week, we're getting down to actual construction! If you've read your pattern instructions (and really, read all of the instructions!) then you have an idea of what the order of assembly should look like. What follows here are some practical pointers on those steps.

First, I like to finish all of the straight edges of my fabric by running them through a serger, or overlocking stitch machine. This is a specialized sewing machine that uses at least two needles and several cones of thread to create a stitch that covers and reinforces the edges of fabric. This is not necessary, and you can progress just as easily without it, but I find it gives my garment a more finished look and cuts down on frayed edges. You can create a similar effect by using a zig-zag stitch on a regular machine or by using pinking shears. If you decide to trim your fabric with pinking shears, be careful that you are not cutting too far into your seam allowance!

You can see the serged edge on the back seam piece of the body.
In the photo above, you can see that I left the neck line un-serged. This is because, not only would it be a very fussy area to try to maneuver through a serger, but this entire area is also going to be covered by our bias-binding collar later, and that will provide plenty of reinforcement on its own. I have not shown it here, but you will also wish to leave unserged the slanted side of your overlaps (but NOT the straight sides). Other areas you can leave unfinished are the hems, both on the overlaps and on the front and back of the body pieces.

At this point, the Folkwear Pattern suggests an order in which to sew everything together (Preliminary Construction). As we are not making kimono, there is only one seam  here that you need to worry about-- the back seam. We don't have any of the other pieces. Another step that I consider to be 'Preliminary Construction' is finishing the front edges of my overlaps ('overlapse' in the Folkwear pattern).

Serged front edge of overlap, folded over to finish.
One of the easiest mistakes to make at this point is to finish both overlaps in the same direction. If you have selected a patterned fabric for this project, this mistake is VERY hard for your to make, but if you chose a solid fabric with no discernible 'right' or 'wrong' side, you'll need to take a little more care. I suspect this is part of the reason the Folkwear pattern suggests sewing the overlaps to the body first, but I like to finish the edges when the pieces are unattached and easier to maneuver.

In the image above, I have both of my overlaps sitting with (what I decided would be) right sides together. Using the serged threads as a guideline, I've folded the material back on itself, then back again to completely obscure the threads and create a neat 1/4" hem. Once I've pinned the whole front of the overlap, I can flip both pieces over and repeat the process on the other overlap so that they will be mirror images of each other.

Sewing the front edge of the overlap.
Once the edges are finished, I will pin them, right sides together, to their corresponding front body piece and sew. At this point, the Folkwear pattern will give you guidelines for sizing  and where to best place the seam of your overlap on the body. If you did NOT make a pattern based on a closer fit, then follow the pattern's instructions. When I made my own pattern, I left room for a 1/2" seam allowance on all pieces. (I do NOT do this when I make kimono, especially out of traditional fabric, so that I can preserve the selvage.)

Next, it is back to the ironing board, where you will press your seam allowance towards the overlap. I like to do this before trimming the neckline so that I get a more clear idea of just where to trim (the pattern instructions say to trim, then iron). While you're here, press your back seam open, too!

Seam allowance is pressed towards the overlap. You can get a more clear view of your neckline so that your trimming is even. 

I will use my overlap pattern-piece, aligning the front edges and getting the slant even with the neckline to get a clear line on where to trim. I generally need to remove only 1 1/2" or so. Once this is trimmed, we are clear to place the stay-stitching that will be our guideline for our bias-binding collar (or for a regular collar if we were doing juban or kimono).

Our next steps include finishing the neckline, attaching (optional) sleeves, and finishing, and we'll have a look at all of these next week! Until then, if you have any questions or comments about our progress so far, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Fabric Selection and Identification

Welcome back to Tips and Tricks Tuesday, where  you can expect to find a wide range of tips and curios that might not otherwise have a forum in my regular crafting or kitsuke posts. Last week, I spent a little time talking about the common-sense habit of carrying three handkerchiefs while out in kimono. This week, we're going to hone in on something that is very relevant if you were thinking of following along with the Wednesday Crafting series and creating your own hadajuban-- fabric selection and fiber identification.

Until I started to sew for myself, I didn't give the material content of my fabrics much consideration. As I learned more, I discovered that my selection of material had a direct correlation to my comfort level when I wore certain garments. Having cotton or another light-weight, breathable fabric next to my skin made a world of difference in the summer when I wear yukata, while in the winter months, one of my mixed-fiber juban was preferable because I stayed a little warmer in my kimono.

 If you are purchasing your material from a fabric store, chances are very good that the material is clearly labeled. You'll be able to tell at a glance if it is 100% cotton, polyester, rayon, etc, and chose accordingly. The other benefit of shopping at a fabric store is that you will be able to have cut for you the yardage your project requires.

Fabric stores, however, are not the only place we can find material for projects. I am a habitue of several local thrift stores, all of which have a 'materials' section stocked with fabrics that have been donated. Because these are thrift store donations, the quantity is seldom regular and the quality can be difficult to discern, but there is a good chance that something usable can be had for significantly less than one might pay at a regular store.

A selection of materials found at a local thrift store. There was over 7 yards of the blue, and about 4 of the peach and of the white.

For making in-the-moment selections like this, the most I can do is touch the fabric.  If I don't like the feel of it, chances are good that I won't like working with it and will like wearing it even less, so it doesn't really matter how much there is. If I do like the feel of the fabric, I'll do a quick measurement for yardage. I happen to know that from the tips of my fingers to my opposite shoulder is approximately a yard, and you can hold a tape measure yourself to see where your 'yard' might fall. If there is a significant amount of fabric and I like how it feels, chances are good that it will come home with me.

Once the fabric is home is when the fun begins. If you want to have an idea of what sort of fabric you're dealing with, a simple burn test will do the trick. Be sure to do this in a well-ventilated area, away from other flammables, and USE CAUTION! The Fabric Mart has a very good breakdown of what to expect HERE as well as instructions that you should be sure to follow if you conduct your own burn tests on fabrics.

Triangular swatches of each of the thrift-store fabrics from previous photo.
Triangular swatches after trial by fire.
All three swatches caught fire quickly, formed no beading (as they might if non-natural fibers were present), and produced a grey smoke. The blue and white fabrics did not have a particularly distinct odor, while the peach colored fabric had a slightly sweeter aroma to the smoke. I suspected from the start that I was dealing with cotton fibers for the blue and white and linen or a linen blend for the peach and this test reinforces that opinion.  Burn tests are hardly conclusive for identifying as blended fibers as well as anything that might be used to treat the fabric will skew results, but they can give you a baseline from which you can begin to make an informed opinion.

Thank you for joining me today. For next week's Tips and Tricks, I'll be talking about thrifting for kimono and accessories. I also hope that  you'll check back in tomorrow for the third installment of the Crafting: Hadajuban series!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Crafting: Hadajuban (Part 2)

Welcome back to our Workspace Wednesday Crafting series! Last week, we started work on hadajuban, a simple undergarment appropriate for summer wear. This week, we're going to pick up with pattern layout and cutting! As I mentioned before, I do not intend for this to be a full, step-by-step tutorial, but a sort of hints and highlights of things I have learned to make garment construction a little easier.

Fabric off the bolt in the United States and Europe is so much wider than the fabric that would be used for traditional kimono construction, so I start out by folding my fabric, not in half, but to a width that approximates the width of a tan of kimono fabric. This is usually about 14 inches wide, from the fold to the selvage. If your pattern pieces are wider or narrower, you can fold accordingly so that they will sit on the double-layer with  little fabric waste.

Cats are not vital to the sewing process, but they like to think they are.
In the image above, the ruler is flush with the fold of the fabric, and I've brought one edge up to the width I need. The ruler is sitting on the excess, and this is fabric that I will use to cut different pattern pieces. From here, I will pin the two layers of fabric and continue in this manner for the entire length of fabric. Using this layout technique, I can cut a hadajuban from as little as three yards of fabric. As my fabric is a solid color, there's not really a 'right' or 'wrong' side, but if you've chosen a patterned fabric for this project, be sure to fold it right, or patterned sides, together.

Pattern piece for body laid out and pinned.
This is the pattern piece that is going to make up the body of my hadajuban. It's based on the body pattern from the Folkwear kimono pattern, so the front and back are made in once piece with no shoulder seams. This is also an older piece, and a little more narrow than I wanted for this particular garment, so I have placed the center back seam side closer to the selvege and will cut along the fold of the fabric, not the pattern piece itself, to make the piece wider. If  you ever need to add width to a kimono or kimono-like garment like this one, the side-seam, not the back, is the place to do it! If you add the width at the back, you will be lengthening how long your collar needs to be, and that in turn will skew the final fit.

We have a cut piece! The scissors are pointing towards the neckline and center-back seam.

Remember how we had that 'extra' fabric that was not covered when we folded the material to lay out our body pieces? That's what we're going to use for cutting our overlap pieces.

Overlap piece pinned to fabric. The longest edge is along the edge that was formed when we cut out the body pieces.
Here, I took the end of the fabric and again folded it back on itself, but only to the length I needed for the overlap piece. Because I do a number of other fabric crafts, I try to conserve as much fabric as possible, which is why the long edge is along the same edge that was formed when the body pieces were cut, leaving another continuous strip of fabric available. I might use this somewhere else, as a sleeve facing on a juban, or for quilting. Again, if you've chosen a patterned fabric for this, be sure to fold with the right or patterned sides together!

We only have two more pieces we need to cut-- sleeves. For this project, you will want to create your own pattern piece for the sleeves as a traditional kimono sleeve is not the ideal shape or fit for this garment. Fortunately, the pattern is little more than a rectangle. You will want it to be a bit shorter than your regular kimono sleeve, as well as much narrower. My sleeve is 9 3/4" x 14" and this includes a 1/2" seam allowance.

Remember when I folded my fabric to approx 14" prior to laying out my body pieces? The length of my body pieces did not extend that full length and that is where we'll be getting our sleeves. As with the overlap pieces,we're going to fold the fabric back on itself to the length we need for the sleeves.

The pin is marking where I wish to fold the fabric over on itself to create the fold needed for a full sleeve piece.

Sleeve pattern pinned in place against fold of fabric.

The sleeve could be done in two pieces, but I think this way is much easier. Not only does cutting on the fold mean that you have one less seam to sew, but also means that you do not need more fabric to account for that seam allowance. It maintains a smooth line over the top of the arm and reduces bulk. This is how kimono sleeves are constructed, so there's no reason to not use the same technique here!

With the cutting of the sleeves, we now have all of the pieces we need to begin construction! Please join me again next week when we get to sewing and finishing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tips and Tricks Tuesdays: Three Handkerchiefs

As part of my resolve to have a better-regulated posting schedule, I've been introducing theme days. You saw the first of these last Wednesday, when I started a Workspace Wednesday/Crafting series. This week, I'd like to introduce Tips and Tricks Tuesdays, which was inspired in part by something I'd mentioned in passing last week (though I'll be covering the actual topic that inspired all of this next week).

What you can expect to find here will be a wide range of tips and curios that might not otherwise have a forum in my regular crafting or kitsuke posts. This week, I want to delve into a one of the habits I've developed for when I'm going out in kimono, a habit that would not be at all obvious unless I made mention of it.

The three handkerchiefs pictured stay with the bag so they can't be forgotten.

I'm not entirely sure how I came to the practice of carrying three handkerchiefs when I go out in kimono. I'm certainly not nearly so conscientious or fastidious when I step out in my western clothing. I suspect that it was something that Ann (my room mate, photographer and fellow kimono aficionado) pointed out to me when I started to practice kitsuke with greater frequency. I was struck by the practicality of it, and the fact that it gave me an excuse to use some of the hand-me-down lacy confections that I'd acquired over the years. These days, if I am out of the house without at least one handkerchief, I find myself feeling a bit lost.

But why should I go to the trouble of ensuring I have three? Most people, when they bother with this archaic habit, still manage to make do with one. The answer to this is really one of practicality and the fact that each handkerchief has its own particular use.

Larger handkerchief and tenugui, all suitable for sitable fabrics when out and about.

The largest handkerchief that I carry is for laying over seats before sitting down. I don't always do this (it would be rude to do so in a restaurant or in someone's home, for example) but if I am sitting on a park bench or a low ledge, then this helps to protect my kimono from the uneven surface and any dirt that might be hidden there. A tenugui can also be appropriate for this particular cloth, and you can check out some techniques for making your own here!

A selection of small, vintage handkerchiefs that can be used in the lap to protect kimono.

I like for my second handkerchief to be somewhat decorative, either with embroidery or a tidy lace edging. This is the handkerchief that will rest in my lap so that I may rest my hands on it. With yukata or more easily tended kimono, this one is not particularly vital, but with silk kimono, it leaves me assured that any oils from my hands will not mar the fabric.

Plain, white handkerchiefs ready for a bit of dirty work (though they could use an ironing).

For the final handkerchief, I prefer one that is plain, white cotton. This is the handkerchief that does the duty of wiping away crumbs or potential sources of staining from my hands. It also comes in very handy in restrooms, especially if there are no towels present.

So that I can't forget these practical accessories, I took some time to match my most-used bags and kinchaku with complimentary handkerchiefs, as in the photograph at the beginning of the post. It's proven to be very useful, especially since while I know I will want a handkerchief, I'm not always mindful enough to ensure that I have one before leaving.

I have plans for a future Crafting post where I'll talk about some of the techniques that you can use to create your own handkerchiefs and larger, furoshiki-style finished cloths that you can use for the largest of the 'handkerchiefs' I suggest here.

If you, kind readers, have any tips you'd like to share, or if there is something you're hoping I might cover in the future, please don't hesitate to say so in the comments!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Crafting: Hadajuban (Part 1)

As a nod to 'Workspace Wednesdays,' I'm going to try to devote Wednesday posts to crafting. This week, we're going to start with a somewhat lengthy project, but entirely appropriate for the warmer months ahead, if you're in the northern hemisphere.

In the summer months, having a garment to wear under yukata that is not a full juban is not necessary, but it is a practical addition to your kimono wardrobe. While the extra layer may add a little weight, it will also serve to protect your yukata from stains.

These garments, called hadajuban, can be easily acquired online and will generally be made of a light-weight, white cotton fabric. While ordering a garment might be more expedient, I much prefer to make my own. It takes a little longer, but by sewing for myself, I have a broader choice in fabrics that I can use, and I can be assured of the fit.

For the following walk-through, I'll be using the pattern pieces I've created using the Folkwear Japanese Kimono pattern (#113). I cannot recommend this pattern highly enough, and if you have any desire to embark on making your own kimono, this is the place to start. If you intend to follow along with this project, I strongly encourage you to purchase your own copy of the pattern and read ALL of the instructions.

Folkwear pattern. The white pieces are the pre-printed pattern pieces, the green are the duplicates I traced to meet my measurements.

If you are not confident in your sewing abilities to the extent that you would want to make your own kimono, this may be just the project to get your feet wet and familiarize yourself with the Folkwear pattern. The most complex thing covered here will be the application of bias binding to finish the neckline (which is NOT something the pattern even mentions; it's my own fix for not wanting a visible collar on this garment). As intimidating as it  might be, the only way to get better at sewing is to find patterns you want to make and to make them.

I should note that the hadajuban is a much more closely fitted garment than kimono, so while you may want narrower body pieces for this project, you will want something wider for a finished kimono. This is why I recommend tracing pattern pieces onto tissue paper or something like 'pattern magic,' a non-woven material designed for just this sort of thing, and generally found with interfacing in your local fabric store. If you are making your own pieces using the Folkwear pattern as a guideline, be sure to remember to leave a seam allowance. I like to leave 1/2" for this project, but if I am making kimono, I will leave even more seam allowance so that I can preserve the selvage edges of the tan (this makes it easier to size a kimono up or down if necessary).

For this first part, I'll be going over fabric selection and preparation.  I don't propose for this to be a step-by-step tutorial so much as a guideline as I offer some of the hints and techniques that I have discovered as I continue to learn about sewing and garment construction.

As this is going to be a garment worn mostly in summer months, I highly recommend purchasing a light-weight cotton for construction. Color doesn't really matter, though if you have more light-colored yukata, then you might wish to go with white or a similarly light-in-color fabric. Personally, I'm not as fond of white as it will show stains more easily (even if no one but you is going to see it), but I still have one to wear under my lighter colored yukata. For this project, I chose a darker indigo blue to use to demonstrate.

Any of these fabrics would be suitable for hadajuban, though I would probably select the white, as it is the lightest in weight and has an openness to the weave.

When purchasing your fabric, you want to be sure that you are selecting a 100% cotton fabric. The natural fibers 'breathe,' making it easier for air to reach your skin and keep you refreshed and comfortable. Polyester blends do not have this property and will keep your body heat close.

Once you have purchased your fabric, your next steps should be washing and ironing. Neither of these steps is glamorous or photogenic, but I can assure you, they are entirely necessary. Natural fiber fabrics are notorious for shrinking in the wash, and if you have chosen a dyed fabric, you'll want to be sure to wash it on its own so it can't stain any of your other garments. By pre-washing your fabric, you can take away a lot of that shrink factor and be assured that if  your pattern pieces are the right size, then your garment will continue to be the right size, even after subsequent washings.

Ironing, that other decidedly unglamourous step, is just as necessary if you want a finished garment that is not only free of wrinkles, but has a proper fit, too. Wrinkles in fabric can distort how your pattern pieces sit on the fabric, and may even warp the shape after they are cut, so iron, even if the fabric 'looks fine.'

There is a third step that you could undertake at this stage, known as 'truing' the fabric, which involves tugging at the selvage and ends so that the threads of the weave are more properly perpendicular to each other. On some fabrics, this can make a great deal of difference as pieces cut on an unintentional bias to the weave can have undesirable qualities of stretch. At this point, I freely admit to being lazy and have never actually used this step, and so far, I've been able to cut and assemble garments with no difficulty.

This concludes the first part of Crafting: Hadajuban. If I have been unclear at any point or you have questions concerning patterning or fit, please don't hesitate to leave a comment and I'll do my best to assist! Next week's Workspace Wednesday Crafting segment will cover pattern layout and cutting, and I hope you'll join me then.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A-to-Z Challenge Wrap-Up: Reflections and Looking Ahead

Stone bridge at Hakone Gardens

If you've been following for any length of time, you may have noticed April was by far the busiest month this blog has seen since its inception. This was the first year I had heard of the A-to-Z blogging challenge and I am very glad that I took the plunge and signed up.

This experience was exactly what I had hoped it would be; I jump-started my blogging habit, came up with many new topics for future posts, and was able to engage with many people who might not have otherwise found this blog. I also learned a lot from posting, as I wanted to ensure that I was presenting accurate information about designs and combinations, and I'm sure that I'll be able to carry this knowledge with me as I continue to hone my kitsuke practice.

Now that May is here, I know that I will not be maintaining a post-a-day habit, but I am already outlining the next posts that I want to share, and figuring out what is going to be best for a more regular posting schedule. Just yesterday, I was at the Nikkei Matsuri in San Jose's Japantown, so you can be assured that there will be a post about that in the near future.

In the meantime, if you have any particular topics you might like to see covered here, please don't hesitate to make some suggestions in the comments!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Motifs: Zig-Zag

There are a number of motifs that can fall under this category, as there are many ways that simple lines can be turned and turned again to create interesting geometric patterns. As geometric motifs are appropriate for all seasons, this is yet another instance where color and other motifs present will determine just how appropriate it is for any given occasion.

My first example today is from a home-made obi using a mottled green cotton fabric originally manufactured for quilting. This particular zig-zag is called 'Hishi-sayagata' or 'diamond-shaped key pattern,' as the lines of the pattern are all on the bias, as opposed to being square to the warp and weft of the weave.

Close-up of hishi-sayagata obi. It was very difficult to get a clear photograph of this one.

The second zig-zag we have for today is called 'Matsukawa-bishi, or 'Pine Bark.' This example is actually the 'plain' side of a reversible han-haba obi. When I'm looking for obi, particularly han-haba as I have more occasion to wear them, I really like to find ones that are reversible. Not only does it double their chances of being worn, but the sides compliment each other so I can make knots that have more visual appeal.

Close up of matsukawa-bishi obi. Also very hard to photograph clearly!

Both of these examples are fairly plain making them good choices for coordinating with buisier motifs, but don't think that geometrics like this have to be uniformly plain.

Another hishi-sayagata, but as interpreted on a kimono.
The example above is another sample of the diamond key motif, but in this instance, the artist chose to fill in the space of the pattern with flowers. It makes for a very interesting and colorful arrangement, most suitable for late winter and early spring. With a pattern like this, I would look for obi that were of a relatively solid color or even larger floral-type design to counteract how much is going on in this fabric.

With this post, we come to the end of the A-to-Z blog challenge of 2016. To those of you who found this blog through the challenge, welcome, and I hope you continue to read as I work on ensuring a more regular posting schedule. For those of you who have been following for some time, thank you for your continued support!

On Monday, I plan to offer a reflection this experience before moving on to other topics that have had to wait so very patiently while I focused on getting through the month with a post a day. If you have any topics in particular you would like to see addressed here, please don't hesitate to make your suggestions in the comments!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Motifs: Yabane (Arrow Fletching)

As a representational motif or striking (pardon the pun) geometric, yabane can be one of the more versatile motifs in a collection. Since it is a 'man-made' motif and usually geometric in execution, it doesn't really have seasonal associations which further lends to its versatility. Like many motifs, there are exceptions, like a yaguruma (arrow fletching pinwheel) configuration which is heavily associated with Kodomo no Hi, or Children's Day (May 5).

Yabane are considered to be very auspicious; fletching from a broken arrow is often used as a talisman against bad luck. This particular aspect makes it a good choice for accessories, like the kinchaku pictured below.

With geometric patterning and classic red/white color combo, this can be paired with practically any ensemble.

My most interesting examples of this motif come from the kimono of some of my ningyou. My first example is the top worn by my somewhat rakish samurai who wields the fan more freely than the sword

This ningyo was bought at a sale supporting the Yu Ai Kai in San Jose's Japantown.

In this example, the fletching and part of the arrow shaft are represented and scattered over a field of purple. While it's a very interesting pattern, it is not one that I have personally encountered on a full-scale kimono. Far more common is the geometric rendering of the yabane, like my first example and as shown in the images below.

This lovely lady was purchased at a thrift store in Willow Glen, CA.

A clear example of what sun exposure can do to fabrics. The purple of her kimono was likely just as vivid as the samurai's, if not moreso.

When I first saw this lovely lady, I was quite charmed, and very taken with how strikingly pale her kimono was, and how subtle the patterning. As the coloring was so uniform, it didn't occur to me until I got her home and was able to take a closer look that what I considered striking, others would see as sun damage. The second image illustrates very well what the original color of her kimono would have been, and might suggest why she found herself in a thrift store. I know very little about her though her kanzashi and the positioning of her hands suggest to me that she is depicting a dance. If my kind readers have any further speculation or suggestions, I should love to read them!

You may remember the following example from earlier this month, wen we were discussing ajisai (hydrangea).

The yabane here is the 'plain' side of a reversible obi.
This obi was a gift and its reversible nature has made it a valuable addition to my collection. The pattern of the visible side here is created within the weave of the fabric, so it is a subtle color shift and a great compliment to many 'busier' yukata.

We have just one more day of the A-to-Z challenge, and I hope that you'll join me tomorrow for our final motif!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Motifs: Hexagons

Traditionally, there is no 'X' in Japanese, in that there are no native words that would require that specific letter for Romanization (unlike Chinese, where we can find words like 'xiao,' depending on the method used to convert Chinese characters to Roman letters). As a consequence, I have found a way to work around and totally cheat for today's letter, hence "heXagons."

Hexagons are a very popular geometric motif, and the six-sided shape can be found as part of many larger designs. 

Obi with kiku, hanabishi and hexagons.

Kimono with kiku and hexagons.
I've used both of these as examples earlier in the month, but both do show off very well how different components can be brought together to make interesting and cohesive designs. Sometimes, this can make it a little difficult to figure out what might pair best with a garment, and that is when color and occasion for wear can come into play.

Both of the above examples show hexagons as part of a broader design, but they can appear all on their own, too!

Asa(?) motif on lattice yukata with hexagon obi.
The yukata above was one of my more interesting finds from ebay, and the photo offers us a double dose of hexagons! Not only do we have relatively plain hexagons on the obi, but the latticework pattern on the yukata creates hexagons as well. To me, the leaf motif on the yukata is far louder than the latticework, so using hexagons in the obi makes for a fun and subtle visual play.

The patterning in the obi above is made up only of concentric lines, unlike the hexagons with central flowers in my first two examples. This more 'pure' form of a hexagon might also be referred to as 'kikko' or tortoise-shell. Since the hexagons themselves are the main pattern, not a component of a larger design, it works well as a complimentary obi for a number of yukata in my collection.

We're getting down to the last two days of the A-to-Z challenge. I've enjoyed all of the comments that have been shared so far and hope that those of you who discovered this blog through the challenge will continue to read along as I work towards a regular posting schedule.

Tomorrow, we'll be having a look at one of my all-time favorite motifs: Yabane (Arrow Fletching)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Motifs: Waves (Seigaiha) and Wheels (--guruma)

Today's first motif doesn't fit neatly into some of the categories that we've studied so far this month. Waves are hardly botanical or zoological, and unless one is in a theme-park, they aren't really manufactured either. The closest categorization might be geometric, but this isn't always the case. Even so, they can be found as a design element and motif in many kimono and accessories. Waves are not really seasonally specific, though they can be found in combinations that will lend themselves to a specific seasonality or occasion.

Cream hitoe kimono with wave pattern

Closer shot of the hitoe, with a little more of the wave pattern detailing visible

This ensemble was put together to commemorate the reopening of a tea house in San Jose's Japanese Friendship Gardens. In this example, the wave pattern reads a little like scales on a fish, punctuated with green and maroon 'wave' arches over kiku. I chose this particular kimono because of it's fresh and spring-like coloring as well as the fact that the 'wave scales' pay a (very subtle) homage to the koi that live in the nearby ponds.

Wheels, our second motif for the day, are a little more straight-forward. There are several different styles of wheels to be found as traditional motifs, like ishiguruma (stone wheel) and genji-guruma (carriage wheel). Wheels are also not particularly seasonal, though they might be found a little more commonly in winter-appropriate designs.

Obi with wheel and crane motifs
We saw this obi earlier this month when we were talking about cranes (tsuru) but in this image, at least, the wheel is actually the more prominent of the designs. this particular wheel is more like a genji-guruma, as it is fairly ornate in configuration.

For many of the motifs, I haven't really delved into deeper symbolism. With so many natural  motifs on display, it's far easier to talk about seasonality, and in many cases, there really isn't much to delve into; the motifs are admired because they are reflections of nature and admirable for that alone. With the wheel, however, I feel that I would be remiss if I did not try to make mention of some of its deeper meanings, especially in relation to Buddhism and specifically, Dharma.

This Dharma Wheel is the insignia for Buddhist Chaplains in the USAF. Image sourced from Wikipedia.

While I dance at Obon, I am not someone who was raised in Buddhist teaching, nor am I an active practitioner. Even so, to try to say that the wheel is nothing more than a pleasing motif seems disingenuous to me, so please bear with me.

My understanding of Dharma as one of the 'Three Jewels' of Buddhist teaching, is that Dharma is the 'cosmic law.' Some congregations may see it as specifically the teachings of Buddha himself (specifically the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path), while others view it as 'the way things are.'

What does a wheel have to do with all of this? Traditionally, the Dharma wheel (Dharmachakra) will have eight spokes for the Eight-Fold Path. The hub or center represents moral discipline. The rim of the wheel represents meditation and mindfulness; those things which hold the practice together. The perfection of the circular shape is the perfection of Buddha's teachings.

Not all wheels or wheel motifs will be representative of the Dharma, but I feel that it's important to know that there are wheels and wheel motifs that will have a deeper meaning than what might otherwise be obvious. Just as I try not to wear kimono with family crests, or kana or kanji that I do not understand, similarly do I try to avoid unfamiliar motifs until I have made sure I understand what they are.

I am sure that all of us, at one time or another, have been confronted with misunderstandings due to language or unfamiliarity and gone on to learn from them. If my kind readers care to share their own experiences, I hope that you will do so in the comments.

Tomorrow, we're cheating a bit to get an 'X' motif. Your clue is that it is a geometric, and I hope you join me tomorrow to find out which one!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Motifs: Vines

There are several different ways that vines might show up as part of a design. In some cases, they can act like a geometric pattern, offering a background against which other motifs might play. In other cases, it may be that the leaves most commonly found growing on vines are the central motif. I've got some examples of each, and how and when they are worn depends, of course, on season and occasion.

Fuji (wisteria) is a sort of vine, and the tendrils of flower and leaves often make for lovely designs!
The swatch above is from a tan (roll of fabric) that I found in Savers and have since made into a hitoe kimono. The cool colors and flow of the pattern make it ideal for spring, especially here in California where spring can sometimes feel like summer.

Grape-leaf haori paired with bias-striped kimono.

Back view and close-up shot of haori. Having the ivy as a background was purely coincidental.
We've seen this autumnal ensemble before, when we were looking at stripes as a motif, but now I want to focus on the haori. The warm orange serves as the background for a scattering of grape leaves and tendrils. It's a little 'dressier' than some of my other haori, as the dark leaves are done with a thread that has a sort of metallic sheen to them. Paired with the not-at-all embellished kimono, it really has a chance to shine.

Tomorrow will be a double-feature for motifs, both of which are quite versatile! I hope my kind readers tune in tomorrow when we discuss: Waves and Wheels