Kimono Diary October 5th-11th, 2015

This week consisted of three things; video editing, teaching, and wasai.

Video editing and filming took up several hours of my weekend, unfortunately, some of those hours were wasted when I realized that the camera was set to the wrong frame rate.  I had to do it all over again, most of it in the last 12 hours.  And to top it off, Microsoft Word updated itself and is now crashing whenever I try to access this particular blog post that I wrote yesterday.  Time to do it again!  It hasn’t been a happy day.

For teaching, I had two lessons on Saturday, one private and one group lesson.  In the group lesson, I had fewer people than usual, only three students, but I found that it’s a good number.  If I have more than five students, I find that I can’t divide my attention evenly between my students, especially if I have one that is particularly struggling.

I had another wasai lesson this Saturday too (yes, my Saturdays are incredibly busy.)  We measured everything three times, found mistakes in our math, remeasured and remarked everything, and finally, after an hour, made the crucial cut to insert the gusset into my yukata.  I have a ton of homework to do including finishing installing the gusset and sewing the side seams.  It’s a lot of work, but my next wasai lesson won’t be for a month since from next week, I’ll be helping my teacher dress children for shichi-go-san!

Sorry for the lack of pictures this week, but there wasn’t really anything to photograph!  See you all next week!

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Kimono Diary: September 21-27, 2015

I realized today that I have a lot of little things kimono-related that happen in my life on a weekly basis, none of them are big enough to justify writing a blog post on, but I still want to share it all with you! After all, studying kimono isn’t just about the nuances of fabrics, seasonal motifs, and how to form a proper ohashori. There’s also all the great little moments that I experience every day. With that in mind, I’ve decided to start a weekly diary covering all the kimono-related small events that happen in my life. So let’s get started!

This week was a string of national holidays in Japan called Silver Week. Basically, it’s a shorter version of Golden week that falls in line with Respect for the Aged Day. Get it? Silver hair? Older people? Yeah. I groaned too when one of my students pointed it out to me.

My husband and I made a day trip to Himeji Castle, but there was a two and half hour wait to get into the castle, so we went to the gardens next door. They were absolutely gorgeous and I got some great pictures of different kimono motifs that I didn’t have before. I’ve added pictures of real hagi and kikyo to their respective entries in the motif section.

There was also a wonderful tea house in the garden, and of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have tea. I wasn’t wearing a kimono, but I couldn’t help but admire the kimono of the women serving the tea. If I can’t wear one, looking at one is the next best thing!  I wish I could have gotten a picture of the teahouse, but I always feel so awkward taking photos during a tea ceremony, so I never have any!  But here’s a consolation prize, a nice picture of one of the gardens!

 

kokoen gardens, right next to Himeji castle.

kokoen gardens, right next to Himeji castle.

After Himeji, we spent the afternoon in Osaka wandering around, and wandered right past a small kimono shop. From the outside, it looked like an expensive store that only sells new pieces. In other words, not the kind of shop that I will frequent because they’re just too darn expensive! But low and behold, they had a stand of clearance items out front for 1000 yen each. I walked away with two new oshima tsumugi kimono and a fukuro obi with an awesome motif that looks like a middle eastern man from a previous era hunting rabbit on a horse! I was a happy girl for the rest of the day!

My awesome obi!

My awesome obi!

The kimono are too small for me in the yuki, but I just learned how to extend the yuki in my wasai classes, so it’s a good chance to practice. The shop worker was worried about the fit, and almost fell over in shock when I told her I was learning wasai and would take care of it.

A close-up view of my favorite of the two tsumugi kimono.

A close-up view of my favorite of the two tsumugi kimono.

On Friday, I spend the day with a friend of mine editing a new video. I know very little about video editing, and she has a pretty successful youtube channel herself, not to mention the skills and willingness to help me. (GirlGamerGab, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU!!!) It’s taking about four or five hours to edit three minutes of video, and the video is over ten minutes, so It’s going to take a while. Basically, it’s looking at kimono in pop culture and talking about how accurate they are. I’m hoping that it’ll become a series, and the first one should be ready by the end of next month.

I had another wasai lesson on Saturday. Right now, I’m working on a shibori yukata that is too small on me in every way possible. I had to unstitch every panel and put them back together with a gusset in the middle to make it longer. When it’s worn properly, the gusset will be hidden by the obi. Even though I trust my teacher implicitly, I still had a mini heart attack when I made the first cut into the yukata panels. Especially since we measured everything three times to make sure that it was being cut in the right place!

My yukata with the gusset inserted. My homework is to put in the permanent stitches and remove the pink basting stitches.

My yukata with the gusset inserted. My homework is to put in the permanent stitches and remove the pink basting stitches.

That’s it for this week! Hope you have a good kitsuke week!

My First Wasai Project – Completed!!!

It’s finished!  I finished my first kimono deconstruct and reconstruct!  This kimono was one that I fell in love with, but the yuki was too short, a common problem for me.  So with the help of my wasai teacher, I unstiched the sleeves and widened the side seams before sewing it all back together again!  I didn’t get any pictures of the process unfortunately, I was too busy trying to absorb all the new information being thrown at me every week.  Could I replicate the process with another kimono?  Probably not on my own.  At least not yet.  My brain was on overload the entire time and I’m sure I have already forgotten some steps.  But I will definitely have other opportunities to practice.  The journey continues!

Here is the beauty in question. It's a tsukesage that I picked up secondhand for 2500 yen.

Here is the beauty in question. It’s a tsukesage that I picked up secondhand for 2500 yen.

 

The detail on this piece is incredible. I was lucky that I didn't have to unstich the panels around the design, since that would have disturbed the overall effect.

The detail on this piece is incredible. I was lucky that I didn’t have to unstich the panels around the design, since that would have disturbed the overall effect.

 

Here, you can clearly see the original seam lines and how much length I managed to get out of the hidden fabric, about 4 cm.

Here, you can clearly see the original seam lines and how much length I managed to get out of the hidden fabric, about 4 cm.

 

Here is the other side. My iron was working a little better on this side. My fingers are marking the original seam lines.

Here is the other side. My iron was working a little better on this side. My fingers are marking the original seam lines.

 

SLEEVES!!! My instructor was very clear that sleeves are one of the most difficult parts of kimono sewing. I agree!

SLEEVES!!! My instructor was very clear that sleeves are one of the most difficult parts of kimono sewing. I agree!

 

It fits! It really fits!

It fits! It really fits!

 

And it's beautiful!

And it’s beautiful!

 

I decided on blue and purple accessories to match the colors of the trees on the skirt of the kimono.

I decided on blue and purple accessories to match the colors of the trees on the skirt of the kimono.

 

Here are some of the details on my obi. It's definitely not a classical Japanese motif!

Here are some of the details on my obi. It’s definitely not a classical Japanese motif!

The Next Step…

Ever since I passed my teacher’s license exam in May, I’ve been thinking about what my next step should be in this kimono journey. I really enjoy and am fascinated by the process of weaving, but when I am honest with myself, I don’t have enough time to become anything other than a beginner weaver, and that skill will have limited use to me outside of Japan.  Sewing, however, would be very useful. After all, how many times have I found a kimono that I love only to find that it’s a few centimeters too short, or the yuki is slightly too short. Usually something is too short. And I already know how to sew using western methods. So with some nervousness, I went to my first wasai lesson over the weekend.

My teacher is the same woman who granted me my teacher’s license. She has an incredible history with kimono. She has studied with multiple schools of kitsuke and passed exams for all of them. She knows how to sew kimono and has been doing it for forty years. She is also a master weaver. Her weaving teacher was a contributor to the nishijin-ori scrolls depicting the Tale of Genji. Overall, she has more knowledge in her little finger than I could ever hope to achieve in a lifetime.

She also doesn’t speak English; which means these lessons won’t only be good for my sewing skills, but also my Japanese skills.

The first lesson was really trying to get familiar with the different tools and terms that are used for wasai. My teacher gave me sets of different sewing needles, all different lengths and widths, and all used to sew different types of fabric. long thin needles are used to sew silk, short, thicker needles are used to sew tsumugi, and somewhere in between is the needle used to sew cotton. I was also introduced to all the tools of wasai including their unique iron, marking tools, scissors, and rulers. A lot of my teacher’s tools were high quality bamboo, ivory, or metal and had lasted her for over forty years. I’m hoping mine will last me that long as well.  Once I get the money to purchase such high quality items.

Five different types of needles, all for sewing different types of fabric.  I only know what three of them are for at the moment.

Five different types of needles, all for sewing different types of fabric. I only know what three of them are for at the moment.  Study time!

The measurements used for wasai are very different too. After WWII, Japan changed to the metric system, but before that, they used their own unique measuring system, which my teacher still uses for wasai.  In fact, she told me that I’m not allowed to use centimeters in her lessons, so I have to learn REALLY fast!

The smallest unit is called a gori.
Two gori are equal to one bu.
Ten bu are equal to one sun.
Ten sun are equal to one shaku.
Ten shaku are equal to one jyou.

Jyou are still in use today to measure the size of tatami mats.

This is my bamboo ruler.  Traditional measurements are on the top, and centimeters are on the bottom.  Gori are not indicated on the ruler.  The distance between each line indicates one bu.  One sun is shown with the longer lines.  The circles indicate 5 bu.

This is my bamboo ruler. Traditional measurements are on the top, and centimeters are on the bottom. Gori are not indicated on the ruler. The distance between each line indicates one bu. One sun is shown with the longer lines. The circles indicate 5 bu.

Measuring rulers come in two different sizes, one shaku or two shaku. My rulers have shaku/sun/bu as well as centimeters, but my teacher’s tools only have the old system. Imagine my confusion when she started adding up measurements in a  system I just learned, and in Japanese. My head was spinning!

I was asked to bring a few kimono that were too small that I wanted to resize. I ended up bringing three. A yukata, an awase tsumugi, and an awase houmongi. I thought the yukata would be the easiest to resize since it’s cotton and only one layer. I also thought that the houmongi would be the most difficult to resize since the pattern extends over the seams. I was wrong on both counts.

Turns out that the only resizing that needs to be done on the houmongi is the yuki, so the pattern on the skirt won’t be affected at all. We decided to tackle that kimono first. My homework was to unstitch the sleeves, and the top half of the side seams. One thing we discovered was that the seams were originally sewn with a sewing machine. This made it very difficult to take out the stitching. The combination of tight machine stitches and delicate silk made for a few mishaps and small rips in the silk despite my best efforts. It’s just the lining so far, but I’m not finished yet, so I have my fingers crossed. It definitely makes me appreciate hand-sewn kimono more.

The yukata we decided to leave until last. It’s too small in every way that it could be too small. I knew that when I bought it, but the seam allowances looked large enough that I thought I could make it bigger. Well, the seam allowances are smaller than expected and it will require major surgery to make this yukata wearable. We decided to insert a gusset to make it wider and longer. The gusset will be hidden by the obi when I’m wearing it, but it will be very, very visible on the hanger.

So, my homework for my next lesson is to rip apart all three kimono, iron everything as flat as I can make it, and study all the new terminology that was thrown at me during the lesson. And I’m very sorry about the lack of photos in this post. I simply forgot to take any during the lesson. I was to busy and occupied with everything else!