Finally getting around to catching up on the whirlwind of activity the past 2 months. Today I want to fill you in on a cool Japan culture find in NY. We stumbled upon a brochure for a Geisha performance at J-Collabo in Brooklyn and went to check it out back in early September. So worth it!!
The dance performance was incredible. Geisha Kikuno is simply perfection. Her performance was accompanied by a violinist and a koto player in the rustic converted space of a Brooklyn brownstone basement. Her movements were so soft and fluid. What really left an impression was her mask. She has that way of looking directly at you, eye-to-eye, but it is up to you to read her expression. She looks at you but almost as if through dolls eyes. The dance alone was worth the $20 admission hands down.
We also got to enjoy a lovely tea ceremony. Hoping my buddy posts his videos of the dance and tea one of these days! I was asked to join the ceremony as a “guest” on the tatami “room” which made the tea all the more special. The tea master handmade the delicate gelatin-like sweets made to look like flowing water. It was delicious!! Seriously I could have ate everyone’s helping. A thin crunchy exterior and melt in your mouth sweetness just beneath.
There were also several vendors from Ishikawa showcasing traditional arts such as kimono yuzen dying and maki-e as well as a modern dance performance and what J-event would be complete without some sake and beer refreshments…
Summer was drawing to a close but gave us a lovely warm day. That inspired me to try a casual lolita coordinate using accessories made from traditional yukata fabric for a pseudo wa-lolita look. I made the peasant style yukata blouse and cuff bracelet ages ago. The black dress is Baby, the Stars Shine Bright and I reused the ribbons from my previous summer yukata on the dress and in my hair to complete the look.
My coordinate was pretty auspicious it turns out. I had no idea that I would bump into designer Hiromi Onuma who was showcasing her brand Hiro. You may or may not have already come across her work if you follow the international lolita scene. She is part of a long line of kimono fabric manufactures and was recently behind the kaga-loli contest with BSSB and Midori! Midori loved it so much she asked Hiromi to make her a custom kaga dress!
Hiromi is super cute and bubbly to speak with. She was so excited that I wore lolita to the event that she ran to get her laptop and show me all sorts of videos from the Baby fashion show. I really really want to visit her in Japan one day so am adding Ishikawa to my must visit list.
Summary: if you get a chance do, check out one of J-Collabo’s events. They are laid back, culture packed, and at a hip artsy space in Brooklyn. What’s not to love about it.
Busy, busy, busy bee! Finished another semester of Japanese; flew back out to St. Louis on a business trip; and have been sewing, sewing, sewing. For as early as I started my yukata project, I am still cutting it way too close to the deadline.
The design has been altered dramatically from the original vision. I can no longer call the coordinate lolita in style. However I am really pleased with the result. The skirt was the catalyst for the design departure. While the idea sounded great using two different fabrics (for the blouse and for the skirt) in reality it looked very disjointed. Worse yet, the pattern on the white fabric had the not-so-flattering optical effect of making the wearer (yours truly) look twice her size. Not what a girl wants.
Somehow I managed to whip up a new skirt out of the blouse fabric remnants. My better half is raving about the second-take skirt. He loves it. (#^.^#) But you will have to wait till this weekend to see it!!
Hanhaba Obi (半幅帯)
Little miss ambitious, now happy with the new skirt, decided that the pre-tied obi wasn’t sophisticated enough to match all the hard work that was poured into the yukata. Yep, as if I wasn’t already crunched on time, last Sunday decided to make my own half width obi to go with my festival coordinate.
I have a couple of hanhaba obi’s in my kimono collection. One was in pretty bad shape but had the most adorable print. The intention had been to reuse the good parts of the fabric for a project, but turns out it was the obi lining first in line to be upcycled.
Learned a ton on this DIY project. Let the creative process take me to a different direction and what I think was a better result in the end. But can’t get too excited yet, still a few more stitches to go!
Traditional yukata fabric is like sewing through butter. Seriously, it is really great quality which makes it such a pleasure to work with. Busting at the seams with excitement on this project. Monday night I attached one of the sleeves to the bodice. I’ll wait to post photos of the finished blouse. Last night I made one of two detachable bows.
Making bows and ribbons is a form of meditation for me. It is a total stress reliever. They are super easy to make and there are infinite possibilities for how to dress them up. Lace, ribbon, beads, mix-n-match fabric…
Years ago a shopping bag had this blue and white ribbon for handles. The ribbon is a very good quality grosgrain and I just knew that I could upcycle it someday. It matches beautifully with the indigo dye of the yukata fabric.
The bow is made up of 4 pieces of fabric. I sewed 2 rectangles together and then the other 2 together. By leaving a small opening at the bottom they can be turned right side out. After a good pressing with the iron, I next attached a very thin cluny lace to just one of the rectangles. I really want this yukata coordinate to have an understated cuteness instead of a heavy over-the-top feel. A little bit of lace goes a long way.
I then folded the middle of the bow until I liked the final shape. Wrapping the shopping bag ribbon around the middle and adding a few quick stitches by hand holds the whole piece together. Final step was to add a pin back so that the bow can be taken on and off of the yukata. This will make it easy to press the blouse after laundering. Plus, you can move the bows around. I am not sure if I want to place them on the bottom or the top of the sleeves. We will have to wait and see.
When one thinks of colors that represent Japan, of course the iconic red and white of the Rising Sun come to mind. But look a little deeper and indigo and white take center stage. You see it so often reflected in fabric and ceramics across the centuries. In fact there is an entire book dedicated to it.
Probably a bit old fashioned of me, but when I think of yukata instantly blue and white comes to mind. And not just the colors but the technique. I am fascinated by the stencil dying method which results in a rich print. There is no front and back to the fabric like modern printing methods. Now if I remember correctly white with an indigo design was ideal for day as it looked cool and refreshing while indigo with a white print was worn at night. Something about the dye being a natural insect repellent. So I guess the more of it the better in the evening. Since the summer festival will spill from day to night I am going to go with both. ☆彡
For the yukata blouse I choose a print with carnations and a stream. It has a large design with lots of open space. I want the blouse to really stand out compared to the cupcake lolita skirt so the big print and high contrast should work nicely. Then for the skirt and bloomers the reverse, an indigo print on a white base. Since most yukata do not incorporate 2 fabrics, I dug deep into my collection to find something complimentary. The best match was a bolt that also features carnations but in a medium size print that repeats frequently filling the entire space.
Thank goodness I have a big floor! Because I needed all the space I could get when cutting the fabric. Kimono and Yukata fabric comes in bolts typically 14 inches wide but up to 13 yards long. So using the fabric in a non-traditional way means I will be piecing together many seams to create additional width. Hopefully it will all come together and not look like a patchwork mess. Given the volume of the lolita silhouette this project did require pretty much the entire amount of fabric from both bolts.
My goal was to finish the blouse this past weekend, but I didn’t. O_O That’s OK. I would rather take my time and do a good job than rush-rush through it. If folks at work play nice this week I can sneak out right at 5pm and finish up in a couple of days. If not, then I will pick up next weekend. All I have left to do is add the lace to the sleeves, attach them to the blouse body and then whip up a couple of detachable bows (this is a lolita coordinate after all.) So far I am absolutely thrilled with how it is coming together. I think it is going to be stunning.
There was a turning point some where between 10 to 15 years ago. Thanks to eBay and improved eCommerce tools from the likes of Amazon, goods from Japan started to become more readily accessible in the US. I remember vividly buying my first 2 bolts of yukata fabric from Ichiroya. Back then I ran a small eBay store selling craft fabrics. Yukata was always a big hit. Alas, while the store was profitable I just didn’t like the “always on” customer service that eBay auctions required. For me personally the value of the time I had to invest in responses to inquires exceeded the financial return on investment.
So where was I going with this. Oh yeah. Yukata. For my summer festival coordinate I am taking a departure from the traditional yukata and spinning it Harajuku style. But if you are interested in making your own traditional yukata a great book just came out in May. It is simply titled Yukata & Jinbei to Wear (着るゆかたとじんべい).
Instructions do abound on the web for making yukata and kimono. After all most of the pattern pieces are simple rectangles and it is primarily a math equation more than a pattern challenge. But having a physical pattern with multiple size options, especially for a jinbei, is so much easier in my opinion. I would rather spend my time thinking about trims and details instead of measuring out centimeters and what not.
Like so many Japanese instructional books, the illustration based instructions are super easy to follow. I am fond of page 43 where they give you the 3 variations of curvature for women’s sleeves based on age.
The book has a good balance of illustrations and actual photos. I think this is fantastic. While the illustrations make it easy to follow along, seeing the real deal in photos grounds the projects in reality. Photos are just much clearer to know exactly how it should look when you finish.
There is a section dedicated to how to wear your yukata. It includes several pages of different options for tying an obi. The book includes patterns and examples for both women and men, girls and boys. So basically if you are ambitious enough you can make matching yukata for your whole family!!
Back to what I was saying about access to Japanese goods being easier to come by these days. This book is ideal for those who really want to personalize their summer robe. You can very easily purchase yukata and yukata sets (with obi and geta) online these days. So this book is for those who are very particular and want to make a yukata out of that just right fabric and with that just right fit.
Good news. My Bodyline package arrived today. Which gives me plenty of time before the summer festival to make my wa lolita yukata. Despite the unbearable heat, I went straight to work today making the pattern. (Seriously Mother Nature, enough with the 100 degree temperature.)
Using a technique called a “rub off” I deconstructed the Bodyline dress into its pattern pieces. Basically a rub off pattern is when you follow the lines of a garment using paper and pins to reverse engineer the pattern from the finished piece. This particular dress is comprised of 5 main pieces for the top. I didn’t follow the traditional rub off method as the shapes on this dress were very basic and were easy to follow using muslin, some pins and a pencil while the garment was turned inside out.
The skirt is a basic lolita cupcake shape for which I don’t need a pattern. A large rectangle, some gathered fabric for a ruffle and some elastic will do nicely.
But all of this will have to wait now until next weekend. Popping off tomorrow on a short business trip. I lose a weekend day of creativity, but c’est la vie. Work pays for my happy-go-lucky lifestyle!
Getting ready for my next big DIY adventure. This project is going to require more of my sewing skills than my hot glue prowess. I am ready to take a big gamble and create a summer yukata, but Wa Loli style.
The Wa, or traditional Japanese, style of Lolita fashion is hard to pull off. It can go very wrong very fast. So not only will I have to test my sewing aptitude but also ensure my taste level is in check. A careful eye and attention to editing will be key to success.
The plan is to finish the yukata in time for the Mitsuwa Summer Festival. I don’t have a pattern so I have invested more than some might into this project. I bought a Bodyline coordinate that I will use to create a pattern from. I wanted to get a pair of rocking horse shoes and another blouse anyway, so was worth the shipping fee, even if 60 bones for the dress might be a loss. What could prove to be a challenge is timing. Bodyline can take a long time to arrive. I put my order in on the 1st of July and I believe the festival is on the 17th of August. Keep your fingers crossed. I need at least 2 weekends to complete the actual yukata.
Normally I like to have all the materials on hand before starting, but deadlines being deadlines will need to roll while waiting for the postman. In addition to the yukata “pattern”, a pair of geta from Japan should arrive soon. Most of the other fabrics and trims are ready to go. A bolt of traditional indigo yukata fabric has been waiting in a drawer for years so will be happy to finally be put to good use. A few laces are also lying about that will coordinate well. And picked up a pre-tied yukata obi last year that is screaming for some deco! What was I saying about hot glue earlier? Well I guess this project isn’t immune. （＾＿－）
Wa Loli Inspiration
There are so many different sources of inspiration that come to mind. I’d like to pay tribute to each individually instead of collaging a mood board. These range from an artist who sadly disappeared from the web, a little hime and gyaru, and good old fashioned festival fair like uchiwa fans and kitsune masks.