September 28, 2014

DIY Ichimatsu Doll: Doll Sized Fan Tutorial

I am currently working on a large craft project, and taking pictures along the way for anyone who wishes to follow in my footsteps of making AN ICHIMATSU DOLL!

Okay, so it isn't a traditionally made Ichimatsu doll that I am working on, but rather modifying a collectible doll to look like an Ichimatsu doll. This is a project that I have been planning for a long time and finally I am happy to be in the midst of making it. And I got to say, it is turning out spectacularly! So if you have always wanted an Ichimatsu doll of your very own but could never afford one, and you have the motivation to sculpt and sew one yourself, please keep your eyes peeled for a lot of tutorial posts! A word of warning though, this is a difficult and very time consuming project!

I've completed most of the sculpting already, and just to do a little bit of adjustments and sanding, so soon I will be able to post some sculpting tutorials. But first I wanted to post a smaller project that I completed for my doll:

How to make a doll-sized sensu fan

The doll that I am making is a little boy doll, so I made a plain white fan, but this can easily be made for a girl doll too by using gold or patterned origami paper.

Woodsies Craft Picks
Heavyweight Poster Board
Paper of your choice (origami paper preferred, I used plain printer paper)
A small headpin
Beading needle nose or round nose pliers
Wire cutters
Glue (I used Tacky Glue)
Acrylic paint and gloss, or nailpolish
Cutting supplies (I used an X-acto knife and rotary cutter)
A bead awl and/or sewing pins
fine grit sandpaper

The Woodsies picks are rounded on one end and taper to a point on the other end. Using an X-acto knife, cut the shape keeping the rounded end, tapering it to a teardrop shape, and the rest of the length very narrow, about 0.2cm. The top wood picks are uncut, the bottom picks have been cut to shape. Use sandpaper to smooth any rough spots, but sand in one direction to avoid splintering.

From the poster board, cut 6-8 small matchsticks, about 0.2-0.25cm wide, at least 5.5cm long (I kept the length longer and trimmed later). A rotary cutter makes this step easier. Only 6 pieces will be used, but I cut 8 pieces in case any of them get damaged.

Using sandpaper, gently round the edges on one side of each matchstick.

Using the bead awl and/or the sewing pin, drill a small hole about 0.5cm from the rounded end of the wood picks. Test to make sure the headpin can fit through the drilled hole.

Trim the wood picks to about 6cm long. 

Using a sewing pin, poke a hole 0.5cm from the rounded end of each matchstick piece. It may help to put a piece of corrugated cardboard underneath. Do this carefully, as the poster board matchsticks will bend very easily. You can use the beading awl to widen the holes.

Trim each matchstick to about 5.2-5.3cm long.

Paint each of your pieces. You can use a color you like, but black or natural bamboo colors are common. I could not find my clear gloss paint, so I ended up painting a base of black acrylic topped with black nail polish for shine. I don't recommend nail polish if you can help it, if it doesn't dry completely the spokes of the fan may stick together.

Insert a sewing pin into the hole of each piece to prevent the paint from sealing the holes, and stick the pieces into a pin cushion or the side of a cardboard box to dry.

Cut a 10cm diameter circle of paper.

Fold the circle in half and measure 3cm in from the outside edge all the way around. Cut out the inner circle and cut the outer piece into two halves.

Valley fold each half circle in half, and then fold the outside edges in half towards the center fold line to make 4 sections. (If you are using patterned paper, fold the other half circle in the opposite direction, so that when they are put one on top of the other, the patterned side will show on both sides.)

Valley fold each of those 4 sections in half again to make 8 sections.

Now Mountain fold those 8 sections in half to make 16 accordion folded sections. 

Cut off one of the sections along a fold to make 15 sections.

Once the paint has fully dried, insert the headpin through the holes of your fan spokes, with the wood picks on the outsides and 6 poster board matchsticks in the middle for a total of 8 spokes.

Trim the headpin with wire cutters, then form the cut end into a tiny loop with needle nose pliers. If you plan to attach a tassel, you can make a larger loop.

Use the pliers to press the tiny loop flat against the fan. Do not squeeze it too tightly, ensure that you can still easily open and close the fan spokes.

Glue 7 of your spokes to one piece of folded paper. Start with the bottom outside spoke glued in the middle of the front of one edge section, then glue the 6 shorted spokes to the center of every other section. Leave the top spoke unglued.

Finally, glue the second piece of paper on top of the other, covering up the inside spokes. Glue the last outside spoke to the double layered outside section of the fan.

The fan is finished!

To help keep the shape of the fan from spreading apart, cut a tiny stripe of paper and wrap it around the tip of the fan and glue it into a circle. The protective strip can be removed by sliding it down the handle. Then replace it by sliding it up the handle.

September 21, 2014

Thrift Store Shopping tips

It is now the middle of September, that means that thrift stores are beginning to stock their Halloween costumes and decor. I've mentioned in the past that I do not by my kimono stuff online, I almost entirely shop at local secondhand shops, and have had good luck at finding many decent items over the years. While I can find kimono items throughout the year, the beginning of autumn leading up to Halloween is prime shopping season at thrift shops, as they tend to stock ethnic clothing with their Halloween stock.

Now, I know many areas of the United States and in other countries around the world don't have such a diverse population, therefore kimono are harder to find. However on a rare occasion you may be pleasantly surprised at what you can find! Seattle does have a large and diverse population, and because of the coastal location, many people have relocated here from Asia. However, my experience with hunting for kimono in secondhand shops is that they are easier to find outside of the big city in smaller more suburban cities and towns.

Not only can you save a ton of money building your collection from thrift stores, the thrill of finding a rare treasure in an unlikely place is very exciting. I'd like to share some of the tips that I've learned over the years.

Educate Yourself to Avoid Knock-offs
More experienced kimono collectors can spot a fake robe in an instant. This knowledge comes with time, but for beginners it is easy to fall for a knock-off. There are many robes with Asian motifs that are created for tourists, sometimes made of silk, but usually made of polyester, cotton, or (cringe) satin. The features of fake kimono robes vary widely, but they may have such features as: sewn seams on the shoulders, no sewn seam down the length of the center back, an included belt tie made of matching fabric, stereotypical motifs like geisha and dragons, large picture-like design on the center of the back. Fake robes usually far outnumber real kimono. For example, this week I found 2 yukata and 4 fake kimono robes. This doesn't necessarily mean that these fake robes are off limits to kimono collectors, as they can be useful for recycling the fabric in handicrafts and wearing around the house. And if you get really lucky, a good quality fake kimono may even be nice enough to wear casually as a polyester komon or nagajuban. Even I have a fake kimono or three that can be worn casually (albeit without ohashori) without looking like a novice in a bathrobe.

What to Look ForCostumes: This is the first place I'll look during Halloween season. You may find kimono, haori, yukata, jinbei, fake kimono, obi, or nagajuban. Most kimono found are yukata or komon.
Nightgowns and Bathrobes: This is where to look for kimono on the off season (not Halloween), but it doesn't hurt to look here as well after looking in the costumes section. Don't forget to look in the men's sleepwear section as well, as this is where I tend to find women's vintage blue and white yukata.
Fabric/draperies/table runners: This is where I most often find obi. If you are crafty, you can also look for cheap fabrics which might be nice to sew into kimono items!
Shoes: Look for zouri and geta. Geta are easier to find, especially during Halloween and early summer (with other sandals).
Scarves: This is where they would put obiage if they get any, but I have yet to find an obiage or obijime in a thrift store. However, you may find a nice scarf that could be used as a casual obiage. Obijime would likely be stacked with the belts or curtains section (if mistaken for a curtain tie-back).
Purses: I've found kinchaku, bamboo purses, and kimono clutch purses in the purse section. Also, there are some versatile styles of western purses which may work nicely with casual kimono.
Baskets and wooden housewares: On a rare occasion, fans (oogi, sensu, or uchiwa) and bamboo bags may be here.
The jewelry counter: You may find a pretty brooch that you can wear as (or convert) into an obidome.
Others: Some stores have a section of small goods and knickknacks, sometimes packaged in clear bags and hung on the walls. You can look here for small accessories like fans and compact mirrors, or small collectibles. If you like dolls, Japanese dolls, such as hakata, kokeshi, and kyo ningyou (geisha and dancers), can be fairly common finds at thrift stores. Depending on the store, they can be in the collectibles section or toys. Ichimatsu dolls are super rare finds, however if you are crafty you can make your own Ichimatsu inspired doll using a western bisque or porcelain doll (stay tuned for some DIY blog posts on how to do this!)

Examine Your Finds Carefully:
Look over things carefully, not only to determine if it is fake, but there is often damage. There is a reason these things end up in thrift stores. Sometimes it is tears or stains, or the previous owner no longer has use of it. Try it on and see if it fits you, or hold it up to the light to see if you can see how much seam allowance is behind the lining to determine if you can resew it wider or longer. Look at the price and determine if it is fair. I have seen $300 children's zouri, ridiculously priced because the clerk mistakenly thought they were Chinese foot-binding shoes.

Be Persistent and Don't Get Discouraged!
Finding something kimono-related is RARE. I will go for months or even a year and not find anything. Other times, I will find so much stuff that I'm swimming in new purchases. This last week and a half I have visited various stores 7 times (six difference locations) and have bought one brand new modern yukata with tags still attached, one vintage yukata, and have spotted two women's jinbei (one brand new). Fake kimono robes still outnumber real items (I have spotted 4 this week).

There is no wrong way to search around a thrift store. The typical method is the finger through everything on the racks. This ensures you don't miss anything good sandwiched on the racks, but it is also very time consuming. Since I am only going to thrift stores to look for very specific things, I tend to rush through the stores since I know exactly what I'm looking for, and go to only the sections where I tend to find things. Doing this means that I have more time to visit many more stores in a single day. Usually a kimono is easy to spot on a rack since you can usually look at the hems and look for anything really long, but don't rely on just doing that, as you may skip out on haori or kimono which may have the long hems pinned up on the hanger.

Try Antique Stores and Boutiques (with caution):
Antique shops can be good places to find kimono, however they can also be grossly overpriced. Do check out these shops as well, but go in with the mentality to not get too attached to any found treasures that may drain your bank account. I can occasionally find something decently priced, and usually have more formal kimono items, but these shops tend to sell to people looking for something expensive and pretty to hang on their wall or drape on a dining table.

And for the curious, here are this week's finds:
Brand new yukata with tags, $14
Old shibori and stenciled hand-sewn yukata, $5
Two woman's jinbei (not purchased)