Snow and Stitches

First snow of the year. I expected a dusting. We got 4+ inches.

I spent the day fetching supplies and staying in touch with a friend. It’s a bad feeling to get to the market and realize you forgot your mask and the backup you keep in the car is missing. Oh well.

We had socially distanced evening in the back yard, in the snow. Fire and Friends. Marshmallows and Merrymaking. I needed that.

I didn’t get much done in the way of sewing. But it has begun! Hitting that 10 stitches per inch or so mark is difficult. I think I’m getting 9 so far. I’ll get there. It is significantly faster than those tiny felling stitches on the mushi no tareginu (curtains).

This is my first handstitched garment. I can give myself a little grace. I’ll get better and faster. Which is good because I’m starting to feel a little deadline pressure.

I do find myself wishing I had a Japanese thimble. This would be an amazing opportunity to teach myself unshin, a traditional Japanese sewing method. Hmm…

Ok, I did a thing just now. I bought a ring thimble online. Less than $5. It’ll be here Monday. I’ll try out unshin and see how it goes. If I find that I really enjoy the sewing method, I’ll eventually commission a friend of mine to make a proper thimble for me.

Who Sews?

Time for more research.

In general, I’m trying to answer questions with the outfit. The Who, What, When, Where and Why of it.

We know it’s a travelling outfit, worn when a Heian lady was travelling on foot, likely to a shrine. The Nuikata (the book I’m using for patterns) gives technical instruction, so I have resources for how it was made.

I was curious, who would actually make this outfit in period?

And I found an answer in The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. Hooray for primary sources!

“[90]Infuriating Things. … Having hurriedly sewn something, you’re rather pleased with how nicely you’ve done it – but then when you come to pull out the needle, you find that you forgot to knot the thread when you began. It’s also infuriating to discover you’ve sewn something inside out.”

She goes on to describe a time when the gentlewomen were given a rushed sewing task for Her Majesty and someone sewed a sleeve backwards and then refused to correct her mistake.

We see from this snippet that women of rank who served as gentlewomen were well practiced at sewing and constructed garments for their mistress. It is reasonable to assume that they would do their own sewing having no gentlewomen to do it for them.

That may not seem like a lot, but the information helps to tell the story of the outfit.

And it’s a good reminder to make sure your thread is firmly knotted when starting to stitch!

Lost in Translation

“Sew seams at 0.8cm. Seam allowance is 0.2cm.”


I’ve spent today trying to translate the instructions for the men’s undergarments and the women’s hitoe (the green layer in the museum images).

There is no standard seam allowance. 0.8, 1, and 1.5cm all are used.

There’s an instruction to “add glue and twist”.

That’s right, glue and twist. But what? A teeney rolled hem but with glue instead of thread? Is that how the raw edges of the overlap panel (okumi)are finished? This is not something I can learn in the next month. So here lies the day I made another choice to be less accurate so that I can actually make the project.

It’s possible that the 0.2cm has something to do with the seam treatment of the hitoe. The instructions translate to something along the lines of “fold seam into triangle”. I can tell from the image it’s a seam treatment, but I’ve no clue how to do it. Ok, now thinking about it, the hitoe is mostly marked (possibly thread marked?) at 0.8cm and then maybe stitched with 0.2? Maybe that’s a better translation.

The translation I get does shift a little too, so I’m going to keep revisiting it. I’m using Google Lens to translate. I’ll seek out another app or two and see what kind of translations I get from them before starting on the hitoe.

For now I think I’ve decided to use the men’s undergarments as a guide for the seam allowance for the kosode as it is also an undergarment. They both use 1 cm. So I’ll be using 1cm or 0.4inches.

I did read something in the instructions for the men’s undergarments that the stitch length should be 0.2-0.3cm. So I’m aiming for 10 stitches per inch. For comparison, the tiny stitches for the mushi no tareginu (curtains) are approximately 20 stiches per inch.

This is still going to be rather small stitching.

A Little Further Along

Finished felling down the fold over for the mushi no tareginu (curtains).

Still to go on the hat – trim the cords to the same length, cut the slits, weave cords through and knot them, remove old curtains from hat, attach new curtains to hat.

That’s right. This part of the project is a make-over. There’s currently a rectangle of cotton scrim sewn to the hat. It’s highly wrinkled and has discolored from age. I’m immensely happy to upgrade it.

But I think I’ll leave the hat for now and start sewing the kosode. I’ll double check seam allowances and get started first thing tomorrow.

I’d be more concerned about falling behind (currently at low levels), but I’m about to have a whole lot more free time. 4 work meetings left. Then it’s full concentration on this project.

Tiny Stitches

I’ve been working on stitching down the overlap of the mushi no tareginu (hat curtains).

Fabric hangs over the edge of an ironing board. It has been folded back on itself and held in place by pink-headed straight pins.

It’s taking forever. There’s something about the silk gazar fabric that just wears on the thread. I’ve had to cut out knots. Multiple times. The thread actually un-twists itself by the end. So I have to go super slow. This thread is 3 ply.

I had to know. I looked it up. It’s the weave. Gazar is woven with twisted thread. Twists mean texture, this texture is abrasive. Just a little.

I’m using a tiny felling stitch. Like super tiny.

A line of impossibly small stitches runs diagonally from left to right with a quarter as a size reference.

They’re invisible at arms length. Tiny stitches take time. Lucky for me the garments go together with running stitch (which I’m much faster at) and I don’t have to use stitches this fine in many places. Mostly just this one 64 inch seam. Halfway there…

There’s still so much to do!

25 Days In

Finally finished ironing down the fold on the migoro (body panel) for the false back seam of the kosode. It wouldn’t have taken so long if I wasn’t filming it.

Yeah, it’s a kind of weird thing to film, but I’m also working on documenting this project via video. I needed (wanted) the small shot of it being ironed. 20 minutes of set up for a one minute clip. I hope to be able to find the time to edit along the way, but if I end up doing all the video editing at the very end, so be it.

A thing I need to work on is not postponing work on a piece of the project because I needed (wanted) to film and have lost the light. I had other things to do, but it’s something I just want to be careful about.

If anyone is wondering what I’m going to do with the flat braid, I’ll shift it to the next project as it is perfect for the sleeve ties on a hitatare kamishimo (men’s outfit in which the top, called a hitatare matches the hakama or pleated trousers). I’ll have to order more silk thread to weave a matching cord and the round cords for the chest ties, but that’s a problem for late January/early February.

With respect to weaving the kazari-himo (decorative cords) through the mushi no tareginu (curtains), I was able to see in the super zoomed in photo that the cords overlay the seam that joins panels together.

Pink outline of a circle around a cord woven through fabric laying on the viewer's side of the fabric on top of a seam where to pieces are joined.
Circle indicates where cord(s) pass over the seam. This is on the inside of the mushi no tareginu (curtains).

So I’ll make sure to have the weaving pop out at the right place, and I’ll join the cords together with a few stitches. It’ll be historically adequate. I still feel good about it. I am curious as to why I don’t see cords woven through above the folded down seam in this part of the image though

Pink arrow pointing to a lack of cord woven through the fabric that is visible further left in the image.
Arrow points to the lack of visible cord

This is why it’s historically adequate and not historically accurate. I’m doing my best with zoomed in images.

A Plan for Kazari-himo

I did a quick google search to find more images and hit a near jack pot. I’ve done the same search before, but was looking for copyright free images that time.

They are most definitely NOT attached to the hat. I don’t care what the line drawing has on it. The line drawing is wrong.

The Costume Museum mannequin of a lady wearing a travelling outfit and ichime gasa with mushi no tareginu or hemp veiled sedge hat. The mannequin stands with her hands outstretched parting the sheer curtains hanging down from the very wide brimmed straw hat.
Woman in travelling outfit with ichime gasa

The kazari-himo (decorative cords) are woven through the panel, popping out at the halfway mark.

This image also lets me see the lady’s obi poking out beneath the fold of the garments, so we know the knot is tied in front. The kake-mamori amulet case, the rolled item around her neck beneath the kake-obi the red belt across her shoulders is worn under the kake-obi. You can see the cords that the kake-mamori is hanging from passing under the red.

We can also see that pattern matching on the garments is not a thing. This isn’t to say that it wasn’t done, just that it is acceptable to not. This makes me happy.

And while we’re picking this image apart, I’m confused by her feet. Where are her tabi socks? Was it really appropriate to wear zori (shoes) without tabi?

So now my question is – how do I best recreate what I’m seeing in this image? What I thought was a chevron pattern in a flat braid is likely two pieces of round braid. There is a little bit of a loop on the left hand side, so I’m confident enough in the two round braid idea. It also explains the weirdness I was seeing on the left hand side of my super zoomed in shot.

My first idea is to lay out the cord like the outline of a capital “T”. The arms of the T would be loops. Each panel gets a cord woven though it like that. The tips of the T arm loops will be tacked down to the panel.

I feel good about this plan. Like good enough to cut little slits in finished panels kind of good.

I also think this image will serve as my main presentation image. A side by side with it and me in the finished outfit in the same pose will look fabulous. The side by side was a bit of advice from a commenter on my first A&S display in September.

Hooray for finding just what you need on the internet!

Documentation Revisited

I needed a low key day.

When I brought myself around to working on this project today, I wasn’t in the mood to sew. I decided to go over my research and documentation.

And I found purpose in my presentation script.

I intend to record a video, wearing the completed outfit, giving an overview of the project and how it was accomplished. A 3 minute overview. Or something like that. It’ll be part of my submission of things for A&S Champs in early January. It’s currently about 2 minutes, but we’re only on the second draft. Updating will need to happen as I move through the creation process. And it’s not like 3 minutes is something specific, I just figure I can get most of the information across in about 3 pages of text which works out to about 3 minutes of talking. I will limit myself to five minutes though.

I was taking note while writing out the script where I will need to insert citations for my final documentation. It’s going to be tedious to hunt down sources for some of the information. There are so many things that I know but have forgotten where I picked them up. Common knowledge things should be relatively easy to pin down. Just tedious.

This is me trying to put to good use the ideas presented in the class I took. And desperately trying to feel productive on a day when I could barely be bothered… I’ll try to spread out my documentation sessions and save them for when I’m unmotivated for sewing.

And no matter what else, it’s more progress than I had yesterday, and that’s a win.

Kosode – Take 3!

I did it today! I actually cut it out!

This silk. Oh my. It’s so luxurious. Lucky me to get this as my next-to-skin layer! I’m so glad I didn’t have enough linen! It’s like a heavy habotai, but not quite as smooth. It has a distinct lined texture, very fine, ribbed? But it’s definitely a plain weave. It makes me think of tussah/wild silk. That may be what it is. It’s also just ever so lightly slubby. Not like those huge awful slubs in dupioni, they’re very fine, only noticeable with the fabric at less than 12 inches and more of a double thick thread in the weave than a slub.

White fabric with a subtle ribbed texture.
White silk for kosode

My cuts are not perfect. Hard to be perfect in the floor. But it’s my best effort and that’s what counts to me. I did not cut the eri, collar piece(s) individually, nor make the diagonal cuts for the okumi, overlap panels. Silk has a tendency to fray something awful, so I’ve left those cuts undone for now. I also haven’t made the cut to separate the migoro, body panels, from each other. I don’t plan to separate them fully. I intend to deploy a false seam for the back seam.

Here’s what I mean – I currently have the two migoro/body panels in one large rectangle. I’m going to fold it in half lengthwise along the “cut line”. I’ll then sew it up halfway with the normal seam allowance. After this seam is sewn I’ll cut on the line separating the non sewn half of the garment. This is the front opening of the garment, and the stitched part is the back seam which I don’t have to finish! It’s not historically accurate, but I already have to cut entire panels from larger cloth instead of cutting the right length panel off a narrow bolt. Finishing the seams wasn’t necessary in period because the edges were mostly selvage. The fewer seams I have to finish the better, and I’ll have a lot of really long seams.

Kosode Day

It was late last night and I still needed to decide on the panel width… I resolved myself to pulling out my most recent kodode for an on the body decision. But in the morning.

The plan was the same as before – sweep and mop the floor, iron the silk, throw the silk in the floor, mark and cut. After the panel decision, of course.

About that. I pulled out my newest kosode and measured it. First, it’s a touch too long, so I’ll need to hem it at some point. Luckily, the amount it needs to be hemmed works out to what I decided as the body length of the garment. Yay! Second, the sleeves are actually shorter than I had drafted. Another tiny win! And the big deal, the panel width? This kosode is more than roomy enough, definitely gives the wide silhouette that Heian is all about, I know it looks great under all the layers, as I’ve worn it (once, maybe twice) and all with a panel width of 14.5 inches. Huzzah!

Now, I’m doing historical beginner for C3 and want to be as “historically accurate” as possible for Crowns A&S, so “looking right” only gets me so far. I know that I’ve read in many places that the panel width/loomed width of fabric within the Heian period was 16-18 inches. So I may cut at 16 inches to be more accurate and take a wider seam allowance. Even though I’d rather not. And I can document narrower looms. Hmm…

And, once again, other things got in the way, and I did not cut into the fabric. At least I’ve decided on a 16 inch panel width.

I also attended a class, Capturing Your A&S Process for Competition or Display. I hope to incorporate the concepts into my presentations of the completed travelling outfit.