On the Way to Kosode

What do you do when you find that your bolt of linen is 2 yards too short?

Well, I pivoted to silk.

Luck was with me today when I discovered that I didn’t have as much linen as I thought. I managed to find another few pieces of linen and had almost resolved myself to piecing it when I remembered a bit of white silk in my stash. I measured it. 4 2/3 yards at 55 inches wide. It was going to be close.

Next I set myself to drafting a kosode pattern. The modern analog for a Heian kosode is a nagajuban. It’s the skin layer. Yes, there are perfectly lovely and workable patterns available. All my other kosode use them. I specifically recommend this page by Lisa Joseph, known in the SCA as Saionji no Hana.

The other two garments in the ensemble will be constructed using Jidai Isho no Nuikata, a wonderous tome made by experts in the field of Japanese historical dress who took apart garments left to a temple and patterned them. It’s as close to historically accurate as I can get. But it doesn’t include a woman’s Heian kosode pattern.

I decided to use two men’s undergarment patterns and the women’s patterns for hitoe, itsutsuginu, uchigi, and uwagi as the references. I used my own measurements to determine the length for the body of the garment. I made the sleeve just a bit shorter than the hitoe sleeve so it nests inside neatly. I drafted the overlap panels to be 13cm shorter than half the length of the body panels, the same as the aforementioned women’s patterns. I used the collar length from the women’s hitoe and the width is the same across all garments.

Now was the moment of truth, did I have enough silk?


As luck would have it, I have exactly enough silk. Down to the inch, exactly what I needed.

A yellow soft measuring tape curls over the fold of white silk fabric. In front of the fabric is a spool of white thread. The label reads, "Superior Thread, Kimono Silk, #100 Silk Thread"

In other good news, Golden Witch shipped my silk thread without delay! They even included some nifty vintage fishing findings. I have an angler friend who may appreciate them. No, I didn’t realize I was ordering from a rodmaker’s supply. They had the thread I needed in stock at a great price.

I’m so excited to have the silk thread to finish the kazari-himo. I’m seriously considering blasting out the three remaining cords and finishing the two remaining panels. That’s right. Finished another one last night. It would feel really good to get an entire layer complete ahead of schedule.

Tomorrow I’ll warp the marudai, stitch another panel and possibly cut out the kosode.

Not As Planned

There are bound to be hiccoughs. It’s why I’m trying to push hard and make progress every day. Even if it’s only a little bit of progress.

Some days work is extra hard. Today was one of those. Some days life kicks you in the feelings. Today was also one of those.

But my backup linen thread came from Vavstuga. I got 60/2 Bleached.

And I’ve pinned an edge of a mushi no tareginu panel and will spend this evening after dinner stitching it.

A piece of sheer silk in white extends away from the camera. The edge has been rolled twice, pressed and pinned along the length.

Tomorrow is another day.

166 Inches

More than I expected, but that was without the weight change factored in. I couldn’t be more happy with the results.

A looped bundle of white braided cord, kumihimo, with tasseled ends.

I spent many hours weaving today and managed to finish the first of 4 cords to make kazari-himo or “decorative cords” for the hat in my travelling outfit. I tied a couple of overhand knots in it, loosely and held it up to hat brim height. It’s perfect.

Total time on this braid was approximately 13 hours. 2 hours to reel the thread and wind the strands on tama. 10 hours of active weaving and about an hour in set up and take down, tasseling the ends and clearing the leftover silk from the tama. Not bad.

That makes 2 out of 3 items complete for the first 3 week period of my production schedule. Tomorrow I’m going to spend some time working on a kosode pattern and prepping my linen.

Until the new silk thread comes in I intend to get another panel for the mushi no tareginu (curtains for the hat) started. And speaking of thread, I got a payment off to B & T for the reappearing package of linen thread and a thank you for my honesty. I’m glad a lovely merchant is not out any money because a parcel went missing.

Thread Day

I ran the math. 4 cones. Each kazari-himo, the decorative cords on the hat, needs about 1 tama more than a cone. Because of course it does. At least I’ll have fine silk thread left over? It’s ordered. The hat project just got a little pricey. Oh well. This is why I don’t get a lot of take out.

In the post I received two packages. One from Britex Fabrics with silk thread, and the other was my replacement package from Burnley & Trowbridge with my linen thread. Hooray! Mostly.

A collection of spools of thread. Left is Kinkame brand pale yellow, center is kinkame brand in gold. The kinkame spools have one spool standing on end and another laying on top with the end toward the camera. On the right are 2 spools of 80/3 Londonderry Linen thread in white from Burnley and Trowbridge .

The gold thread I ordered is a more bright gold than I thought it would be. Drat. And it doesn’t blend well with the more antique gold taffeta. Double drat. Don’t try to match colors via your computer monitor. I really thought it would be close. HA! Nope. I will likely have visible stitches and matching thread helps them hide. I don’t know that the Heian ladies would have thread dyed to match the varied fabrics of all those layers. Maybe they did. It wouldn’t surprise me either way. But I can get close, so I ordered a different shade. The bright gold will get a different purpose some other day.

And then another package from Burnley & Trowbridge appeared in my mailbox. The post does not run twice a day. I’ve contacted the lovely people at B&T to let them know that I now have an extra order and I would really like to give them more money.

Today wasn’t all packages and orders. I’ve also managed 58 inches so far on the first of the four kazari-himo. I did change the counterweight. I read through some of the set up instructions in Roderick Owen’s Braids (highly recommend). He instructs to have a counterweight that is 45% of the tama weight. I doubled what I had for the test braid. The resulting cord is much more supple. I’m pleased.

Ready to Begin, Again

I really thought I would give the kumihimo a rest and do something else. Nope.

I actually didn’t plan to get much of anything accomplished as I had other priorities today. I didn’t wake up knowing what to do, nor did I happen to do research that illuminated an answer. The fact of the matter is this – there is only so much space in my apartment and I can only move the sawhorses so far apart. So I set them as far apart as I could and measured. 248 inches. That should net 135 finished inches which is lovely and long and has room for knots.

So I set myself to reeling out silk thread and winding tama (wooden bobbins/spools). I was more careful this time and lifted the end loop off and passed a bit of string (DMC floss that had previously been used to attach a strand to a tama) through it.

8 wooden spools with white strands made up of multiple loose threads are arranged in a rough semi-circle The looped ends of the strands extend to the center point of the semicircle and a dark grey string has been passed through the looped ends.

After I had all 8 ready, I cinched the string in a lark’s head knot and taped it down to the table. I then smoothed the cut parts of the ends and bound them all together with needle and (silk) thread. This is a much more tidy start than the …test braid. That looped end will eventually be cut and trimmed to make a tasseled end.

8 wooden spools with white strands made up of multiple threads THe strands are gathered together and bound. Needle and threadextend to the left of the bound spot. The strands have looped ends which have a dark colored string tying them together in a lark's head knot. The dark string is taped to the wooden surface with a piece of masking tape.

It’s nearly midnight and I should really get to bed, but I’m sorely tempted to go ahead and set the tama and start again. I won’t. But I am tempted. And I definitely have to order more silk thread.

A Disappointing Finish

I finished my first length of kumihimo for the kazari-himo, decorative cords, for the hat!

Or not.

It was a good test. I was pleased with my weaving speed and the cord produced. There’s just not enough of it. As I was nearing the end I grew more excited, until I realized the take up was likely more than I thought. I was almost done and did not have almost three yards. Crud.

I wanted 108 inches, minimum. I got 89-90. Boo! And yes, I pinned my one complete panel to the hat and pinned the cord to the hat just to see. I tried. It’s just not long enough.

A coil of braided cord with tasseled ends.

Decorative knots of some kind are required. I’m currently wondering if my 3 yard estimate is quite enough or if it needs to be a bit longer than that. My test lets me know that I’ll need to start with strands of 200 inches long to end up with finished cords of 108 inches. I think I need to order more silk thread…

I’m going to shift to other portions of the project while I think about what to do.

Nonsense and Notions

When I decided to enter the Calontir Clothing Challenge, I already had a firm plan. (I’m not the type to enter into anything without a firm plan) I ordered all my notions and had this clever plan laid out accordingly. And then my linen thread didn’t show up. Tracking said it had been delivered. I waited 2 days, just in case. Nada.

The good news is Burnley & Trowbridge have magnificent customer service and a replacement is on the way. One of my fellow entrants also recommended Vavstuga’s 60/2 linen thread, so I have a backup on the way soon.

In other good news, my kimono needles arrived today! These are from Shibori Dragon.

A folded paper needle pack that reads Trade Mark T.E.C. Tokyo Needles #9

They’re lovely. The eye is so very small on them and they’re super sharp.

A needle to the left of a quarter.

I’m really looking forward to sewing with them. I may pick up another mushi-no tareginu (curtain) panel and stitch on that to break up time spent weaving. I’m going to carry on with those two tasks until my linen thread shows up as I really don’t want to make the hitoe my first hand-stitched garment. I’ll get all the linen prepped, pattern drafted, and pieces cut out for the kosode in the mean time.

Kumihimo for Kazari-himo

I’ve entered the Calontir Clothing Challenge as a “historical beginner”. My emphasis in the challenge is trying my best for historical accuracy. These kazari-himo will be close but not right. Kumihimo on a marudai is late period, mid 16th century at best. These decorative cords should be made using a fingerloop braiding technique called kute-uchi. I’m slowly researching and learning, I am weaving on a marudai as a practical substitution.

I started by using a cord and my hat to measure a plausible length for the kazari-himo, and compared that to the source image and came up with 3 yards. Kumihimo has a 35-50% take up, so I’m starting my first length at 4 1/2 yards. After the cord is woven, I’ll asses the actual take up and adjust for the remaining 3 cords.

Two sawhorses set 4 1/2 yards apart served as holders as I wrapped silk thread in a loop 10 times. This means that each strand of the braid will have the equivalent of 40 threads per strand as the thread is 2 ply twist. In period it would have been untwisted single thread as fine as 00 size.

I then spooled the strand onto a tama. Once I had 8 tama prepped, I set them together and prepped them for weaving on the marudai.

Today’s effort produced one of the mushi-no tareginu (curtain/veil) panels completely hemmed and 20 inches of braid. And now it’s already tomorrow… though I think 1:15 am should still count as yesterday.

Project Announcement

My entry for the Calontir Clothing Challenge and Crowns A&S Champions will be almost entirely from stash fabrics. I’ve ordered linen and silk threads, Japanese needles and bought one yard of a period passable polyester brocade for one of the accessories for the outfit. I will either buy one yard of red silk taffeta or buy acid dye and dye white silk taffeta I have on hand for a different accessory.

I’m making a travelling outfit suitable for a woman of the Heian period of modest rank inspired by this lady of high rank:

Woman of the upper class of heian era Japan in travelling outfit wearing a very large brimmed hat with veil panels or curtains hanging from the brim.
Woman of the upper class in tsubo-shozoku (travel outfit) with mushi-no tareginu ( a hemp veiled sedge hat) – Kyoto Costume Museum

If you’re curious, it’s the purple layer that specifically denotes this lady’s rank. Only the imperial family would wear purple or murasaki, one of two forbidden colors, kurenai -a reddish pink- being the other and worn as a sign of direct favor. Sugawara no Naeme is a Lady in the SCA. The forbidden colors are not appropriate.

This ensemble has multiple layers which correspond nicely to the four layers of the Challenge. We have a kosode, made of white linen (this could have been silk in period) as my first layer/underwear. Second (mid) layer is a hitoe of green silk taffeta. My third layer/upper garment is an uwagi of beautiful yellow silk brocade (that I bought many years ago for this purpose) lined in a gold silk taffeta. That leaves the hat for the fourth/accessory layer. I purchased the hat years ago, and it needs new trimmings. I’m sewing up new panels in silk and weaving 12 yards of kumihimo for the decorative cording, kazari-himo.

In order to finish the ensemble on time for Crowns A&S Champions I’ve broken it into chunks. 4 cords, 4 silk curtain panels, 4 garments (I’m counting the lining as a separate garment as it’s a separate garment’s worth of work). To finish on time with the least stress, I need to finish one cord, one panel, and one garment every 3 weeks, the last 3 week section being reserved for any catch up that needs to happen and the last garment/finishing up the uwagi. I intend to make it last. This plan has me finishing on January 7th. The current intention is to hand sew everything.

I have a few stretch goals if I finish early, the red kakeobi (sash) worn around the shoulders, the kakemamori (amulet case) worn around the neck, and a pair of zori made of paulownia wood. I may have time to finish these after A&S Champions and still make the C3 deadline.

The first step for me is measure out oodles of silk thread into 8 sections (20 threads per section) and reel it onto tama. I’ll bounce between my marudai and stitching a panel for the first week in hopes that my thread will arrive. If my linen thread has not arrived by the time I finish the other two items/within one week, I’ll move on to the hitoe and sew the kosode after.

Next time some talk about the kumihimo I’ll be doing…

Every Blog Starts Somewhere…

I had intended to launch my blog in conjunction with my YouTube channel. I hit a snag with filming and then I found the Calontir Clothing Challenge. I could stand to make one of the many outfits I have planned for Sugawara. And I have a firm interest in starting to enter my projects in some of the many Arts and Sciences (A&S) competitions. There were a few days where I sincerely thought I could complete a full set of robes and all the elements of karaginu mo in the four month scope of the Challenge. And then I discovered that my kingdom’s A&S Champions competition, Crowns A&S Champions, had a deadline 3 weeks earlier in the same month…

Mannequin dressed in itsutsuginu karaginu mo. There is a hiogi , folded, in the hands held at waist level.
Itsustuginu – karaginu mo for female attendant

If I was to meet the deadline for A&S Champs, I had to simplify. I was already struggling to order the volume of fabric needed for karaginu mo. Another entrant to C3 mentioned making their project entirely from stash materials. There are some lovely silks in my stash…AHA!

Once I had a firm plan, I entered the Challenge and informed my Laurel. I may have forgotten to mention that I was entering Crowns A&S Champions as well…oops.

SO…wanna know what I’m making? Stay tuned.

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