Getting Started

It’s official. The Genji Project is in full production. Here’s a link to the first video: The Genji Project: Announcement Video

I am so proud of how this project is shaping up. I’ve been dreaming about this project for years. In 2020, I started it and then set it aside for my Travelling Outfit.

Initially this project was very narrow. Read the book. Pull the clothing references. Done. But I dreamed of ever expanding ideas of how to approach the text, and interrogated what it really was I wanted out of the project. I decided to embrace the scope creep. In 2020 I got started. I created this website, a facebook page, and a YouTube channel. I wrote the first 5 or 6 scripts, even filmed a little. And then stopped to focus on the Travelling Outfit.

As I was gearing back up for this project, I reevaluated my timeline, the scope, the goals, and am finally happy with my approach.

The new and improved plan is this: I’m reading 5 translations of Genji: Suematsu, Waley, Seidensticker, Tyler and Washburn. Yes, at the same time. I’m hoping that this will maximize my understanding.  Washburn wrote “it is only through multiple translations of brilliantly complex and historically influential narratives like Genji monogatari that we can ‘get at’ a source work in another language…” There is a great deal to be learned from the subtle and not so subtle differences in the translations. I also hope to make the project more approachable for you this way. Pick the translation you like or have access to and join in. I’ll make a video for each chapter where we’ll compare the translations, talk about the plot, discuss some of the seasonal and cultural references and specifically examine colour in regards to clothing. 

And then there’s Poetry. Poetry in Heian Japan was a fundamental part of court culture. It deserves its own space. So I decided to make a concurrent series with the Genji project videos – Waka Wednesdays, waka meaning “poem in Japanese”. In a video on alternating Wednesdays I’ll share and discuss a poem from our current research project and one I write inspired by the week’s reading. The Genji Monogatari contains 795 poems to explore in 54 chapters.

As a part of this project, I’m creating a video each week. On alternating Sundays I’ll release a new Genji video and on the Wednesdays in between I’ll release a Waka Wednesday video. This means the project will take just over two years to complete. At the end, I’ll have not only read but truly examined the Tale of Genji and should have a database of poetic terms, copious notes on clothing, and a deeper understanding of the Heian period. It should be fun. And a decent challenge. 

Care to join me?

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…

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