昔のSewing Returns Next Week!

I actually see more bald eagles than red-tailed hawks in my neighborhood, so this was a super lucky shot!

Hi friends! I haven’t just been dreaming again about becoming a falconer! I have an Iaido event coming up shortly, and as usual I need to focus all my attention on assisting with the production of the seminar as well as my own preparation for competing in the tournament. So no post this week, and I’ll see you back here next week on Mukashi no Sewing for more history, sewing, and fashion! ❤

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Edo Period Coat Restoration: The Facings

Project 9, part 11 – Dragonfly (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10 here)

So close…

Welcome back to the Edo period coat restoration project! I finished the hem facings! It took me MUCH longer than a week. 😀

Originally, the hems of this coat were all turned in, so there were no raw edges. However, after adding the quilted lining, the coat took on a very unfinished appearance. Looks aside, the edges of the quilted cotton would have begun to fray and shed after a while, so it was imperative for me to enclose them. The fabric needed to be rugged, to stand up to some usage, and also to match the aesthetic of the jacket.

Seriously this fabric is perfect.

I don’t think of myself as being particularly sentimental, but when I thought about what fabric to use for the facings there was only one answer. The first thing my Iaido sensei ever gave me was a canvas fukuro (bag) to hold my wooden practice sword in. It’s been a long time since that small bag was enough to hold all my weaponry, but I couldn’t bear to give it up. And it’s lucky I didn’t, since it was absolutely perfect for my jacket! The print is ivory dragonflies on an indigo background – the colors are ideal for this project, and dragonflies are a beloved symbol of the samurai as they fly unwaveringly toward their prey (and apocryphally never retreat).

Wonder Clips RULE!

So I carefully removed all the seams from the bag, ironed out the fabric, and then cut it into strips! I ironed creases into the strips, folded them over every raw edge on my jacket, and got to work securing everything with invisible stitches. It took a LONG TIME. Even with the ironed creases and Wonder Clips holding everything together, I had to constantly readjust the facing strips and pinch in new creases which caused my hands to cramp after too long. I could tell when it was time to stop for the night because every time I was getting too tired, my thread would knot up on itself from being held under tension at an incorrect angle!

I had to sew the sleeve facings going in the opposite direction that I normally prefer to sew, and it was really aggravating lol.

At last, however, I managed to finish the job, and I’m SO happy with how it came out! It looks so stylish edged in the dragonfly fabric, and every time I wear it I’ll be reminded of my sensei’s generosity, as well! ❤

I also had to sew these little silk patches back onto the inside upper corners, and tack down all the silk facings – luckily this at least didn’t take too long, and now I don’t have any more chunks of jacket laying around my sewing room!

I think the blue facings are really stylish! I could have gone for brown, as well, but I like the blue and ivory!

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there’s only one more step to finishing this project! I just need to add interfacing back into the collar to give it some stiffness, and then secure the collar back to the jacket (and reinforce it where it’s fraying). If you haven’t already, please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post, and I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Happy 2-Year Anniversary, 昔のSewing!

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! Friends, I can hardly believe it, but this week is the second anniversary of this blog. I’ve really enjoyed the last year so much, and I wanted to take a moment to thank YOU for reading for two whole years now! Your comments and support have really helped me feel connected to a community of people who love history, sewing, and fashion as much as I do. ❤

I really enjoyed the retrospective I did last year, so let’s take a look at what I’ve accomplished during Mukashi no Sewing’s second year.

The first project completed this year was my second obi makeover project – turning an obi into…another obi! 😀 I passed my black belt test in this and I still couldn’t be happier! ❤

The second project was restoring my wool yagasuri kimono. This kimono is tied with my lavender summer-weight kimono for most-worn in my collection, so I’m very happy to went to the trouble of fixing it up. 🙂

The third project finished this year was the restoration of my two velveteen lolita dresses from Metamorphose. There’s something so special about having made the headdress to match my red one; I can’t help but smile every time I see it in its drawer. ❤

The fourth project I completed was making some obiage for myself out of my new favorite fabric – shown here modeled with the other kimono I wore the most this year! 😀

I had fewer spotlights this year, since I didn’t buy many antique pieces. These were:

Of course, I also joined the Bibliotheca Blog Circle which has really created some fun opportunities for sharing and learning!

So what’s on the docket for year three? Hopefully, continuing to have a lot of fun! I’ve got the Victorian undergarments and Edo coat restoration projects to finish (STILL LOL), as well as the restoration on my Edo mirror (which is shockingly close to being finished). I’ve been saving up a couple of really fun antiques for spotlights themed around projects, and I plan on revisiting my very first restoration project for another pass at some stains and damage that intimidated me too much the first time around. Being part of Bibliotheca has given me opportunities to pursue research that isn’t related to a project but that I still find extremely interesting. I hope you will continue to enjoy reading those posts as much as I enjoy writing them!

So thank you again from the bottom of my heart for joining me this year, and I hope to see you back every Tuesday in the coming year here at Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Spotlight: 1970s Kimono School Textbooks

Spotlight 12: Hakubi School Textbooks – Somehow I Lucked Out!

Welcome to Mukashi no Sewing’s twelfth spotlight! Today I wanted to share with you a find from Yahoo Japan Auctions that I bought quite some time ago, and which turned out to be strangely prophetic! I was just getting into wearing kimono properly at the time, and someone on a kimono Discord server happened to link a bunch of auctions for kimono textbooks with the caveat that they were on the older side. “Older” and “book” are two of my favorite words to pair together, so I hopped on over and snatched up this set for cheap!

1977 isn’t really THAT old, but it is older than I am!

This is a set of kimono school textbooks from the Hakubi Kyoto Kimono Gakuin, published in 1977. (Gakuin means “academy” or “institute.”) The Hakubi school of kimono was founded in 1969, only eight years prior to the publication of these books, and has been going strong since with over 100 branches operating throughout Japan. The academy teaches both how to dress as a personal pursuit, as well as how to become a professional dresser or instructor.

The set of textbooks consists of three books – one about kimono technical knowledge (aka how to dress), one about general kimono knowledge (types of kimono and obi), and one about manners in kimono.

“Technical knowledge” – this is the “how-to” book.

The technical knowledge book is all about how to actually wear kimono and obi. It shows not just the basics, but also specialized dressing techniques such as for furisode for Coming of Age Day or children at Shichigosan.

The general knowledge book describes the many different types of kimono and obi for men and women, and the time, place, and occasion for wearing each.

Really enjoying these covers, too!

This book is SO of its time. Look at these awesome Showa gals!

I LOVE the men’s kimono section. Whereas the female models are all smiling pleasantly, every dude is making some kind of weird face. They range from “What am I even doing here?” to “Who the heck are you?” to “I’m a mid-level yakuza boss.”

The manners book might come as a surprise, but if you haven’t worn kimono you might not know that you have to adapt a lot of your movement to the garment. Additionally, this book covers things like how to behave in traditional settings. Most people in America don’t learn how to ballroom dance or behave at military banquets – this is a similar sort of “finishing school” type instruction for Japanese people who might not know these particular cultural points naturally.

Kneeling in seiza is fine for a few minutes. After that you have two options, which are endure the pain or endure the pain.

There are basics like how to kneel, how to bow, how to open sliding doors, and that sort of thing…

…as well as more detailed instruction for events such as weddings or Obon.

Remember I said this acquisition was prophetic? Well, as you know I started taking lessons last year from a professional kimono teacher, and Sparrow Sensei just happens to be a graduate of the Hakubi School! Without even knowing it ahead of time, I ended up with a vintage set of textbooks from my own school. Crazy!!

I wonder if I can still buy these komono (dressing accessories)… 😀

According to Sparrow Sensei, the older textbooks differ from the newer ones in some essential points, particularly in the types of obi tying methods. (I want to assume the photos of kimono types have been updated but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they were still using the vintage ones lol.) I’m not sure if I can acquire the newer ones without being in Japan and actually enrolling in a Hakubi course, but even so I am very happy with my vintage set! I hope you enjoyed getting to see a little slice of kimono history as much as I have. If you haven’t yet, please subscribe below so you don’t miss a post, and I look forward to seeing you back here next time here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Edo Period Mirror Restoration: The Polishing (Stage 2)

Project 15, part 3 – First Under Heaven (Part 1, part 2 here)

The bag my mirror came home in! It’s a work of art all by itself!

Welcome back to the Edo Period mirror restoration project! This week I finished up the polishing and preservation/oxygen exclusion process on my mirror, and it was SUPER COOL. 😀

Originally, I had planned on a similar process taken by Hans, the YouTuber I mentioned in my last post – use very fine grit automotive sandpapers (because they’re meant to be used wet, and are typically finer than woodworking sandpapers), and then increasingly fine rubbing and polishing compounds to buff out all the scratches and restore the mirror to a smooth and gleaming surface. After discovering that the plating on the mirror side is extremely worn down, I changed my plan to just two stages. First, a polishing compound with a handheld buffer (thanks, husband!) to gently remove the last bits of tarnish without wearing through the plating, and then a very fine polish with uchiko powder and choji oil.

He has asked me to note that this Black and Decker buffer sucks, but he also didn’t need a high-quality buffer so the price point was the deciding factor here. 😀

My husband kindly set me up with an automotive polishing compound and his buffer – I went outside, of course, and wore a mask during the whole process because I was still just a little dubious about what metals might have been used on my mirror! SO MUCH GROSS came off the mirror! Ack! Black tarnish everywhere. I actually wasn’t able to finish the process right away due to an appointment, so he sprayed the mirror with WD-40 to exclude oxygen until I could get back to work.

I don’t know why I ended up using only pink towels for this project, but here we are.

The next day I wiped the WD-40 away, and tapped uchiko powder on the mirror. Uchiko is a very fine powder made from ground polishing stones – I use it along with choji (clove) oil to clean my shinken (my antique – and very sharp! – katana) so I figured it would be safe to use on my mirror as well. I used shop towels for this stage which was the right call over my expensive washi paper since this brought up a quite a bit more black tarnish! Once I was done, I covered the mirror side in paste wax and buffed it until it shone. The cast side I just polished with choji oil and left the oil as my oxygen excluder on the bronze. (I did use paste wax on the rim and the flat areas of the kanji, though!).

I learned that it’s a lot harder to buff this out if you leave it for, say, half a day. Oops!

Honestly, I was astounded by how well even this somewhat half-baked process worked. As you can see, my mirror reflects really well! The cast side glows and shimmers in the light, and the reflecting side is good enough to do my makeup in!

Pictured: me taking a picture of myself.

Speaking of the kanji, you might be wondering what they say! The tiny string down the left-hand side is the maker’s mark. I’ll be honest, I was having a difficult time reading them past the first three, so I headed over to r/translator on Reddit and asked for assistance in making them out. (Then I paid it forward by explaining some lyrics in Japanese for another poster!) The kanji read: 天下一清水河内守藤原宗次 (Tenkaichi Shimizu Kawachi no Kami Fujiwara Munetsugu). The first three (天下一),”Tenkaichi,” was an honorific commonly given to bronze mirror makers (and swordsmiths), and means “first under heaven.” It’s possible that this means my mirror is much older than I thought:

[Tenkaichi was] a title given to masters of various industrial arts by the authorities, from the Azuchi-Momoyama period to the early Edo period. It was also awarded to Noh mask makers (Men-uchi). Toyotomi Hideyoshi granted the title to Suminobō (Wakasanokami) and Zekan.

In the Edo period, KawachiYamatoYūkanTōhaku, and Ōmi all claimed to be Tenkaichi. Masks made by these makers were often marked with the branding “Tenkaichi” on the reverse side. Because the title became abused as self-proclaimed Tenkaichi thrived, the Edo government prohibited its use in 1682, making it impossible for mask makers to declare themselves Tenkaichi.

Seriously look how good this is. Even leaving all the scratches and corrosion marks it’s so reflective!!

清水, Shimizu, is a family name (what we’d call a last name in the US) and means “pure water”. It can also be read as Kiyomizu (such as Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto). 河内守 is a title. “Kawachi no Kami,” or “Guardian/Governor of Kawachi (a province in what is now Osaka Prefecture),” was a title conferred by the Imperial Court (for a fee, naturally), and by the Edo period was mostly honorific (since the Tokugawa bakufu actually ruled the country). “No Kami” was the highest level of these honorary titles – in descending order they were:

no Kami 守 (governor, title of the kokushu)
no Suke 介 (vice governor)
no Jō 
no Sakan 
no Shijō 史生

They could be awarded for things such as merit in battle, or exceptional skill as a craftsperson, and the holder didn’t actually govern the province in question (as there could be several “no Kami” at one time). 藤原 – Fujiwara – is a clan name. The Fujiwara were extremely powerful during the Heian period, and still retained political power and influence in the Edo period (and even into the modern era – two Prime Ministers have been from the Fujiwara clan!). Finally, 宗次, Munetsugu, is the personal name of the mirror maker. Tsugu was a very common component in names of artisans during the period – in Hizen province there were eight generations of swordsmiths named Munetsugu, and a friend of mine has a mirror signed by a Yoshitsugu – so it’s likely that this was an “art name,” take when he became a craftsman, and was not necessarily what his friends or family called him. If you were reorganizing this all into English, you’d probably say: “Munetsugu Shimizu of the Fujiwara Clan, Guardian of Kawachi, First Under Heaven.” …I really need to improve my name now. 😀

This dictionary is over 800 pages by the way. It’s not the easiest thing to use but it really came in handy today!

The two large kanji I was able to sort out on my own, thanks to my calligraphy dictionary! Yes, that’s a thing – not all Japanese people can read heavily-stylized kanji, and certainly this American woman can’t! I had some fun tracking these down, actually, so here’s a peek behind the curtain of Mukashi no Sewing and my crazy research process! I noticed while I was researching my mirror in general that the two characters on my mirror are not uncommon ones (more about that in a hot minute). So I did an image search, and refined it until a reasonable amount of similar mirrors came up, then clicked through every link until I found a site that actually mentioned what they meant. (I also found two other mirrors made by Munetsugu!) Armed with the knowledge that, roughly, they meant “good luck” and “longevity,” I hit the calligraphy dictionary and checked every variant of those kanji until I found the two I was looking for!

Glorious!! And apparently, there are still some people crafting mirrors in the traditional fashion today!

(fuku) is the one on the left, and it means good fortune, great blessings, and a happy event. 寿 (juu) is the one on the right, and technically it means longevity, but it also implies praying for a good outcome, or an auspicious occasion.

The detail on this is bonkers. These were actually done with sand molds?!?!

Put that together with the motifs on my mirror, which include cranes (long life and marital happiness), turtles (long life), bamboo (flourishing descendants and finances), and pine (long life and…wait for it…marital bliss), and it’s pretty clear that my mirror was part of a bridal trousseau. In fact the motifs on my mirror (especially the twin pines) are typically referred to as “takasago” motifs, after the Noh play of the same name that features a pair of married pine tree spirits. It’s such a good-luck play that it’s recited at the New Year as well as at wedding receptions!

…I don’t think I’ll ever understand calligraphy lol.

This is oddly perfect, as I was recently given the INCREDIBLY generous gift of a bridal furisode and uchikake by a dear friend of mine (along with some other things you’ll be seeing here in the future). I guess it was just meant to be! ❤

Sneak peek of one of the sleeves. Spot any motifs you recognize from my mirror? 🙂

Next up is building the frame for it – I was waffling on what kind to build, but knowing it’s a bridal piece made the decision for me, and I’ll be modeling the stand on one from the trousseau of a Tokugawa princess. 🙂 If you haven’t already, please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post, and I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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BtSSB Blouse Restoration: The Beginning

Project 16, part 1 – But Nothing’s Wrong?

Restoration needed…I guess??

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! This week I started a new restoration project, with a twist – I didn’t have any idea this garment would need restoring when I bought it! 😀 I bought this blouse from Wunderwelt a while back because I needed a short-sleeved black blouse that would match my old-school lolita looks. (Old-school…is hard to define, lol…but I use it to refer to lolita garments/street snaps from 2006 or before.) It was listed as “Rank D: Fairly poor condition, major stains and/or damage,” but looking at it I literally couldn’t see a thing wrong with it. It’s really difficult to find older blouses with measurements that suit me, and this one even had the broad shoulders I need so I decided to snap it up.

When it arrived, I inspected it thoroughly, but still couldn’t see anything wrong. No stains, no tears, no fading…nothing. It was only when I put it on that I finally realized what the “major damage” was: it was missing its detachable sleeves!

Pictured – the buttons that clued me in.

If you’re not familiar with this concept, it’s a brilliant one! Many lolita blouses (and some dresses) will have short puff sleeves with buttons on the inside, and long sleeves with matching buttonholes. This allows you to change the dress to suit the weather and your style, giving you more bang for your buck!

Here’s another blouse I own from Maxicimam with its detachable sleeves intact.

You can see here on the Maxicimam blouse how the buttons secure the sleeve:


And here’s how my blouse would look with a long sleeve borrowed from the Maxicimam blouse:

Ok that’s actually pretty cute. 😀

My blouse is by the brand Baby, the Stars Shine Bright (BtSSB, for short). I actually haven’t been able to identify the exact release yet, but it’s similar to the Little Princess Blouse from 2004 except it has a Peter Pan collar instead of a sailor collar. Another candidate is the Rose Lace Blouse from 2001 – that one has a detachable jabot as well as sleeves, but the image on Lolibrary is too small for me to be certain. If you know what my blouse is, please do drop a comment and let me know! ❤

For a while, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted/needed to restore this blouse, as I did in fact purchase it as a short-sleeved blouse! But as time has gone on (and winter has gotten COLD), I’ve really wanted to be able to wear it in long-sleeved form. And my Aunt Sue just happened to have the perfect black cotton fabric that she was happy to donate to the cause!

Black cotton fabric – gift from Aunt Sue, black cotton lace – Rakuten

My plan is to use the Maxicimam blouse’s sleeves as a pattern, although I’ll have to adapt it somewhat as the upper part of those sleeves is much wider than the Baby blouse allows for. I’ll definitely do a mockup in muslin first! Baby did several blouses with detachable princess sleeves in the era I’m looking at – The Frill Frill Blouse and Baby Doll Blouse from 2004, and the “elegantly” named Princess Sleeve Blouse with Back Shirring from 2003 all have this type of sleeves. I’m still not certain if I’m going to add ribbon and ladder lace to allow the sleeves to be gathered – it’s common in this type of blouse, but my blouse doesn’t have ribbon anywhere else on it so I’m worried it might look out of place. Plus, I never gather the sleeves on my Maxicimam blouse – I love the long bell-shaped cuffs!

The next step, then, is to make some mockups to determine fit and shape and be sure I can get enough length, then I can decide on the final trim and get to sewing! If you enjoyed reading this please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post — I look forward to seeing you next week for more fashion, history, and crafts here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Edo Period Coat Restoration: The Silk Lining

Project 9, part 10 – Conceptual Drift (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9 here)

A glimpse into the past!

Welcome back to the Edo period coat restoration project! This week I fully intended to attach the silk lining to my coat but… well…

The painting is lovely! The size though…

What the what?! ..sigh.

This is entirely my own fault. Anyone who has ever set aside a project for too long probably already knows exactly what happened. In the intervening year, there was some serious tectonic drift between my idea of what the lining would look like and the reality of what I had in my possession. This is to say, I somehow decided that this silk lining extended the entire length of the coat instead of just to below the sleeves. There’s no reason for me to have believed this – every women’s haori I own only has patterned silk in the upper half, and is plain silk below. Pretty much the only explanation besides the sheer length of time since I’d looked at it is that I invested a lot of energy in the idea that the patchwork on the quilted lining was no big deal because it would all be covered.

Creative commons image from Openverse, and also how I’m feeling right now. 😀

Clearly, there is not enough silk there to cover the bulk of my work. There are also some issues which might only be apparent in person. One is that there’s a serious mismatch between the now quite-impressive heft of the jacket and the delicacy of the silk. Another is the conceptual divergence between the jacket’s rusticity and the silk’s refinement. Without the quilting they seemed like a reasonable pairing, but with it it’s clear that they do not go together. This leads into another concern, which I’d already had in the back of my mind – if this jacket is made to be washable/worn in all weather, but it’s lined in silk…how does that work? ARGH.

One option, of course, would be to line it in a plainer, sturdier fabric. I also could source more silk to extend that lining, if I wanted. After a lot of cogitating on the issue, though, I decided to forgo additional lining altogether and just move forward with the project. The jacket is already quite bulky, and I don’t particularly want to add to that. I’ve also become a bit fond of my patchwork lining; maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome from spending so much time with it, but I don’t feel the need to cover it up like I once did. I’m also eager to add the facings since they’re going to really spruce things up! So, we’re going to put the past behind us, and move on toward maybe, one day, finally, completing this jacket! 😀

If you haven’t already, please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post, and I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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How We Challenge Ourselves

Bibliotheca January 2023 – Challenge: What is the Gift I Should Bring to the World?

How cool is this? I feel like I would have been friends with these women, as we each sew clothes from each other’s cultural backgrounds! ❤

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! This month’s theme for the Bay Area Kei Bibliotheca blog circle is “challenge,” and this post isn’t specifically about fashion or history, but it’s something I wanted to talk about anyway because (like so many things on this blog) it’s a topic I find fascinating. 😀

“What does it mean that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live?”

Mary Oliver

Do you know anyone who has successfully answered this question? I am fortunate enough to know a couple humans who consistently express the conviction of doing exactly what they were both meant to do and desperately want to do, but I certainly haven’t answered it myself. I do, however, find a tremendous amount of meaning in pursuing challenge.

Definitely not me examining their outfits as much as their fighting stance. 😀 Also the article this was sourced from is called Pugilism in Petticoats which might be my new band name.

A lot of the things I do here look like challenges, but it’s more complex than that for me. In many cases, they’re things I don’t really have a lot of doubt in my ability to achieve, as long as I do enough research/spend enough time on them. If I put in the work, I’ll get the outcome I expect. So for me, a challenge is more something that I could put my entire effort into, but still not get the result I’m aiming for. It has factors out of my control that force me to be comfortable with uncertainty – to grow as a person. Or it may be something for which I can’t tell if my efforts will bear fruit – or even matter at all.

I’m not certain if Inami-san is my new best friend or deadly rival, but either way I’m pretty happy that there’s another lolita-wearing martial artist out there in the world! ❤

Fencing with swords is a tremendous challenge for me because there’s another human involved and I can’t predict what they’ll do (outside of certain agreed-upon parameters). So it takes immense courage just to step up to the line, not to mention trying to defend myself/strike my training partner. This blog is another huge challenge – less the projects themselves, but more the act of putting myself out into the world. I do my best with photography, research, sewing, etc – but I have no control over how you, my friendly reader, will react to what I post. Wearing lolita/kimono in public can be a challenge for me too – generally people are friendly, but it still creates a LOT of complex interactions with others that this introvert has to be braced for. 😀 I have to answer the same question over and over for people with a genuine smile because it’s the first time they’ve asked it even if it’s the hundredth time I’ve answered.

So, a working theory of how I perceive challenge, then, is that it’s something that either provides me with an opportunity to grow as a person (such as gaining more capacity for discipline or empathy or the like), or that allows me to empirically test my beliefs about who I am as a person (such as “I believe I can control my fear or anger in such-and-such type of situation – now let’s validate this hypothesis”).

Yuki Yuuna is a Hero is both a depressing and inspiring take on the typical magical girl trope; I highly recommend it!

Ultimately what I want is to be a person who always acts in accordance with my values in any given situation. I want my values to become my habits rather than my fears. Basically, I want to be a hero. ❤ I was having a conversation with my beloved friend Emily about this, and she pointed out that challenges seem to be my way of building or reinforcing these “good” habits. Challenges can be a struggle, but struggle does not equal challenge – if my values aren’t involved, I’m probably just making life harder on myself for no reason.

Speaking of characters who make life harder on themselves…please, Wei Ying & Lan Zhan, just talk to each other for like five minutes. 😀 If you like Chinese magical fantasies you really can’t do much better than this series – I just finished it and it was SO GOOD.

So, perhaps, if you’d like to challenge yourself with me, we can think about these things together:

What brings me joy? What makes my body feel better? My heart? My soul?
What seizes my attention and won’t let go until I pursue it?
In what ways do I wish to grow or change? What “good” habits do I wish to build?
What are my values, and how do I express them?

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”

Check out what other members of Bibliotheca had to say about this month’s topic!
Wear Your Bows Takes on the Challenge of Reviewing Local Tea Spots
Lovelylaceandlies Shares the Challenges of Storing Lolita Fashion
kelp Points out the Challenge of Wardrobe Posts When Your Wardrobe Isn’t Just Full Sets
Dearie Dawn Reveals the Challenges of Wearing J-Fashion

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Edo Period Mirror Restoration: The Polishing (Stage 1)

Project 15, part 2 – Kidaore (Part 1 here)

I love a good “before” pic! ❤

Welcome back to the Edo Period mirror restoration project! This week I finally got brave and began to clean and polish my mirror. It may look like I dive cavalierly into my projects, but the truth is I spend a lot of time hemming and hawing over causing potential further damage to my antique pieces before I start work. I think I’ve mentioned this before with regards to garments, but I do quite a bit of research on things that end up in my possession to be sure that they don’t have significant historical value. If they did, I’d absolutely make sure they got into the right hands – be it a museum, historical society, or private conservator! This is because once a private party does restoration work – especially a private party like me with no formal training – it removes a great deal of said historical value.

There’s some concern that these white and green spots might be “bronze disease.” Hopefully this process of cleaning and oxygen exclusion will prevent further deterioration.

For example, removing broken thread from a busted seam and re-sewing it takes away information about the kind of thread that was used during that time period, and historical techniques of sewing. Or in the case of this mirror, removing the patina and re-polishing it means that any old polishing marks are eliminated (which could have provided a clue to how it was originally cared for/polished). The look and depth of the patina could also allow a trained historian to potentially more accurately date a piece. And so on, and so forth. I use restoring my antique pieces as a way of learning more about them, and also as a way of giving them utility in my life, so I make sure that I’m not destroying something priceless before I get started!

Not very reflective right now! You can just barely see a faint shadow of my finger “reflecting” below the actual shadow of my finger.

Since this mirror (while lovely and interesting) is not in fact priceless (as it happens I paid $30 for it), I got to work on cleaning it! As I was researching how to start, I found this absolutely wild YouTube channel where the producer just polishes all sorts of crazy stuff like fish bones and chunks of coal. He (I’m making a presumption based on the name – Hans) seems to have access to some random antiques as well because he’s posted several videos of him polishing bronze and brass items. His very first video was him polishing the surface of an antique bronze mirror that looks VERY much like a pre-Edo mirror!

The video is not in fact 15 hours long.

His starting point was a bath of vinegar and salt, but most sites I found through additional searching recommend a paste rather than a bath. After rinsing and drying my mirror I made a blend of equal parts all-purpose flour and kosher salt (I don’t keep table salt in the house), and then added vinegar until it was spreadable but not drippy. It smelled like the chips part of fish and chips! I gently rubbed it onto the mirror and right away I could tell it was removing some patina. As it sat, parts of the paste turned green as well.

Strangely, this was not nearly as bad of a sensory experience as cleaning the lace on my Meta dress. It was gritty rather than slimy, which I think was the deciding factor in my brain not absolutely trying to yeet out of my skull in panic.

After an hour, I scrubbed it off and then did the other side. The first thing I noticed was how incredible the difference was just with this! For one you could actually see the bronze. For two, on the mirror side, it became clear that a different metal had been plated over the bronze! I’m going to be honest, I actually kind of panicked for a moment because mercury was really common in old European glassed mirrors for a solid 400 years. “Did I just give myself mercury poisoning?” is not a question I like having to ask myself, and it’s not one that comes up with textiles a lot (although arsenic on the other hand…). And as much as I might identify with the phrase 京の着倒れ、大阪の食い倒れ (Kyo no kidaore, Osaka no kuidaore; “Bankrupted/ruined by clothing in Kyoto; bankrupted/ruined by food in Osaka”), I don’t actually want to be ruined by clothing! 🙂 So I took a hot minute to do some more research.

Well that’s looking a bit better! All the white and green corrosion is gone, and everything is now back to being a lovely bronze color!

Lucky me! Looks like most Japanese mirrors from this period – if they were plated at all – were plated with either silver or nickel. Still, without knowing the exact combinations of metals used in the process, I didn’t want to grind too much on the plating. Additionally, as you can see, it was already wearing quite thin in many places on the mirror. Just like a katana, mirrors only have so many polishings in them before they’re destroyed, and I didn’t fancy destroying what remained of the plating on mine.

Note the face of the mirror is clearly more silvery than the bronze handle, and you can see patches of bronze through the worn spots in the plating.
Look! You can actually see a reflection now!!

So join me next time as I decide on a new plan for finishing the polishing! If you haven’t already, please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post, and I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Edo Period Coat Restoration: The Quilted Lining (Stage 3)

Project 9, part 9 – What Makes a Man Turn Neutral? (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8 here)

Since I started this project, I’ve found a lot more images of extant coats similar to mine! Neat!

Welcome back to the Edo period coat restoration project! Remember this? It’s still a thing! It’s honestly a dead heat between this project and the Victorian undergarments project as to which one will claw its way to the finish line first, but I am still chipping away at both. 😀 (For reference, that is Project #7, this one is Project #9, and my current project is Project #15, lol.)

Pictured: the bird on the kimono in the background trying to fly away from this mess. 😀

What causes a project to stagnate? I imagine it’s different for everyone, of course. For me there are two major factors. One is a lack of resources – maybe I can’t afford something I need, or maybe something I need is coming from overseas and taking its sweet time, or maybe I need assistance from my husband with something and his schedule hasn’t been compatible.

I mentioned before having to ensure no stitches showed on the front of the jacket. Keeping it looking this nice took ages.

The other is, not a lack of interest, precisely, but more a lack of novelty. Doing the same thing over and over is really tough for me. I have to be highly motivated by something beyond the task to continue, and frankly, it’s hard for me to get excited about working on a jacket during the spring and summer months. 😅

This strip is about 3 cm wide – I had two panels that absolutely wouldn’t match up.

Luckily for this project’s potential completion, it’s been a particularly cold and rainy winter so far! So after what’s felt like absolutely MILES of stitching, the quilted lining is at last complete!

I only found this loop by going back and looking at my pictures of the disassembled jacket!

I’m SO happy this is done, I can’t even express it. I made this way harder on myself than it needed to be by not doing a paper trace and pattern of the jacket – I kept having to cut all sorts of weird little strips to fill in sections where the lining pieces didn’t fit together properly. I also very nearly forgot to cut a hole for the little toggle loop on the interior; whoops! But at last, it’s complete, and it’s going to get tremendously easier from here. The next step is covering up all this patchwork nonsense with the silk lining. After that I can add in some facing fabric I’ve chosen to strengthen and protect the hems and sleeves, and reattach the last two toggles. Finally I’ll insert a new collar interfacing and repair that!

Finished interior back…
…and interior front!

It’s been a long road with this, and I’m not to the destination yet. But finishing the quilted lining puts me a LOT closer to the end than I was back in March (of 2022…yikes…haha). So I look forward to keeping the momentum going and maybe even finishing this by the spring! If you haven’t already, please subscribe below to get a notification each week about my latest post, and I look forward to seeing you next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

Subscribe so you never miss a post! New adventures in history and sewing every Tuesday.