昔のSewing Still on Partial Hiatus (but here’s a mini-project I finished!)

It gets picturesque around here when it snows. I could look at our backyard for hours!

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! Work, Finn having to go back to the vet (nothing serious, but he does have to wear a bootie for a couple of weeks so he can’t lick his foot while it heals), and a general deep exhaustion prevented me from doing serious sewing this week, I’m afraid. But I did get to an alteration project that’s been in the pile for some time, so I thought I’d share it! (Sorry that the camera work isn’t as detailed as usual; I took all these with my phone.)

The “before”

I bought a black sleeveless wool tunic dress from my favorite Japanese atelier Alice Auaa last year on their end of season sale, knowing ahead of time that the bust was about 8cm/3.14″ too small for me. I reached out to their support staff ahead of time asking if altering it to that extent would damage the look of the dress (or be straight up impossible), and they replied that it was totally doable. (I’m really grateful that they have staff who speak excellent English because for things like this I want to be quite sure about what I’m asking, and I wouldn’t want to confuse the issue by possibly saying something confusing or vague in Japanese!) The dress arrived in due course, and life happened, so I haven’t had the chance to alter it until I sat down yesterday evening for a hot minute.

I hate to close up such nice buttonholes!

I started by sewing shut two buttonholes on the inner placket because I needed to move the buttons to precisely their locations.

And here they are!

As you can see, it wasn’t a long move, but I needed that exact amount of distance to fit this properly! Getting the last button into place took a little more math since there wasn’t a buttonhole there to crib off of. 😀 Luckily it didn’t take too long, but then when I tried it on, I realized that the second decorative row of buttons was also shifted over 8cm, so now the dress looked really weird! After consideration, I reluctantly concluded that removing that row made the most sense. I love the military-inspired styling of the two rows, but there was no quick way to preserve it and I was definitely going for “I need to be able to wear this instead of it sitting in my to-do pile for another three months.” I did add a snap at the top to change the way the collar laid as well, but that was pretty easy!

Here she is! Wearable at last!

Things I will still do when I have the time: steam the front to relax the fibers of the wool where the buttons are removed to smooth the fabric back down, add a couple of stitches to the interior plackets to secure them now they they don’t have buttons, and move two more interior buttons to a new location. But none of those things affect the baseline wearability, so now I have a super cute dress to wear with the new grey blouse that’s in the mail from Alice Auaa right now! 😀

I hope you enjoyed getting to see my little mini-project, and I very much hope to be back in action again next week here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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昔のSewing Returns Next Week!

Our local flock of hummingbirds is really good at sharing nectar! We’ve seen up to 7 hummingbirds on a single feeder when it’s really cold. ❤

Hi friends! I haven’t just been birdwatching, I promise! 😀 This last week I was very busy supporting family through some medical things that came up, and I’ve barely touched a needle – let alone gotten any real progress done on my various projects. Everyone’s doing fine though, thank goodness, so I should be able to sit back down at my machine this week. I look forward to seeing you here next week for more history, sewing, and crafts! ❤

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Spotlight: Showa Era Sewing Book

Spotlight 9: 1928 Japanese Sewing Manual/Textbook

In case you can’t read it – or don’t want to look up the pre-war kanji, the title is: メートルと鯨尺対照: 裁縫手芸教授書全

Welcome to Mukashi no Sewing’s ninth spotlight! Today I’m excited to share with you a super cool Showa era sewing manual that I picked up for less than $15 on Yahoo Japan Auctions. The Showa era in Japan was quite long – it ran from 1926-1989 – and as this book is from 1928 it’s really closer to the preceding Taisho era in that it still utilizes pre-war kanji and technologies compared to the latter half of the Showa era from the post-war/Occupation.

Title page! Translation below!

The title of my book is メートルと鯨尺対照: 裁縫手芸教授書全 (Meter to Kujirajaku Taisho: Saihou Shugei Kyoujusho Zen). Roughly translated, it means “Complete Sewing & Handicrafts Textbook with both Meter and Shaku Measurements.” Prior to 1924, the standard measurement was a shaku, which could vary in length depending on what was being measured. The kujirajaku – literally “whale shaku” – was the standard for the clothing industry, and was approximately .378 meters or 14.9 inches. In 1924 Japan introduced the metric system, but shaku remained in use officially until 1966 (and they’re still used in kimono bolts and sword blades). As my book was published only four years after the introduction of the metric system, it makes a lot of sense that it would feature both methodologies!

Patterns for hakama!

On the title page, the red text to the left of the title indicates that this textbook is certified by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, and the sentence on the far left explains that this is an edition meant for possession by the Tokyo Sewing Study Group. The co-authors of the book are listed on the far right. Ichihashi Namiko Sensei is the primary author, and she was a lecturer/instructor for a high-level Tokyo ladies’ school, as well as a member of the Ministry of Education committee responsible for proctoring licensing examinations to secondary teachers. Akashi Chiuko Sensei is the secondary author, and she was previously a teacher at a high-level women’s adult education school.

Embroidering different designs.
Tying decorative knots.

When I bid on this book I actually thought it was only sewing techniques – I picked it up because I would really like to sew a kimono at some point – but when I got it I was excited to realize that the title is accurate and it also contains many additional handicrafts patterns! I don’t particularly need another clutch purse…but being able to see the sorts of things women might actually have been carrying and using during this period is SUPER interesting!

Ok but this is actually really cute you guys. So maybe I do need one… 😀

My book predates the Bunka Fashion College publications by about six years, as their textbooks weren’t released until 1934, but their trade school opened in 1923 and may well have been where one (or both) of the authors of my book taught at one point. It was an accredited dressmaking school for women (men didn’t start attending until 1957!), and its aim was to help support the growing popularity of Western-style clothing by teaching women how to sew not just for themselves, but also as part of the rapidly-expanding clothing industry. This change of women entering the workforce in larger numbers had begun in the Taisho era, and the moga, or modern gals, who followed Westernized fashion and lifestyle trends were thoroughly mainstream in the early Showa period.

The six-volume set of Bunka Yosai Koza (“Bunka Dressmaking Course”) was completed in 1935.

Likely the women who used my textbook would have had a sewing machine. Sewing machines came to Japan by the mid-1880s, and women who expected to be sewing professionally would almost certainly have been trained in their use even if they didn’t have one at home.

Ladies Sewing  (Kijo saihō no zu), Adachi Ginkō 安達吟光 (Japanese, active 1874–97), Triptych of woodblock prints; ink and color on paper, Japan
Ladies sewing, September 3, 1887. Photo credit the Met.
Photo Credit – Zentner Collection.

Beyond accessories, Japanese-style clothing, and Western-style clothing for adults, there is also a whole section on children’s clothing in my book that’s extremely adorable:

Look at these cute little apron dresses!
How good little girls and boys in early Showa Japan were dressed.

Something a keen-eyed reader may notice is the tiny characters next to many of the larger characters within the text. These are called furigana and their purpose is to tell you how to read the kanji, or Chinese characters, that you may not know. I can’t say whether or not the ladies of the time appreciated this, but I am incredibly grateful as the age of this text means there are many kanji that are no longer in standard usage, and I can definitely use the assist! 😀

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit about Showa era fashion history, and taking a peek at this fascinating textbook! I definitely plan to sew a few things from this once I’m able to spend some time translating it (it’s slow going for your girl, haha!), but in the interim I have plenty of other fun projects in the works, and I look forward to seeing you back here next week on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Edo Period Coat Restoration: The Quilted Lining (Stage 1)

Project 9, part 7 – Worth Doing Right (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6 here)

All I’m saying is, it’s a good thing I have so many pins!

Welcome back to the Edo period coat restoration project! This is now officially the longest-running project on Mukashi no Sewing (in terms of number of posts), and there’s no end in sight haha. Part of the difficulty of working with antique textiles, as I may have mentioned before, is they often aren’t sturdy enough to be sewn on a machine at this stage in their life. (They may have been in the past, but time takes a toll!) As fibers age and weaken, being put through even gentle mechanical stress can cause them to to fray and tear. All that is to say, I’ve got a lot of hand-sewing in my future to finish this coat!

Pictured: the calm before the sewing storm…

One has to start somewhere, so after analyzing the construction of my coat it made the most sense to me to line the interior of the sleeves first, and then the body. So I measured out chunks (that’s the technical term) of lining for each sleeve, and cut them to fit! I have just over 2 yards of quilted lining, so to preserve as much as possible for the body of the coat I pieced out parts of the sleeve linings. Everything wonky will be covered by the silk lining in any case, so ensuring I have enough fabric is paramount!

Wait, machine sewing?! Wasn’t there just a paragraph about that a minute ago?

The raw edges of the quilted lining, being just quilting-style cotton and batting, aren’t particularly hard-wearing, so I was more than happy to take the mechanical assist from my trusty Featherweight and do a quick topstitch around the edges to stabilize them. Not only will it keep them from fraying, but also give the hand stitches something to hook onto to make the lining more secure in the long run.

Finn often sleeps at my feet while I sew. It’s really cute. ❤

I spent quite a few hours pinning and stitching the lining into just one sleeve, and I have only finished attaching the lining around the opening of the sleeve! Which begs the question – why take the time to do it this way?

I get asked this a lot, actually. I recently had to raise the hem on my hakama about 3/4 of an inch which involved picking out the original hemming I’d done, then pinning it that slight amount higher and re-sewing the hems (fortunately work that can be done on my machine). Why not just double up the original fold? Because it would make the pleats too bulky, which would affect the drape of the fabric and the way it moved during practice. The long-term detriment outweighed the short-term benefit of saving a little time on sewing.

It’s the same with most of the other things I do. If I value the outcome, it’s worth it to me to do it in what I consider to be the right way. It might be more expensive, or take more time, or be more irritating. But compromises always frustrate me more, in the end. Which is why I sit here before you, with miles more stitching to go, but also with a sense of pride for how the work is progressing!

I cannot overstate how difficult it was to ensure every stich only caught the inner lining, and doesn’t show on the outside!

One section down, many to go! Even if the time investment means I have to wait until next winter to wear my coat, I’m still happy with it – and confident that my work will last! So join me next time, as I continue work on lining my coat and catching up on back episodes of the Myths and Legends podcast! ❤

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Edo Period Coat Restoration: The Embellishment (Stage 2)

Project 9, part 6 – Who Wore it Better? (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 here)

To clarify – the twill itself is organic cotton; the color is not “organic dark roast.” 😆

Welcome back to the Edo period coat restoration project! Last week was particularly busy at my day job, but I managed to sneak enough time over the weekend to fabricate the replacement toggle I wanted to add to my coat.

I hate working with paracord now lol. It’s so finicky!

I needed such a small amount of cotton twill for the base of the toggle that I decided to just order a sample. Via Fabrics from Chicago on Etsy has a tremendous selection, and was so reasonably-priced that I ended up ordering two different colors to ensure I got the right shade. It is a bit lighter than the extant ones because I was unable to clean them! From arm’s length or further away, though, it’s a really good match – and the texture is spot-on. For some reason the iron-on interfacing I was trying to adhere refused to do so, however. So I just pinned the pieces together and the tacking stitches to affix the toggle base to the coat served to attach the two layers as well!

I really should have done the tacking stitches underneath where the spiral was intended to go. At this point I’m going to live with it, but I know better for next time!

Then it was time to spend just HOURS cursing paracord and its slippery texture and tendency to twist constantly. 😦 Still, at the end of the experience, I had a completely passable sibling to the extant toggle, and I’d managed through no small amount of good fortune to align them perfectly. 😀

So why add this in the first place? Well, although I do have some speculation that the extant toggle could have been used to hold the coat open to clear access to the wearer’s swords, it does seem from photography that likely it had a partner toggle on the other side of the coat to fully close the flaps against the weather. In trying on the coat, I can confirm that without the additional toggle, the coat opens constantly which rather defeats the point!

So the real question is, then: who wore it better?

He has a stylish hat and geta…
…whereas I have a Van Paugam shirt and a camera for a face. 😜

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the creation of the last piece of passementerie for my coat! Up next is the lining, which will all have to be hand-sewn in, and after that only the collar and hem facings will remain! So join me next time as I finally make my coat cozy and warm! ❤

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Spotlight: More Singer Featherweight Accessories!

Spotlight 8: More Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine Accessories for the Hoard!

At last! Zigzagging capability is mine! 😀

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing and our eighth spotlight here on the blog! I managed to snag two more attachments from eBay for my Featherweight, and thought you might enjoy getting to know them with me!

Why do all of these attachments look like crazy torture devices??

The first piece I picked up is a zig-zag attachment from 1950. Weirdly, not being able to do zig-zag stitching has been one of the few things I’ve missed not having a modern machine. Zig-zagging can be used in place of serging, and I really don’t have space for another machine – but I also would like to be able to finish jerseys and other modern fabrics occasionally! I’ve had some of Finn’s fleece pajamas in my alterations pile for quite some time awaiting this technology. 😀 Another reason is being able to make my own silk ribbon to match my outfits – silk ribbon is super pricy, and matching colors is nigh-impossible online. The Dreamstress just posted a great tutorial on making your own silk ribbon using the zig-zag feature to finish the edges, and I’m really excited to try it!

Maybe no one but me is interested in cording…but this is going to really unlock some passementerie options for me!

There are tons of other uses for this attachment, including edge joining, hemstitching, and attaching elastic, so I can’t wait to flex the power of my new zig-zagger on some upcoming projects!

My second piece is a little less all-purpose, but no less useful:

Look, hemming is a pain, and anything I can mechanize is a boon!

I love me some hand-sewing, but I’m not super into endlessly hemming by hand, especially invisible hems. My new blind stitch attachment from 1949 is going to make my life a lot easier, particularly for lighter fabrics, so I can do relatively quick and easy hemming on my machine!

Skirts, dresses, AND lingerie. Well, all my bases are covered… 😀

I find silk particularly trying to work with by hand, as it can be prone to fraying when fussed with too much, and as I’m staring down the oncoming train of a full dress project sometime this year, I figured it was worth the effort to get as many things as possible to make my life easier!

The crazy thing is how good these little instruction manuals are. They’re small, but so thorough!

From my understanding, this attachment in particular takes some dialing in, so I expect to do a few test runs to get things right. Once I do, though, it should neaten up my garments and give a more professional finish than my current “fold over twice and topstitch” strategy. 🙂

Wait, this isn’t a Featherweight attachment…

I actually got one more piece of kit recently that isn’t for my sewing machine, but is where I took all the photos for this post! My husband bought me this Studio Cube and it’s just fantastic for taking pictures of smaller objects. One of my goals for 2022 is to improve my photography, and the powerful LED lighting and backdrop sheets in my Studio Cube are stage 1 of the plan! He bought me a fancy flash for my camera as well, so I look forward to learning how to use that to overcome the dreadful lighting in my sewing room.

I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting the two (well, three!) new additions to the family, and I look forward to seeing you back here at Mukashi no Sewing next week for more history, crafts, and sewing! ❤

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Edo Period Coat Restoration: The Embellishment (Stage 1)

Project 9, part 5 – Collaboration (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 here)

I know you probably can’t tell at first glance, but I swear I’ve done like 10 hours of work to get to this point…

Welcome back to the Edo period coat restoration project! It snowed all week while I was doing this work, lending some urgency to my desire to finish the project and get to wearing it. 😀 So I got some traction on the embellishments on my coat – both reattaching previously detached passementerie, and adding some new flourishes.

I matched every wiggle of the markings to ensure the toggles went back into precisely the same place.

Thanks to my careful labeling of all the toggles I removed for cleaning – and also thanks to the marks from the rice paste adhesive that remained – clipping the toggles back into their original positions was super easy. The tedious part was sewing them back into position. It took about three hours just to sew the five toggles back down, but once I had them secured it just didn’t look right.

Wonder Clips are the besssssssssssssst. Pins absolutely would not have worked here.

Looking at the original images, the cotton twill backing for the cord toggles was stretched down over the paper interfacing, giving the whole piece a more finished look. They were stable so long as they were untouched, but when I removed them from the coat it was clear that the fibers would not hold up to such treatment a second time.

They just look…unfinished, I guess? In any case, I wasn’t happy with how they looked.

So, I bought a metric ton of black paracord (why does it only come in humongous bundles?!), and cut lengths to edge each toggle. This was the really time-consuming part – it was a solid hour+ for each toggle because I had to first secure the paracord to the disc, and then carefully circumnavigate each disc a second time to tack it to the coat itself. Luckily I had a lot of back episodes of the Uncanny Japan podcast to listen to!

Also powering me through the tedium was my friend Dave’s fabulous game review YouTube channel All Games New and Old!

I’m a big fan of Dr Eleanor Janega and her fabulous blog Going Medieval. She writes about a lot of really important things like sex and politics and plagues in the European medieval period and connects them with the same important things going on in the modern world which is often both hilarious and concerning. Back in November she wrote a post called “On Cathedrals and Cooperation,” and I really have to urge you to take a minute and go read it. Her closing thesis is particularly poignant:

The past is never done, we are still working with it and as a part of it all the time, cooperating to make the next chapter for humanity as a whole.

Dr. Eleanor Janega

She’s talking about cathedrals here, and she lists some incredible examples of cooperation across time on that front like St. Albans Cathedral which was built, expanded, and repaired across about three and a half centuries. When I went to Athens about ten years ago, I had the privilege of standing in the Temple of Olympian Zeus that was erected during a span of nearly 600 years. Cooperation and collaboration across centuries, each person respecting the work of the person before them, yet adding their own embellishments, ideas, and skills to the whole.

I deeply respect the work of the woman who sewed my coat – the sheer amount of work just to restore it is nothing to what it must have taken to construct it in the first place!

This is precisely how I view my own restoration work – it’s never a case of me imposing my will, but rather a dialogue with the original creator. This is why I re-used all the original toggles, and chose to not re-dye the fabric of my coat. I did, however, want to leave some mark of my own that was more visible, and decided to add a mon – or crest – to the center back.

Your eyes aren’t bad, my photography is. 😆 But I can’t exactly go back in time to retake the shot lol…

After a great deal of deliberation, I selected 霊 – rei – which is the kanji I use for my name if I’m not writing it in hiragana. There are many ways of writing rei that range in meaning from “formal etiquette” to “small bell” to “zero,” but this particular kanji means “ghost” or “spirit.” I love it because for me it’s a memento mori, as well as a reminder of the great debt I owe to all those who came before me. I picked a metallic gold embroidery thread, and in about an hour I had made my mark! 😉

I’m so happy with it! ❤

I’m now in a really good position to keep moving forward. I am going to create a sixth toggle to allow the bottom flap to be secured, as extant photography seems to indicate one would likely have existed. I can actually start attaching the lining while I wait for the fabric for that to arrive, however, so join me next time as I hand-sew multiple yards of quilted cotton to my coat and question my life choices! ❤

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Victorian Parasol Restoration: The Reveal

Project 10, part 4 – Promenade With Me (Part 1, part 2, part 3 here)

Did any Victorians sport purple hair? I’d argue they would have if it had been an option! Violet hair powder was definitely used in the Regency period, however.

Happy New Year, and welcome back to the Victorian Parasol restoration project! If you saw the final reveal for my Steampunk Utility belt, you’ve already seen a sneak peek of Bonnie in action. But I thought that she deserved a full reveal of her own, and since I didn’t want to wait until I’d finished a matching dress I decided to pull out all the purple stops and combine photo shoots! 😀 Considering silk taffeta really shouldn’t touch water, I had to take advantage of a rare dry day as well so it worked out perfectly.

I didn’t retouch the colors here at all! They’re really this harmonious in person. I’m definitely going to need to buy more of this taffeta…

Promenading, or walking as a means of not just exercise but showing off one’s garments and social standing, was fashionable for both women and men at least as early as the 1600s, and really took off in the Regency era. Particular clothes were worn when a person wanted to both see and be seen, and parasols were hugely popular accessories – not just for shading one’s eyes and skin from the sun, but also to show off taste and wealth with a parasol perfectly matched to the dress.

Personally I burst into flames if the sun touches my skin, so for me they’re a practical accessory! I 100% do not support the historical belief in pale skin equating to worth or beauty – I just happen to burn easily and need to keep out of the sun. ❤

…[T]here was always the possibility for politeness and gentility to become a performance, and a means of competition that served as a means of distinction; this was nowhere more evident than in London’s spaces of entertainment, especially the promenade. In representations of London’s promenades over the course of the century, tensions created by the performance of genteel behavior within a range of social spheres became a central trope, with men and women depicted as competing for status within the space of the Park. The pedestrian promenade emerged in the seventeenth century and, by the eighteenth century, any town of importance had its fashionable promenade, either for pedestrians or carriages. Paris had the Tuileries, Copenhagen Tivoli Gardens, while in some European towns, such as Antwerp and St. Petersburg, a particular avenue or circuit emerged as the town promenade. The habit of walking as a form of sociability, to meet with friends and gather news and gossip, became a prominent feature of London life and was soon imitated in provincial towns throughout Britain. As John Brewer has explained, many cultural sites of the eighteenth century served as places of performance for those attending. Theatre and exhibition audiences, for example, did not passively enjoy the spectacle on display, but actively participated in the broader spectacle of performance, in which social display and self-presentation played an important part. (Walking, Rambling, and Promenading in Eighteenth-Century London: A Literary and Cultural History, by Alison F. O’Byrne)

Staring off into the distance, hoping the rain holds off long enough to finish the photo shoot. 😀

It’s easy to think that the fashion of promenading went out with the 19th century, but I recently read a tremendously interesting article pointing out that we’ve really just changed our promenades from the seaside to the spin class. In his article, Jason says:

The word Victorian tends to evoke old-fashioned ideas: women confined in corsets, strict gender roles, and a prudishness about all things sexual. In a world where conspicuous consumerism and self-expression rule, these nineteenth-century notions of self-restraint and self-denial seem hopelessly outdated.

But the Victorian ethos is not dead, not by a long shot.

It lives on, manifesting itself in our contemporary upper middle class’s behavior. While some aspects have gone the way of the waistcoat, the belief that the bourgeoisie holds a place of moral superiority over the other classes persists.

Today, spin classes, artisanal food, and the college application process have replaced Sunday promenades, evening lectures, and weekly salons. But make no mistake, they serve the same purpose: transforming class privilege into individual virtue, thereby shoring up social dominance.

I really encourage you to read both Jason and Adam’s articles linked above! There’s a tendency to presume that we, in the present day, are “better” than those who came before us, when really in many cases it’s only the outward mode that has changed while the motivations remain remarkably similar.

Pictured: basically just a Victorian.

Don’t get me wrong! I love a good promenade. 😀 I adore dressing up and walking on the bluffs above the sea in fancy dress with my two fancy dogs. I also use the opportunity granted by my indulgence to talk to my neighbors, get people interested in greyhounds (and maybe hand out a card or two for our rescue agency!), and educate passers-by about history, other cultures, and fashion. So hopefully it’s not entirely a luxury! 😀 Also hopefully, you have enjoyed getting to see the results of this restoration. I’ve still got a couple of projects outstanding, as well as many more fun things in the works, so I look forward to seeing you back here next week for more history, crafts, and sewing! ❤

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Guest Project: Komebukuro

Guest Project 1 – Food is Love

Pattern by Karen Stevens, photo by Sue.

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! I’ve got a special treat for you this week – my aunt Sue just finished a really cool project, and she was willing to send me her photos and process and allow me to share it with you!

She has loved sashiko and yukata fabric for a long time, and when she was introduced to Karen Stevens’ komebukuro (rice bag) pattern, she knew she had the perfect project to make as gifts for her friends!

This is a fantastic way to use up scraps of fabric from your stash! Photo by Sue.

米袋 is the kanji for komebukuro – the first one, kome, means rice, and the second, fukuro (the “f” changes to a “b” in this compound word), means bag – so no mystery here about the word! Extant komebukuro vary from 6″x6″x6″ to 10″x10″x10″ and are typically from the late Meiji to early Taisho eras – in other words, from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. They were used to carry rice or beans to temples or shrines for religious ceremonies like Setsubun and Segaki, or to wrap special gifts much like furoshiki are used today.

Carry History SriThreads Komebukuro 3
Extant komebukuro, photo credit Sri Threads.

In the case of my Aunt Sue, she already had plenty of vintage yukata fabric and her own sashiko samples just chilling – these sorts of things happen when you’ve been sewing for long enough, as I can attest! She ended up only needing to buy the wooden beads from Joann, but she did mention to me that sashiko kits and pretty much everything else from the pattern’s supplies list are available at TheQuiltShow.com!

Boro, or Japanese patchwork, is quite popular right now, particularly in quilt communities as it is a similar tradition. However, as noted by Sarah Jean Culbreath, a fashion historian, …whereas Western quilt traditions create something new from scraps, boro uses scraps to preserve. One of the biggest distinctions between Japanese boro and the Western quilt tradition, is that quilt culture in the West (specifically in the US) is centered around shared work and community. Boro is generally a solitary activity. Just as quilts are infused with the energy of the group (or generations) of women who worked on a single piece, boro offers information about the single individual who worked on an item. “ It’s easy to look at my aunt’s bag and see the precision, thoughtfulness, and love that she puts into everything she does!

Ok, I gotta step up my game – I really need sweet “made by” tags for all my projects now! 😀 Photo by Sue.

My aunt made her bags 6″x6″x8″ – so right about in the middle of the road size-wise compared to antique bags – mostly so she could gift her friends with some rice to go in their bags! Depending on where you are in the world, you may not have experienced this, but in the Pacific Northwest at the start of the pandemic it was almost impossible to get rice. Stores in my area were completely sold out, which was pretty terrible for me as I eat a LOT of rice! It was my aunt who found some at a Costco in her area, and got my cousin to smuggle it across state lines to me so I didn’t run out. ❤ So I find the gift of rice to be particularly generous and meaningful!

Pictured: love, in the form of delicious carbohydrates! ❤ Photo by Sue.

I asked my aunt about how long the bags took her to make, as that’s always something that I track in my own projects – if only to note that I could never mass-produce them! 😀 She said:

“I cut up a sashiko square from a kit that was completed many years ago.  Great traveling project.  The bag itself is not too time consuming, but of course I had to play with all the patchwork fabric options and also adjust the size of the bag by adding a 2 inch finished top strip.  My bag ended up with a 6 inch square base and 8 inches tall.  Typical…I seem to always tweak a pattern!  So, honestly, I don’t know how long it took.  Plus I made four of them and it did go faster once I made all the patchwork pieces.”

If you’re interested in making your own the pattern is available from kzstevens.com and currently is only $6! And in case you’re wondering – all my aunt’s friends absolutely adored their bags!

…and Kate!

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the work of someone besides myself – especially something so full of love! Please do let me know in the comments if you’d like to see future guest posts here, and I look forward to seeing you next week here at Mukashi no Sewing for more history, crafts, and sewing! ❤

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Steampunk Utility Belt: The Reveal

Project 8, part 5 – No, YOU Look Fabulous (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 here)

Surprisingly, the ties hold very securely! Not surprisingly, I own a lot of purple. 😉

Welcome back to the Steampunk Utility Belt project and the final reveal! I had bought a lolita dress specifically to wear with this, but when it arrived it didn’t suit me at all. 😦 So I resold it to a lovely lady in Spain, and was back to square one for my photo shoot. Then I remembered the absolutely fabulous Mac Nakata and his fusion of steampunk and traditional Japanese clothing:

Photo from macnakata.com – please visit his INCREDIBLE website. His house and fashion sense are unbelievably cool. Eagle-eyed viewers may note the manji symbol on his sword – it’s a Buddhist symbol! Swastikas face the other way, and you can read up more on this here.

He is an absolute style icon, not to mention an incredible artist. I’m no where near his level, but you also don’t have to ask me twice to wear kimono or hakama! And it just so happens I own a purple haori that looks smashing as a top… 😉

Trying really hard to not spill my tea here since everything I’m wearing can’t be cleaned. 😅

Said haori was purchased from Harajuku Chicago, which is in Harajuku (in Tokyo), and is not in Chicago. 😀 It’s a thrift store that mostly carries second-hand clothes from America and Europe, as well as a huge selection of vintage kimono and other wafuku. When I was there I bought this haori as well as another one in all black with an embroidered wave pattern, and a skirt that was remade out of a vintage kurotomesode. My hakama are from one of my very favorite Japanese brands, Alice Auaa. Alice Auaa even has an international web shop now, and they’ve dressed some pretty famous people including Lady Gaga! If they’re good enough for her, they’re definitely good enough for me. 😀

It’s a little weird wearing a belt over my hakama instead of under as I’m used to for iaido, but the belt fits perfectly!
The larger pockets are quite comfy on my hips. I definitely chose the right size for my belt. I believe the original iteration of the belt is intended to go under a corset, but with the high-stiffness interfacing I used it holds up perfectly well on its own.

Jeff Vandermeer, in the Steampunk Bible, writes “Taking from [Jules] Verne the gift of a fantastical and playful imagination, and utilizing [H.G.] Wells’s sociological approach to facilitate changing the future, Steampunk rewrites blueprints, reinvents steam technology, and revamps the scientific romance to create a self-aware world that is beautiful and at times nostalgic, but also acknowledges dystopia. Social awareness is pivotal to the best practitioners of Steampunk, which has always been conscious of the the nineteenth century’s less inspiring moments. While that era featured great strides in aesthetics and technology, politically it was tainted by colonialism, imperialism, and racism…” This was another good reason for me to wear Japanese-inspired steampunk rather than pure British/American Victorian clothing. It’s important to me that my steampunk be informed by a diversity of cultures and ideas, and equally as important to me that wafuku isn’t seen as “native dress” or a cultural relic, but as the vibrant and living fashion that it is.

You remember how I made two fan pockets? Turns out the smaller one is PERFECT for a tea strainer! My past self is a genius! Boots are Tavistocks by American Duchess, wig is Dreamholic/Dcoucou.
After a long day of promenading and caffeine consumption, the refined lady traveler enjoys the finest in printed entertainment: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

While the focus of steampunk is often the inventions or the tea, I recently learned about the Noble Art of Compliment Duelling, and it felt like the absolute best way to close out this post! The idea is to overwhelm your charming opponent with clever and verbose compliments to the point that they become tongue tied and blushing and must cede the field. So, my astute and intrepid reader, I very much laud your remarkable patience in waiting so long for the final reveal of this project, and I cannot wait to be in your glorious presence again next week! ❤

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