昔のSewing Returns Next Week!

I miss it already!! 😭

Hi friends! I was away most of last week and part of this week attending Paradiso, a Japanese fashion convention in Kansas City, Missouri. I had a wonderful time, but was too busy dressing up and seeing friends to work on any projects, so I’ll see you back here next week on Mukashi no Sewing for more history, sewing, and fashion! ❤

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Victorian Era Undergarments: The Chemise Sewing (Stage 2)

Project 7, part 4 – Trust the Process (Part 1, part 2, part 3 here)

But seriously, I’ve been very perplexed by these squares until now.

Welcome back to the Victorian Era Undergarments project! The weather this week wasn’t great for my kimono photoshoot, so instead I got some traction on my Victorian chemise! My restoration projects are a lot of fun, but they’re really hard work because I have to do all the research, planning, and execution myself. With recreation projects like this one, I can just follow the pattern and trust the process, and it’s really relaxing and a lovely change of pace.

Oh! So that’s where they go! 😀

First up was adding the strap reinforcements. I wavered back and forth on whether or not I wanted to have the straps held on by buttons, or just be sewn together, but I think it will be easier to dress myself if they’re buttoned. So this meant sewing a little reinforcing rectangle folded over each strap, front and back. Later in the process I’ll get to pull out my buttonholer and give these utility, but for now they just need a little more fabric so they don’t shred just from hanging over my shoulders. …That makes it sound like I’m really buff or something, lol, but really – it’s just that the linen is pretty lightweight! 😀

Who needs an iron?!

Next up was prepping the sleeves. Again, I waffled on these because I do like the “tank top” look, but then I realized I could add a bunch of ruffled lace and the deal was sealed. 🙂 Pro tip: you do not need an iron to press seams into linen! It loves to hold its shape so you can crease it by hand if you don’t feel like breaking out your iron because it’s all hot and humid. For example.

I did not have enough Wonder Clips for this task so I fell back on the venerable pin.

I had to fold in each hem, then roll it under itself and pin it so that the linen wouldn’t fray. These are the outside edges of the sleeve, and are where I’ll attach some cute lace in a little while!

…it’s that easy? Ok, then. Guess we’re good!

Finally, two lines of basting stitches served to gather the inner part of the sleeve so I can fit them to the bodice in the next stage! My Featherweight only goes down to 6 stitches per inch, but it turned out to be totally perfect. I didn’t even have to pull on the threads – it just ruffled itself up perfectly when I was done!

I’m looking forward to finishing this chemise soon, and moving onto the drawers! I think it’s just attaching the sleeves, then adding lace in various spots and finishing up the hem. So join me next time as I continue laboring over linen here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Yagasuri Kimono Restoration: The Embroidery

Project 12, part 2 – The Fix is In (Part 1 here)

Wisteria will be relevant momentarily!

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! Having managed to remove most of the stains last week, I was left with just one on the right collar that – while much-lightened – was still problematic. I was getting tired of scrubbing at it, and at a certain point there’s only so much to be done anyway. So that meant it was time to pull out the big guns: embroidering something over it!

Pattern courtesy of Diary of a Northern Belle

The kimono pattern is so angular that layering another geometric pattern over it would just look really strange, and trying to duplicate the yagasuri itself would probably have made me even crazier than I already am. 😀 But because this is such a lovely vintage piece, and a very traditional pattern, I didn’t want to do anything too modern like an anime character or English script or something. So I decided on flowers!

It took several tries to get the tracing paper to transfer properly. I might need new paper lol…

I briefly considered the nadeshiko, which is a lovely pinkish-lavender carnation, but it was difficult to source an embroidery pattern. I definitely wanted something lavender though, so after much consideration I settled on wisteria! It’s native to Japan, and pictures of the Wisteria Maiden have even been considered good luck tokens for marriage so it fit this kimono perfectly. The one downside is that a seasonal flower like wisteria does tie the kimono to a specific time frame more, but hopefully the season-neutral yagasuri pattern overrides the flower if I want to wear it later in the year! 🙂

I couldn’t really use an embroidery hoop given the awkward placement so I just held the tension with my left hand and hoped for the best.

I found a decent wisteria pattern online, and pulled up a bunch of images of the plant itself for reference, and got to embroidering. I always forget how much I enjoy hand embroidery until I’m back into it. It’s so relaxing!

Having trouble with my colors again…I know the wisteria blossoms look blue here, but I assure you they’re more lavender in person!

I finished the leaves and vines in one night, and the next night started on the blossoms. They weren’t planned out in any depth, but rather, I just roughed in a shape for the overall sections of flowers and then set to work filling them in.

One flower done, one to go!

I actually started to get a bit nervous that I would run short of embroidery thread before I finished, but I managed to get it done with a little to spare! The worst game is playing thread chicken when you don’t have replacement thread to hand… 😀

Seriously I’m so proud!

All I had to do when I finished was stitch up the collar again, and the kimono was ready to wear!

The tiny bit of remaining stain is nearly invisible in the shadow of the wisteria when worn – and the crossed collars also help to obscure it!

I’m SO pleased with my fix – it’s turned this lovely old kimono from something completely unwearable into my own beautiful bespoke piece! Now every time I wear it I can enjoy the love and effort I put into it. And having some more colors added to the kimono for obi coordination doesn’t hurt either! 😀 So join me in the last installment of this project for the full reveal and photoshoot! ❤

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Yagasuri Kimono Restoration: The Beginning and Cleaning

Project 12, part 1 – Hoisting Wet Kimono is My Hobby

The benefit of my new kimono hangar is easier photos of kimono. The downside is that when they’re hung up it’s like having a Japanese scarecrow in the house! 😀

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! I’m still chipping away at my Edo Coat Restoration and Victorian Undergarments projects, but I recently acquired this vintage beauty that was in need of a little love and wanted to share the restoration process!

The weird thing about kimono is that, in Japan, there’s not a lot of differentiation regarding what era they’re from by secondhand sellers. Typically, they’re either “antique” (which means pre-war), or “recycled,” which means post-war. Some sellers are kind enough to date things by era, but that’s typically about as much as you get. The good news is, there’s nothing more I love than a good rabbit-hole of research! Originally I thought this purple and cream kimono that I bought from Yahoo Japan Auctions was of a more recent “recycled” vintage – Showa, most likely, but I was thinking 1980s based on the overall excellent condition.

“Overall excellent.” We’ll get to the these little nagging details in a moment…

It’s wool, though, which is quite unusual for a kimono with this pattern (more on that shortly) – and, in fact, is the reason I bought it! Silk is amazing, but not in the rain, and the Pacific Northwest gets a lot of rain. 🙂 It’s also got more rounded rather than squared-off sleeves, which is usually a hint that a kimono is a bit older as well. When I started looking into the history of wool kimono, I found that they experienced a major boom in the 1960s. Then I hit the jackpot – an organization in the Netherlands called the Textile Research Centre! They have the holy Grail for textile research – garments with proven provenance of a known date. ❤ And when I dug through their collections, I found a kimono that could be the twin of mine save for the length (mine is about 9cm longer) and the pattern:

Source: TRC

Victory! Mine is likely from the same period – mid-1960s – which, as a bonus, makes it very well-suited indeed to featuring on this blog. 😀 The pattern on mine is yagasuri, or arrow-fletching pattern. (It’s called yabane when it’s only a few arrows, and yagasuri when it’s a full repeating pattern like mine.) It’s been around since the Heian Era, but became popular as wedding clothes for women in the Edo period as a good luck charm to ensure that the woman, like an arrow, wouldn’t return. (In other words, it was hoped that her marriage would be a happy one and she wouldn’t need to go back to live with her parents.) In the Meiji period it was popularized with hakama for school uniforms for girls, and is still often used for graduations and other similar celebrations.

I usually have pretty good luck when it comes to second-hand kimono, but unfortunately in this case there were some undisclosed stains in various locations ranging from prominent to “totally hide-able.”

This one, and the one above, are two of the worst.

I’m fairly certain, given the splash patterns, that they’re shoyu/soy sauce. The problem is…who knows how old they are? Maybe they got stained recently…maybe not. But the good news is, this kimono being wool means I can immerse it in water with no fear! Well. Maybe a little fear. 😀 I always work from least-invasive to most-, so I started by trying out the vinegar method for stain removal from Silk & Bones:

Pictured: the surprisingly elegant process of saturating stains with vinegar.

After soaking the stains with vinegar and then washing the kimono, I had removed the “vintage” smell, but not the stains. I’m guessing vinegar works better on silk than wool? But I’m still glad I did this first, as it’s a good disinfectant and helped with the scent as well! Next up was another new product for me, Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover.

Not, in fact, recommended by my grandmother, but by one of the lolitas on Discord.

I had to wear gloves for this one, as it was labeled as a potential irritant, and I have pretty sensitive skin. No sense risking it! I tested it on an inside seam to ensure it didn’t affect the dye first, then saturated all the stains. Then…back in the tub for another full wash. I have to admit, I was getting pretty tired of hoisting a sopping wet kimono haha, especially because the water was cold! The stain had lightened up some though, so I decided to do one more round (except I only treated the two front stains, and didn’t wash the whole kimono afterward.)


It’s a LOT lighter! The stains on the body of the kimono (there were I few I didn’t photograph), and the one on the lower lapel are totally “good enough.” They’re light enough that with the busy pattern they won’t be visible unless someone is much too close for comfort. 😀 The one remaining on the upper lapel is much improved, but is still too apparent to be acceptable though. So join me next time on Mukashi no Sewing and find out what I’ve got in store for Plan B! 😀 ❤

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Spotlight: Original 1960s Featherweight Manual

Spotlight 10: Original Manual for the Featherweight!

It’s as much of a surprise to me as to anyone else! 😀

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing and our tenth spotlight here on the blog! First off, thank you so much to all my loyal readers for your patience with my hiatus. My schedule has had absolutely no extra time in it this last month, and I hate to put out sub-par work so I had to set the blog and my sewing projects aside for a bit! But I’m back and with a new acquisition that was a complete surprise to me! ❤

What an ominous trademark statement!

I’ve sung the praises of The Featherweight Shop many times, but this deserves an extra helping of song. 😀 A couple of years ago when I first discovered the site, I searched their shopping section for an original copy of my Featherweight user’s manual. They didn’t have one in stock (not surprising, really), so I clicked on the “alert me when it becomes available” button, then bought a facsimile and completely forgot about it. Just as I was going to bed last week, my mail alert popped up, and…it was an automated message from The Featherweight Shop letting me know they had somehow acquired a 1960s 221K manual (printed in Britain, specifically), and that it was available for purchase if I so desired!


Heck yeah, I desired! 😀 I bought it straightaway, and it arrived two days later (as their shipping is very fast and they also are located just one state away from me). It’s in fantastic condition – only a couple of light creases and some foxing, but otherwise it looks like new.

Of course it’s super fun to have the original of anything, but why spend the money when I have a facsimile already? Well, for one, they’re actually different. The facsimile that The Featherweight Shop publishes is based on an older version from the 1940s.

Oh, to live in a time when “the Best is the Cheapest” was actually true… /sigh

For example, you can see above in the chart showing the appropriate needles and threads for different types of fabric that the chart in the facsimile (on the bottom) only features three columns of information and five rows. Whereas my original has five columns of information, and seven rows – including one for the new space age “plastic materials” that had come into common usage by the early 1960s. Because this chart is intended for my exact machine, it’s far more useful to me!

Second, there’s a ton that can be learned from original material objects that simply isn’t available in facsimile. Don’t get me wrong – having physical (or even better, digital) facsimiles of historical documents (and other objects) makes history so much more accessible to everyone, and I’m incredibly grateful for that! There are, however, things that can only be learned from the originals. Sarah Chrisman, one of my favorite material culture historians, shared a story on her blog once about an archivist who was selecting documents for further study based on the faint scent of vinegar remaining on them, which proved they were written from a time and place where an epidemic was raging (as vinegar was commonly used as a disinfectant during that period). A digital version doesn’t preserve the smell (at least, not yet!). 😀 So for me, having even something as simple as the original version of my Featherweight manual allows me to learn more about the time when it was built and used, and to improve my skill with it as well!

I love the idea that screwing in a lightbulb is still such a novel thing that it requires instructions. Times were very different!

I am so delighted to have this little piece of history in my hands, and I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a peek at it with me! Thank you again for your patience, 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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昔のSewing Returns Soon!

Okay but can we talk for a minute about how completely awesome this kit is!?

Hi friends! I haven’t just been building Gundam models, I promise! 😀 These last couple weeks really got away from me – nothing major, just life and home maintenance piling up – and I haven’t had the chance to do anything creative. I did however start work on a Discord server for Japanese culture and fashion that I’ll be sure to tell you all about and invite you to join once I’m finished with the setup! I hope to have more time in the near future, so I look forward to seeing you back here soon for more history, sewing, and crafts! ❤

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Victorian Era Undergarments: The Chemise Sewing (Stage 1)

Project 7, part 3 – Linen Closet (Part 1, part 2 here)

My Featherweight got a tune-up recently and she’s flying now! ❤

Welcome back to the Victorian Era Undergarments project! It may have been…six months since the last installment of this project? 😬 Yikes! My push to get back to this was twofold. The first is all of you! The most-liked type of post on my poll was historical reproductions (followed closely by restorations, remakes, and spotlights) – so thank you so much to everyone who responded! ❤ The second push is that I acquired The Victorian Dressmaker vol. 2 and I’m really enthused to sew a dress out of it! Which means finishing up my undergarments so I can get on to the meat and potatoes! 😀

This week I was pretty busy prepping for my Iaido rank test (I passed, thanks to all the help I received from Sensei and my senpai!), so I didn’t have time to do much more than get the chemise in motion. I have a “current projects” shelf in my sewing room and it took me a hot minute to unearth it from under various fabrics and trims!

Don’t judge me haha! Space is limited, so I work with what I’ve got! 😀

Once I did, though I was ready to get to work. The first step was sewing the side seams, and I decided to use French seams because linen – particularly loose-woven linen like what I’m using – is quite prone to fraying. Enclosing the seams would ensure that an undergarment like this that requires a good deal of frequent washing would stay intact over the long haul. Flat felling was more common in the period, but French seams were seen in undergarments, and are actually less annoying to me than flat felling. Plus, I’m not as big a fan of the second seam line on the finished side of the garment!

This is currently a Parker chemise.

I did try the chemise on with just pins holding in the side seams before I sewed it, and it’s a little hard to envision how it’s going to look finished, honestly. As best as I can tell, the armscyes are the correct size for me, but the neckline looks awfully low. This latter point can be fixed in post with lace or ruffles, if need be, or just left alone as no one will be seeing this undergarment once I’m dressed! The width from the bust downward also seems loose, but from looking at extant garments this is more than likely correct. I’m just more used to modern foundation garments like slips that are meant to be quite form-fitting. Basically, I’m not entirely sure how this is supposed to fit other than conjecture and comparison with extant images (many of which are drawn rather than photographed, and thus may bear little relation to reality), so as long as it isn’t too small for me I’m just going to go with it and see how it turns out. At a later date, I could always return to this and make a new one, armed with additional knowledge about how it works under future garments I’ve sewn/worn!

Detail from Bath of the Nymphs by Francesco Hayez, 1831.

As I was sewing, I actually started wondering about the fabric itself – I know linen is period-accurate, but I wasn’t particularly clear on the details! It turns out that “[t]he world’s oldest woven garment is made of linen. The Tarkhan Dress a long-sleeved shift with a pale grey stripe was unearthed from an Egyptian tomb in 1913 and has been radiocarbon-dated at over 5,000 years old.” (Source.) Linen’s history stretches back at least 36,000 years, however, based on archaeological fragments! Flax, the plant that is the source for linen, is part of a family of plants that produce bast fibers (in Japan, another one – hemp/asa – was utilized rather than flax), but it is quite labor-intensive to process and a mechanized flax spinning machine wasn’t invented until 1810.

I’m not a huge fan of the Industrial Revolution in general, but I do appreciate machine-woven textiles.

Linen has higher conductivity than cotton (which is why it feels cool to the touch) but less elasticity (which is why it wrinkles so much). It also gets stronger when wet rather than weaker, making it ideal for things like sails/rope, and also undergarments that might be subjected to sweat! By the mid-Victorian era due to the decreased price and increased availability of cotton, linen was no longer used as often for outer garments, but continued to be preferred for undergarments. It was also loved for things such as tablecloths, napkins, towels, and other things that are still referred to as “linens” today! And, increasingly, the finer linens (particularly Irish linen) became a luxury textile rather than a homespun one.

Maybe one day I’ll spin and weave my own fabric, but I’ll need a LOT more free time lol.

I’m not quite sure that my chemise is up to the standards of a “luxury garment,” but as it comes together I’m hopeful that it will at least be utilitarian! 🙂 So join me in the next installment of this project here on Mukashi no Sewing where I will be finishing up the chemise and maybe even getting started on the drawers! ❤

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Reminder: 昔のSewing Poll and Hiatus!

My choices for at-home practice are the backyard on dry days, or a strip of hardwood floor in our den on wet ones! 😀

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! Just a reminder that I’m in final prep mode for my rank test on Saturday, and that the blog will return to full project posts on Tuesday, April 12.

If you haven’t yet, please do take a moment to respond to my blog poll! I’m very grateful for the answers I’ve gotten already, and I look forward to working on more projects that interest you all! ❤

Thank you so much again for your voting and comments – and also for your patience while I polish my skills in preparation to test at the upcoming Iaido seminar! I look forward to hearing from all of you, and to seeing you back soon here at Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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昔のSewing Poll (and brief hiatus!)

I can’t wait to get out in nature again more this spring/summer!

Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! I’m preparing for another rank test in Iaido in less than two weeks, so I will have to take a brief hiatus from working on projects in order to focus all my energy on my practice. I’ll return to full project posts on Tuesday, April 12 – although there will be a short “Hi, I’m still alive!” post up on the 5th as well! ❤

In the interim, I would love it if you would be so kind as to respond to my poll below and let me know what kind of content you enjoy here, and would like to see more of! You may select more than one answer, and if there’s something you would like me to do here that isn’t mentioned please leave a comment below so I can hear about it. I would also love to hear from you in the comments about what time periods interest you – I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a series of medieval European-themed projects, which is a bit out of my 1800s wheelhouse, but is a time and place I’ve got a lot of interest in!

Thank you so much again for your voting and comments – and also for your patience while I polish my skills in preparation to test at the upcoming Iaido seminar! I look forward to hearing from all of you, and to seeing you back soon here at Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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Edo Period Coat Restoration: The Quilted Lining (Stage 2)

Project 9, part 8 – Keeping Warm (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7 here)

It’s so…something! 😂

Welcome back to the Edo period coat restoration project! I’ve managed to make some more progress on the lining of the coat…although let me tell you I am not getting this finished before spring. Mostly because it’s the 22nd of March as I’m posting this, and thus spring is already here! (Unless you’re one of my charming and delightful Southern Hemisphere readers, in which case…my plan is still to have this finished before spring!) I don’t plan on showing every inch of progress of this stage as it’s quite slow going, and much of it will look the same to you (and to me, if I’m honest).

Pictured: much the same, for hours on end.

I’ve cut the huge section of quilted cotton for the upper torso portion of the jacket, and it’s definitely “rustic,” shall we say. Maybe “wonky,” if you’re not feeling quite as generous. 😀 If this were going to be the final layer, I most certainly would have used paper patterning to get precision cuts. But it’s not – I’ll be adding the decorative silk lining on top of it when I’m done – and the time spent on this is already boggling my mind (and hurting my hands). So I rough-cut sections of quilted cotton, and if there are some additional strips here and there it doesn’t matter as it will all be covered up anyway!

Wherever I can, I’m securing the quilted cotton to itself rather than the jacket. Fewer stitches in the antique fabric means fewer points of failure from a textile perspective, for one. For another, it’s a huge pain in the butt to do as I have to be very careful to not let the stitches show through to the other side, which takes even more time than just the baseline hand-sewing. Whew!

Billy Matsunaga is just delightful. I could listen to her all day!

While I was generally researching this jacket, I ended up down a rabbit hole of Japanese cold-weather clothing – as is pretty normal for me, haha! Billy’s video is really worth a watch if you have the time, but if you don’t, I’ll summarize – Japanese houses get super chilly in the winter because they’re (generally – with the exception of Hokkaido) built for Japanese summers. If you haven’t been to Japan in the summer…oof. It’s sticky. Very hot, very humid – you will want as much airflow as possible! So in the winter rather than turning up the heat, it’s preferred to layer up.

Today’s idea of warmth and early America’s version are two very different interpretations. Today’s room temperatures in winter usually range between 68 and 76 degrees. …On 21 December 1797, John Innes Clark of Providence, Rhode Island, described this first month of winter as follows: “This month has been more pleasant. It is however, exceeding cold, the thermometer in our dining room with a good fire being about 48 degrees.”

From the Winter 2015 issue of The Friends of Carlyle House Newsletter

The above quote relates to the US, not Japan, but brings up another important point – homes in the Edo period were not only not built for winter, they were not particularly insulated at all. All over the world, people in previous centuries tended to heat just one room at a time rather than the entire house. In Japan that often meant a charcoal brazier – either open, or under a blanket-draped table called a kotatsu – that kept the important room tolerable. Women tended to wear multiple kimono as well as scarves around their heads, although working women might also wear momohiki (股引き) which are close-fitting hose or trousers, just like the men did.

Look, she’s got a lot of really useful information! 🙂

Everyday clothes that could simply be layered up or down were more common amongst the working class than jackets, as far as I can tell, but they definitely existed. However, the silk collar, the detailed toggles, and the general level of workmanship does help confirm the idea my jacket was likely owned by someone of at least some station in life. Even if that station was a low-ranked samurai attendant, they still most likely didn’t labor in the fields for a living, and they had enough money for a stylish jacket to keep them warm!

Front (??) view. It’s inside out, so is it still the front? Inner front? Anyway…

With the addition of both the quilted cotton layer and the final silk layer, my jacket will definitely be increasing in warmth from its original form! I’m currently attaching this upper piece as you can see, and then I’ll do the other sleeve, and then finally the lower torso and lapel areas. Then I can add the silk layer, and then finally add the facing fabric and finish things up! Still a ways away, but I hope you continue to enjoy the process with me, and I look forward to seeing you back here next week on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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