Thursday, February 26, 2015

Long time, no post

It's been a long time since I've made a post, I put nearly everything else on hold over the holidays while I tried to prepare for Christmas, so there's a lot to catch up on!

To start with the most exciting news, I was able to place a order for a full bolt of habutai silk late last year, so I'm happy to finally have it available as an option for my custom kanzashi! :)

I really can't say enough good about Dharma Trading company, when UPS lost my first bolt during shipping, (And UPS was no help in the matter whatsoever) they kindly sent me another completely free of charge. I bought my dyes from them too, and they've worked excellently. 

 I completed my first kanzashi made entirely with rice glue in the traditional method, a chidori motif with ocean waves. I also completed a momiji piece in my normal method, but what a difference the silk makes in the appearance! It's amazing how much the type of fabric can contribute to how vibrant a design looks. Both of these pieces went to good homes.

I've also completed two silk kanzashi sets, the nanohana set as a commission, and the ginkgo is stock for my shop. I'm hoping to make more this year, as time allows. I'm also getting back into the swing of working on my kanzashi book projects, I'm hoping to finally finish the kusudama set that's been in progress since last year.

I finished the hydrangea clips, and am thinking of using most of them to start a branch of my shop on storenvy. I am hoping to move my smaller and more modern creations there, and list my traditional kanzashi on Etsy. I also completed the comb I was working on, a pretty pale pink design with flowers worked in.

I have some bad news too unfortunately. My computer is 7 years old, and my camera 8. They have been faithful little machines, but both have been malfunctioning badly lately, and I think they may be reaching the end of the road. It's not surprising given their age and frequent use, but it's still going to be a big problem for me to replace them. My goal this year will be to purchase new ones before they finally die, which I think will be very difficult based on my usual sales and will require that I do much better this year. If I don't accomplish this in time, I'll lose the means to continue my shop (as well as losing access to pretty much all news/communication/entertainment, my computer is really my one source for everything) as I don't have access to a backup computer or suitable camera, so it's a little scary for me. If I'm not quick enough, there will be no way for me to keep saving, the kanzashi are my only income at the moment. I would love hear any suggestions at all of what I can possibly do to make my shop and items more attractive and hopefully invite more traffic and sales.

I took my silk painting experiments further and created two scarves as Christmas gifts. They're not perfect and it's easy to tell I'm an amateur, but I do like how they turned out. I think I would need a better equipment to make it a frequent hobby though, I don't have a proper frame and I found that water based resist tends to allow the colors to bleed a bit.

To end this post, here is a little sea turtle I made. This is my test design for a hibiscus and water kanzashi idea I had. It needs a little tweaking, but I think it will work. :)


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Combs, hydrangea, and alcohol inks

The hanagushi combs were finished and mailed last week, I just finished the hydrangea set last night, and now I get to start another comb. :)

I also played a bit with alcohol inks for dyeing polyester fabrics. I used white polyester lining to make an iris, then I tried to paint it. I mixed two of the inks to get purple. I used it first at full strength, then watered it down a little with extender. The extender seems to be the only way to get any sort of gradient at all, the colors do not flow smoothly into each other easily. It worked this time, but the extender looks like it changes the hue very slightly though, so it may not work with all colors. I will have to experiment more to find out.

 Here are the results:


. Ink colors are mixable
. Colors are strong and bright
. A little bit goes a long way
. Doesn't spread too much when spot painting


. Colors can be unpredictable, always test on a spot of fabric
. A smooth gradient is very difficult to get
. you need to be quick when painting, or you'll end up with splotches where the ink is already drying. 

 I really do need to update this blog's gallery, it's just such a pain in the neck to do. I'll get around to doing it one of these days...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Shibori Dyeing

I tried my hand at some shibori (thread resist) dyeing this week.

I tried kanoko shibori first, which is a spotted design made by tying very small pinches of fabric with thread, and the easiest way to do it is with a hook tool to grab and hold the fabric while you wind the thread. my first tries at finding a substitute weren't great, a straight sewing pin in a clamp was the first one, and the fabric kept sliding off. A tiny crochet hook grabbed the fabric well enough, but left holes.

 Finally, I made a hook that seems to work pretty well from a bent sewing pin taped to a wooden dowel. I heated the tip (although I'm not certain if doing so actually had any effect on the outcome) and bent it with a pair of pliers. The first pin I tried to bend broke, but the second one worked. It leaves no noticeable holes as long as I don't pull too hard, and grips the fabric well. Misting the silk with water from a spray bottle (as suggested by a kanzashi artist friend of mine) helped keep the thread from slipping while I was tying it. 

 This was the second piece I did, the first was just a few scattered dots made while I tried to figure the technique out. I worked about 5 rows, the dots came out very uneven, but better than my first ones. This technique will take a lot of practice to master. I also tried two other forms of shibori a pleating technique and stitched technique on the other end of the silk. I did two stitched motifs, one of them hadtwo rows of stitches, and the other had only one. The design that had two rows of stitches came out well, but only half of the design with a single row of stitches worked. I may not have pulled the thread tight enough.

  Another technique I tried was tying seed beads into the fabric, and those dots were closer together and less defined but a bit more even. It was faster to tie, as the beads prevented the thread from slipping off. It took hours to untie, though, so I don't suppose it's actually any faster. The unevenness of the dots is hardly noticible once made into a flower, so I don't think I'd do it again for that purpose, although evenness and placement would definitely be important for anything larger. The beads do make a sharper texture than only thread wrapping when they are first untied, though. The silk had a very tight bubbly surface. I had to mist the fabric with water and stretch it a bit to see the dots. 
My husband tried some arashi shibori, that was really easy to do and I think it came out nice. I think a larger cylinder would work better next time, he used a thin one, and found out that if the silk is wrapped too many times the dye will not penetrate the layers and the pattern will only be visible on the first three wraps or so. He chose to make a handkerchief out of it, he did all the dyeing, and I hemmed it after it was unwrapped from the tube and ironed.

I also found out that washable kid's school glue mixed with a little rice paste to thicken it makes a great resist for silk! It was super easy, I used a fine tipped bottle I normally use for henna, and drew on the fabric just like paper. once it dried, I applied the dyes to the blocked off sections, let them dry, then sandwiched the piece between paper towels and steamed it for an hour over the stove to set the colors. The glue stayed firm enough to keep the dye from bleeding over when painting and steaming but it washed out easily after a few minutes of soaking in water. I would love to learn more about silk painting, I've seen some gorgeous silk painted scarves and I would like to make my own one day.

Here are some of the websites I found with shibori instruction, should anyone else want to try:

I also made a thread-wrapped pine kanzashi (the kind sometimes seen in sakkou hairstyles) for a customer who owns a silk crane piece they wanted to pair it with. It was my first time making such a piece, and my first try wasn't very good, but I think the second one is at least decent.

That's another technique I need to practice, perhaps eventually I'll learn the trick to shaping the needles correctly while keeping the thread smooth at the same time.

Here's another recent custom order, I absolutely love the color scheme for this one, and it was a joy to work on. I was given a lot of freedom with it's design, and those are often the most enjoyable orders I get to make. The guidelines were a  medium sized piece with 5 to 7 flowers, incorporating chrysanthemums and bellflowers with bira-bira in colors to compliment a lovely grey komon with hints of blue, silver and gold.

 Here are the sketches I eventually came up with; the 7th design was chosen, with the 9th design's colors.

I am working on two hanagushi combs right now, I have completed bases made for both, and will be starting the petals tomorrow as soon as I get my house chores done and the pine kanzashi shipped to it's new owner. I've also got a box of half-finished small hydrangea, made as mock-ups for an order inquiry. I figure I'll make leaves for them, and put them on clips for my shop as soon as I have a spare moment to do it. I like hydrangea, I might keep one for myself. :)

Friday, September 12, 2014

I've finished the momiji sets, and made a small custom barrette, and now I'm ready for a short break! 

 The red and white satin barrette is a replacement piece for someone who had ordered one with that design from a different seller (no one I know) and never recieved it. I was glad to do it, but I don't get very much satisfaction out of making a piece without any personal creativity of my own in it, so I made some simple bobby pins as well.

Sadly, my faithful sewing scissors had finally had enough after being worked incessantly over the last few weeks, and fell apart. At first I thought I could just screw them back together, but it looks like the threads have been stripped, so I can't actually tighten the screw and it just comes out again. I suppose I'll have to finally buy another pair. I had just had those sharpened a few months ago, too.

I am trying to find a reliable source for polyester lining fabric with a variety of colors (the type sometimes labeled as china silk). I found one website that looked good, the color selection was great, but when my order came it was a  *knit* lining, which is not at all the same thing. I double checked the sale page, and no mention at all was made of the fact that it is knit, which is slightly annoying. So, that website doesn't work. I'm sure I'll use that fabric for something eventually. 

                                                              Not much like silk, is it?
I did find another place that had the green color I wanted, so I ordered some, and pretty much everything was perfect. right fabric, right color, great price, and quick shipping. *But* they are a warehouse fabric store, and inventory is probably always changing. I'm not sure I can rely on that one to have the fabric I'm looking for the next time I need it.

                                                 Really hoping they keep this stuff in stock!

Most of the websites I find either have a minimum order, insufficient information, color swatches that don't look accurate, price is too high, shipping is too high (major reason I only rarely buy from international websites), etc. I only buy one yard at a time, and my funds are extremely limited, so I can't afford to keep trying different places and run the risk of ordering something that won't work. Most of what I make from my orders goes right back into supplies, and I budget carefully, so I really need to find reliable sources to work with rather than having to run around at the last minute of a starting a custom order hoping I can: 1. find the type and color of fabric I need to make the project and 2.(especially if it's been a while since my last order) afford it.

So, that's what I'm doing right now. pretty sure nobody other than myself and my mother has even seen this blog, but if anyone else is reading it, got any suggestions? :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kikyo piece

Quick post of the bellflower piece I finished, depending on whether or not it matches the kimono it's been ordered to go with, I may need to make new leaves in a different color for it, but I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Working on the first of the momiji sets now, I wish this fabric wasn't so slippery!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back to work.

I am back from my trip and working once again! I just finished several pieces as a gift for a family member, and I have a custom bellflower piece and two momiji sets to be done that are my next priority.

 My first projects of the month:

An orange claw clip made as a gift:

a set of brightly colored  flowers with pin backings for hats:
And polymer clay earrings to match them.

In other news, I am now the owner of a little gimmicky "kanzashi" gadget, One of those fold and sew types which I see as a complete waste of money and a hindrance to anyone who actually wants to make nice tsumami flowers. How did I come to have one then you ask? One of my husband's friends saw it somewhere, and knowing I make kanzashi, very thoughtfully bought it for me. It was kind of him to do so, but it's kind of ironic that I have one now! Still, I have a use for it. After all, I am writing an ebook on kanzashi, and I'll need a picture of one for my section advising against purchasing them! You can do so much better with a simple pair of cheap tweezers, trust me.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Night Fury!

I set a challenge for myself to make a Night Fury from the How to Train Your Dragon movies into a kanzashi design. This is the first version of the design, I can already think of some changes for the next time I make one, such as smaller tail fins, and polymer clay eyes rather than beads. This one is a generic night fury, but you know I'll have to do a Toothless one soon. :D This one goes in my personal collection.

:Update: Got a Toothless night fury with polymer clay eyes finished. : )