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. : )

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Awesome kanzashi offer!

UPDATE: super kanzashi deal is taken, polymer clay jewelry still available. :)

Amazing kanzashi offer! first come, first served.

Ok, here's why. I just found out that a line of items I really like is being discontinued, or rather, was discontinued several months ago. I found a single website that has a few remaining, but they're selling them fast. So, in an attempt to raise enough money to purchase the item I'm looking for before they run out, I'm offering a sale in my Etsy shop. The deal is any 4 items valued over $20, and 2 valued under $20, for $75.00 plus shipping. The only pieces excluded are those which are already reserved for another customer,
and of course custom orders. Note me on Etsy if you're interested, and I'll set up a special listing for you with the deal price.

A super deal, offered for 1 week only, and to only one person. The first person to contact me gets it, I'll update here when it's been taken.

You can find my Etsy shop here:

Also, I'm weeding out my kanzashi shop of some of the older/not as well designed pieces this week, and finally getting rid of a lot of my polymer clay charms and other small accessories I used to make for craft shows. Over 300 pieces, some of them (I'd say maybe 10 or 15 pieces out of the bunch) are a little dusty and need a quick fix like re-gluing the pins, re-attaching a jump ring or re-glazing a dull spot with some clear nail polish, but nothing too bad. I've just put everything into one big box, and am selling the whole lot at a major discount. If you like decoden or polymer clay sweets, have a look here:

just remember to zoom in on the listing pictures, I had to combine a few to show everything. There's a lot there, this box would be great for gifts, prizes, to be split among a group of people who like that type of jewelry, or even to take pieces apart to use the elements in your own projects.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Kanzashi petal tutorials

I just filmed and uploaded some kanzashi petal tutorials on Youtube. Certainly not the best quality, I'm really not good at videos and have no idea how to stay in focus, but just maybe they could be useful to someone wanting to learn. Go have a look! :)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Two new custom pieces, and supply problems

I've just finished two custom kanzashi pieces, a small wisteria and a fuschia flower hair pin, both in bright yellow shades. I'm currently working on a custom pair of bon-ten for another customer, and I have two kiku sets to make when that one is finished, so I've closed my custom orders for the moment until I have completed all o my current orders.

I've also got a bit of a problem, since I've just found out that the craft store near me will no longer be carrying one of types of metallic cords I use, and I'm going to have to either find it elsewhere (provided it's not been discontinued by the manufacturer) or find a substitute. I have a small amount left in stock, so I will be able to use it on a few more projects providing those projects use only small pieces, but I won't be able to create anything that needs a lot of it until I find a solution. If I have to order it online, I'll have to raise the prices a little bit on the designs that use a lot of it in the future, because the cost will more than triple once shipping is added, and I'll probably not be able to order it as often as I was buying it.

I really want to finish some of the projects that have been sitting in my drawer, some of them have been there for months, and there's one or two that haven't been worked on in a year, so maybe I'll be able to do that once these orders are finished.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

New kanzashi listings up on Etsy

It's taken me a few days to get done, but I finally got the last two month's worth of kanzashi listed in my Etsy shop, over 80 completely new pieces total! :D Go have a look:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Decorated claw clip and mountain laurels

I think I've solved my problem with decorating claw style hair clips! The problems I encountered were the flowers either hindering the way the clip worked, getting crushed when you try to open the clip to put it in your hair, or the open spaces in the middle of some types of claw clip providing very little space to actually attach a flower to.

The method that has worked for me so far, is to line the inside of the clip with a strip of felt so the flowers ave something to adhere to where there are open spaces, sticking to small, mostly flat and somewhat sturdy flower designs (something that you can press on a little bit without ruining),  and using a flat center decoration.

I think the styles of kanzashi flowers that work well with these clips are limited, and they'll still need delicate handling.

Also, I just finished a mountain laurel kanzashi, I had so much fun figuring out how to make the buds! If you've never seen mountain laurel before, they come in white, red, and pink, and have these interesting star shaped buds that kind of look like little gumdrops to me. Here are some examples of mountain laurel varieties:

Here's my take on it, it doesn't capture the shape perfectly, but I think it gets the idea across. Mountain laurels have a strange shape from the side that I found difficult to mimic with kanzashi techniques, maybe one day I'll figure it out! I think this one might have looked a little truer to the flower if the stamens were a bit smaller, but that size is the smallest I've got at the moment.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lots of small pieces, and trying new things

I've been visiting my family this month, but I brought some supplies with me so I would have something to work on if needed. I've been working mostly in the evenings when everyone is watching tv, and I've been getting a lot of small pieces for my shop done. I don't know quite how it's happening, because I'm usually not this fast, but I'm averaging 3 pieces a day, although most still need to be mounted on hairclips, and a few will need finishing touches once I get home and have all of my supplies available.

I've been playing with so many new designs, I can't wait to get them all photographed so I can share them. So far, I've done a luna moth, a swan, several different lotus designs, dogwood, moonflower, fuschia, plumeria, small pinwheels, a tudor rose, an orchid, and I'm in the middle of a stem of bleeding hearts and a thistle. 

I have over 75 pieces made so far, I've almost filled the box I brought for projects!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The susuki bridge is complete, it ended up not being as heavy as I feared it would. I do have some leftover leaves, I might make a smaller piece out of them for the shop if I have time this week. :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I'm working on a susuki bridge right now, something I've never made before. I've made two smaller susuki pieces, though I wasn't truly satisfied with either. it's going well so far, I hope to have it done by the end of next week at most, though with any luck it will be finished before that. The thing I'm most worried about is the weight, due to the extra wires, since each leaf is on it's own individual wire. It didn't matter quite so much on the smaller pieces, but it will likely be a significant problem for a bridge when i go to put it all together. I'm still thinking about a solution to that, maybe shorter wires would help, I'll have to try it and see.