Thursday, August 30, 2012

Layered Kanzashi

Kanzashi makers sometimes use more than one fabric for a single petal. There are many ways to do this, but the reason is to add color and texture. Helen has only been moved to do this once, when she had two kinds of fabric (outer fabric and lining) from the same fall colors vintage kimono. The two fabrics together made such a great combination. Here is Helen's mix-and-match snap clip pair, made from chirimen and habutai silk, with gray coin pearls in the centers...

Buy it here

Let's look at some layered kanzashi pieces by other artists, and there are lots of them. Jiaxin Wang from Deepwinter on Etsy has made a complex piece using layered sakura petals and layered pointy petals, plus beads and jingles....

RandomCatGirl on Etsy  has made an excellent butterfly, using this same technique...

Emily Wright from Cuttlefishlove on Etsy has not only added color, but also depth to her brooch.....

SoSaucy on Etsy has created a unique pinwheel effect by layering two different kinds of petals on top of each other....

So that's what I have for you today. I don't know when Helen is going to try to make another one of these. I hope she at least becomes inspired by my blog post to take the plunge. But then, when does she ever listen to me?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Kanzashi Roses

I am a cat. I have no opposable thumbs. I really don't have any thumbs at all, so I can't draw pictures for you, but I can try to tell you how to make a kanzashi rose.

Cut a square of fabric; silk, cotton, linen, even synthetic, as long as it is lightweight and not too slippery. Try to measure it accurately; you'll thank yourself later. It's important that you cut it with the grain. Don't cut on the bias, OK? I think solid-colored fabric works best for this particular item.

Fold a corner to the opposite corner to make a triangle. Repeat. You now have a triangle-shaped petal (the rudiment of several other kinds of petals). Helen likes to fold in the corners a little (so you won't see raw edges) and baste the thing together. You can also glue it. Make four really small ones, and then three that are 1/4 inch bigger, three 1/4 inch bigger than that, and so forth, depending on how big you want your roses. So, let's say you are cutting squares that are 1.5 inches, 1.75 inches, 2 inches, etc. Whatever your largest squares are going to be, cut 5 or 6 of them. Again, 4 of the smallest ones, 3 of everything else, except the largest ones, which should be 5 or 6. So, Helen's larger roses usually have a total of 15-16 petals.

Take one of the smallest ones and roll it along its hypotenuse so that it resembles the center of a can glue it this way (see photos below). Glue the remaining small ones around the center so that it surrounded as evenly as possible on all sides. Repeat with the next largest petals. At some point you might want to glue the petals so that they lie flatter, spreading out your rose. That's pretty much it. Your flower will resemble an angular hybrid tea sort of rose. For a softer, rounder effect, you need to use a different sort of petal, and Helen hasn't even tried that yet.

Here are some of Helen's roses: the first one is silk crepe with vintage kimono silk lining leaves on a comb ...

And this one is a synthetic amazing reddish purple one that Helen sold to a colleague she spent some time with at a big orchestral musician pow-wow conference in Chicago last week.....

Here's a gold satin rose on a barrette with black satin leaves, both synthetic fabrics....note the onyx bead in the center ......

Here's a red synthetic one that became a brooch for a gallery....

And finally, here's a pair of coral silk charmeuse snap clips.....

Buy the coral clips here  and there's a rose brooch made from the same fabric here.

So there's your little tutorial. It's probably the only one you're going to get, because you know, I can't draw you pictures, and I can't help Helen take photos. It's hard not having thumbs.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sakura Kanzashi

Sakura are cherry blossoms, and Helen has never made one. It's because Helen has Her Own Way Of Doing Things, and she has never once made a batch of rice paste. My understanding is that all you would have to do is to get some white rice and boil the crap out of it. Store it in the refrigerator, and you're done. But no, that's too hard, or she hasn't gotten around to it, or something.

So in today's post, we're going to look at other people's sakura kanzashi. They need a little rice glue or you just can't make them. They are April's flower. They have five petals, each with a little fold or dimple at the top.

Here's a luscious pair of sakura with leaves by Thea Starr. Her wonderful blog is here and her Flickr photostream is here . Her Etsy shop is here This piece is made with hand-dyed vintage kimono linings, so the silk has a very simple weave.

Next, PolishedKanzashi on Etsy has made a gorgeous sakura with a pair of leaves from chirimen silk. Chirimen is a heavy-ish crepe (look for the ribbed texture). This flower has two pink layers and handmade clay stamens in the center.

Marissa Joanna Rojas  has made an elaborate sakura, complete with leaves, buds, varnish-coated paper stars, wire stamens and birabira (aluminum jingles). The flower is mounted on a 2-pronged fork hair pin. The MJR designs Flickr photostream is here 

Bright Wish Kanzashi, or Hanatsukuri on Etsy , has also made an elaborate composition of three hand-dyed charmeuse silk sakura with leaves, pearl stamens, and falls (shidari) of hanging petals, much like the wisteria we were talking about a few posts ago. Silver bells hang from the bottoms of the shidari. The Bright Wish Kanzashi Flickr photostream is here 

Finally, a layered sakura by Cuttlefishlove on Etsy , made from habotai (lightweight, simple weave) silk and a poly-silk blend, with Emily's trademark assemblage of stamens. Emily's Flickr photostream is here 


Monday, August 20, 2012

The Other Kanzashi

Helen was just poking around the web to see if she could find my (our?) blog on Google (no), when she came across this fascinating website about the other kind of kanzashi.....the more substantial kind of Japanese hair ornaments, made from things like silver, lacquer, coral.....the kind not worn by maiko (apprentice geisha). She found the kanzashi collection of artist Miriam Slater. Take a look here . Lots of old and modern photos, and examples of Miriam Slater's artwork.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Other Stuff She Makes

Helen only learned about kanzashi maybe two years  ago, I think? Before that, she made barrettes and various sorts of hair flowers in other ways, mainly using what she calls "singed fabric technique" for the flowers. This means cutting synthetic fabric into shapes, mostly circles and ovals, occasionally triangles, and searing the edges with a candle flame. Sounds easy, and it is easy and fun, except when it's not.

Every fabric behaves differently. Some are more volatile than others. you can take steps to be careful with all that pyromania, but careful often means "boring". We want our shape to resemble a flower petal, so it's better if it's not completely flat. We want some curves and cup-shapes, but not too much. Get the picture? It's a trial and error situation each time.

Helen uses lots of satin, crepe, and other formal looking things, but it's the translucent fabrics such as chiffon and organza that everyone seems to love. Here are some faves:

Brown organza with crystal beads anchored by gold glass seed beads ....

....Turquoise organza with Swarovski crystal teardrop beads....

....Pink chiffon with gold glass seed beads

There are plenty more of these. Blatant commercial: they're at

For years, Helen wanted to make a fabric morning glory, and couldn't figure out a good way. There is a kanzashi method that sort of works. After making kanzashi for a while, it dawned on Helen how to make a singed fabric morning glory, gluing petals together the way you would a kanzashi flower. Here's her latest version:


Thursday, August 16, 2012


So, kanzashi are seasonal in Japan. Certain flowers go with certain months. Sometime in the spring, wisteria are all the rage. Wisteria are interpreted in kanzashi as....well....these dangling things, perfect for a cat to play with. A younger cat, that is. I'm certainly not amused with such trifles at my station in life. I am a Snowball Princess, you know.

Helen was scared of the whole idea and never tried it until her wedding-dress designer friend Lannette in California was fantasizing about a dress with wisteria kanzashi dripping from the shoulder. Helen thought she'd give it a try as a comb hair accessory. About 3 months later (it was a slow, deliberative process) she came up with this:

And you can buy it here

OK, here are versions of wisteria from other kanzashi artists....sorry I can't name all of them:

By lilyashes on Etsy:

By littlecookie on Etsy:

By PolishedKanzashi on Etsy: 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When Are Kanzashi Not Flowers?

The anwer is usually, they are not flowers when they are leaves. Above, you can see me modeling the fall leaves pin Helen made the other day. But kanzashi can take many other shapes. The most common one is the butterfly....

...and a couple years ago, Helen made a fleur-de-lis ...

....and don't forget the flower BUDS ...

Some kanzashi artists have come up with wonderfully inventive shapes for their work; for instance, here's a bunny by ~Sarcasm-hime...

....and here are some cranes from


One of our favorite kanzashi artists we know only as Alice, from Jakarta, I think. Helen found her wonderful photostream ( on Flickr, and she also has her own website. Here are some of her non-floral flights of whimsy: my favorite, a cats' ears headband and Helen's favorite, a shrimp . OK, this blogging business is exhausting. Time for a nap.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Small Barrettes for Helen

Today, Helen made some small barrettes for herself. She wanted to try some neutral colors, so she chose some brown and ivory chirimen silk from her vintage kimono silk stash. These were an experiment; Helen had never before used small oblong barrettes as a base. Ironic, since these are what she needs for her own hair. Here's what came out:

So, these are about 3.25 inches long. The central flower is the ume, or plum flower shape, one of the most iconic kanzashi flowers. The central beads are dark carnelians. More experiments to follow.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Morning Glory Fair

Today, Helen went with her friends Rebecca and Mary, to the Morning Glory Fine Craft Fair in downtown Milwaukee. Helen didn't have a booth at the fair, but she does sell on consignment at the Morning Glory Gallery, housed in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Helen has been selling hair accessories and brooches there for the last few years, and made a couple pins specially for the fair. Both of these are made from vintage kimono silk. As you can see, one is a sunflower. It was time-consuming making all those little teeny things for the center. The other one is a bright fall colors thing with a carneliam bead in the center.

While they're at the fair, I took care of the house, the way I always do. You know, keeping an eye on things from an elevated vantage point. Helen came back in the late afternoon with a bunch of jewelry and some ceramics.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It Starts With Squares

Ready for Round 2? Here goes. Kanzashi making starts with squares, and the squares have to be measured pretty carefully. Helen uses a sewing gauge and pen to measure hers. As you can see in the picture, I was supervising this morning as Helen measured and cut her vintage kimono silk. She's lucky to have this nice garden window to work in.....nice big flat surface with lots of light. I let her use it as long as it doesn't interfere with morning naps. I'm a white cat, so I'm always a little chilly and have to warm myself in the sunshine.

So, squares. After you've cut them, you fold and sometimes pinch them in various ingenious Japanese ways to make petals. Once you have your shape, the fun begins. Use a bobby pin or something to clamp the petal into place and sew (or glue, which is the correct Japanese way). Then the real fun begins---forming them into a flower or whatever you're making. That's the scariest part, and the part with the most creative potential.

Helen had a little fall leaves pin project for this morning. She used vintage chirimen and dupioni silk. It involved a leaf stem that she made from wire, which caused a fair amount of angst. Here's a picture:

The leaves represented are Japanese maple, birch and oak. Well, part of an oak. It will be in Helen's Etsy shop soon. Did I mention the Helen had an Etsy shop??? She has all kinds of fabric hair accessories and brooches. You can find it here

UPDATE: This pin has already been included in a fall leaves themed Etsy treasury, after being listed there for only a few hours! Check out the treasury here

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Another Etsy treasury in just a few days for this pin

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: A third Etsy treasury for this one

SON OF UPDATE: Here's number 4

BRIDE OF UPDATE: Number 5 .......who would have thought this would be so popular an item with Etsy sellers?


GREAT-GRANCHILD OF UPDATE: Number 7 is here I think the reason this item is in so many Etsy treasuries is that Helen did such a good job of tagging it so as to optimize for searches with the keywords "fall leaves".



UPDATE'S BFF: Number 10.....unbelievable....

REMEMBER THE UPDATE?: It took a while, but here we are at Etsy Treasury #11

MORE UPDATE: Helen just renewed this item on Etsy, so we're expecting a rash of new treasures, like this one, #12


Friday, August 10, 2012

My First Blog Post


I am Sadie the Snowball Princess, and I am a cat. I live with Helen, who makes these fabric hair accessories, and I told her that I would blog about them, since Helen doesn't seem to want to do it herself. Helen has been mainly making kanzashi lately. Want to know what that is?

Tsumami kanzashi are traditional Japanese flower hair accessories, originally worn by maiko, or geisha-in-training. Kanzashi flowers were usually made from old kimonos, which means silk, most of the time. They can also be made from other fabrics, such as cotton and linen. If you're cheating a bit, you can try making them from synthetics. Helen has a design made from fine wool, a pin-striped fabric given to her by Janine (J9), her seamstress/organic farmer friend who lives in the countryside. J9 makes a lot of men's garments....suits, ties, dress shirts, and gives Helen the remnants, for which Helen is eternally grateful!

Anyway, back to kanzashi. They are usually flowers. You make the flowers one petal at a time. It can be slow and tedious. There's the traditional way, and there's Helen's way. You are supposed to glue the petals; Helen hand-sews them. You are supposed to use rice paste to glue the petals together; Helen uses a hot-glue gun, because she is impatient. It's a slow art, and it takes time to understand the huge diversity of what you can do with it. Kanzashi makers are fabulously inventive!

All this writing has got me pooped! I need a nap, but first I'll post a few photos so that you can get some idea of what I'm talking about. Oh, I see I already have. Here's a set of bridal combs made from vintage kimono silk that Helen's pal Jason's aunt gave to her. Three kinds of petals are represented here. Helen usually likes to sew beads in the center of her flowers, and she doesn't like manufactured stamens, which many kanzashi makers use. These beads are blue jade.

All right, nap time. More tomorrow, or something.