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Katsura (Geisha wig) project-finally Done! Sugoi!

A few years ago while on tour, I picked up a very, very sad antique Katsura wig for Geisha/Kabuki. Coated in ancient camilla oil & setting wax, tired and snarled I still wanted it to see the actual construction of Geisha/Maiko wig. After all this time, I have finally finished reconditioning, filling in and re-set it. Though not quite perfect, not having the training or skills in making Nihonmagi (Japanese hairstyles) wigs, I am pleased enough with the result. There are folks who may *tut-tut* as I have not styled it in a completely accurate manner and have waaaaay to many Kanzashi (hairpins) in it, but I am wearing it for a series of  costume events & wanted to present the kanzashi I made. So it’s a bit cluttered ;-) This is a big photogallery of step by step through the process as I could when hands allow. (I really need a hands off/foot operated shutter control for my camera so I could better document projects when hands are busy) I’m ready to wander the Streets & Underground of London as a faux Geiko this weekend. Happy Halloween!

Here is the before:

Antique katsura looks sad and tired, let’s fix!

…and after :

ready to stroll the streets of London ;-)

and all the steps in between (sorry for repeats, for some reason WP gallery reinserts copies from post  into gallery again)…


– Antique Katsura base w/ assorted extensions included

-Tres Semme Cool Freeze 5 ultra hold hairspray

-Bintsuke wax

-Bingushi Tsuge- long stemmed comb made of boxwood soaked in camellia oil, which means you can use to pick, style & smooth without it sticking to hair wax or hairspray

-Mottoi waxed paper hair ties

– black mesh donut & bobby pins/slides from Paks (UK version of Sally Beauty Supplies) beauty shop

-Kanoko silk shibori tie w/tassels

– Kanzashi hair ornaments I made (falling flowers w/flutters, crane, red/black flower)

– Kanzashi ornaments bought in Japan ( the back pins; dragon & hanging blue ball and the top bun picks: wooden round one and the silver butterfly flutter)

-Aussi Take the Heat leave in spray for flatironing hair

-Dishwashing liquid to loosen wax & camellia oil for first wash

-cheap clear shampoo for following washes

– Aussi- 3 minute miracle to condition hair.

-Hair straightening iron

(One serious cultural side note; I specifically checked to make sure was a pre-WW2 wig. The reason being, I absolutely not want a wig made from the 40’s, as were potentially made from hair forcibly taken from Korean “Comfort Women”. These horrible 40’s wigs are the most common on eBay, as many American GI’s brought them home after the war for souvenirs.)


Tip’o’the day- Embroidery thread storage

It’s been a month of big projects & I’ve been trying to turn back to old uncompleted small projects to wind down my brain/distract when too tired to work well. Which means all those unfinished embroidery/knitting bits. Either I have an invisible cat who has been frolicking in my thread bags, or I’ve been really cavalier about tossing threads back into it.lalalala.  So instead of actually embroidering, I spent a few *hours* untangling floss.*sigh*. I Don’t like those plastic thread caddy/winders much as not really portable, plus don’t have the money really buy one.

So instead I thought, hmmm, binders full of women, uhm, I mean threads. Wandered to local stationary store, bought a binder and instead of regular clear plastic sleeves, got the photo sleeves which have 4 pockets per page.


Cheap& Cheerful way to store Embroidery Threads

Et voilá, a compact way to store embroidery floss which also lets you clearly see the colours/organise by colour or project and easy to transport (just grab a blank set of pockets,put in only the threads you need,roll and rock!). Plus you can add regular sleeves to put in transfers/patterns into same book. That’s my cheap and cheerful storage solution for the day :)

…and put away on the shelf for easy storage, just be sure to put open end of pockets up!

Silly make-up product review- Fake nails

This is a completely silly post, but hey, it’s my blog. Sometimes I want to actually kind of ,oh , look nice for a party/event. However wardrobe/stitcher hands (at least mine) are constantly ravaged by materials tearing off nails, hands dipped in chemicals, cleaning agents, etc. I never get to have nice nails. The other day I tore one down to painfully beyond the quick when tearing silk, more proof of the strength of silk ;) So I picked up some fake nails from SuperDrug both to protect nail and for party. Now usually it’s a bit of a faff, I have tiny hands, so have to cut even short nails down to practical for working, then the finding a good hours time to paint/let dry. I’ll wear them a day, then inevitably needle or pin nick them, or be washing fabric and the varnish is ruined.

I saw these new nails from Cosmopolitan which are solid colour. Usually solid colour ones look tacky/boring colours, but these caught my eye as they have gradiated tint, so looks like actual painted nails.

hard wearing no varnishing fake nails for crafty chicks/make-up artists.

In applying I found it a bit tricky to tell the nail bed end from tip, till I felt how the nail bed end are wonderfully thin and soft ( a day later & no irritation on curticle area as so thin there). Cutting them down also revealed the colour goes all the way through the acrylic which led to the happy discovery after a full day in the workshop. After sewing, washing fabric in bleach and general dinging, hardly any marks on nails! The shine wore off a bit, but these babies will be able to stay on quite awhile with out having to worry about retouching paint! Win!

So this is my first silly endorsement of a beauty product; recommend it to any crafty/rough ladies or men who occasionally want femme hands ;-) Would also just generally recommend them to make-up artists, as the not needing to varnish would speed up fashion/film/stage shoots. Not a huge range of colours but nice ones.

The only caveat is to NOT use the pink gel glue included, pink gel takes a long time to dry & is also harder to take off. Get some regular or express nail glue instead.

Tip of the Day: Shop Rules I thought were silly, but have saved my sanity

Okay, I admit it, I have been accused of being a bit “anal” or “OCD” in the workroom. (though that can’t be applied to midway through a project when the enitre house becomes de facto “Miko’s workspace”. Apologies to my partner who has suffered through Toe-Catcher balls of thread in carpet, Tribbles made of machine fluff and zillions of tiny multi coloured triangles which point all over the house from dagging curves.)

Once upon a time when I was apprenticing/working in ballet I had a Costume shop manager who had many, many rules. At the time, I it drove me crazy, her always saying to Do or Not Do something, but as time rolls on, some of these she forced into habit have repeatedly saved my sanity and my projects. Most are old hat to most readers, and may seem Uptight, but they are great habits. So not to be preachy, but maybe to help, here are my top 10 Workshop Habits worth instilling in automatic…

1.Reset your work area. New project? Tidy area, helps cleaning but also can help make one think of all the tools/things will need on new project.

2. Machine sewing; when starting to sew, especially on home/non-industrial machines, crank needle down in place through fabric, always start sewing from needle down position. Keeps from fabric slipping, lets you check “bite”.

3. Machine sewing; again at start, always hold top/needle thread so you don’t have the “Aaaargh” of it pulling through and having to rethread. Plus maintains good tension on thread.

4.Trim dangley threads as you go. Yes, it’s kind of a pain, but less so than having to go and trim everything after piece is sewn. I know for myself when I am lazy and don’t do this, many is the time when a dangling thread got caught up somewhere else and either messed up stitching/pulled fabric off. Plus it’s good way to make sure haven’t accidentally caught up fabric in sewing.( though I will sometimes leave threads uncut on basting/ any areas I need to come back to, seeing them dangle is a reminder to finish something.)

5. Turning corners: before you lift presser foot to turn fabric on a corner, make sure again needle is down and play the crank a bit to be sure fabric isn’t pulled into feed dog.

6. On sewing table; keep all sharp things/scissors/pins/pens/markers on right side of machine and fabric/project on left. Because finding a scissors nipped your super expensive fabric or a pen leaked is so very *head-desk*. (This was probably the thing my boss used to Tsk me for the most, and the most saving grace habit to have learned.)On one table I use a cloth on right to toss things onto, so as not to have annoying clicks, plus peripherally gives me a “landing zone” to subliminally remind me. On another, I have my giant  Ofla mat under machine which delinates the “No sharp/mark-y crap” zone.

7. Fussing with a piece? Snipping a bit of excess or pulling a pin out of fabric? Take your foot off the Gas! (peddle) ( used to have a demonic industrial that somehow seemed to store power and would run on a bit on it’s own even if I thought I wasn’t applying any pressure to peddle.*sigh*) (also saves from stitching ones own fingers. Yep, I’ve done that.)

8. Changing your bobbin?  Take a few extra seconds and use machine brush or a nice stiff bristle paint brush to clear out bobbin case, bobbin seating in machine and feed dog every time. My, the lint builds up fast and can mire things up! ( I  think my Pfaff was a cat in a prior life, she likes to hack up fluff balls of always the most opposite colour into stitching if I don’t brush her first ;-)

9. New Project= fresh needle. The number of times my stitching/thread problems have been resolved by getting a fresh needle  (Usually after faffing about wasting a half hour on checking bobbin tension, rethreading etc.) is embarassing ;-/

10. Done for the day? Not coming back to the exact same point of stitching? Then reset your machine to “neutral” ( in my case, straight stitch at 2.5). So no zigzaggy surprises when blithely sitting down next time. Especially in shared machine workshops, not setting machine to neutral was a huge nono.

Anyhow, so that’s it so far. These wee snippets come to me sometimes when I catch myself trying to break them, and I always pay the price when I do ;-)

Project- Old, from Jubilee

Oh, and the for fun project for us at the Gothic Valley WI (yes we started a Goth Women’s Institute chapter, putting the Black back in Blackberry jam! ;-) http://www.gothicvalleywi.org.uk/   A while back we participated in the Regents Barge parade at Battersea park for the Queen’s Jubilee, and I felt this overwhelming need to dress some hapless member of our group up in bunting ;-) So I made this quick ensemble; lace up bodice, skirt and sparkley net petticoat.


(shameless plug: although not finished to “street” finish, more like theatrical finish, this outfit *is* for sale for £80. Fits size 6 to small busted 10 as bodice laces up, and skirt & petticoat are hook/adjustable. Could also be altered for quick change for burlesque (zip on side of lacing/velcro). Contact me at email : dreamsewing@gmail.com if interested, or would like a similar set in other fabric.)

Project catch up-Fall

Well it has been a rather busy month. Here’s another catch-up of some of what ate most of my time in September. This was working for the lovely Mistress G of http://www.moruadesigns.com/ on a wedding party. I worked on 4 skeleton suits; waistcoats, Jackets and individual chemise/shirts and a frock for a wee 3 year old girl. Right now both she & I are both saying we will *never* wish to work in top quality silk velvet again. It’s kerslippery, merfidgity, bungFluffs up sewing machines and lungs & is just a PiTA. (couldn’t even really interline/fuse it as the stuff just shows up every single touch/flattens out, needle marks too frakkin easily). All I can say is, this is one case where for a stitcher’s peace of mind, please choose synthetic or cotton velvet if you ever need to make a complex/tailored piece!!! The frock and shirts were fine German lawn & bastite, which was lovely to work with, comparatively ;-) Sorry pics are not good quality, they are all “late at night, mebbe I ought to document this” snaps and we have no finals from the event yet.

Miss Miko

October 2012
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