June 26, 2011

Fabric Steamer product review

I bought this fabric steamer  online in April for the hat project knowing it might be good for kimono too. It is!
I looked around for an inexpensive steamer that fit my budget and the Conair had great reviews. I tried to buy it at my local store but no one was carrying it, so I recommend buying it online. The store I bought it from (Linked above) has free shipping!
I like this little steamer and I have gotten my money's worth out of it despite some issues. Having a garment steamer is great.....trying to iron kimono on a regular ironing board is just a hassle once you have tried the steamer!

Here are the pros and cons of this Conair Compact Steamer GS33W.
  • Heats up fast
  • Works for about 30 minutes- enough time to steam for 1 kimono, a juban, obi age, and an obi
  •  About $30 with tax and shipping- one of the least expensive ones on the market
  • No wrestling with kimono on the ironing board, just leave it hanging
  • Conair has excellent customer service if you have issues (See below) 
  • Kills dust mites, moth eggs (They will eat holes in your kimono!), and freshens the fabric
  • Hook for hanging up the nozzle is badly designed, but it must be hung up while heating and between steaming items
  • No wheels on the tank ( I didn't have a huge problem with this but it would be nice to have them)
  • Only steams for about 30 minutes before you have to let it cool, refill, and heat up again
  • Nozzle on the end of the hose can break off if you are not careful
The hook that comes with it is shaped incorrectly to hold the nozzle. I ended up using both a double coat hook and a floor lamp to hang up the nozzle-hose, both worked fine. I would probably modify the over-door hook with pliers or something or use an existing hook.
I also did something really dumb after using it for a few weeks without a problem: I dropped the hose onto a hard surface and the nozzle broke off. I don't know if this is one was defective or if it happens all the time, but I didn't see any similar issues when I read the reviews, so I assume it had a defect.
The nozzle really ought to be a separate piece that you can take on and off, but it's not. That's where Conair comes in. When it broke, I called them. (I had registered the product by the way.) When I called their toll-free number, a real person answered right away and they were friendly. And the man I spoke to (Fabian!) gave me his extension in case I had questions later. They sent a whole brand-new steamer at no charge & free shipping to my house because they didn't have a replacement nozzle-hose unit.

So, what do I really think of this steamer? If you have only a few kimono in your collection and/or do not wear them that often and are on a budget, it's a great little steamer. If this one dies, I will probably upgrade to Conair's Deluxe model, the GS60. It has a few more features like wheels and it's 1500 watts. Plus it's only $40, so not that much more.
I'll let you know if I have any problems with the new one!

June 20, 2011

Juban: one to wear and one to re-purpose

I mentioned in another post that I'm working on another costume project. For this project, I needed an inexpensive juban. First, I found a lovely hitoe (unlined) red juban made of jinken (rayon) for a furisode. It's really nice and has a cute dot pattern and an awesome textured han eri, so I was a bit hesitant to alter it. The paper crane pattern you see above is actually inside the juban, the only pattern other than the dots. Another example of "hidden smartness" so prevalent in Japanese traditional clothing.

However, another very inexpensive silk juban came long and it actually works better than the red one for what I need. It better fit the budget for the project.
 You see, I need to remove the sleeves. Which I did today! (Ah! Ripping out beautiful tiny, hand-sewn stitches). The fabric is so cute, I will keep the sleeves and either put them on a future juban or do something else with them such as use them to make  han eri. 
The sleeves are lined with solid peachy-pink silk, so they are actually reversible once removed. The interesting thing I noticed was the each sleeve is lightly padded at the bottom so they have a bit of weight, a very cool idea. I will use that same idea for the costume sleeves! The costume? It's a secret right now, but for now, just know that no juban will be further harmed to create it!

Yes, it's taiko....but we are wearing Happi Coats!

You may have seen people wearing happi coats at your local Japanese festival. Happi (法被, 半被) are traditional light cotton jackets worn over regular clothing like t-shirts, jeans, khakis, and shorts. The sleeves are straight and the front panels do not overlap much. Usually they come with an obi if you order new happi but many people do not wear it, so it seems to be optional for the most part. Happi are often worn at festivals and you will see them at Obon. Colors and designs vary quite a bit but are almost always use bright or primary colors for visibility. The ones we are wearing in the above photo have the kanji for matsuri ("Festival") printed on the back.  The hachimaki (headband) we are wearing also have the same matsuri kanji in red in the center. Happi coats are perfect to wear at Japanese festivals when it's a bit warm  (you can wear a tank top and shorts!) and you want to be very causal; men and children seem to like them because they can just put one on over whatever they are wearing, unlike yukata or kimono. It's easy to look festive when you are wearing happi!

Where to buy: eBay often has used happi. You can also buy them online at happicoats.com ,and at some Japanese festivals. You can also order custom happi online at various stores with the name of your taiko group, club, or temple on them. The Buddhist Temple of Salinas, CA has gorgeous customized happi you can buy during Obon: they are turquoise and purple.

The photo:  I'm on the far left with the odaiko bachi.

June 10, 2011

May 14th Phoenix Japanese Garden

I was at a special taiko event at Ro Ho En, a.k.a the Phoenix Japanese Garden. It was their last event before they close for the summer. It was still really warm when I arrived, about 96 degrees at 5:30pm. So it was definitely a yukata day, and a gorgeous one at that, the garden looked amazing. Once the sun started to go down, it became cooler and quite refreshing. I had wished I had brought a bangasa (Paper parasol) as well since the sun was so hot.
Here I am wearing my tried-and-true turquoise spider mum yukata with my new and very festive tachibana/ume hanhaba obi. I have paired it with a turquoise obijime, a hot pink polka-dotted han eri, yellow geta, and a matching fan. I love the new obi, it's very fun and girly compared with my (mostly) plain hanhaba obi and it looks like late spring/early summer with the bright colors. This outfit seems to fit southern Arizona: the harsh sun can handle these bright colors....subdued tints are often washed out and look drab and uninteresting under the desert sun.

Here are a few other images from that evening. There are actually a ton more, mainly of the taiko performance, so I may put those in another post. I borrowed a friend's really nice camera to take all of these; the photos of me were taken by an obliging stranger.


June 5, 2011

Dress up dolly day

Today it's too hot to wear kimono and too hot to go outside! (103 degrees F right now). One of my projects is finished, so the dress form "Dolly" is free to use for coordination photos. The "Dolly" is borrowed and a bit difficult to use because of it's unnatural figure, so I tried to pad the waist a bit. Dressing a Dolly (Or a willing friend) is much different than dressing yourself but it's really good practice. This Dolly works OK, good enough photographing coordination combinations today without too much effort. I am learning to dress the Dolly...so be forgiving of the wrinkles that seem to be multiplying with each additional obi!

#1: Yabane Overload

This is the ultramarine blue Meisen yabane kimono I got recently. I paired this retro kimono with with a nice beige yabane  hanhaba obi, a rust chirimen obiage, and a cream colored obijime with navy blue and reddish stripes. So there is alot of yabane! The same patterns can work together because the scale is different for the kimono and obi.
The han eri collar is orange and black with tiny flowers and I am using it with each kimono today. The obi looks wrinkled because I could not get an obi ita to fit underneath...probably pulled the obi too tight. So please do not try this at home!

#2: The Grey Potsherd Komon with a checked obi

This komon kimono is wool and has a really interesting pattern that looks to me like potsherds- pieces of broken pottery. The grey background has a subtle print of pink squiggly lines all over it. I think it has a 1950's feel to it. I have discovered that it works with several obi, including a couple I have not worn before!

Here I have paired it with a cute cotton kasuri check hanhaba obi, a light yellow obijime, and a red obiage. (This kimono looks wrinkled in almost every photo though....!)

 #3: The Grey Potsherd Komon with beige geometric/yuzen obi

I got this obi recently from this kimono blogger! I just noticed that it seems to work pretty well with this kimono. This obi is really cool, with a geometric design on one side of the o-taiko section and this yuzen flower design on the other side. I like the flower side out since it's a great color and design contrast with the kimono. This obi is paired with a pale yellow obiage, and a salmon and pale yellow obijime.

#4: The Grey Potsherd Komon with a black bamboo obi

I got this obi sometime last year and the design is really lovely. It's not easy to tie though: the tare is  longer than average and it's very stiff. But the Dolly is very forgiving! I have paired it with a cream rinzu obiage and cream obijime. I think it works OK, but a golden yellow obiage and obijime might be a better choice. Or pale yellow, which I do have. Maybe someday I will have obiage and obijime and every color!

June 1, 2011

The Cat and and the Kimono

Just a short post since it's late.....but I couldn't resist sharing! Miss Lula got under my dress form "dolly" when I had the shiromoku on it hanging up for alteration. She seemed to think it was some kind of luxuious silk tent made just for her.