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Make Kanzashi Come Alive

Make Kanzashi Come Alive

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Most of my articles begin with a vote of confidence telling you that the project you're about to undertake is not as difficult as people would have you believe, and that you can master the art within a few tries. I will make no such claims with tsumami kanzashi. While you may be able to get moderately good at this ancient art of paper folding, to create the exquisite and breathe-taking items you find displayed can take months or years of practice. But, hey, it's still fun and beautiful, so why not give it a try.

Kanzashi is a breathtaking and delicate art form that uses silk or other material to create floral hair ornaments. Kanzashi (traditional Japanese hairpins) wearing dates back to the beginning of Japanese folklore herself. Within this sacred pin there was thought to be a kind spirit that would protect against evil. Thus began a cultural trend for Japanese women to adorn themselves with these beautiful hairpieces. The word kanzashi comes from "Kami-zashi" meaning "hair stick" or possibly from "Ka-zashi" meaning "flower stick".

During the Edo Period, the Tsumami style became widespread. Tsumami (meaning pinching) is the art form of pinching or raising a two dimensional piece of silk fabric and building it up to become a three dimensional object. Tsumami kanzashi were generally worn by young women during celebrations and rituals. The ume (plum), sajura (cherry), and kiku (chrysanthemum) blossoms are popular flowers that have seasonal significance. Presently, kanzashi pins are primarily worn as ornamental pieces for brides or professionals such as geisha, or during ceremonies.

The tsumami technique is used within the Hana kanzashi style, that is, long flowing floral hairpins. Modern day tsumami uses silken squares to create individual petals, which are then gathered together by metal, twine or silk thread to create blossoms, blooms or strands of delicate flowers. These displays are strikingly beautiful. Many casual crafters enjoy using starched paper along with this art form to create freestanding bouquets, later to be used as centerpiece or table displays.

What you need

Lightweight Japanese silk, cotton or paper

Rice glue, fabric glue, hot glue

Starch

What to do

1. First you need to starch your material. There is the professional option, which is a spray on, or the at home version, which means using the left over water from boiled potatoes. Either way will work.

2. Next, measure and mark your squares (this is what you will be using to build your flowers, each cut out square will become a petal). 2"x2" works well for a typical floral display of kanzashi.

3. Now for the fun. Folding your petal- (Note: each option below makes one petal. Choose a, b, or c and repeat the process to create multiple petals. D is an individual flower head for embellishment.)

a) Fold the square in half diagonally, bringing the top left corner behind and down to the bottom right, to form a right triangle. Put a tiny bit of glue onto the lower right corner. Take the top right corner and the left corner and fold down toward the third (glued) corner, forming a new square with a diagonal slit down the center. Finally, bring the top right corner down to the bottom left to create another smaller triangle. Stand your triangle up on its bottom left corner tip, and gently press down to give the petal a slight curve.

b) Fold the square in half diagonally, bringing the top left corner behind and down to the bottom right, to form a right triangle. This time, put a drop of glue on the bottom left corner, and fold the upper right down to the lower left. Make a very thin line of glue along the bottom edge of your triangle, and fold the left corner over to the right one.

c) Fold the square in half diagonally, bringing the top left corner behind and down to the bottom right, to form a right triangle. Again, put a drop of glue on the bottom left corner, and fold the upper right down to the lower left. Make a very thin line of glue along the bottom edge of your triangle, and fold the left corner over to the right one. Turn over so there is a flat edge on the bottom and a point on top. Put a dab of glue in the center of the bottom edge, and fold the two corners up to meet at the glued point. Fold in half so the two bottom points meet.

d) Bring the top left corner down to meet the bottom right corner. Fold back the tips of this new corner (now the bottom right corner of the right triangle) about 1/8". Cut just above the bottom of the corner fold so you have a flat edge on bottom and a pointed tip on top (with the pinched center). Sew a small stitch to hold together. String together several of these petals to make a single flower head. This makes a beautiful ornament for jewelry, bags, belts or other accessories.

Additional Tips

Use narrower folds with flowers that have more petals.

Always iron your material after starching and before folding.

Here are some Japanese terms translated for you convenience:

Tsumami- pinching

Kanzashi- the hairpin or ornament

Hana- a flower

Maiko- a geisha girl in training, these girls/women are the ones who usually wear kanzashi

Kusudama- hair ornament in the shape of a ball

Bira bira- to flutter the metal strands that hang off of kanzashi




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