Featured Guest: Diane Gilleland

Our guest blogger this month is Diane Gilleland, author of Kanzashi In Bloom, published by Watson-Guptill, and Editor-in-Chief of CRAFT.  

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Flowers made with Clover's Kanzashi Flower Making templates.

I do a little bit of just about every craft under the sun, but one thing I do make a lot of is flowers. A flower form, whether it’s a rosette or a shaggy mum or a flat daisy, is just the perfect small project, and a lovely way to mess around with a new craft technique and see what possibilities are in it.

So, given my years of flower-making, when I stumbled onto some Kanzashi on a Japanese website, I was smitten. Who knew you could take fabric and sculpt it into such precise petal shapes?

Kanzashi are used in Japan as adornments for Geisha. They’re made of delicate silks, which are painstakingly folded into shapes resembling all kinds of flower petals. There are special Kanzashi for each month of the year, too – you’ll see Geisha wearing silk cherry blossoms in April and silk chrysanthemums in October.

After doing some research, and watching a lot of mesmerizing video  of Japanese Kanzashi masters, I realized that the traditional form of this craft was a little beyond my reach. (Follow that link and you’ll see what I mean – you need tiny squares of silk, and long-handled tweezers, and a lot of patience.)

So I set out to find some simpler ways to make these sculpted petals. I found a few tutorials online. I played around with variations myself, mangling a great many pieces of fabric in the process. And then I started teaching simple Kanzashi classes, where my students taught me even more about what worked and didn’t work. Eventually, all this exploration led to me writing Kanzashi In Bloom.

By this time, I had figured out a pretty foolproof process for making Kanzahsi, but the method in my book still had its sticking points. (In fact, these little challenges pop up often enough in my classes that I added a whole chapter to the book on how to fix them!)

When Clover contacted me last year to say that they’d developed a Kanzashi template, I was excited, because their yo-yo makers are one of my favorite craft tools ever. I knew they’d make the process of Kanzashi as simple as possible.

Kanzashi Flower Maker -- Gathered Petal, Small

…And they definitely have! The first flower I made with the templates came out perfectly, and took just a few minutes to make. You don’t need to memorize a complex series of fabric folds; all you need to do is follow a series of numbered holes with your needle and thread. You can use lots of different fabrics, too, from delicate silks and chiffons to sturdy brocades. There are so many creative possibilities, you’ll be busy flower-making for a long time.

I know I will! My next Kanzashi challenge will be to keep experimenting with new materials and forms. For example, couldn’t you line a picture frame in Kanzashi petals? Wouldn’t they be pretty as the rim of a basket? Imagine …..

Watch this video, featuring Diane, to see how the Kanzashi Flower Maker templates work. 

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