Kanzashi are hair ornaments worn by Geisha. While some are made out of metal, wood, or tortoiseshell; my favourites are the tsumami kanzashi that look like flowers. If you want to learn more about kanzashi, check out this Wikipedia article. (Just bear in mind that it may not be 100% accurate). Traditionally, each petal is made from fabric squares that are starched, folded (much like origami), and then sewn or glued together with other petals to make complete flowers. My version is faster and easier to make, and would be great for Cosplay, Halloween, or just a beautiful hair accessory for a special occasion!
Here’s how I made those lovely cherry blossom (sakura) kanzashi for my daughter’s Geisha Party.
You will need:
• Faux flowers
• Hair comb(s)
• Clear fishing line
First, take your faux flowers. I bought several cherry blossom bushes at Michaels because I didn’t just want to make these kanzashi (see Decorative Floral Balls). Had I only needed enough for eight hair combs, four bushes would have been sufficient.
Step 1: Remove the blooms from the bush, but keep them on their little stems.
Step 2: Use scissors to cut the stems just below where they meet, as you can see in the photo above. The blossom duo on the top is in its original state; the blossom duo on the bottom has been cut. You want to have all of your branches cut and ready beforehand, trust me!
Of course you will need the actual hair comb! I looked around quite a bit, and finally found these ones from eastpromise on Etsy that I was happy with. I like the pronounced curve, the size, and the fact that they are made from a sturdy clear plastic (my skin has base metal sensitivities). They were about $10 for 20, so I have plenty of extras! Because my comb has seven teeth, that gives me eight gaps to fill with flower stems, including the outside edges. This means that I used 16 blossom pairs per comb.
Step 3: To start making your kanzashi, tie one end of your fishing line to one end of your hair comb. It doesn’t particularly matter which end you start on. I tried both ways, and right-to-left is just as easy/hard as left-to-right. I used Trilene Super Strong Extra Limp 10 lb. test line because that is what I had handy. You can probably use whatever fishing line you or your husband/dad/son/roommate has kicking around, as long as it’s not super-thick. You could probably also use some of that clear stretchy string for jewelry-making. The important thing is that it’s clear, strong, and thin. I tied a square knot in mine, because fishing line is slippery and a square knot is a good, sturdy knot that tends to pull itself tighter when you pull on any given end, so it won’t just slip out. You can also add a dab of clear nail polish to your knot and let it dry for added security. Important: leave a decent length of fishing line (I left about 3″) hanging off of your knot, because you will need to use it later! There is no need to cut a certain length of line; you can just hold the spool and let the line out as you go.
Step 4: Begin adding blossom duos to the comb, one at a time. I started with just one little branch on the outside edge of the first tooth. As you can see in the photo above, you want one side of the “V” branch shape on each side of the comb. Wrap the fishing line around the branches, as many times and in as many different directions as you need to in order to hold them securely. Since I was doing so many of these, I eventually got into a sort of rhythm and pattern, but there really isn’t only one way to do it. You will find that you need to keep a rather firm grip on the fishing line at all times so that it stays taught.
You may also notice that my little blossom pairs have two different lengths of branches. You could put all of the shorter branches facing one way, resulting in a more dense appearance on one side. I wanted the kanzashi to look good from both sides, however, so I chose to alternate which side the shorter branch was on. Each comb gap has two branches in it, because that is what fit.
Here is a close-up of how I wound my fishing line around the comb. As you can see, it crisscrosses all over the place, and some branches needed more wraps to stay in place than others. As I was working, I mostly just did what I had to so that the branches wouldn’t fall out.
Step 5: When you get to the end, reverse direction, going back to the beginning, and re-wrapping all of the branches more securely. When you are back to where you started, add the final blossom duo. (You started with just one, remember)
Step 6: Tie the fishing line off in another square knot, using that extra 3″ you saved from the first knot. Clip the ends, seal the knot with clear nail polish, and you’re finished!
Ta-Da! After a bit of straightening out (the flowers get a bit tangled together while you’re working on it), this is the lovely result. I can’t remember exactly how long these took me, but I think it was about 30 minutes each. Not too bad, eh? You’ll also notice that I used branches with one flower and one leaf on each end of my kanzashi. Leaves are nearly always a part of tsumami kanzashi, and I thought they added a nice pop of fresh green, as well as “bookending” the design nicely.
And here is my lovely J, modeling her pink sakura kanzashi at her Geisha Party. It works particularly well with a high bun, and would also look very pretty placed sideways in a french twist. I wouldn’t recommend washing these, but that goes for all kanzashi. I also made one for myself, in white cherry blossoms.
I think it goes very nicely with my kimono. Even though the Japanese aesthetic isn’t nearly so matchy-matchy (and would even be considered clashy by Western standards), I like it, and it’s MY Geisha costume, so I’ll make it how I want!
. . . Even though I went and got a pixie cut, and can no longer wear hair combs. . . I will grow my hair long again someday!