What Is A Kamon and Why Do I Care?

If you are of European descent, you are probably familiar with family crests. It is an old time form of a badge of sorts, identifying what family a person, or piece of property, belongs to. It’s kind of interesting. If you want to know more, check out this post on Wikipedia.

So what does that have to do with “kamon” and the image at the top of this page? Well, the Kamon or Mon is sort of the Japanese cultural equivalent of the European heraldic crest. The background makes for fascinating reading! Again, Wikipedia has a fairly comprehensive article for light reading. If you find that drawing your interest and want to know more, John Dower’s “The Elements of Japanese Design” is a great resource.

According to Dower, the first record of the use of Kamon dates to 701 AD. All Kamon symbols are registered and there are over 5000! Initially only the Emperors and Imperial Court nobles were allowed to use them. In modern times, people in the trades are also allowed to have them.

Anyway, I got going on the subject when I was reading Kamiko Sudo’s “Circles of the East“. I did a little research and found the Sakai family crest. My daughter is a Sakai and I have been wanting to do something special for her for a long time. Bingo!

Suzanne is very particular about “stuff” so I thought it best to clear fabric choices with her first. I offered a few and she settled on the one I used above. It is a silk brocade I bought from Hong Kong. God Bless the Internet! The background is a simple black silk.

This thing was a total challenge for me. I had to get an image enlarged to 24″ X 24″. Then create the individual pattern pieces. Then figure out the construction logistics. This was my first time trying appliqueing with silk. Trust me, I won’t be doing it again very soon… if ever. It unravels with the slightest handling. At times I felt like it unraveled if I even breathed on it! I finally beat the problem by backing it with the lightest fusible stabilizer I could find.

The batting is 100% cotton and the backing is again in the black silk. There are two 3″ hanging rod pockets, top and bottom. I wasn’t sure how straight it would hang, so I added the bottom rod pocket so she could insert a shorter rod just to weigh the bottom.

It took me several months to get it made and shipped off to her. First because I was taking my time, thinking every step through. I didn’t want to waste any of the fabric and I wanted it to be perfect. Then I made two different versions of it in miniature, testing and refining the design. Then I did my usual routine when I’m attacking something new and scary… procrastination! I wanted so very badly for this to be something she would approve of and hopefully love.

In short, I freaked myself out. The things we do to ourselves when we consider something to be very, very important. Sigh.

BTW… she said she likes it. From my Suzi, that’s pretty high praise. I’m satisfied.

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