Book Review: Japanese Kimekomi by Suess and Hewitt

I’ve had this book under Related Reading in the side bar for several months now. It’s been on my personal wish list for much longer than that, but due to my living situation it was cost prohibitive to purchase the book until now. And I’m so glad I did!

In Japanese Kimekomi, Barbara Suess and Kathleen Hewitt give easy to follow step by step instructions how to make Japanese kimekomi balls. They include a short history of kimekomi, basic kimekomi instruction, including a list of supplies and specific supply recommendations, as well as 16 designs you can recreate yourself. Suess and Hewitt’s instructions are straightforward and include useful illustrations to aid in the reader’s understanding. The templates in the back of the book are easily photocopied and used as patterns for fabric cutting or drawing a design on a ball. If you are a fan of my kimekomi designs then you will love this book.

Here is a ball I made using one of the patterns in the book.

I love this book for several reasons, one of which is the product recommendations. I’ve been able to improve my craft using several of the products the authors endorse. One of my awesome readers, Sharra from Houston, and I were discussing cutting tools last week and she told me “I checked out the Japanese Kimekomi book I saw on your website and found the hot knife that she uses. It has been WONDERFUL. You should definately check out this knife! I am over the moon with it!”

Another thing I love about this book is that with every design, the authors show you how to play with the patterns to create a new look. With each design given, one or 2 variations are also shown. So 16 designs turn into over 30! I definitely feel like I got my moneys worth.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in making Japanese kimekomi.

Do you already have this book? What do you think? Let’s discuss it in the comments!

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16 Replies to “Book Review: Japanese Kimekomi by Suess and Hewitt”

  1. I had a look at the book on Amazon a couple of months ago after I saw it on your page but was undecided. Now that I have seem what you did with it I’m putting it on my Christmas list! Yet another beautiful ornament, i’ve said it before but can’t help saying it again – you are a very talented lady, Alyx and I love that you share it with us.
    My sister bought a hot knife when we first found your site but I have not used it as I thought it looked like it made the cuts too wide to hold the fabric, I am definitely going to give it a go now though.
    J x

  2. Hello, Alyx, I bought the Kimekomi book in 2009 and have made many beautiful ornaments. I use the hot knife and love it. A little practice will help you find the the correct way to hold the knife to get the best depth & width. I am 76 years old so using a craft knife to cut the lines was difficult for me. I also use a craft knife with the blade end inserted into the handle as my tucking tool.
    Earlier this year I found your web site and loved your variations on the kimekomi balls. Delighted to see some ideas that i was already using such as the eggs – mostly 4 paneled for larger images.
    I have made several ornaments for weddings & anniversaries follwing the “Window” pattern, using bridal fabric with pearls at the divisions & printing names of the bride & groom and their wedding date on 2 of the “window” sections.
    I absolutely love Barbara Suess’ book. Keeping the creative juices flowing at my age helps me stay younger! Your web site & tutorials are great., Thanks for sharing. Joyce

    1. Thank you Joyce for your wonderful comment. I’m so glad you like the site and am thrilled to meet another one of my followers. I look forward to future comments from you.

  3. I love the book too but am very frustrated that I haven’t been able to figure out how to do the basic design with the curve properly, since she did not include that in the back of the book. For some reason I cannot wrap my brain around setting a 3d sphere design on 2d paper for my initial template. All my friends say I am making it harder than it is, but none if them have figured it out either :/ any suggestions on how I should set my compass for doing it 2d before trying to transfer to a 3 inch sphere… Thx for all the great work you do. Love your site

    1. With the designs in the book, you just photo copy the templates that they give you in the back and then cut them out before tracing them onto the ball. I have done several so far and haven’t had any problems. The paper doesn’t form exactly to the shape of the ball. What I did for the heart ornament was pin the heart shape on the ball and I pressed the paper edge down, making contact with the foam as I traced it with my pen. Does that make sense? It’s kind of hard to explain in words. Maybe I can do a video showing what I mean. Would that be helpful?

      For some reason I cannot wrap my brain around setting a 3d sphere design on 2d paper for my initial template… Any suggestions on how I should set my compass for doing it 2d before trying to transfer to a 3 inch sphere…

      I have the same problem all the time and I still haven’t figured out the best way to tackle the problem when creating my own original designs.

      When I use a compass to create a design it’s all a bunch of guess work. When I did my initial designs with the compass I never started with a sketch. I just started experimenting to see what happened. It is very difficult to go from a 2D sketch to a 3D surface. Sometimes I start one idea and end up with something entirely different. I have no idea how some of the designs in this book were originally created. I highly doubt they used a compass for designs like Carolina Favorite and Hearts and Diamonds. It could be that they just drew the design free hand before going back and making the templates. Or they might have used a fancy computer program to map out the 3D images before hand. I’ve spent hours thinking about it on my own. I totally understand why they don’t give away their secrets. Sometimes I think I’m an idiot for giving away so many of mine for free.

      Sorry I don’t have a better answer for you.

  4. Hehe I just noticed I didn’t mention that I meant the basic design on page 16 (sorry) the spiral beach ball design. I tend to like to use those templates (i can’t draw a straight line with a ruler to saved my life even after drafting classe s) and kind of make motification from there or get my compass out and play with it, but I still get some weird stuff from what I “plan”. I haven’t quite gotten to the point of looking for some kind of 3d transfer program, but it’s a near thing lately. I have a friend who sells kimono and has given me some very old fabric she wants transformed…so I am trying to figure out how best to show off some of this stuff…am also looking at a cube to make something like a 3d quilt block…just a different miniquilt design on each facing but that rare creature called free time hasnt visited lately. Thank you so much for sharing what you do:) glad to know there are others out there with deep thoughts 😉 and pretty fabrics. Best wishes!

    1. Melekiana, I like your cube idea. That sounds really interesting. I might have to borrow that idea.
      I’ve wanted to use kimono fabric as well but I haven’t the extra money to go out to the flee markets and hunt for old kimonos. Buying the fabric new is entirely too expensive. Obi (kimono belt) fabric would be particularly beautiful. I wonder how difficult it would be to tuck that heavy silk.

  5. For Melekiana, What a beautiful, musical name! I struggled with the spiral design also and finally made my own template. Look at the Queen’s Cup pattern, It has 6 petal shapes sections at north & south poles and side oriented diamonds at the equator. If you follow two neighboring curved lines from north to south poles, you will see the basic shape for the curved section.
    I cut a ball with the Queen’s Cup design as I use it a lot. Then I pinned a strip of tissue paper over one section of the cut ball so that it covered two curved lines from north to south, ignoring all the other lines. I drew the long curves with pencil. I then worked on the tissue paper pattern to make it symetrical and then cut a light weight muslin pattern piece to use as my template.
    I checked the muslin template against my Queen’s Cup cut ball to make sure it followed the curved lines correctly. Marked 6 equal distanced points on the equator of a new 3 ” ball which is 24 cm around so 6 sections = 4 cm apart. Traced the lines of the muslin template on a ball, making 6 sections. then cut the ball along the north to south curved lines and cut my fabrics about 1/4 inch larger than the muslin template – for tuck-in allowance. I used two alternating fabrics and they came out really nice.
    Hope this isn’t too confusing and helps. Good luck.
    This is harder to explain than to do – just be patient in creating your template and the rest is easy.

    1. Thank you so much Joyce! I couldn’t have made a better suggestion. I think you explained it perfectly. On page 37 at the top, the color play illustration shows that curve you are talking about.

  6. Thanks for your kind words, Alyx, Another suggestion. I copy the templates on paper, pin the paper pattern to clear soft vinyl and then cut out each piece. Trace the inner lines – which will be the actual size of the design after tucking. Now you have a clear template that you use to pin on and cut out your fabric so that you can select the fabric design for the most pleasing effect – especially when you want to feature a particular motif. This has worked very well for me. The vinyl templates are a bit easier to mold around the curved surface of the balls when you are tracing. Hope this technique helps someone.

    I also make “prairie point” fabric balls & eggs, often with a image centered and the folded fabric triangles [prairie points] forming a frame.

    Where do you live in Japan? I have a stepson who is half Japanese and married to a lovely Japanese lady. They live in Chiba.

    1. What a great idea Joyce! I love it. I’m going to add your suggestions to the techniques page. Don’t worry, I’ll give you credit for your ideas.

  7. Hello
    Beautiful works. I do it too. I have a question. Where I can buy a tucking tool for kimekomi? (only internet shop). Thanks, Dorota

    1. Dorota,
      Here is a link to the tool Barbara recommends in her book.
      However, it’s not necessary to use that particular tool. When first started doing this I improvised and used a awl I originally bought for scrapbooking. I liked it but it broke so I had to find something new. That’s when I switched to an upholstery needle. I love my upholstery needle! The best part was, it cost less than a dollar.

  8. Glad you like the idea. Not worried about credit – many people have helped me with techniques and inspiration & I’m always glad to
    “pass it on” to help anyone else.

  9. I recently saw at an art show this technique using a flat surface and washi papers. The artist told me it was padded with light quilt padding. Do you have any info on how this is accomplished. I use to teach grade school art. I’m now in my 80’s and still like a challenge. Bev L.

    1. That sounds really neat. I’ve also seen kimekomi done on a flat surface but with kimono silk. I’ve never seen it done with paper.
      I don’t have any info on the kimekomi technique for flat surfaces. However, I imagine it is done in very much the same way as on a ball. The base needs to be something like thick foam board or soft wood that can be cut into. The quilt batting and fabric tucking would be essentially the same. I’ve thought about trying it but have yet to find the time.
      I hope that when I am your age I’m still up for a challenge. If I ever find more info about flat surface kimekoimi I will be sure to put it on my site.

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