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I’ve a Notion to go get Basted next time my Nap needs Interfacing

Posted 2008.08.18 0.00 in Hobbies by Stephanie

The serial hobbiest strikes again! In a string of connections too convoluted to convey, my interest in swords and sword making has turned into an interest in sewing, and a desire to learn how to sew…

What a tangled warp they weft, these Seamstresses, with their secret words and hidden meanings.

After learning their language, one must also learn their tools and machinery… equipped with a machine that is nearly my contemporary in age, I endeavored to divine its mysteries… the ins and outs, ups and downs… what a small victory it was, to be able to thread the needle. A simple thing, really, compared to the Dark Arts of bobbin management. There surely is an ancient scroll somewhere, dealing with the fine magical power “Ability to Summon Bobbins, and Bend them to do Thy Will”. Still, I struggle on. Through luck and persistance — and some help from the Oracle of Google — I learn to tame the bobbin. It is not fully broken, but it will at least grudgingly oblige me, for a time.

And then the Patterns… the Patterns. More codes, more secrets. Simple illustrations and line art on the exterior, belie the true complicated horrors which dwell within. That such a small, innocent paper packette could contain such vast acres of tissue… mile after mile of the stuff. No doubt, folded originally by the seventh son of a seventh son under the light of the full moon — how else could the minute enclosure house it all so neatly? And all of it faintly inscribed with arcane symbols and markings, foreign to the common eye. It is these fantastic, delicate sheets which contain the runes, that Seamstresses convert into wearable attire and useful linens.

I knew at once that I was in over my head, and beyond my knowledge. Runes and arcane symbols, I have experienced many times in the past. But nothing of this kind. These were the markings of a magic about which I knew nothing. Fortunately, there are tomes out there, which undertake to offer translations, to assist the common mind in perceiving the secret rites of the Seamstress. And through great cunning and adventure, I was able to acquire one such volume: “Sewing for Dummies” found at my local bookstore. Armed with this new resource, I began to learn Right from Wrong, and discern the new and exotic meanings of many words that I once thought I knew.

Soon, I felt a growing confidence. I looked at the Patterns I had acquired. The folds of faric, the thread, the Machine. Overwhelmed, my confidence drained away. Apart from some trials and tests, the joining of scrap fabric, my Machine was idle. The Patterns evoked fear and concern. So much tissue.. and my resource of knowledge… Yes it helped me to deign the meanings of such secrets as “Selvage” but at the same time, it filled me with cautions and caveats. Were I to proceed, I should need still more resources and equipment. No longer would a single pair of scissors suffice; that which was adequate for cutting paper, cardboard, foil-lined-plastic, and tar-based roofing tape, would not stand the test of Fabric. And the pins…. there must be pins, there has to be pins.

I have long dreaded the introduction of pins, into my domicile. As a child, I had a particular talent for locating pins that had become lost, that had wandered, gone astray. Pins were strangely attracted to my feet, and frequently would demonstrate their fondness by burying themselves to half their length, in the bottom of my sole. Yet now, here in my home, there will be pins.

With that, I will draw this tale to a temporary conclusion. Suffice to say, armed and equiped with the knowledge, the Machine, the Patterns and Fabric, the Notions and other sundries… all that remained was for the Moon and Stars to align. And when the astrological signs are right:
I Shall Sew!

Translation Solved!

Posted 2006.12.20 1.00 in Swords by Stephanie

A few weeks ago, I asked for help with translating the Mei on the Nakago of a Nihonto which I had recently aquired. (Signature, on the Tang, of a Japanese Sword.)

Well, the other day I finaly received some books that I’d ordered and one of them was a book called The Samurai Sword – A Handbook. I just finished reading it and there was a section which lists various Kanji characters, including lots of different forms.

And there it was, at the bottom of page 115! One of the twelve different forms of the Kanji for “Kane” matched the one on my sword! I had already identified the second Kanji as “Moto”, and this book confirmed what I had learned on the internet.

So, mystery solved, the signature on my Wakizashi is Kanemoto. I still have more research to do in order to confirm other information about the sword, such as the year and place of manufacture, but the data I have so far is that it was in the Mino province, about 1560-ish.

The Samurai Sword Handbook

Kanemoto is the name on this sword.

Need Help with Translation

Posted 2006.11.23 1.00 in Swords by Stephanie

So I’ve got this sword. It’s a Japanese sword, a wakizashi, purported to be late Koto period. It has a two-character mei (signature) and I’m trying to translate it.

I don’t speak Japanese, and know very little of the written language. My ignorance is compounded by the fact that the mei is, perhaps, 500 years old, scratched into steel, and not necessarily the best handwriting to read in the first place.

Of the two characters, the second one was relatively easy to transcribe. I am fairly sure it is moto. The first character is proving more difficult. I’ve been reviewing the Kanji tables on various websites, but haven’t found anything conclusive. The closest I could get, and this is by no means certain, is that it might be a very stylized kane but I don’t have anywhere near enough experience to really say with any degree of certainty.

I’ve looked into databases of Koto smiths, and there are a line of swordmakers with the name Kanemoto, of the Akasaka school, who worked in the Mino province. Really though, the first Kanji I have does not match the first Kanji that I see for the Kanemoto name, so unless mine is very stylized I can’t really say this is it.

The image below shows a photo of the mei on the sword, and my drawing of it. It’s very hard to get a good photo that depicts the mei well enough to illustrate. I made my drawing using a point-source light at various angles to get all the details.

I know there’s a possibility it’s a fake, it could be a nonsense marking, but it could also be a legitimate marking, just poorly made. And really, it’s the mystery that makes it interesting.

Anyhow, if anybody can help me out with a translation or information on this mei, or that first Kanji, that would be most appreciated. I can be reached by email, my address is at the bottom of the page.