My lengthy solo attempt to make a kesa has ended.
"Solo" as in sewing unsupported, without oxygen.
"Attempt" as in Scott's "attempt" to reach the South Pole.
So, it was difficult and ended in failure. Let me talk you through it so that you may find it easier if you decide to have a go.
I don't really mind having failed as this was largely a philosophical exercise - when would I wear a kesa? The philosophical aspect was my attempt to sew within the spirit of the original kesas, garments made from discarded cloth. My kesa would be patchwork not because Dogen said the "official" pattern looked like rice fields: my kesa would be patchwork simply because if you make a large garment from discarded material, patchwork is the only way to do it.
Thus I found discarded materials - a worn out hockey shirt and a couple of pairs of trousers which seemed both to have shrunk about the waistband at the same time in my life. (Washing machine operating too hot?) With the help of a basic pattern - it's on the right-hand side of the blog - I got cracking.
There are two mistakes from which I feel you could learn.
Firstly, if you don't yet know how to sew seams, don't learn as you go along. My last seams looked excellent, very pro: sadly the rest were awful and thus have a grotty, frayed appearance. I discovered the important thing was to fold the seam over a couple of times until the edges of both bits of fabric are safely tucked away. Ok, ok, I know that's obvious to those of you who already know how to sew!
Secondly, home dying is really hard. The only way to get a consistent colour is to make your whole kesa from the same material. Now, this gets philosophically tricky as the whole point is to use discarded material, so going out and buying a roll of fabric is not quite in the vibe. Next time I do it, I'll go to the "thrift store" (I think that's what you call charity shops in America) and buy a discarded curtain, preferably a brown one to save the necessity of any dying at all. You'll then have to decide what you think was the real point behind the patchwork effect, and leave the cloth intact or cut up and reassemble according to your philosophy of kesa manufacure.
My rectangle of fraying, multicoloured cloth won't go to waste - there's thick snow over here and our zendo has neither heating nor insulation, so I'll be wrapped up in it for tonight's group meditation session, when the "mood" lighting (candles) will not reveal quite what a hobo I look. However, if you wish to make an item which you can wear in public, in daylight, then please bear in mind what I have learnt about material and seams.