Since the beginning of my kimono obsession I’ve not only collected kimono for wearing traditionally, but also kimono too damaged to wear as is, along with salvaged kimono fabric.
I could talk (type?) forever about my love of kimono fabric, but, I’ll save that for another time. Today, my post is about finally diving into my embarrassingly enormous stockpile of kimono fabric to make Western clothing (the Japanese term: yofuku).
Kimono fabric presents a rather unique issue in repurposing for Western clothing – it’s so narrow! A traditional bolt of kimono fabric (tanmono) is around 11 to 12 metres long, but wait for it…only 14 inches (average) wide!
The width varies greatly (well what I consider greatly in terms of sewing), depending on what era you are using kimono from. I’ve found anything Meiji era (1868 to 1912) and earlier – the average width tends to be around 12 inches. Taishō period (1912 to 1926) and early Shōwa (1926 to 1989) 12 to 14 inches and then in late Shōwa to Heisei (1989 to current) 14+ inches.
Of course, with my passion being the Greater Taisho Era (1910 to 1930) – I’m normally working with pieces that are anywhere from 12 to 14 inches wide.
This means you need to look for patterns where the pieces are no wider than 14 inches – OR – you feel comfortable in that piecing together two 14 inch widths with a seam won’t be detrimental to the final outcome of the garment.
I’m no stranger to sewing with kimono fabric – for many years I ran my small business, PuchiMaiko, making kanzashi, bags and other accessories. However, I’ve never made an actual full garment (although, I have made kimono!) So I decided for my first Western garment to make something relatively simple – to get back into the flow of making clothing (it’s been a good 8 years since I last sewed myself some clothes. Eeek!)
Being a recent convert to Pinterest – I saw a skirt called the Paper Bag Waist Skirt constantly re posted. I decided to check it out and voila! I realized it was the perfect skirt to jump back into sewing with. Extremely simple construction – with a shape that can only enhance the beauty kimono fabric.
I knew immediately which fabric I was going to use. Several years ago, I purchased a large lot of fabric from Meiji and Taisho era – and in that bundle were a few bolts that appeared to be complete. When I unwound them, I realized they had previously been sewn as kimono and haori (kimono jacket), but were meticulously unpicked and re sewn into bolt form (the beauty of kimono construction – only minimal cuts are made to the fabric and excess fabric is sewn into the seams – never, ever cut off, so you can essentially unpick a kimono completely and resew it back into the original 12 metres). I was originally going to sew them back into kimono and haori – until I realized I was missing the collar piece from the kimono – and a sleeve from the haori. Alas! To my yofuku sewing pile they went!
The fabric I decided upon was the haori fabric from very early Shōwa. It is a gorgeous dark brownish black base fabric with dusty pink pinstripes running vertical. Scattered over the top were gorgeously woven red flowers and kiri (paulownia) in a diamond shape pattern. It was a very lovely medium weight silk that I felt would hold up well as a skirt.
It took me considerably longer than I liked to sew. Not due to difficulty – it’s an exceptionally easy skirt, but due to an 19 month old baby/toddler who did not like my attention diverted from her in any shape or form. However, this morning…success! My skirt was finished!
I have to say I’m very pleased with how this skirt turned out. I did mess up on the positioning of the belt loops, so I had to unpick and reposition them – but aside from that small issue, I’m thrilled. It turned out exactly as I envisioned and is unbelievably comfortable to wear. What I particularly love about it though is that it has the potential to be dressed up or down. Wear it with flats and a self fabric belt for a more casual look – and heels and a fancy belt for something dressier.
I’m most certainly going to make another one of these skirts again and I found the tutorial I followed was very helpful. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this type of skirt.