Kimono My House

Oh, kimo-No!

Ok, so what I didn’t know when I started writing was that my post title is also the title of a Sparks album from May, 1974 ( I guess I was listening to  other music at the time) I like the album cover anyway so there it is. Next I learned that the title is a take on the 1951 Rosemary Clooney song ‘Come on-a My House’. Next stop was at the rather wonderful Japanese YouTube version which I share with you:

Isn’t the stuff you  find on the internet amazing…

But I’m wandering.

Anyway to get to the point this is a post about my most recent up-cycling/ re-purposing/ extreme ‘make-do-and-mend’ venture involving, you guessed it- Kimono.

In the past I have bought small piece pieces of kimono fabric from Kimoyes in Australia which I used for applique

Definitely not to be cut up!

Not to be cut up.

Kimono fabric I used as applique

 and some small sewing projects. I also have a couple of vintage kimono  that I hang up up from time to time as eye candy but I lacked the nerve to dismantle an entire kimono and make something new with it. My Kimono up-cycling awareness was boosted by my friend Mariko (her website) who makes lovely things using vintage kimono. Monkey-see-monkey-do here wanted in on the bigger kimono cut-up action too.

I took the plunge and ordered three pre-WWII kimono from Japan in September.  They arrived 3 weeks later and hung around my house being admired until just before Christmas when I finally took a deep breath and began to carefully un-pick all the hand stitches holding them together and gently hand wash the panels. I’ve read a bit about making kimono but un-making was  interesting too; I found small bits of silk wadding in the hem of one giving a nice roll to it and bits of interesting fabric in another used as a collar stiffener. During the washing a powerful smell of mothballs was released along with some grime from all of them. However the colours seemed very fast other than some red silk thread bits which I’d been a little sloppy about removing every single one and those colour-ran a little but only in tiny areas. Next time I will be sure to remove all thread bits. The fabrics themselves are surprisingly strong  although thin. When shopping I made sure to choose kimono described as ‘in excellent condition’ for their age. The first and last dresses in the photos are a crepe type of silk (pre WWII) and the middle one is a smooth flat weave, probably 50’s. It was originally a juban, which was an unlined under-kimono.

Kimono Dress rust sm Kimono Dress red sm Kimono Dress peach sm

It has been a fascinating project and required a lot of concentration and thought throughout. There were various cutting puzzles due to print placement issues, the fabric panels being only 14″ wide and of course I aimed to utilize every possible scrap of fabric.  Next the decisions on whether to line or not (only the last dress is fully lined with a satin faced chiffon- now there’s a fabric that is a major pain to work with!) and what seam finishes to use. The crepe silks are so fluid that I did everything with a mind to retaining fluidity. I’m now thinking I may go back and add in a habotai lining to the bodice of the middle dress just for strength… it is such a thin silk that if I sneeze hard I’d worry I’d burst through.

Of course the vintage patterns themselves had issues: two were a size too small for me so I cut out with larger seam allowances and fit-on-the-fly. The last one was particularly fiddly style to say the least- the skirt as patterned required loads more fabric that the kimono yielded- what was I thinking! Hence keeping the gathers in the side front but creating a more A-line pattern for the back. The original full-gathered sleeves looked terrible on me too. Years of sewing,  I should know what suits me… but still there’s the occasional “hmmmm, no.”. Took them out, re-cut with a flat sleeve head and they much look better.

Am I really going to wear these ? Well yes! I’ve been out in the 1st style twice already, the 2nd will be a summer star I can tell as it’s such a simple and easy to wear style. The third, gotta admit the peach is a bit intense and not 100% my colour ; the whole affair has a hint of ‘mother-of-the-bride about it but if I dress it down rather than up I’m sure it will have it’s day.

As a read I recommend  “Kimono”   which is fascinating if you are interested in the history and development of the kimono in Japan.

And for eye candy and kimono shopping Ichiroya is the place to go.

Dozo yoi ichinichio!

Modern kimono wearing

HiHo Sewing in the US of A I go.

Well hello from southern New Mexico where ostensibly I’m on holiday visiting my mum. But not to sew for two whole weeks??
I m p o s s i b l e.
Weeks before my arrival I’d been lurking on USA ebay and won some lovely vintage patterns and had them sent to my US address. It was nice to be able to buy a few Hollywood patterns particularly which I don’t come across on UK ebay that often. Believe me when I say I wasn’t planning at all to sew on my visit, honest I wasn’t!


I lasted a mere 6 days. The vintage patterns were whispering to me. I shouldn’t have been left alone in the house! A rummage in my mums well stocked fabric cupboard produced various summery possibilities notably a biscuit coloured linen/rayon mix fabric- Oh my, just perfect for the Hollywood pleated hip shirtwaist. How could I not begin immediately? Using my mums left handed scissors almost put a stop to it all as I’m right handed. Then I discovered the kitchen scissors were right handed and cut the linen reasonable well so I was off to an almost flying start.

As to making it: The most perforations on a pattern ever. Tailors tacks? Phooey, I’m on holiday! I merrily dotted away with a regular lead pencil but then read that the pleats got formed by folding and matching all on the outside so the pencil dots all ended up on the right side. Oops, well they erased pretty much and what didn’t blends into the speckled weave. Those pleats into the horizontal front (they also form bust darts of sorts) and back armhole slashes had me confused at first – talk about minimal pattern instructions – but I finally figured them out. One of those construction things that once it’s been done it makes perfect sense. The linen started ravelling a lot but using cotton bias binding tape over various seam edges put a stop to that. Once the pleats had all been sewn and the 4 bound button holes made putting it together was a cinch.image

So, a few long afternoons later voilá! Worn today ….with a bias slip underneath of course and my first pair of Remix shoes. Been wanting a pair for ages. They’re comfy as anything and sure to be worn for years. Fabrics for the Butterick skirt and Hollywood shorts and bra will be coming home with me too giving my mum an excuse to restock.
As if anyone ever needs an excuse to buy more fabric.
And a Good Thing I travelled with a spare bag.

(click pic for link to remix site)

It hasn’t been totally sewing though. Today I made an English cream tea for some American friends … tried out the Paul Hollywood Great British Bake-off scone recipe as I didn’t have my usual with me. Turned out pretty well though next time I will reduced the liquid by 3oz!


(click pic for link to recipe)

Sewing on holiday isn’t a Bad Thing, is it? I also started crocheting an afghan, cooked other nice things, helped with a huge closet clean out… maybe going to need a rest when I get home. :)

Flash Valentine 1940s Undies Pattern Give-away

I have an unused reproduction pattern for a 36 inch bust, 40 inch hips (produced by The Vintage Pattern Shop) of this 1940s bra, slip and knickers to give away. The draw is open from now, Thursday evening,  until midnight Feb. 14th UK time.

If you are interested just leave one comment below and on Saturday afternoon (UK time) I’ll do a random draw and announce the winner and pop it in the post next week.
Weldons Pretty Undies no.50

I’ve been collecting vintage lingerie patterns and magazines with their original free patterns for a couple of years now and have a nice little collection growing. Also I finally started making a photo record as I have bought duplicates a couple of times now!

Here’s a little show-off of what I’ve got so far ( I’m particularly pleased with my Weldons magazines; it was the one with the pink cover and eau de nil lingerie that opened my eyes to these as collectables) :

IMG_2722 IMG_2724IMG_2726 IMG_2723

That’s all until the draw :)

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