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

vintage kimono
Definitely not to be cut up!
vintage kimono
Not to be cut up.
vintage kimono
Kimono fabric used as appliqué

 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.

Made from vintage kimono made from up-cycled vintage kimono made from up-cycled vintage kimono

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!

26 thoughts on “Kimono My House

  1. Hello Vera,
    Well I can only echo Jane, Anna, or Melanie… You really do wonderful things and happy that you share!!! Thanks that much. You’re a genius!!!

  2. Beautiful up cycles! Love all the dresses and how you placed the patterns on each. Your work is so creative and inspiring. I loved reading about your kimono deconstruction. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I can’t decide which one I like most! These dresses are stunning and really get me thinking about repurposing/recycling fabric. You always do such amazing work!

  4. These are just lovely! You may not post often, but when you are quiet we can be sure you’re up to something fabulous. Thanks for sharing these beautiful projects, and all your kimono research too.

    1. Thank you, it was a lot of fun pairing dress styles with kimono pattern; it got me digging deep in my vintage pattern boxes. In fact I finally reorganized them all… about time too.

  5. Beautiful! Always remember to cross your kimono left over right (right over left when dressing a body for a funeral).

  6. Wow! So thrilled to receive my first blog post from you and it is such a beauty. I love all three dresses (especially the last one!) and your post was a delight to read. Thank you! I wear a vintage silk kimono around the house and it always lifts my mood – the fabrics are beautiful and you are inspirational with what you have done with yours!

    1. Hi Anna, yes, I’m not exactly a frequent poster… your inbox definitely won’t be swamped.
      Thank you for subscribing, I’m happy you liked this first-for-you post!

      1. Hi Vera – I’ll take quality over quantity any day! And there’s a whole back catalogue of blog posts to enjoy which I am working my way through. I love your work and so appreciative you are doing this blog!
        Anna xx

  7. All these dresses are absolutely gorgeous! I don’t think the peach dress is at all matronly or mother-of-the-bride-ish. I bet you look fantastic in it. I would love to know where I can get vintage kimonos in the US. Any ideas? Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. Best Wishes, Carla Proffitt

    1. Hi Carla, I can only recommend the place in Japan I’ve personally bought from as I know their quality is as described and service is lovely. Googling ‘buy vintage kimono USA’ still brings up a number of direct from Japan sites but I saw a couple of listings in the US too. I suppose there’s always ebay…?

    1. Sorry Jessica, but no plans to share them at the moment. I bought them all on Ebay. Lurking there is your best bet. I did see the Advance one on Etsy a little while back but for a lot more than I paid!

  8. Love the patterns and the fabric. The dresses look like they have lots of movement. Very clever!

  9. WOW! Such great finds and beautiful work! I am always encouraged to try something different by your work!

  10. Oh. My. Goodness. Superb – your creativity simply takes my breath away. My daughter has hanging on her wall an embroidered silk wedding kimono I brought back from Japan in the early 70s. I am soooo tempted…. 🙂

    1. Lol, I take no responsibility if WWIII breaks out in your house because you cut that up!!!

  11. Well, just amazing, interesting, informative, amazing, just love everything you do your so talented.

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