Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Craft Tips for Using Kimono

The tradition of chopping up kimono to make into other things is a very old one, started in Japan itself as a kimono usually cycled from garment to eventual futon cover to pillows to cleaning rags to, finally, diapers.

I mention this to reassure any readers who might be nervous about using a secondhand kimono for crafts. If you want to, go for it! In my time over in Japan, I saw more than one case of this tradition being carried on, usually for clothing or crafty stuff. :)

If you've scored a deal on an old kimono or have a project in mind, here are six tips to help you avoid newbie pitfalls when shopping and working with kimono:

1. Cotton yukata tend to not be colorfast, so they need to be washed alone. You can put a whole yukata or the cotton it's made of in the dryer, usually, but it's probably going to shrink some.

2. Old, vintage kimono may be weaker and less forgiving when sewing. I made a short sheath dress out of a beat-up, vintage silk boy's kimono, and when I had to pull the threads from one line of stitching it left whitish marks on the black silk.

3. Those big, beautiful patterns across the entire bottom or side of some kimono are not a solid piece: they're painted or embroidered onto the kimono itself, which in the body is basically 6 narrow vertical panels about 12"-14" wide each (though the two in front are narrower and taper up into points to accomodate the curve of the collar). So be prepared for a number of vertical seams running through the design if you intend on lifting it whole and using it for something else.

4. Kimono, minus washable synthetics and cottons, can't be tossed in the wash, and may not respond well to handwashing or dry cleaning. They're basically spot treat as best you can, so don't use them for any projects that will need frequent cleaning.

5. Vintage silk kimono can sometimes smell musty or like mothballs, depending on how they were stored. The best way to deal with this is hang the kimono outside on a breezy, sunny day and let it air out for an entire day. If this doesn't work, I've used Febreze on the inside of the kimono only.

6. If parts of a design on a kimono look like a true white in a seller's online photograph, that's no guarantee they actually will be. I've been burned a few times myself with this one, so be prepared that you may get more of an aged cream than a true white and, I'd say, don't base your project around the whites of a kimono unless it's sitting in front of you already and you can verify the color in person.

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