Kimono-style jacket

Learning about kimonos & putting the theory into practice with a weaving project.

My second semester at Joshibi started with a lecture/workshop on kimonos, where we learned about different kimono styles (both modern and historical), and made a small paper kimono model. Making the model was not only fun, but also was extremely handy for understanding the method of making a kimono in practice!

I was really interested in trying the kimono making technique with actual fabric and designing a fabric with proper pattern placement: patterns need to be placed in a specific way for them to appear in desired places on the kimono. The only problem was that I did not have time to weave a whole kimono’s length of fabric: kimono fabric is +-40cm wide, and the length needs to be 13.5m or longer! I did, however, have some spare yarn at home, so I made a warp out of white linen and cotton, and wove enough fabric for a kimono-style jacket with wool in the weft. The lining is store-bought 100% linen.

Another motivation for this project was that I really wanted to try weaving a distorted weft design (called megane-ori in Japanese, which means “eye-glass weave”). I also wanted to use some of the pre-dyed yarns we had at school to produce a colour gradation, so I incorporated that into the design as well. I like combining techniques into a single project, but this truly became a three-in-one kind of work!

Making a kimono-style garment was a lot of fun, and very simple in the end. When making a kimono, the cloth is only cut horizontally into rectangles to make certain lengths for different parts of the garment: sleeves, body and collar. No complicated, curved patterns to cut out…

My design deviates from the traditional kimono in a few ways: because my fabric was narrower than 40cm, the sleeves are only 3/4 and not full length up to the wrists; the front part of my jacket is missing an extra panel that is present on kimonos (which are meant to be folded across the chest, while my jacket is meant to be worn open); the collar is somewhat simpler than on kimonos due to shortage of fabric; and finally, the fabric itself is very thick (thick linen and cotton in the warp, wool in the weft). With such design and execution, my jacket perhaps lies somewhere closer to a hanten (an informal jacket, padded with cotton for warmth). If you’re interested, check out this very informative video about how traditional hantens are made!

I’m really happy with how this jacket turned out, and after this project I’m much more confident in my understanding of the kimono. Maybe I’ll weave a casual kimono (a yukata) for myself one day? Time will tell, it would certainly be a rewarding experience!

© 2019 Elisa Penttilä

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