Thursday, October 14, 2010

In store...retro kimono fabric

Kimono silk off the roll is definitely the most popular item in the shop. I did a rough count a few weeks ago and we had about 800 rolls of silk out on the shelves and a couple of hundred rolls of other kimono, haori and yukata fabrics. In Japan you don't buy kimono fabric by the metre like this, instead you choose a roll of fabric at a specialist kimono shop which is then  made up into your garment. This is the reason that the  fabric is often  rolled in layers (which makes it awkward to cut) and usually with the pattern rolled on the inside (which makes it hard to display). If I had nothing else to do I'd  re-roll them a more convenient way.
The rolls we stock vary in age from a handful of pre-war children's fabrics through to the late-20th century and  the variety of patterns and textures is enormous. Some new customers seem surprised by fabrics that don't fit the idea they had of Japanese design,  but kimono fabric designs go through fashions just the same as western textile design and are similarly influenced by the wider art and design trends of their time. While very pretty fabrics with traditional floral patterns are always popular there are just as many of our customers who love the 'retro' designs from the 60's and 70's.  Sometimes traditional motifs have been given a modern twist  and sometimes the pattern doesn't make any reference to traditional design and is very much a product of its time, as with these first two silks:

This next silk is an interesting compromise with the modern design  printed on silk with a very traditional chrysanthemum pattern in the weave:

Some of the wildest retro designs we get  are on heavy wool and wool blend (often 96% wool and 4% nylon) fabrics:

This final woollen kimono fabric is a good example of  traditional motifs that have been given a 1970's feel. The cross design is based on a common kasuri (ikat) pattern enclosed in an equally common kasuri motif which is derived from the  shape of  the mouth of a traditional well and also the kanji character for well δΊ•.

It's hard to imagine how some of these fabrics would have looked made up into kimono but this old  label from a roll of wool gives us an idea.  It's perhaps not the most elegant image in the history of kimono design(!) But for stitchers looking for interesting, sturdy and washable fabrics these wools are great value and definitely have their own charm.

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