Sunday, 10 September 2017

Everything Japanese

The September meeting and workshop were all about Japanese textiles.

Our guest speaker and workshop leader was Katie from JapanCrafts.  Katie has been passionate about Japanese culture since she was a teenager when she advised her parents that she fancied a career as a geisha.

For our meeting we found out all about the kimono, the traditional costume of Japan.  This garment has been worn for centuries in Japan, until after World War II, when wearing western clothing became the fashion. The kimono is still worn for special occasions, such as weddings.  Traditionally made from silk, polyester is now a more affordable option.  Many Japanese women will hire a kimono for their special events, as to buy them they start from around £5,000.

Getting into a kimono can be a complicated and time consuming process (can take up to 4 hours to put on), you cannot slip one on easily. Some people make a career as a kimono dresser, though it is possible to put one on yourself.

Whilst we in the west celebrate curves, to the Japanese a pleasing shape for a woman is to streamline her shape.

STEP 1 - Padding
A pad is tied around the waist, and a special bra is worn to flatten the chest.  Cotton wood is added to the spaces under collar bone and throat.

STEP 2 - Undergarment
This is a kimono made from an easily washable fabric, as this part is in contact with the skin, it saves the more expensive fabric from absorbing sweat and perfumes.  This includes a white collar, this is changed every time the kimono is worn so is tacked on.  Also at this time a wide strip of stiffened fabric is added around the waist and tied in the front.

STEP 3 - Outer garment
Placed over the undergarment and pegged to keep in place (yes there are special kimono pegs).  The height of a kimono is from the floor to the top of the head,so it is hitched up around the waist and tied under the bust with another stiffened strip of fabric. This step can take some time as the kimono is pulled and tied into the most pleasing shape. The collar is always crossed left over right, regardless of gender.  They are only crossed right over left on a corpse.

STEP 4 - The Obi Belt
The richly embellished obi belt is around 13 feet in length and can contribute to two thirds of the cost of the whole outfit.  It is folded in half length-ways prior to tying and incorporates an obi pillow to create the shape of the special knot.  There are many ways to tie the obi, which is a bit like origami.  The method Katie showed us was the Lucky Little Sparrow knot (aka Plump Sparrow).

STEP 5 -adding finishing touches
A fan is traditionally tucked into the obi at the front.  Sandles worn with two toed white socks complete the outfit. A decorative braid, with up to 100 strands is tied round the waist.

Finally the outfit is complete.

Other Kimono Facts

A kimono can have up to 40 layers, it was a way of displaying family wealth.

The first kimono is worn at around 90 days old, but you have to wait until aged 3 to get your first proper kimono, and you don't get your own obi until you are aged 7.

Kimono with long sleeves are worn by unmarried women.  The wedding kimono will have long sleeves until the moment when a woman is married, then she leaves her husband to continue celebrating while she is then dressed in a kimono with shorter sleeves, joining the wedding party later in her new outfit.

A woman would require many kimono in her wardrobe as to keep in fashion they should match the season, and in Japan a  season changes every two weeks.

The silk kimono are hand sewn and taken apart to wash.  They store them wrapped in paper in shallow drawers.

The following day we enjoyed a workshop on boro.  Boro means rag, and mono means thing, therefore boromono = rag thing, kimono = wearing thing.

The north of Japan was a very poor area with few natural resources, cloth was expensive and hard to come by.  The people were resourceful and reused what they could, this led to the patching up of clothing to extend their useful life, in some cases a patched up kimono could be made to last for three generations.  Patched from the underside, patches were placed on patches, creating air pockets to keep the wearer warm.  As this was a job for the evenings, the work would be done by firelight, and contrasting threads and dense, long stitches were used. People were proud of their work, but after World War II, when western dress became popular and the country became more prosperous, wearing boromono was seen as shameful, so many were destroyed and lost.  Some of have been saved and are housed in the The Amuse Museum in Tokyo.  Boro is now seen as an art form and this was the subject of our workshop.

Katie had a couple of large boxes containing pieces of vintage fabrics in silk and polyester.  We hunted through these boxes for scraps.

We also had a fat quarter of cotton fabric on to which we placed our scraps.  The patches are squares and rectangles.

Once we were pleased with the placement of our scraps we pinned them in position, 

then with our boro thread and a special boro sewing needle, we sewed them down using:- 

Sashiko - running stitches to create geometric patterns
Kogin -horizontal counted stitches making patterns 

By the end of the workshop we all had made a start on a new piece of textile art, which we will finish at home.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 3rd October where our guest speaker is Rachel Midgley from Gawthorpe Hall.

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