I found a picture of Tetsu's aunt wearing this kimono jacket back at Tetsu and my engagement ceremony nearly 30 years ago! I don't know why Tetsu's aunt was wearing it since it was his mother's, but I guess since it was a special occasion, the aunt felt she needed to wear something elaborate and Tetsu's mother loaned it to her for the night.
Anyway, I took the plunge and started ripping this beautiful "haori" (kimono jacket) apart and found many interesting things (well, to me). As with all kimonos, this was completely hand sewn and made in panels with barely any cutting whatsoever. I realized right away that this haori was pure silk (gulp) and it was extremely slippery and difficult to cut and sew . There was a silk lining (such a delicate woven pattern on it) but it was stained and not very usable. When I got to the underside of the fabric I realized that there was another lining sewn onto the black fabric. When I say sewn, I mean really sewn! Like every two inches the lining was basted down in precise rows and the stitches were all tied individually so that I couldn't just pull them out like regular basting! I had to cut each of the hundreds of individual knots... a long process. The more I worked the more I realized how much sewing had been involved with making this jacket by some long ago seamstress and here I was desecrating all her work!
Finally I was down to the cutting and sewing stage but by now I realized there was no turning back. The kimono fabric is called "shibori" which means "gathered", and it is an exquisite Japanese textile technique involving tying minuscule knots in a carefully choreographed design and then dying the fabric. Sort of like tie-dye (remember we used to do that with handkerchiefs and rubber bands) but millions of times more detailed and complicated. After the dying and drying process, the knots are untied and the fabric is stretched back to its original width (but there is still some contraction so that must be why the lining is necessary.) It was interesting to stumble across a couple of the tied knots still gathered in the fabric that must have been overlooked when the fabric was being stretched... another reminder of all the fine work that went into the making of the fabric and haori. And another neat thing I found was there was a whole block of fabric that had been hidden away to the eye where the original untied silk remained so you could see the pattern on the pure black part too. I fiddled around and was able to used this untied portion in the final product I was making.
Sort of a anti-climatic finish for this post, but here you have my finished vest. Same pattern as the one I made up a couple months ago in purple. I am very pleased with it and feel very elegant in it. I went over to Tetsu's mother's yesterday and modeled it for her and it brought back many memories for her of when she bought it, what places she'd worn it etc. I wondered if it might make her sad to see its final state (she said it was very expensive and here I am wearing it with jeans!) but she seemed happy and we got in an afternoon of reminiscing so that made her day.