Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fortunate Finds: a Mid-Century Kimono Obi

Would you believe that this beautiful kimono obi was found in a trash bag?

This incredible find was originally owned by one of the lovely students in my sewing class, Kiyoko, who lost her battle with cancer a few months ago (but she lived well into her 80s and had a full life).  Her family donated several trash bags full of fabric and fabric scraps to our class, and apparently one her adult children tossed this obi into the bag thinking it was simply a length of fabric!

I practically had to wrestle it away from a fellow student who pulled it out of the bag because she wanted to cut it up to make something new out of it!  I kept begging her not to do it, as it should be appreciated in its current form. I must have been really charming that day because she very graciously gave it to me.

Well, my instructor and I contacted the family to see if they wanted to have this precious item back but they said no, as it did not belong to a kimono.  Lucky me!  I am honored to own Kiyoko's obi as both a beautiful work of art and as a remembrance of a lovely and talented woman.

Draped over a hanger.  It is too long to photograph in its entirety!
Knowing very little about kimono I find this obi to be quite a mystery. First, it is huge at 13 feet long and 14 inches wide.  An amateur conservator that my instructor knows took a quick look at it and guessed that it was probably made mid-century, around the 1950s, but could tell us little else.

So I've done a little research on my own. The fabric seems to be silk and has been wrapped around a somewhat stiff inner core and hand-sewn along one side. It is patterned on both sides. The size, length, and fabric indicate that it should be the most formal type of obi, a maru obi, but it is not nearly as elaborately patterned and embroidered as a maru obi would be.  It is probably a less formal type of obi.

The ends of the obi

My best guess is that it is a fukuro obi.  There is embroidery on both sides, but it is clear even to my inexpert eyes that this obi is meant to be tied in a specific type of knot because the embroidery is heaviest on one side, in one area.  Which knot?  I don't know.  This is the part that is most embroidered and is meant to be showcased:

Perhaps it is meant to be tied in a taiko musubi, or a drum-like knot. This is one of the most common obi knots worn today.  Click here for a series of photos showing one method of tying an obi in a taiko musubi.  Complex, isn't it?

It has a few water stains, and what look to be food smudges, so I know this obi has definitely been worn.  It's intriguing. One day I will find an expert in order to solve the mystery of this lovely obi.

{P.S. In case you missed it, Wednesday A. is the winner of the fiber art sculpture giveaway!}


  1. Your Obi is lovely and how wonderful it made it's way to you, who will cherish it and take loving care of it.

    Happy VTT!

  2. Since I do not sew, I am not familiar with this. I do like the design on it.

  3. Oooooh! I love those colors!!

  4. Thank goodness you convinced the other person to give it to you and not cut it up. Beautiful colors and embroidery..

  5. The pattern is quite nice on this!

  6. Ah - another lover of gorgeous fabric and especially vintage! This piece is just stunning - thank goodness you rescued it! Such striking design and colours! xCathy

  7. Beautiful pattern on the obi! Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura

  8. Wow! This is beautiful! Do ya think maybe she didn't finish the embroidery?

  9. How immensely beautiful, it's so fortunate that she was able to save this treasure. It makes one shudder a tad though, to think of all the other amazing fabrics, vintage treasures, and other gorgeous items that have tossed away over the years. Thank goodness there are folks like us out there trying to save and preserve as many of them as we can.

    Thank you very much for your lovely comments and completely sweet birthday wishes, honey, I really appreciate them and hope your week is off to a terrific start.

    ♥ Jessica

  10. Thanks for all of the lovely comments dear readers! I hope to find out more about the obi someday. I hadn't considered that perhaps Kiyoko was making the obi herself; it's not something she ever talked about. But who knows, perhaps it's her work!

  11. It's beautiful! Thanks for linking up to Share the Love Wednesday!


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