Re cycling old kimonos part 1 June 09 2020, 1 Comment

For as long as I can remember I have loved old kimonos . I've been fascinated by their fabric , their cut , and their rich history in the Japanese culture . 

In  recycling them , I am not trying to impose my own culture or themes upon them , what I am hoping to achieve is to extend the life of these beautiful creations, by taking garments which are completely past their usefulness in that form, and rescuing the fabric.  I hope to  make it into new beautiful items that will be future heirlooms, and  to pay homage to the origin of the fabric within the new designs,  without appropriating the culture. 

The origin of my Kimonos is unknown to me. They are old , they would  have many stories to tell if they were able to talk. They have many signs of having been worn and loved . They are made from many different types of fabrics , natural and synthetic. They have holes in them , areas of fading , missing sleeves , torn seams , and stains. They have fabric rot which is common in very old silk and unfortunately is irreparable. Basically they are past it. They are no longer suitable for purpose , or  for repair or restoration. They are suitable only for being completely deconstructed , or unfortunately for land fill.

Even in this state , Kimonos are worth money. I bought mine from a market stall in Amsterdam and brought  them home  to Scotland. they have come a long way in their existence. 


The first task I need to get to grips with is deconstructing and cleaning them 

I can tell you that this upset me a bit because even thought they are in a state , I am still emotional about taking them apart.  It upsets me that someones work which has remained beautiful for all those years is now going to be destroyed by my hand, but I brace myself and proceed.

The first thing I notice about them is that astonishingly they are all completely hand sewn, and that the size of the stitches are  enormous, about the size I would consider useful for temporary seams or tacking stitches. However the garments have remained solidly constructed all these years. not one of them has actually come apart at the stitching  !

They are made from long narrow strips that have been cleverly tucked and shaped into the classic design , but when you take it apart there is a lot of usable fabric. Some of them have linings that are just as beautiful as the outer layer .

one of the more interesting lining fabrics, a beautiful print. I'm researching the translation at the moment.

The linings of some of  the silk kimonos are completely decayed. Beautiful but delicate and with the brown silk rot stains all over them . they have to be taken out before I wash the garments as the brown stains transfer onto other fabrics in the washing process. These gossamer light  linings are now no longer of use for clothing , however I'm considering other uses for them such as embroidery or art of some kind. 

After deconstruction comes cleaning.  If they are made of man made fibre that can be machine washed , but silks need to be hand washed carefully and without much agitation.

At this stage you have to consider that there will inevitably be some losses. not all fabrics will survive the process. some may loose colour or integrity.  Its always worth doing a little sample first , if it really spoils  you need to consider whether its worth having it dry cleaned instead. . 

 Happily most of my kimonos are bearing up quite well to the wash. There are changes to some of the  the fabrics , but I can work with that. I'm drip drying them on the line after carefully squeezing out as much water as possible. 

 Another thing you need to be prepared for is the smell  ! when they are wet the smell of the moth repellents ingrained into the old fabric is very strong . No amount of wash powder is going to mask it  . You can even smell it when the machine door is closed.  Happily the smell subsides as the garments dry to almost imperceptible.  The smell of moth repellent should be embraced.  It is  precisely because  the makers of this fabric spent so much attention to it,  that has enabled this fabric to ride the tides of times unmunched by those pesky little monsters. ! . 

 As I'm writing this I am waiting on my fabrics to dry and looking forward to the next stage which will be designing the new garments .

 I hope you enjoyed reading my story so far. If so , please leave a like or a comment , and share it with your friends on your social media with a link to my facebook page , Psychomoda designer made clothing .