Recycling vintage Kimonos part 2 January 18 2021, 1 Comment

Part 2 of the Kimono project , here is the article I shared in the 'Sustainable Fashion Scotland ' magazine, along with some of the finished pictures of the garments I made from the kimonos I collected last year . for part 1 , scroll down the blog posts .......


This project I have called Waist Knot . The name is a word play on the old fashioned saying 'waste not want not ' , but also describes a feature of the collection which is that they have tied belts at the waist.

Wandering through Amsterdam on a recent visit I was stopped in my tracks by a market stall with old kimonos. The kimonos were beautiful but entirely past their life as wearable items in their original form.

They had rips, stains and missing parts but none the less were created from exquisite silk. It struck me that these garments had a story to tell . Each garment expertly created, worn and cared for for many many years and now at the end of their life and a long way from home.

Even in this state , they are worth money . I Rescued 10 of them and brought them home to Scotland.

To start with I had to unpick them and wash the fabric. It astonished me to find that the construction of the garments was very simple , made from long strips off cloth folded and tacked together by hand . It reminded me of origami. I wanted to pay respect to the original construction of the kimonos by designing new garments that echoed the techniques in some ways. Kimono fabric is very narrow , and I had to design garments that were made from pieced together strips.

Most of my fabric survived , with only 1 casualty of the washing process , and I ended up with quite a lot of usable fabric.

The kimonos and the silk they are made form reminded me of Scottish kilts in that they are made from. a clever construction of uncut strips of fabric , they are both made from precious heirloom fabrics and are steeped in their respective cultures and history. They are timeless. They are constructed in a way that they can be adaptable to various sizes of wearer , they have inter size ability , one garment can fit several people by a simply moving of a fastening for instance , and inside the seams are generous and are able to be adjusted and passed down from generation to generation.

I wanted to include that in my own designs, adding to their sustainability by way of making them adjustable . In order to do that I have built in multi sizing into most of the garments , some of them are able to be worn in different ways in order to create a different look , and of course , the waist knots , which are deliberately very long and can pull in a garment at the waist, both for effect, and in order to make it more fitting on different bodies, as well as having a echo of the original kimonos styling.

My garments have all been designed , cut and put together individually . I work with chalk and scissors only and cut free hand. I don't use any computer assisted design packages. This was an advantage in this case as the fabrics and pieces were all different. In order to decide what they were to become , I had to wait to see what I had in the way of cloth . Some there was a lot , some there was a little. I've folded and pieced the fabrics together. Some of them have fading ,and ghost seams , and there is an occasional mark on the fabric . All of these things should be seen as part of the very vintage charm of the cloth and tells of its history.

Some of the linings were unusable and there are offcuts. I'm hoping to put them to good use in a costume piece , or give them to a fibre artist so as not to waste any even tiny piece of these beautiful things.



Moving forward , I would use them again as I found them very inspirational on many levels and it was an enjoyable project. I learned a lot about the past , and discovered new ways of improving my sustainable practice. I have a Facebook group called 'sustainable clothing for everyone ' and there we share tips , articles and generate interest in sustainability . Its great to inspire through the group , and hopefully through my work so that makes people think in what ways they themselves can create a more sustainable wardrobe, and make better choices with their purchasing.