Kanto Maki and Kansai Maki
Even within Japan itself, how kimono are worn often differs from place to place. Giving an example with a big difference, there is this difference in wrapping obi from right to left and from left to right. When obi is wrapped from right to left in front of your body, it is called Kanto Maki. And the other way round is called Kansai Maki. As the names imply, Kanto Maki is mainly seen in the eastern Japan and Kansai Maki is mainly seen in the western Japan. Other than the case where there is a difference in tesaki (starting point)’s starting point being right or left, the complete look after wrapping the obi is the same for both methods.
However, you should be careful that different part of obi’s patterns that are on the ventral side (hara-mon) may appear depending on what method you use, Kanto Maki or Kansai Maki. You will regret if you do not select an obi with patterns that appear as you like with the easier wrapping method for you when you wrap the obi yourself. When you have someone to wrap an obi for you, make sure you check which side of the patterns is to appear and clearly tell the person of your preference. it comes in handy if you can wrap your obi in 2 methods. You can use different sides of obi with two types of hara-mon, or you can use the other side of obi when one side is stained.
As other clothes,the cuff and hem of a Kimono can be easily damaged. As a result,Hakkake(recyclable cloths of cuff and hem) of a Awase(a lined Kimono) is put out so that it will be changed if it is damaged. However,it is actually troublesome to change a Hakkake. Also for a Hitoe(unlined Kimono) there is no Hakkake so the cloth can be damaged easily. At the time when Kimono is used as daily clothes,to make things easier than changing a Hakkake people sew a tape at the cuff or hem to protect the clothes. It is so called Gallon Tape. Nowadays things like wide cloth-made tapes with accessories on side are being sold as decorations for clothes or sundries. These tapes are sewed a little more outside than the Hakkake so the accessories on side can be seen.
Although there is no tape attached to suits or formal dresses,recently there are some people wearing daily clothes or Kimono with tapes. Among them,the tapes are not only used as protection to the clothes but also accessories. Also, among the recycled Kinomos,there are tapes used by former owner remain.
What can be rearranged and remade from kimono
You can make various things using kimono fabrics. But there is this problem very specific to kimono that “they can’t be washed” (except for cotton and polyester made kimono). Kimono with sakizome (previously dyed yarn) can be hand washed with a neutral detergent. However, kimono with atozome (after-weaving dyed yarn) surely lose colors when soaked in water as they are just like painted over fabrics. Also, fabrics with embossed patterns such as chirimen (silk crepes) shrink when soaked in water. It depends on fabrics, but there were cases that such fabrics shrank by almost half. So kimono fabrics are used to make bags or interior goods which basically don’t require washing. When kimono fabrics are used to make clothing, the fabrics are stretched and dried before making. And after the clothing is done, it will be sent for dry cleaning.
Futon (flat bedding) and zabuton (floor cushions) are standard remade items in Japan since old times.
Futon are suitable to be remade from kimono fabrics as futon do not require washing. It is also easy to make. Aloha shirts are also standard remade items. But they are considered clothing for special occasions as they cannot be washed. Recently, dresses have also often been remade from kimono fabrics.
Kimono Treatment Done by Professionals
When ordinary people try to remodel their kimono, there is a limit to what they can do. On the other hand, professionals of kimono can remodel kimono using various methods, even those kimono which cannot be worn as they are. Let me introduce some examples of treatments you can ask professionals to do. For kimono which lacks the length and the legs can be seen out of the kimono, separate fabrics are added where the obi will cover and it is lengthened. Conversely, when your kimono is too long and there is too much ohashori (tucked part), the hem is cut to make it shorter.
The length will be re-arranged after sode-tsuke (shoulder) is undone and sode-haba (the width of sleeves) are adjusted. The body width (mihaba) can be adjusted by undoing the sides and sewing them back on. those kimono with faded colors after the sun exposure can be dyed again. When there are large stains and they cannot be removed even after stain removing treatment, they can be dyed again. However, they can draw a picture over the stains to hide them. According to the condition, the stained parts can be replaced with another non-noticeable parts of fabrics in case the stains appear on visible parts.
It takes money and time, but these treatment methods should be considered if your kimono are with fond memories or with valuable fabrics.
Kimono for Larger People
The width of roll of cloth used to make kimono is fixed, and its length is also generally fixed.
Lately, the body size of Japanese people have gotten bigger, and the size of kimono fabrics have also gradually gotten bigger. However, it is not a good fit for even larger people. It is rather easy to fix it when the length is not enough. Simply cut out the insufficient potion (usually worth one sleeve) from other kimono fabrics. When the width is not enough, stretch the fabric after attaching a fabric to the sleeve on the body part. The body, from the start, comes with enough margins to sew up, so the width of the body can be easily widened by reducing these margins. If it is still not big enough, additional fabrics are to be attached to the sides of the body.
This method of adding the width is called “Wari wo Ireru (adding margins)”. In the past, sumo wrestlers (rikishi) were already big. So it was common to wear kimono with added margins. And naturally, bigger sumo wrestlers were stronger. So those wrestlers who were still lowly ranked purposely made kimono with added margins, though not needed, in hope of becoming larger in the future. Because of this tradition, kimono with added margins are considered as lucky charms with a hope of “getting larger in the future” even now.
Kuzu-fu (Grass Cloth)
Kuzu-fu are fabrics made from fibers of creepers of a kudzu, which are climbing plants. This is believed to be one of the oldest Japanese fabrics. Kuzu-fu was excavated out of the ruins of the Tumulus Period. There are descriptions about kuzu-fu even in the materials from the Nara Period and Heian Period. It is believed that kuzu-fu were widely used during these period. Now, their main production area is around Kakegawa City in Shizuoka Prefecture. There is also a description that says kuzu-fu were Kakegawa City’s specialty in the materials from the Edo Period. The distinctive characteristic of Kakegawa kuzu-fu is that other than kuzu yarns are used, such as cotton yarn, for tate-ito, and that kuzu yarns are used for yoko-ito that don’t twist yoko-ito. Whereas, for example in Kyushu area, it is said that they used tate-ito and yoko-ito which were both twisted.
Kuzu-fu have a shine, and they were widely used as clothing for Kuge (court nobles) and Bushi (warriors) until the Edo Period. During and after the Meiji Period, such a trend was gone and they began to be produced as wallpapers. Kuzu-fu wallpapers were treasured as Japan’s exporting products, but South Korea soon began its production of kuzu-fu wallpapers and production of Japan’s kuzu-fu has decreased. Now, kuzu-fu are used as the materials for obi (kimono belts), zouri (Japanese sandals) and bags.
Shinafu” is a fabric woven with fibers come from bark of Shinanoki (Tilia japonica). Its derivation is unknown, but it is considered as one of the oldest fabric in Japan. There is actually a record indicating that this fabric was paid as tax in Heian era. Shinafu is durable and waterproof and thus, even after cotton became popular for clothing, Shinafu has been widely used for practical items such as bags to preserve grain or to strain alcohol.
In Showa Period, chemical fabric which could be produced massively was introduced, and shinafu which was difficult to make rapidly decreased, but its wild particular style has been loved and living as basis for fashion accessories such as obi, hats and bags. Once upon a time, it was woven in various places of Japan, but they keep producing it mainly in an area of Yamagata Prefecture and another of Niigata Prefecture these days, too. Shinafu in these regions is registered as a Japanese traditional manufacturing product in the name of uetsushinafu, and groups of producers of it are putting in an effort like trying to maintain techniques to make it and obtain ingredients for it.
Shifu (Paper Fabric)
Shifu is made by weaving paper yarn just like weaving thread. When papers are used for both tate-ito and yoko-ito, it is called “Moro-Shifu”. When silk yarn is used for one of them, it is called “Kinu-Shifu”, and it is called “Men-Shifu” when cotton yarn is used for one of them. Papers are first made into thread. So you don’t feel that stiffness of papers, and it is actually light and strong. Shifu began to be produced in the Edo period. Initially, they was made using papers that were out of use.
Later, dedicated papers began to be produced while improvements were made. Shiroishi City of Miyagi Prefecture is well-known as a production area. Originally, production of Japanese papers was prosperous in this area. On the other hand, it is believed it may be because cotton and silk were valuable in there. In the Edo period, the Date domain, who was governing this area, encouraged production of shifu. And they became known as they began to be used as offerings.
Now, shifu are highly valuable as the number of producers has decreased, but they are still widely distributed as popular materials.
Though not many, they are produced as tanmono (roll of clothes). They are light and easy to fasten, so they are often used as obi fabrics.
Luxury kimono sometimes has gold ornaments. In many cases, detailed parts are painted with gold, and broad parts are covered with gold leaf. To put gold leaf on kimono is called gilding. Other than gold leaf, silver leaf and platinum leaf are used. Guilding has various techniques, whose common skill is called “surihaku”, impressing of gold foil.” It is a method to apply gold foil with some glue and dry it to remove unnecessary parts, and one of the most gorgeous finish can be expected.
Gold and silver leaf are metals, but they are so thin and glued tight so that it makes it harder to remove. However, it may be removed, and in such cases, a thin paper can be put on the gold leaf to prevent it to stick to the opposite side when the frabric is folded. In addition, slightly old kimono may have low-quality leaf and glue, so in case you purchase recycled items, it is good to check the change of color and to make sure the gold leaf is remained.
Kariyasu-zome is a yellow dyed material which is colored using plants called kariyasu. It has a long history. There was a word “kariyasu-iro” in the “Shosoin Monjo” which is a part of materials from the Nara period. Also, there is a description of how to do kariyasu-zome in the material, “Engi-Shiki”, that is believed to have been made in the middle of the Heian Period. Based on these materials, we can say that kariyasu was already widely used in the dyeing agent for clothing of common people in those periods.
Kariyasu looks like susuki (Japanese pampas grass), just a little smaller than susuki. It was a plant that grew on its own all over Japan, so this isn’t considered as a specialty of a specific place. However, it is said that the plant from Shiga is particularly good in quality. Its yellow pigment is produced when kariyasu tries to protect itself from the UV light of the sun. So it is believed that beautiful yellow is produced when they use kariyasu which is mowed down at the end of August.
Kariyasu has been used to make green by layering with ai-iro. The grass which dyes Kihachijo (yellow silk fabric), a specialty of Hachijo-Jima Island, is locally called kariyasu. But this is another type of plant called Kobuna-gusa.