Saturday, October 11, 2008

Favorite Fabrics From Far & Near

These are traditional polished cotton kimono fabrics, made in Japan, and purchased from the remarkable treasuretrove Kapaia Stitchery on Kauai in the 1990s. As you probably know, kimonos are traditional t-shaped ankle-length robes worn by both men and women in Japan. Kimonos have full wide sleeves, wrap from the left to right and are secured by a wide sash called an obi.

Symbolism in Japanese fabrics and embroidery motifs is strong. A kimono worn in springtime might have a cherry blossom or butterfly design, a winter kimono might feature plum blossoms or pine trees and an autumn theme could be leaves of the Japanese maple. Summer kimonos often had water themes. Each design element is even more deeply symbolic beyond the season it may represent. Bamboo, pine trees and plum blossoms represent endurance, as they stay green through the cold of winter. Cranes and turtles represent long life, ferns symbolize prosperity, plums express hope, and fans are a wish for abundance.

These fabrics, besides being incredibly soft and with lustrous polish, have outstanding color combinations and are shot through with subtle gold threads that only show when the light hits just so. The designs on these pieces don't lend themselves to anything with lots of pieces and seaming, so they may very well be made into the type of half circle skirt that normally is made from a border print, but cut on the bias to drape well.

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