revived project – kimono of used sari silk

the thread is buried in the used sari category, if you want to see photos of different saris in my collection, soon to be dipped into to make a patchwork of old saris on top of a raw silk kimono.

i’ve made several kimono now, and am still learning. i got the book and study it every time i go to make something, and i still don’t do it the right way. it must be me.

i got to a stage with this project where i had cut out the raw silk pieces of the quilt. i found a ziplock with these pieces in it, along with several quilts that we had kind of sort of decided on when i put the project aside.  funny, in the last post on this project, we had singled out two or three other saris to use, but they had been put back into the collection, and i’m not sure why.  (possibly i’m not ready to cut into them)

these are old saris.  most of them are not supposed to be worn anymore, but used for silk threads and rags.  uppurposing, or something.  but i want to use them as fabric in a kimono.  and i’ve made a kimono with only lightweight silk, and no lining, and it’s not only difficult but it’s hard to not completely screw up on it.  so i’m not exactly going to make a kimono out of the silk, i’m going to quilt it onto the basic kimono pieces of raw silk, and then assemble the pieces.


the silk is ripe.  a couple of times thru the wash and there’s be nothing but threads and rags in the machine.  and the kimono is designed to be washable, or at least handwashable, and is therefore designed to fall to pieces.

rags hanging off you is in style these days.  my daughter is wearing pre-patched jeans now.  a couple of years ago it was destroyed jeans, nothing but holes.  now they do a half-assed job of patching so they’ll deteriorate in teh wash cycle.  it’s all good.

anyway, i am going to have to quilt each piece onto the raw silk piece, and then once i’ve assembled the kimono i will quilt all over.  it could get tedious, with a million tiny stitches crowding up on each other.  but if i made the stitches too loose and widely spaced, then great chunks of silk will wash away.  it’s going to be a hit or miss thing, and i expect i will miss it in the end, altho it’ll look good for awhile.  that kimono i made out of breezy silk, i don’t think the recipient ever wore it.  i never heard from her again about it.  it must be me.

right now my sister is basking at the beach and doesn’t have time to think about this project, which was started at least a year ago.  but when she comes back down to earth perhaps she can have a look at the other posts and help me settle on what i’m doing.

there is the back

two sides of the front. the kimono goes to the knees

there’s the collar

there are two sleeves

there are two gores from the bottom of the sleeves to the hem at the knees

so that’s 5 pieces.  i had originally wanted to get fancy, but i don’t this time. the saris that were included with the cut pieces in teh bag were these::


kimono12  the problem with this one is it’s stiff, unlike the others.

and i forget another one, and that brown one below.


these were mentioned in prior posts, and of them the one on the left and the yellow one in the middle were in the bag. i think the purple one…


the one on the right below is the one on the left above, and the one on the left below is the second one from the left below.  confused yet?


anyway, look thru the pictures in the used sari link.


susie has chosen

so okay, my sister and i spent about an hour on the phone discussing this, just this afternoon.  i’m going to abandon numbers at this point, and just use color names.  what we’ve ended up with is, from top left corner, the whole purple sari, the bottom part of the maroon sari, the red and teal pallu of the teal sari, the red and green pallu of the maroon sari, the whole brown embroidered sari (which we’ve since decided we’re not going to use), the bottom of the teal sari with maroon border, and the whole gold sari.  correct me if i’m wrong.  the maroon sari is actually new to this stash, and one i’d set aside for my own personal kimono, but there’s plenty for everyone, and it looks good in this tableau.

beautiful tho it is, the gold one is the most worn, and i will try to use it for accents only.  and the brown sari was only going to be for the lining, (because the silk is too old and too thin to use without a lining), and since this photo was shot, we’ve decided to use silk noil for the lining instead, so never mind the brown – it’s easy because it’s a neutral color, almost a blank spot.

the pallus – (The loose end is called the pallu or pallav or seragu or paita), in the middle on the right of the picture above, have already been separated from their sari bodies, and will be turned into sleeves (the teal) and collar (the maroon/green).  we’re thinking of only using the maroon body for the belt, but it might be okay in the body of the kimono too.

the body of the kimono, the two fronts and the double-width back, are coming out of the purple and teal saris, mostly.

the purple still has its pallau, on the right above.  it’s slightly more muted in color than the main part of the sari, which also has a delightful menagerie.  of the teal sari, what’s left is the main part, which you can see on the bottom of the first picture (forgot to take a closeup of the teal sari, sorry).

we’ve been going back and forth about how to design the back and front panels.  my sister has decided on a knee-length kimono, rather than it going to the floor, and that’s just about exactly the width of these saris – 45ish”.  so i can cut them in strips across the width, sew a few strips together, and there it is.  i suggested 3″ strips, and a few of them, a teal then a purple and then a maroon and a gold and another purple and etc.  a muted coat of many colors.  but she quickly decided she wanted much wider strips, maybe only two to a panel.  that’s like ten inches wide  and since i’m working with 6-yard saris, it doesn’t make much difference how big.  the thing to consider is the silk, which is old and fragile.  and the overall design.

when i was tearing the teal pallu off the sari, it shed dust as it ripped.  not a great sign.  but we’re going to quilt this mama down to the ling.  it’ll take care of any future rips (because they can then be mended into the lining with a quick pass of a sewing machine).   it’ll end up looking like applique.

see the purple pallu, and the teal pallu, and the maroon pallu, and the gold pallu.  lovely detail.

this is the main body of the maroon pallau on the picture above this one.  the red is actually maroon, and a very fine print of flowers.  it can also be one of the strips if you want.

here’s a prior picture of the teal sari.  the pallau, to the right, has already been torn off to use as sleeves, and the teal of the sari’s body is going to be one of the strips on the main body of the kimono.

raw silk for the lining

we’re getting some raw silk, which is nubby and soft and feels like a very lightweight terrycloth.  it’s going to be the lining.  i’m afraid it’s going to come pretty white, and i’m going to want to dye it a lot more neutral (plus i hate white).  it may be that my sister wants me to leave it alone.  the last time i used this fabric, i dyed it with coffee (might as well have, because it was designed to get coffee stains from sitting in bed drinking coffee in the morning).

this is a hell of a lot easier directions to make a kimono.  it is simply 5 panels of equal length sewn together (cut in half and sewn for the sleeves).  that means no insert panel to act as gusset. since i’m going to do a short kimono, maybe i can skip the insert.

here’re the fabrics, all stripped – make believe.  the purple, gold, teal, maroon pallau, maroon body, teal pallau.  remember that the gold and the purple have two parts each, which is 4 strips possible.  so we’re talking about (minus the sleeves and the belt and the collar – the right half) 5 fabrics to strip for the body of the kimono.  it would be possible to include the body of the maroon fabric in with the stripping fabrics, which would then make 6 fabrics to strip.

we’re only going to make it over the knee length, and the sleeves will be short, coming barely to the middle of the big muscle in your forearm.  they’ll be joined sleeves, not open ones, as in a man’s kimono, and i’d like to make boat sleeves out of the wrists – it’s what i did to the model.  i’m trying to decide how much lining to get.

what do you want to do about the sleeves?

A man’s yukata is attached to the body for about 42cm (16.5″), and then the part of the sleeve that dangles is sewn together on a line that slants away from the body. (Another style is to eliminate the dangling part altogether, making the sleeve more like a traditional Western sleeve.) A man’s yukata also lacks the underarm opening that is left in a woman’s yukata; the front and back panels are sewn together starting immediately beneath where the sleeves are attached.

here is the diagram for cutting on 36″ fabric (but the noil is 45″)

accoring to this, if we’re making the knee-length one then it’s 45 instead of 63, and the total length is 3.66 yards.  so, four yards of raw silk from dharma, being ordered now.

along with the shirt for dragon.con, which was supposed to have come in the last order.  what came in the last order, which arrived this afternoon, was three silk neckties and an alpaca shawl oooooh.  and while i was writing that, another mail delivery, this time with the shirt, and some urea for cotton dyeing.  so now i’ve got another shirt coming.  so i can screw this first one up yay.

so, fine, i just have to wait for the raw silk.  it’ll be monday at least, if not the middle of next week.  and since the next step is to cut the pattern pieces out of the lining, i’m going to have to turn my attention to something else.

i’ll go upstairs, photograph the silk ties for reference, unstitch them and wash the whole mess, along with the shirt.  and then we’ll work up a design for the shirt, and i’ll work up a design for the ties, and i’ll go into production while waiting for the raw silk.

and of course you realize that starting on sunday, we’re going to be starting the print run for dragon.con.  that’s 150 prints (actually 225), matted and shrink wrapped.  and i only have until you get here to do them.  so if i finish production before i see you, then you’re just going to have to wait.  and if not, you’ll probably only be able to see it in progress, because i’m not working my ass off after working my ass off.  just so you know.

more susie’s choices

okay, susie, to be clear about it, let’s look at a bunch o’pictures.  everybody else, sorry to bore you.  this is me and my sister figuring out which of 38 used silk saris we want to use to make a kimono.  it’s an arduous process, and we’ve already been thru a bunch of steps, which mainly consist of me separating the saris into weights and sending her pictures of each weight, which she would then go thru and pick favorite saris from all the weights, and then i would yell at her and we would start over, me never quite understanding what she wanted, and she not understanding the process i’m using.

so, we’re going to do it online.

21, 23, 29, 30, 32, 34

the saris pictured above are already jumbled up from how i laid them out on the railing outside, which was by the number, but the list is upstairs, so i can’t check on it.  the first one on the left is the yellow and green and purple one, which is also below.  the second on the left is the purple one (on the right below).  the next one is the gold one.  then the pretty blue one.  then the teal one, and lastly the red one.  i had another one that wasn’t on the list you gave me, but i thought it belonged (until i looked closely at it and discovered no holes.)  until i changed my mind and put it in my personal stash to wear.

23, 21

above i want you to notice just how thin these saris are.  i’d say 8mm habotai would be close.  what i use for my scarves.  the sun is going right thru the silk and lighting up the window frame.  this is the thickness of your kimono we’re talking about here.  it’ll flutter with the slightest breeze, and won’t take a hell of a lot of strain.  and don’t let me hear you’ve run it thru the washing machine, because i can tell you now you’ll just get a lot of threads in the drum when the cycle’s over.  and no kimono.  this is old silk.


i made the mistake of putting these saris out to photograph when the sun was in the alley, and so i’ve got loads of exposure problems which i’ve solved in some cases by completely squeezing the color levels down, and in other cases by never minding any kind of adjustment at all, and in the case above by cutting the picture in two when i took two differently exposed pictures, and making a patch of the best of each shot.


like this one.  i eliminated most of the information at the upper range of the scale, brightened the hell out of the rest of it, and it’s probably garish as hell on your screen.  but you can at least see it kinda sorta.

34, 32, 30

you’ll notice the gaping holes in 34, the red one.  they’ve all got places like that, some worse than others.  i guess what i want you to look at are the patterns, and to think about what parts of each sari to use, and where to use them.

29, and the one i decided to keep

29, while being arguably the most beautiful of all the 38 saris, is also the most warn.  it’s in tatters.  it’s only going to be used sparingly, so.  the other one has elephants all over it, and is one i thought would go quite well with the others.  but when i folded it up after my photo shoot, i realized it only had a torn end at the beginning, where you make the closing and start wrapping the sari.  so i ripped that part right off, about six inches, and folded the rest up and put it in my own stash.  i always liked that sari a lot and didn’t really want to cut it up.  so now i don’t have to.  but the gold one really is the nicest of the lot.

23, 21

back to the first pair of saris.  at first 21 seems too gaudy to use.  the colors are bright and distinct, not muted at all.  and all that yellow.

but.  the teal.  the purple.  the blue.  and you’ve got to have something bright to balance the red of 34.  so i think it works well.  as for 23, it’s a wonderful color, with wonderful little objects printed all over it.  it’s as thin as the others, with a few big holes that mean i can’t wear it, and i’m happy to be using it here.

as for what to use where, let’s have a look at the parts of a kimono.

Kimono Pattern
The kimono pattern consists of four main strips of fabric. Two patterns form the panels covering the body and two panels for the sleeves. Additional smaller strips form the narrow front panel and collar.

so, given that there are four basic pieces, with the collar for contrast, and a belt for contrast.  the illustration suggests a split in the two main pieces, which could make for 6 or 8 pieces out of the original two (for a total of as much as 12 different lengths of fabric).

give me some feedback on how you’d like to divide this up.  just in general.

love, me

my sister’s choices

these are the saris she likes right off the bat. trouble is, most of them are the wearable saris, and i’m going to wear them.  so she needs to pick some of the others, from the ‘soft’ and ‘thin’ and ‘stiff’ posts.

my idea is to make a kimono from the silk of several saris.  since kimono are traditionally made with lengths of uncut cloth about 14″ wide, i figure it would be the same thing with strips 3 or 5 inches wide.  only a little more colorful.  but not like this.

more like this, but i’m not doing all the work required to piece something like this.  it’s just an idea.

it’ll need a lining, and i’m not sure whether i should use old sari fabric or something a little stronger, like flannel or pima cotton.  because of the ripeness of some of the fabric, it’s going to have to be quilted on anyway.

here’s a suggestion for a couple of saris to use in a kimono. there’s the two front panels and two back panels, or if you like, two left and right continuous panels.  there’s two sleeves, and one collar.  any of these can have borders (cuffs and hem), so you can have as many as 11 different panels even before you start stripping 3-5″ pieces of sari together.  so how many saris to use?  and do we use the bodies, the top and bottom borders, or the pallus?

there are a lot of decisions to be made.  these are very soft and thin silks, like good scarf silk, but like old scarf silk, like mom’s better scarves from years ago.  they’re not heavy silk at all.  the stiffer ones are a little heavier, but they don’t float like this stuff does, and i’m not sure i want to work with it  yet.   so let’s look at specific saris next.