Sunday, 20 December 2015

A yukata story

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I used to live in Japan, which was a mixture of cultural clashes, emotional roller coasters and adventures. Since moving back to Europe two years ago, I have been trying to return to Japan every year, because there is a piece of Japan, which is calling me back to the country of the rising sun.

My latest trip in October was quite eventful, starting with an amazing meet-up with some of the Japanese based seamstresses, Novita, Chie and Yoshimi. I was so grateful that they found the time to travel from afar to have this dinner with me. It goes without saying that we talked a lot about sewing, blogging, life. We also drank more than a few margaritas :)

Towards the middle of my trip I went to Kyoto, where I was lucky enough to meet with Morgan, who happened to be staying in the old capital at the same time as me!  It was lovely to meet her, given that I’ve been admiring her style and skills for a while. Have you seen the wedding dress she sewed for her sister? We spent the entire afternoon roaming around fabric and craft shops, and as much as I was tempted to buy fabric (I was even carrying a cut of ivory brocade during the whole time we spent in one particular fabric shop), I decided not to buy it.

During my last day in Japan, I met with a longtime Japanese friend, Chie, who is not only another sewing enthusiast, but also a hoarder collector of Japanese traditional fabrics. She confessed to having all of her closets full of cotton, woolen and silk fabric rolls. Although, I’ve never seen it myself, I believe she was telling me the truth. What I could not believe, however, was that Chie was kind enough to give me one of the fabrics from her stash!

The fabric I received is yukata fabric. Now, I don’t know much about dyeing, but I am intrigued about the method used to dye this fabric. If you know what this method is called or how it is done, don’t hesitate to share this in a comment below. As you can see, the white of the original fabric remains intact, but the other colours have been layered out one after another. Most of the traditional Japanese fabrics, especially the ones for yukata and kimono, come in a 36 cm wide and 12 metres long roll. When I saw this roll, I could not believe, that my friend was able to part with such a precious textile. She only laughed and asked me to promise her that I would use it as soon as possible, which has proven not to be so difficult.

A few words about yukatas. A yukata is a lightweight cotton robe, which people wear after a bath or during hot summer days in Japan. Yukatas are often mistaken for kimonos by foreigners, because the shape looks quite similar. If you stay at a traditional Japanese inn, a ryokan, you end up wearing a yukata all the time. Also, people wear yukatas during summer festivals, matsuri. You can so easily buy a yukata in Japan! Even UNIQLO sells them! If you go to their shops from in early May, you’ll see a special yukata section.

I had intended to make a yukata to wear at home in Ireland, which might make me feel like I am in Japan. I thought about making it knee-length, so it would be more suitable for the everyday wear, without dragging the bottom on the floor. And so I did. Prior to using this pattern to sew my yukata, I coveted an idea, which was to make the pattern from scratch. Chie, who gave me the fabric, sent me a link to a site, where you can find very detailed explanations on how to measure, cut and sew a yukata. Step #7 even contains an Excel document with formulas, so you don’t need to calculate everything yourself, but only need to enter your measurements!

Needless to say that the actual sewing was straightforward in all senses: almost all yukata pieces are rectangular. My flatmate was very impressed with it, and said that it looked like a store-bought garment. Now, when I’ve finished one yukata, I’d love to make more. This is such a simple project and a great present. Who would not like to wear a “kimono” to lounge at home? I am not sure I’ll have enough time to make everybody a Christmas yukata, but this is definitely something I’ll give as a birthday present to a friend.