I have been patiently waiting and staring at the beautiful vintage kimono silks in my collection.
The first doll in my Vintage Collection is made with a wool silk blend, featuring a Ryukyu Bingata inspired design. Side note to me or if you live here on island: There is a little place you can go to and make your own bingata onto fabric, shirt, etc. I just discovered their Facebook page and have now added it to my list of things to do while we live here. Anyway, this particular kimono is from the 70’s or early 80’s. Ryukyu are the chain of islands that make up Okinawa, though the particular island I live on and city in which I live is also named Okinawa. Authentic Ryukyu Bingata is extremely expensive. A friend of mine said that a very small piece goes for a few hundred dollars. The price goes up from there, depending on the expertise of the artist. But this inspired print is gorgeous, nonetheless, and I fell in love with it the moment I held it.
Since this is intended as a keepsake doll, I thought it was a perfect fit. The wool/silk blend added a little thickness to the fabric and I felt like it was a bit easier to work with than pure silk. The texture itself is still silky smooth with just a hint of that wool feel.
The entire kimono is hand stitched together. I wonder how long something like this would take. Such dedication in making a beautiful garment. I felt guilty as I selected a sleeve to disassemble and use. I wonder who wore this kimono. It is well taken care of, has it seen a lot over the decades?
Though the hair and face of the kokeshi is made with muslin, I used vintage kimono silk pieces for the entire body and obi. Well, except for one spot, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
After she was all sewn up, I settled down with a three pound bundle of wool and stuffed away. If you are a doll or soft toy maker, you know thatstuffing is a process that cannot be rushed. You can’t take wads of stuffing and just shove it in there. You have to take your time to feel, add, and smooth. You want a solid piece that isn’t lumpy all over. Sometimes I will add in bit by bit but I also like to take a larger piece of wool and extend it out into a long piece, so I can layer it in or fill it in where needed. Since I can’t see inside the doll, I turn the doll around as I go and work by feel. The outcome is well worth the process.
I added a bit of my own ‘bingata’ hand detailing in her bun, along with some wool felt blossoms. Some good quality polyfil kept the bun light but super fluffy.
Like I mentioned above, I absolutely love how the wool added a bit of thickness and stability to the fabric. Very easy to work with! For the obi, I did add in some fusible stabilizer so that it was easy to work with and helped give the bow a bit more shape. I chose white so that it would really pop against the large body print. After I was finished tying the obi like I wanted, I gently sewed it all into place. I absolutely love how she turned out.
I didn’t notice but there was a very small tear in the fabric. Not totally through, but it definitely needed to be mended. I knew the perfect cultural repair. I cut a small rectangle from some 100+ year old indigo dyed cotton and hand stitched it well over the small cut. Just like traditional boro pieces are continuously mended with new hand stitched layers. The picture doesn’t show the shade of blue, but it was pretty dark. I wonder who took the time to weave and dye it. Where all has it traveled? What was it used for before it came into my possession?Personally, I love the added personality and got a little creative with the patch detailing.
I’m so in love with using vintage fabrics to use for dolls. I hope that this is the start of a beautiful collection, enjoyed by others, and that this particular girl finds a happy home. She carries with her so much cultural history, sewn together in a beautiful decorative piece.
Thanks for reading!