While living in Kyoto this year, I had the opportunity to get involved with life in Kyoto outside of my classes at Doshisha by taking lessons on how to sew kimonos. Because I’m an art student with an interest in clothing and textiles, when I came to Japan I knew I wanted to study kimono making. For that reason, I’ve had a great time so far taking my lessons. Over this semester, both my sewing and Japanese skills have gradually improved. I look forward to continuing my lessons next semester as well.
In the old days, all kimono were sewn by hand, so when I started taking my lessons, I also had to learn how to sew by hand. I had made clothes with a sewing machine for art classes before, but I had never made anything just by sewing by hand. However, my Sensei was able to sew with his hands as fast as a machine. I haven’t become that fast, but with practice I have become more skilled in working with the thread and fabric with my hands. The skills I’ve acquired through my CIP will definitely help me with taking my artistic work in new directions when I return to America.
During our lessons, I was also able to practice speaking Japanese with my Sensei. From cutting, to measuring, to folding, to ironing, to sewing, I always had to keep close to my teacher to know what to do next with the cloth. I didn’t know a lot of Japanese words related to clothes when we started, and my teacher’s accent is a little thick, but gradually I became able to both understand and converse with my teacher about his craft. I’ve discovered so much about the minute details and hidden facets of Japanese sewing, and I couldn’t have gotten these insights without the ability to talk with my teacher in Japanese. I’m definitely glad I was able to take these lessons.
着物を縫うという日本でもなかなか体験できないことが、体験できてよかったですね！先生ともいい関係を築けたようで、来学期も続けたいということ素晴らしいです。” I’ve discovered so much about the minute details and hidden facets of Japanese sewing”というのは、例えばどんなことですか。
One good example is how many hidden hems and seams are present in traditional Japanese garments– a lot of the techniques that give kimono their polished appearance, like a lack of visible threads on the edges and joined pieces of the garment, can only be achieved through very meticulous handsewing.
How many kimonos were you able to complete? Were the ones you completed sold or were you allowed to take them home?
Well, actually, when we started and expressed my interest in making kimono, my teacher told me that it takes at least 3 years to be able to make kimono. So, we are starting by making yukata. We are still working one the first one, but when it is finished I believe I will be able to take it home.