How to sew an accurate/authentic obi?

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  • So I've been using several websites to draft a yukata pattern as culturally accurate as I can. But most websites with various kimono sewing tutorials don't have anything about sewing an obi.

    I know about their lengths and widths, but I'm looking for more about cutting out the fabric. Is it two identical, separate rectangles cut out then basically sewn around the edges (like the Simplicity costume pattern) ? Or is it cut out on any folds so that only three edges are sewn?

    Any resources or information that anyone can throw my way would be greatly appreciated~ Thank you!

  • It depends on the type of obi. A maru obi, for example, is very formal and is usually a single wide piece of patterned fabric folded over an interior piece of stiff canvas and stitched on one side. A fukuro obi has a patterned visible side and a plain lining side, so it's stitched on both ends.

    The usual obi with yukata are heko (a long soft scarf usually tied in a bow), hanhaba (a half-width, usually 6 inch obi), or a type I don't know the name for, which is all one color and woven instead of sewn. What sort of outfit are you aiming for?

  • The costume I'm making is an original gijinka design that I drew. I'm trying to make the kimono/yukata as accurately as I can in terms of construction, but adding a few elements for visual interest. It's not supposed to be completely historically accurate, but I'd like to enter it into a contest and not have a judge wrinkle their nose and say, "You used the Simplicity pattern, didn't you?"

    I know I want to do a clam's mouth knot. And I definitely can't go with a wide obi because of my tiny rib cage and big hips combo. I tried a wide obi for a costume once, and it got all wrinkled and bunched on my sides.

    I'm using a brocade with a subtle pattern for the obi (I know brocade isn't always the most accurate fabric and more Chinese than Japanese, but it works with the rest of the costume, trust me). Any recommendations or ideas?

  • I'd recommend getting a piece of cotton canvas (or duck) as stiffener for the obi. To do it as one piece you'll need a piece about 6 inches wide and about 10 feet long. Fold a piece of your brocade over that, sew it up along one long edge and the ends, and you have something that can work as an obi.

    The only major problem with making a full obi like that is that unless you buy a lot of fabric, you'll have to sew some pieces together to make up a full 10-foot length and those seams aren't appropriate to a proper obi. You may want to take the shortcut of making an "easy obi" (tsuke obi) which is still very authentic. The band and the musubi are constructed as separate pieces, but when worn together they look like one piece.

    Google tsuke obi to see how you can make the waist band, and then make a long enough piece of covered canvas to knot into the clam's mouth. You can figure out your own way to attach it, or you can do the classic yukata thing and add a wire loop on the back of the knot that gets tucked down the back of the band.

  • Thank you for laying out the different kinds of obi, Mango. I think this is a great reference for everyone interested in the subject.

  • Okay, I think I get it. So basically the top edge of the obi won't have a seam running along the length, it will only have three sewn edges and be one folded over strip of fabric instead of two strips.

    But yeah, I was planning on making the clam's mouth musubi separate, because I wanted to make it slightly larger/more exaggerated, but the band will still wrap around me several times (unlike the Simplicity pattern). I have enough fabric for the ten feet~

    Thank you so much!

  • Also, would you happen to know if it would be less accurate to sew two strips of fabric together for the collar of the yukata? With the seam right at the back of my neck? Or does it have to be one solid strip of fabric?

    If I don't, the pattern of the fabric might look a little awkward.

  • The collar is one strip of fabric in all but the most informal antique pieced-together-out-of-scraps kimono and yukata. This is your own design, though, so do what you gotta do! Re: the obi, you only need enough length to wrap it around your waist twice, that's how it's usually worn. More would look bulky and awkward. And you're right about the construction, especially the part with the seam being on the bottom edge and the fold on the top. Good instincts. Hearing all these details makes me want to see your design!

    @lemuries--Thanks. :D The [URL=""]wiki page on obi [/URL]is decent, even if it doesn't cover much on construction. A couple of obi died to show me what's usually hanging out inside.

  • Hm... I'll pin things together and thing about my options. I think I'm going to end up going with the one strip thing though. lol

    Thank you so much! I'm so excited about this cosplay and doing everything I can to make it my best by far. I haven't posted anything about it online because I get overly worried that the design will be stolen and debuted by someone else before I debut it. I'm not popular/visible in the slightest though, and yeah I know it's a bit conceited to think my design is really good enough to be stolen... But there's that nagging fear because I've seen it happen before. lol