Obiage: The Beginning and Sewing

Project 14, part 1 – Fried Obi


Welcome back to Mukashi no Sewing! A couple of weeks ago, I was shopping for fabric with my Aunt Sue at an adorable quilt shop, and I ran across some fabric from Moda Fabrics that I went absolutely feral for. It’s their “Wild Ivy” print series, and it has the most delicious combinations of creams, greens, purples, and lavenders. I really don’t like buying fabric without a project in mind…but I also desperately needed this loveliness in my life. Then I remembered that I could use some more obiage — especially a dark purple one (which has proved troublesome to find on the secondhand market)! With that, I was able to pick up each of my favorites with a clear conscience, and get to sewing!

Image from Wikimedia Commons

An obiage (sometimes called an “obi sash”) is a piece of cloth used to cover the obi makura (“obi pillow”) that holds up certain types of taiko musubi – or “drum knots” – such as otaiko and nijuudaiko. The obiage covers the makura from behind, and in front it creates a little decorative demarcation zone between the obi and the kimono. Fun fact – “age” (like, karaage) can also mean “fried,” so often times Google Translate will gloss obiage as “fried obi” when you’re shopping on Japanese sites. 😀 Typically they’re silk, but because the “wrong” side of the fabric and the edges aren’t ever seen, I figured there was no reason I couldn’t do it in cotton!

Somehow these are both a half yard. Cs get degrees, I guess…

Doing the math in my head, I thought a half-yard of each would be enough if I cut it in half and joined the two strips in the middle, but it turned out I wasn’t quite correct, and had to order another half-yard of each from Etsy. Oops! 🙂 Because the fabric was only 45″ wide, I didn’t want to have to buy several yards to get enough length. The center is always going to be hidden under my obi anyway, so it doesn’t matter if there’s a seam there.

Cutting mats with measurements are sent by the gods.

After washing and hot air drying the fabric (to ensure there wouldn’t be any possible dye transfer to my kimono), I began the task of cutting out my strips! Measuring against one of my existing obiage, and allowing for a half-inch seam allowance on each side (due to French seams), I determined I needed each strip to be 35″ long and 13″ wide.

My extremely scientific measurements.

When it came to the width, I cut a narrow strip off of one side to remove the frayed edges, then a wider strip off the other side. This gave me enough fabric to potentially make haneri (collar covers) at some point. Truthfully I find switching out collars to be extremely annoying, so I didn’t want to do sewing for something I won’t use right now. But it’s nice to have it available for the future!

I love my new pins! They’re so much thinner and sharper than my old ones; they hold things much better and don’t do any damage!

I did a French seam in the center to enclose the edges, and then pinned and sewed the rolled seams on the short ends. After pressing everything flat, I pinned and sewed the rolled seams on the long ends!

Pictured: overkill.

Finally, after pressing all the edges once more, I sewed an extra line of stitching to secure the flap down the middle so it wouldn’t get rumpled. Probably overkill, but it looks so much neater this way! I did nearly run out of purple thread during this project even though I only used it on two of the obiage. Fortunately I had just enough…but I’ll definitely need more before too long!


Then, it was rinse and repeat to make the other three! It was really quite easy work, just a bit finicky to ensure that my rolled edges didn’t get wonky and that everything lined up nicely. I’m SO happy with these; I definitely foresee myself making more obiage in the future to use up fabric from my stash and give myself more fun options when wearing kimono. So join me again next time when I talk a tiny bit about the history of obiage and show off how these look when worn here on Mukashi no Sewing! ❤

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