Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Thrifty Kitsuke (Part 1)

Welcome back to Tips and Tricks Tuesday, where  you can expect to find a wide range of tips and curios that might not otherwise have a forum in my regular crafting or kitsuke posts.

I've been a long-time fan of thift-store shopping. It's amazing what sort of treasures can be found if one has the patience to look. It's always a bit of a gamble, as thrift stores are reliant upon the people who make donations, but with patience and perseverance, some really quality items can be added to any wardrobe. I know that I'm not the only one who thinks so, too. Tami, over at Thrift Shop Commando, is one blogger I found during the A-to-Z Blog Challenge, who has a lot of fun with her thrifting adventures and was partially responsible for my inspiration to do this post.

Accessories that can be adapted for kitsuke are certainly the most easy to find, but even kimono and obi can be found in thrift stores. Finding these will take a sharp eye and some knowledge of how garments are likely to be sorted, as well as frequent trips. Turn-over of items can be fairly quick in some thrift stores, depending on region and the sorts of donations the stores have to work with in the first place.

The easiest additions to find in a thrift store are accessories. Sheer or lightweight scarves can be used as obi-age, and these can be found practically everywhere, at any time of year.

Fans and handkerchiefs can also quite easy to find, and are very useful. They may not be directly kimono related, but if I am out in kimono, I am always carrying at least three different handkerchief with me (and I explain why here!). Fans, too, are a lovely accessory to kimono and in the summer months I am always sure to take one with me.

Another accessory to look for in your thrifting excursions are geta and zori. Spring and summer are generally the best time to look for these as many thrift stores are usually savvy enough to rotate seasonal stock. As these are shoes with a familiar shape to many people (think flip-flops), they have a broader appeal outside a kimono-wearing audience and are therefore more likely to show up in a thrift store.

More difficult to find, but not outside the realm of possibility are kimono, haori, and obi. The best place to look for kimono garments in your own local thrift store is to check any section that looks like it has bathrobes, either men's or women's. I have found a number of yukata (summer cotton kimono) in these sections at my own local Savers stores. Haori might also be found tucked in with women's blazers or light jackets, as they are shorter than kimono, but it's just as likely they might be sorted in with robes as well.
Women's kimono, found in a section for ladies' robes and nightwear.

Men's haori, found with men's pajamas. It was also hanging inside out, so the green of the lining was what caught my eye.

Some stores may even go so far as to sort out anything they consider to be 'ethnic' clothing, like one of the Saver's I frequent. Even so, I have found kimono at this store that were still tagged and stocked as 'bathrobes.' This shows very well that there can be little consistency in how garments are sorted and tagged, and that it can depend a great deal on who might be working and sorting behind the scenes.

Finding obi in a thrift store environment can be the most challenging, as there are several ways that a person not versed in kimono might decide to sort what, to them,is just a very long piece of fabric. Housewares might be a good place to start, especially as a popular use for obi that can no longer be worn is to feature them as table-runners. If your thrift store has a 'crafts' or 'fabric' section, this might be another good place to check. The men's obi in the photograph below was found sorted and hanging in a section usually devoted to yarn and sewing patterns.

Men's kaku obi
If you are comfortable with a sewing machine, and are anything like me, you probably already check the fabric sections of your local thrift stores. This is a great place to find fabric to make your own juban or other undergarments, or even a kimono! I've certainly found quality cotton yardages for juban, hadajuban and suseteko on more than one occasion, and once, I even found a tan for kimono. If you've never worked with a tan of fabric before, it is significantly more narrow (about 14 inches from selvage to selvage) than the fabric you find in your local fabric stores, so keep that in mind as you're shopping!

I found this hanging with other yardages of fabric at a local Savers. The photo is not the clearest, but this is the full width of the fabric, about 14 inches from selvage to selvage.

I admit that living in California, in an area with a thriving Japanese-American population, gives me a certain advantage when it comes to finding actual kimono in thrift stores. However, there are many other articles you can shop for and repurpose for your own kitsuke practice, so don't give up!


  1. Thank you for the shout out. I just found a couple pieces of amazing floral fabric this past weekend.
    Shared your post on Google+ also.

  2. You're very welcome, and thank YOU for the share! I can't wait to see what you do with the fabric!