Japanese Obi - Stunning Vintage Silk Fabrics for Upcycling

Photo: A number of stunning fukuro obi.

The Japanese obi is a sash worn as part of a kimono outfit. There are many types of obi. The ones that we like best are the "fukuro" obi worn by women for formal occasions. We like fukuro obi best because they typically have a lot of stunning brocade fabric that we can put to good use!

Fukuro obi are typically around four metres long and about 30cm wide. Fukuro means "pouch", so no surprise that they're made by sewing two pieces of cloth together.

The obi's outside cloth, or at least the areas that will be visible, are usually of a heavy woven silk brocade. Metallic yarns may be used and this often gives these obi a very contemporary feel. The obi's inner fabric is often lightweight, smooth, silk.

 photo: Obi detail showing kikko pattern

Obi patterns often make use of lucky symbols such as kikko (tortoise shell pattern). Tortoise tend to live a very long life so kikko symbols relate to longevity. Shippo patterns are also popular. Interconnecting circles (shippo) represent the good that comes from harmonious relations with others.

We are very interested in finding uses for vintage textiles - especially textiles as pretty as Japanese obi. We think the trend for "upcycling", or finding new uses for, old textiles is great. And Japanese obi are prime candidates for upcycling in our eyes!

Obi make great decorative items for the house. They can be draped over a table, chest of drawers, sideboard etc to give a vibrant accent piece. They also look great when framed.

 Another design featuring kikko

We offer a making up service if you would like to have your obi customised for use as a table runner, placemats, cushion covers and so on. Please ask us about this service, we would be delighted to customise any of our obi for you. 

You can see our range of vintage obi in our Obi Gallery and you can buy them in our Online Obi Shop.

Please let us know if there is any specific pattern/colour that you are looking for but don't see in our shop. We source directly from our contacts in Japan and should be able to find what you are looking for.