Upcycling with Japanese kimono silk

Upcycling with Japanese kimono silk

For those who like their decorative accessories to be unashamedly pretty and feminine, vintage Japanese kimono silk is being put to good use as cushion covers and lampshades

Hunted & Stuffed bolsters made from embroidered Japanese wedding kimono silk

Ellie Laycock of Hunted & Stuffed makes exquisite bolsters and cushions using heavily embroidered silk from Japanese Uchikake wedding kimonos. Bolsters are 92x32cms, no two are the same. They make very auspicious wedding presents...

Japanese kimonos are beautiful pieces of attire that have traditionally been made from silk. They're worn far less by women these days and there is, apparently, something of a surfeit of used kimonos on the market, as women sell them on so the fabric can be re-used.

The fabrics are often patterned, so it's not surprising to find that designers are seeing the potential in kimono silk for home accessories such as cushions and lampshades that can inject a burst of colour and ebullience into a room. 

London photographer and designer Ellie Laycock of Hunted & Stuffed has a growing clientele who love her long de-luxe upcycled bolsters and cushions made from the heavily embroidered silk of Japanese Uchikake wedding kimonos - which are the most expensive type of kimono.

Her products are very beautifully made, with high quality velvet backing, while the silk panels are strengthened with cotton lining.

Bolsters are great wedding gifts. www.huntedandstuffed.com
Uchikako silk kimonos are expensive to buy even on the second-hand market
Ellie Laycock is finding that people love her kimono cushions. www.huntedandstuffed.com
Cranes symbolise long life in Japanese culture. Uchikake gowns are traditionally red and embroidered with cranes
 Printed kimono silk is far less expensive. Ellie Laycock's Vintage Pink Chrysanthemum Chirimen silk cushions, 47x31cms, £95

The bolsters are expensive at £345, but Laycock says this is because of the cost of the Uchikake wedding brocades, which hold their value.

'Printed silk kimonos are much cheaper to buy,' she says, 'but I love the Uchikake gowns, which are exquisitely embroidered all over with gilt thread. The designs depict birds and flowers which have a symbolism in Japanese society. For example, cranes represent long life, while peonies are symbolic of wealth, so these kimonos are intended to imbue the bride with, well,  good chi or karma....'

But as with wedding dresses, the wedding kimono has tended to be consigned to a trunk for eternity once the big day is over, which is a shame considering the work that has gone into making an item of such beauty and elaborateness.

So in these upcycling days, women are selling them on, hence the growing market for used kimonos.

Laycock sources her kimonos in the and UK and from overseas, and says she loves working with them. 'The Uchikake gowns are not so readily available and I do sometimes have to take a deep breath before cutting into one because they are so special.. but I'm pleased that my bolsters are proving to be a popular wedding gift..which is appropriate for them.'

Kimono Lamps

Shades by Kimono Lamps are made from printed kimono silk
Kimono silk lamp shades are perfect for bedside tables. Choose fringed or unfringed
Pair of small lampshades. www.kimonolamps.com
A delicate lampshade is perfect for a hall table
Red kimono silk cushions by Becca Cadbury Design. £36.45 for 45x45 cushion cover
Kimono silk cushion by Becca Cadbury. www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BeccaCadburyDesign

If you managed to get to the recent 100% Design show in London's Earls Court, you may have stopped to admire the very pretty lampshades made by Anna Juraszek, who is based in Waterford in south-east Ireland. 

Juraszek says she was inspired to start her business after a trip to Japan a few years ago, where she could see the potential for upcycling using printed kimono silks. She mades lampshades in a variety of sizes, and finishes them with braids or fringes. As with Ellie Laycock's products, no two pieces are identical.

You can buy Kimono Lamps on its Etsy shop, prices are between £76 and £133.

Becca Cadbury Design

Rebecca Cadbury is a London-based designer who makes fabulous cushion covers from kimono silks. Her pieces, again most of which are one-offs, are hand-made and extremely pretty. Find her on Etsy too.