HOW TO: pre-tied obi, sew your own! *Warning, LARGE POST!*


Pre-tied obi can be a Godsend for people who are new to wearing kimono. The single most intimating element to kimono for most people is how to put on the obi. Pre-tie obi are pretty simple to make and do not require many supplies. The best thing about a pre-tie is how easy they are to put on and that they make GREAT gift to someone who is new to kimono and kitsuke.

Some points:
*I will keep the terms and phrases simple, as most people do not know the full Japanese terminology for the various parts of the obi. This is supposed to be a “beginner” friendly guide.
*This will be a “drum knot”, imo the simplest of all pre-ties.
*The thick and stiffness of the obi you are working with will affect the work you are going to do. Some obi are so thick that they will require a heavy duty machine or heavy hand sewing to complete. Thinner more flexible obi are generally easy to sew and can be handled on the machine. Always use caution in regards to how much stress you put on your sewing machine.
*When in doubt, reinforce the stitch work! I reinforce all major seams that receive a lot of stress.
*This guide will be laid out as several posts to better help me explain each step and organize them.
*Nagoya Obi are the easiest to convert into a drum pre-tied.
*Once you make that first cut, there is no going back. In choosing to do this project, you accept responsibility for the outcome.
*Make certain the obi first the person it is intended for. Not all obi are ideal for every body shape – some are longer and shorter then others.
*There are a few different ways to make a pre-tied obi, this is the method I use most often and have seen most often.

Supplies: scissors, obi, a means to sew (by machine or hand), and 2 lengths of cord/rope/fabric/straps/heavy ribbon to be your ties. The thread should be heavy duty quality.

*Step 1 – Pick out your obi, I suggest a nagoya obi. Lay it out, make certain it is a good fit for you or whoever it is being made for. Some obi are smaller or larger then others, check its size before you begin the work. To do this you will have to do a test “tie” it doesn’t have to be perfect, just show that it can be done. Say hi to my cat “Smushie” while you are at it 🙂

*Step 2 – Make your drum and leave enough fabric so that you have room to sew in a few places. Scroll down and check out the photos in future steps for a better idea as to how this will look.

*Step 3 – Cut the drum away from the rest of the obi, leave yourself just enough so that you might sew the back. This -is- the point of no return. This will give you 2 separate parts of the obi. It will give you your obi drum, and then the rest of the obi will be used to create the tail, belt, and the left over is scrap which will later on be thrown away.

This is roughly what the back of your drum should look like now. The extra fabric on the back will be used to reinforce the obi drum.

*Step 4 – Now we will create the ‘tail’. Before any sewing can really take place you will want to have the drums ‘tail’ measured out and in place. The tail should go under and up through the drum to create a realistic look. Basically it will create a ‘U’ through one of the folds of the drum but not through the whole drum. Do not sew the entire drum shut using the tail. The tail should be placed so that you can open the drum back up.

This picture is of me placing the “tail” in the drum using the part of the obi that was just cut off.

Inside the drum, looking at the tail placement before cutting. I cut my tail and secure it a few inches inside the obi itself so that the cut is not casually visible.

Once your tail is in place in the drum, cut it a few inches inside the drum so that the raw cut end of the tail will not be seen by other people.

This is your complete obi drum, ready for sewing!

*Step 5 – You will begin to secure the drum into its form through sewing. Depending on how thick and heavy your obi is will decide if you have to sew this by hand, or on a sewing machine. If the obi is thick, and the sewing machine is not heavy duty enough…you can fry your motor so be careful. You will be sewing through several layers of obi at different points, which means go slow on your machine so you do not stress it too much.

Remember to reinforce important parts and also zig-zag any raw edges. the real trick to sewing your obi, is to do so inside the drum so that the stitches will not be visible by others when the pre-tie is worn.

You will be sewing the tail in place, and also the top back of the drum so that it holds it’s form. When done right the drum will keep its form on its own. I only ever have to sew through 2 layers at a time, you shouldn’t be sewing 3 or 4 layers at once. I am sorry I did not get more photos of this process. It is pretty simple to do when you have it in hand, don’t be intimidated.

*Step 6 – Measure the tail to yourself or the subject, cut off the extra (scrap). Remember that you will be sewing in “ties” to the belt on the raw open edges.

*Step 7 – Now that you have your “belt” measured and cut it is time to finish the raw edges and add the ties. Insert your “ties” into the open raw edges of the belt. These ties will go through a lot of stress, so it is important to reinforce them and make them from a quality fabric. What used here is a canvas cotton strip used for corseting, purses, and reinforcing. Make certain these ties will be long enough for you to tie behind your back.

Insert the ties directly inside the obi, roughly 1-2 inches inside.

*Step 8 – Sew your ties into the “belt” of your obi. First I do a zig-zag to close up the raw edges of the obi, this is important to do to prevent fray. Second I do a straight stitch, doing a reinforcing back stitch at the top, bottom, and over the tie itself. It is very important to do this reinforcing back stitch as this is a very high stress part of the obi.

The finished “belt” with its ties securely in place. The drum is also in place and ready for use.

*Step 9 – HOW TO WEAR IT! Tie the belt on, the tie should be in your back. The drum back will be slipped over top the belt tie hiding the tie. You will want to wear a makura (obi pad) to support the drum fully and give this a more authentic look.

*Normal view if it were worn.* I dont have a picture of me wearing this, as I had no one to take a picture of me wearing it. It did sell before I had the chance to demonstrate it being worn.

View of the drum and belt, the belt unfolded the ties visible before being hidden inside the drum.

The drum lifted up, the ties inside.

There will be scraps – you can save or use these. I mostly throw mine away as they normally are plain and of no value. These are the scraps from this project, they were thrown away.

I hope you enjoyed this 🙂


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