Learn about the four types of Obi
Maru
Fukuro
Nagoya
Girls
An Obi’s long length is shown in relation to the wearer’s height. The most elaborate Obi were worn by royals, courtesans and geisha.
Once the 14 feet of Obi is wrapped around the woman's torso the contours of the woman's waistline are obscured.
The Obi's end cascades down the back or is tied into a butterfly or folded knot.
An Obi is a Kimono belt or sash
A few traditional elements from Obi
image of Obi with hexagon pattern
The hexagon pattern favored by Royals with a kiri flower
image of dragon surrounded by clouds and flowers
A dragon surrounded by clouds and flowers
image of Obi with hand drum surrounded by pine tree branches
A hand drum surrounded by pine tree branches

We are pleased to bring you an ever-changing collection of designs that re-purpose luxurious obi, into luscious pillows, hanging wall art, and soon many other home and personal accessories.  These are among the finest examples of the Japanese high art of weaving textiles. Each is a one-of-a kind treasure that brings a bit of a woman from another time and place into our lives.  But who was she?

To understand the woman who might have worn a particular obi a few clues provide insights. Those worn by young, single women were bright and bold in their use of color, and intended to attract attention to the wearer. Married women chose somber colors and subdued patterns, yet the elegance of these understated designs is undeniable.

The most elaborate obi were worn by entertainers, courtesans and members of the imperial family. Purple was reserved for royals. Narrow bands in gold or silver at the end of obi also denotes the wearer's wealth and high social status. The presence of chrysanthemums and peonies indicate that an obi was worn by a courtesan.

The designs woven into the fabrics often featured elements drawn from nature and exemplify the Japanese philosophy of creating harmony. Others are composed of bold geometric patterns, often based on the hexagon which was popularized by Japanese royalty. Regardless of style, all obi present imagery that literally cascade like rivers, flowing from one wonderful subject to the next.

An obi has been a featured part of the Japanese women's ensemble since the mid-Edo period (circa mid-1700's). Then, and still today, most obi are woven in the Nishijin district of Kyoto, which is the capital of Japan's textile industry.

The obi presented here are considered to be vintage from either the Taisho (1912-1926) or early Showa (1926-1989) periods; or quite old (mid-Showa).

The Challenge of Obi Redesign
In choosing Obi as the centerpiece a major design effort, we have accepted a challenge to work with fabric that is only 14” wide at most, compared to the usual 56” wide fabric bolt. The longest length is about 3.5 yards and most often less than two yards. Most obi come with very heavy interfacing and the tapestries themselves are so textural that they present great sewing challenges. To place them effectively in design projects we combine the obi fabric with coordinating silks – dupioni, taffeta and raw types are all used. As the obi are old we need to avoid areas of discoloration, stains, fold lines and serious snags, all serving to further reduce the amount of usable tapestry.
Traditionally, the obi was valued as a part of a family's wealth,and handed down from one generation to the next. We hope that our Obi designs become an essential part of your personal heritage and family legacy.
Read in Barbara's own words about Obi
Enjoy a magazine of 36 obi patterns
Start shopping for Obi redesigns
The Four Types of Obi
image 1 of Maru obi
The Maru Obi is the original and most formal Obi style, the most valued of all, made from a single piece of woven tapestry.
The Maru Obi is known for very complex patterns that often cascaded over the entire obi’s surface. The pattern’s design was woven on one continuous piece of fabric that would be folded in half lengthwise to create both front and back sides. Because of this, the Maru Obi offers the greatest amount of fabric, but because the fold line leaves a permanent crease in such old fabric, the useable sewing area for re-purposed design remains at finished obi width or 14” or less depending on the conditions of the edges. Because the length is usually 14-15 feet, the net fabric available is TWO pieces of equal length, or approximately 3.5 yards.
Image 2 of Maru Obi
Image 3 of Maru Obi
Image 4 Maru Obi
When displayed as a whole, folded back on itself, the Maru Obi shows the pattern running in both directions. If gold or silver coated threads are included, the Obi's direction will react differently to light, and often will change colors during the course of the day. High sheen is a feature of Obi that is highly regarded by the Japanese.
image 1 of Fukuro Obi
The Fukuro Obi is
Image 2 of Fukuro Obi
A style that emerged
in the 1920s,

Less formal than
the Maru

Patterned on one
side, solid color
on the reverse
The FUKURO OBI is essentially the same overall size as a Maru Obi in terms of length and width, but the reverse side is primarily a solid coordinating fabric. This was intended to reduce the overall weight of the Obi and limit the amount of tapestry to just over half of what was used in a Maru. Only the end of the back side offers the pattern. Most often a Fukuro Obi provides ONE piece of 11-12 inch by 14-15 feet in length with a second section that is 1-2 feet in length. Often the solid backing fabric is silk and may be used as a coordinate fabric. Fukuro Obi are usually not as old as Maru Obi. They are often very dramatic as a single color, often orange or black, is used as the tapestry’s background with patterns composed of fewer elements, but often woven with gold or silver coated threads. This simplified approach to design compared to the Maru, achieves powerful impact because of their bold and contrasting color statements.
image 1 of Nagoya Obi
Closeup image of Nagoya Obi
The Nagoya
Obi is
The style that
sewed most of the
Obi's length
into half its width
The NAGOYA OBI is an older style of Obi compared to the Fukuro, offering considerably less usable tapestry. The amount of pattern may be limited to less than one side, with a smaller amount on the reverse. However, 2/3rds of the Nagoya Obi’s length is sewn folded in half, yielding 8-9 feet of 5-6 inch wide tapestry and at most 4-5 feet of 11-12 inch fabric. Usually areas of solid background color interrupt the design so that the pattern occurs in two separate segments. The Nagoya Obi is yet another way that the overall amount of fabric is conserved and the overall weight reduced. However these obi are equally essential to preserve. This is because some of the most abstract and vividly colored obi are woven in Nagoya style. For Nagoya obi dating Post WWII, greater Western influence is seen in the designs, and for the most part there are also fewer traditional Japanese elements.
image of a girl's Obi
Closeup image of a girl's Obi
A Girl's Obi is
About half as wide
as other Obi
considered casual
The Girls’ Obi (also the Han Haba for adults) offers the least amount of patterned fabric, as the overall width of the Obi has been reduced to 6-8 inches. However, these Obi are especially attractive as they feature bold, lighthearted floral designs often depicted on bright orange backgrounds with purple, white, and sometimes turquoise accents. To the touch, most Girls’ Obi are textural using thicker silk threads which are still relatively soft. Many of these Obi are vintage.
Obi as Art
Looking through Japanese Obi designs is like having a glimpse into the entire history of textile patterns in both the Eastern and Western art traditions. Pre-World War II Obi bring forth the best use of complex geometry to create traditional Japanese elements, most often drawn from nature. Post-WWII Obi reflect the influence of the West, and vividly demonstrate the various genres of art & interior design, from Art Deco to Impressionistic That is why Barbara personally selects each Obi we bring from Japan for their relevance to American water-color like renderings, to the bold geometrics and abstracts of Modern and Post Modern art. interior design sensibilities, as well as their artistic merit and quality of workmanship. By transforming one Obi into several re-designs we hope to transmit the tradition of Japanese textiles so that it may be treasured in many more homes and by several more generations.
Enjoy this Magazine which depicts
an array of Obi tapestries presenting a variety of themes, patterns, textures and colors.
SOURCING SERVICES FOR OBI & KIMONO

Obi are beautiful used in their uncut form as table/buffet runners,
and wall hanging s . And Kimono, make most dramatic design
statements as wall art.

We are pleased to provide our customers with search services for
both of these artistic treasures. E-mail us with your specifications,
including whether vintage, old or new; the type of colors and/or
specific design elements you seek, fabric content, and your budget.
We will provide you with photos of the results of our search for
your consideration. Should you desire to purchase, items are
only imported on a non-returnable basis.