Meet Heather Nelson - Samurai Seamstress
Tell us about yourself, your business…
This hobby has been a fun creative outlet for me and I love being able to share with people a little bit of Japanese culture and introduce them to Japanese textiles.
How would you describe your art/craft? I take Japanese obis and kimonos and repurpose them into
bags, purses, zipper pouches, pillows, Christmas stockings, etc.
What kinds of items do you sell? What is the price range? I sell a variety of items--handbags, purses, crossbody bags,
zipper pouches, tote bags, pillow covers, and Christmas stockings. Items
range from $15-$100.
How long have you been doing this? I have always liked to sew, but didn't start sewing with
Japanese textiles until about 4 years ago. My husband is in the Navy and
we were stationed in Yokosuka, Japan and I had a Japanese obi that I had turned
into a tote bag for a friend who was moving and several other friends saw it
and loved it and they wanted one also. So I started out making tote bags
out of Japanese obis and then I made a couple of Christmas stockings out of
Japanese obis and people on the base loved them. I ended up selling
hundreds of Obi Christmas stockings to other service members. It was a
unique way to combine an American holiday tradition with Japanese culture and
for them to remember their time stationed in Japan.
Have you travelled to Japan? We were stationed in Yokosuka, Japan and lived there for 5
years and were lucky enough to travel all around Japan. Japan is one of
the most amazing places I have lived and I just love everything about it.
We actually were stationed there 2 different times and the last time we were
stationed there, a friend of mine introduced me to Japan's shrine sales.
A shrine sale is basically an antique sale and usually held on the grounds of a
Japanese shrine or temple. I would try to go to one every month and
that's where I could find all of my kimonos and obis. I would have so
much fun digging through piles of Japanese obis and kimonos to find a variety
of different obis and kimonos that I would use for my bags and Christmas
What is your favorite thing about working with kimono
fabric? One of my favorite things about working with kimono fabric
and Japanese obis is the variety. You rarely see the same pattern or
colors--they all seem to be different, which is amazing to me. I also
just love taking such an important symbol of Japanese culture and turning it
into something that people can use or display.
What is the most challenging thing about working with kimono
fabric? I think the most challenging thing about working with
kimono fabric is that you are limited in your fabric width. Kimono fabric
is only usually about 14-17" wide, so it can be a challenge to make items
that stay within that width.
Here are more of Heather's creations...