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Meet Jillian Burkett
Owner and Designer of SewInspiredByJapan

Jillian Burkett

Contact her through her ETSY shop:

How would you describe your art/craft? Vintage Japanese kimonos meet modern functional design…

What kinds of items do you sell? I sell pillow covers made from kimono and obi fabric, as well as clutches and purses primarily made from obi fabric. When possible, I try to keep the pillow covers intact, meaning I try not to disrupt the design (say of a furisode or houmongi) which allows customers to buy “groups” of pillows that are from the same material but each is a unique design.

What is the price range? Pillow covers range from $41 to $275. Clutches/Purses range from $48 to $129.

How long have you been doing this? Only 2 years! I started this business as a way to keep busy while caring for my father, but it sort of took on a life of its own. The more kimono pieces I work with the more ideas I get about how to showcase the fabrics/textiles in a new way. I just recently introduced pillow covers made from uchikake fabric.

Have you travelled to Japan? I was born in Japan, but sadly I only have memories of the military housing! I was going to go to Japan this year (2021) but of course that trip has been postponed. I have, however, already reached out to some contacts in Japan to find out the best places to shop for vintage kimono and plan to pack extra empty suitcases!

What is your favorite thing about working with kimono fabric? The variety! I always tell myself I have enough fabric to keep me going for the next year, and then I find something else that I have to buy. The colours are really unlike that which you find in western textiles. Also the craftsmanship – I don’t know where else you can find textiles with embroidery, hand painting, and the threads in the woven obis are amazing. When I get a shipment from Japan it is like Christmas morning and I am a little girl again ripping open the package.

What is the most challenging thing about working with kimono fabric? The steaming/pressing of the fabric! Especially when I use a nagoya obi – getting the part pressed where the taiko is folded into the obihaba is very challenging. The other challenge is that obi fabric is not the same thickness throughout – one part of the design may be heavily woven while the other part is plain; when I make the fabric into a purse I have to compensate using more/less interfacing and fleece so that the finished product is the same thickness throughout. This means that when I make a purse, I cannot follow a set pattern but I have to tweak my materials for each clutch based on the fabric I am using.

Tell us more about yourself, your business… I am always trying to find new ways to make my products unique or stand out from the crowd. Recently I added credit card slots to my purses and the higher-end clutches. It took months to get the credit card slots to my satisfaction while also keeping it feasible cost and time wise. So who knows what I’ll come up with next?

See below for more of Jillian's creations: