This obi is one of the most beautiful and frustrating things in my collection. It was a gift from a dear friend – I saw the strange black birds and fell in love, but was short of cash at the time.
When it arrived to me, the black silk backing was rotting away and leaving dust on everything, so it has been removed.
The strangest thing about it, however, is the proportions. The designs are evenly spaced every 24″/60cm. The obi itself is 133″/338cm, which is short for a full fukuro. The oddest bit, however, is that it’s obviously meant to be tied in niijudaiko, the formal double-layered musubi.
The last set of blackbirds is upside-down, and has less embroidery on the wingtips than the second-to-last set. However, the obi is so short it’s barely possible to tie it in standard otaiko musubi. I realize I am wider around the midsection than the average Japanese woman, but not to such a significant extent. Also, when tied in any normal manner, no birds end up anywhere visible on the front.
I do love the obi, and the fact that it was a gift makes it even more special to me, so I am seriously considering cutting it up and making it into a pre-tied obi, because I doubt there is any other way I could ever wear it.
I would love to hear suggestions as to what to do with this, and possible other musubi it may work with.
Edit: It turns out this may be a relatively obscure form of obi known as hikinuki obi, they are a form of stage wear that is meant to be tied quickly in front and moved to the back. It would explain both the pattern layout and the unusual motif. I will have to try tying it in this manner and see!
Update: I have finally repaired this obi. See the how-to and finished product here.