Japanese Gi Inspired Patchwork as an Upcycle Aesthetic

Japanese Gi Inspired Patchwork as an Upcycle Aesthetic

I have chosen to use the same aesthetic in my upcycle project that I wrote about during the aesthetic exploration blog post on, that being the Patchwork Aesthetic. However as to not restate what I have already covered in my earlier post I want to discuss the other source of inspiration for my project.

For my project I did not just want to sew a bunch of scrap fabric together, it should resemble something. I thought what better to use as inspiration that the source of my scrap material, old Gis. Below is an image of a GI for those who are not familiar:

Figure 1: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gi

The common word Gi is an abbreviation of the more traditional Japanese word Keikogi. Its roots break down as ‘keiko’ meaning “practice” and ‘gi’ meaning “dress or “clothes”. These uniforms were used primarily in Japanese Martial Arts and their descendants such as Aikido, Judo, and Jiu-Jitsu. It was not until the 20th century that Chinese Martial Arts such as Karate adopted this uniform. While the Gi has gone through many different iterations, the modern style of the Gi was designed in the late 19th century by a famous Judo practitioner as a uniform that can hold up during the explosive throws in the Judo system. It is speculated that his inspiration were the hemp jackets that Japanese firefighters used. The following images shows a 20th century Japanese Firefighter Coat:

Figure 2: Vintage Japanese Fire Fighter Coat


As I stated above, different forms of Martial Arts have their own interpretation of the Gi. The most important difference is the thickness. Often times they can be categorized into either single weave or double weave Gis. The single weave material is good for systems that involve more striking, allowing one to get the Gi to snap like a whip. However, single weave Gis will easily tear when grappling. This is when double weave material is used to allow for more durability. The differences between these are shown below:

Figure 3: Single Weave (Top) Double Weave (Bottom)

For my project I am going to make a Bomber Jacket since I have always wanted one. These jackets have a couple of specific features that I am going for in my design: no hood, thick collar/cuffs/waist, and a silk like liner fabric. These features are depicted in the image below:

Figure 4: Bomber Jacket

The last part to make this blog post come full circle is to discuss how the traditional Japanese Keikogi will be used to influence my patchwork bomber jacket. Two aspects of the Gi that I intend to bring over to my upcycle project are both having no zipper and the classic overcut in the front. These go hand in hand as Gis have the overcut in the front to allow a belt to hold the front together. In my project I plan on using hidden buttons. My stencil for half of the front of my project is shown along with some buttons below.

Figure 5: Template with Overcut

Figure 6:  Hidden Buttons



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keikogi


Picture 1: Original Image

Picture 2: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/af/01/d2/af01d219b768bcc05d968e34634908fb.jpg

Picture 3: https://fenomkimonos.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/single-weave-sashiko-double-weave-sashiko.jpg?w=1400

Picture 4: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51JISPYJlwL._AC_UX385_.jpg

Picture 5: Original Image

Picture 6: Original Image




Previous Post
Neutral Earthy Aesthetic
Next Post
Retro / Classic to Modern Trends

4 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Michael!

    I love this idea, it’s super unique. I think that the combination of aesthetics that you are using will create a really interesting look in your final product. I definitely have never seen a bomber jacket with the influences that you are highlighting, and am really excited to see how it turns out. Did you have any specific inspirations for this project idea/something similar that someone else has made that you’re working off of?

    • Michael Burns
      February 8, 2021 7:47 pm

      Thanks for your kind comment Maya! The real inspiration for this project came from what I had laying around. When the upcycle project was described I immediately though of the old Gis that had been hanging in my childhood room’s closet for so many years. It then seemed natural to use inspiration of the source material. I also have way to many jackets and hoodies, so what is one more.

  • Hey Michael,

    I think this is a super cool idea! I love that you’re making something that you can wear in the future for many occasions out of something that may only have been worn for specific occasions. I really like the idea of using the traditional japanese patchwork aesthetic with an actual Gi to make a completely different article of clothing that is part of a more modern style of casual wear. I also like the idea of hidden buttons to replace the need for a belt but also keeping the crossover part of the Gi. Will these patches also be upcycled from your own clothing or other Gis? Do Gis come in different colors and styles as well or are they all pretty much the same? Also will you be using a sewing machine for this or hand sewing everything?

    Again, really cool idea! Excited to see the final project.

    • Michael Burns
      February 8, 2021 7:52 pm

      Hi Valerie, thanks for your comment! The patches will be upcycled from old Gis from when I was younger. Luckily have a bunch of them in different colors, thicknesses, and textures. Also, I have a sewing machine which will save me a bunch of time on this project. That being said it is still taking me a lot of time to prep the material and set up for each pass on the sewing machine.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.