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Archives for September, 2008


September 30, 2008

It is overcast here today so the photos I took of some of the sashiko pieces in my showroom reflect the grey weather.  As I wanted to post something on sashiko, I decided to go ahead with it, even if the ambient light isn’t the best.

Sashiko stitching is a hallmark of Japanese folk textiles and here you see a stack of sashiko stitched furoshiki (wrapping cloths) and, on the wall above the stack, are two sashiko stitched bags.   A quilting stitch, sashiko was first employed to add stability and to reinforce cloth, very often it was used to create layers of cloth for clothing. (The stack of brown cloth to the right of the sashiko furoshiki is a pile of sakabukuro or sake straining bags).

When cotton thread became widely available in Japan by the mid to late nineteenth century, sashiko stitching developed and became a more decorative stitch while still retaining its usefulness as a tool for reinforcement.  Sashiko furoshiki are stitched on the corners for the purpose of durability, for example.  As well, ‘fancy’ sashiko stitched utilitarian cloth was offered as part of a bridal trousseau and elaborately sashiko stitched clothing, more or less, were used for celebration and ceremony.

Kogin, the mind-bogglingly gorgeous sashiko from Japan’s far northern Aomori prefecture is a prime example of elaborate sashiko stitching.  (Go to the tag cloud to the right of this post and click on kogin to go directly to a post dedicated to this kind of stitching).

I love this heavily sashiko stitched bag: it’s on my website here.

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A Beautiful Nobori: Crashing Waves and Family Crest

September 27, 2008

This is a gorgeous, somewhat mysterious nobori, or a kind of standard/ banner, that is flown in the open air in Japan.  By mysterious I mean that it does not appear to be of the kind flown during Boys’ Day as the iconography–a crashing wave done here in resist dyed indigo–is not in keeping with the lexicon of motives used for traditional Boys’ Day banners.  Even though I’ve owned this nobori for a few years, I’ve hesitated posting it for sale on my site as I couldn’t explain it properly, so I thought I’d just enjoy it until something came to light.

Light was shed recently as I was looking through an amazing book called “Avvolti nel Mito: Tessuti e costumi tra Settecento e Novecento” which was given to me by my friend, Annie M. van Assche, the curator of the exhibition the book accompanies.  The exhibition is that of the collection of Jeffrey Montgomery and was shown in Genoa, Italy in 2005.  In “Avvolti nel Mito” there is shown a set of four nobori remarkably like this one: the accompanying caption says this kind of banner could have been used to celebrate a large catch (in fishing villages).  The encircled cross on this banner is a traditional Japanese family crest, however in the days when Christianity was not allowed in Japan, sometimes this same crest was used as a surreptitious communication between Christians.

In “Avvolti nel Mito”, the foreward is written by the brilliant Japanese cultural historian, Gian Carlo Calza, whose book, “Japan Style” one should seriously consider adding to one’s library.

Getting back to this particular nobori, it may have been cut down from a larger piece, but I am not sure.  It’s done on beautifully rustic hand spun, hand loomed cotton, probably dates from the mid-to-late nineteenth century–I think I’ll post this for sale in the next few weeks.

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