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A Boro Asa Tsunobukuro: Patched Hemp “Horn Bag”

Written on January 26, 2009

I’m showing here a corner of Sri, illuminated by the bright, afternoon January light, and arranged here is an antique tansu bearing boro, sashiko and sakiori jackets, but the real attraction is what is on the far wall, the long and wonderful boro asa tsunobukuro, or the patched and mended “horn bag” which is woven of hemp.

Tsunubukuro (tsuno=horn; fukuro=bag) are storage bags made from one continuous length of hemp cloth that is sewn on the bias.  Because of this bias construction, tsunobukuro are “springy” and their ability to accept bulk or volume is somehow elastic.  This tsunobukuro is a nice size: it measures 60″ x 17″, 152.5 cm x 43 cm and I think it dates to the early twentieth century.

Have a look at the rich, dark color of this bag: its patina is probably due to age, or, it could have had a quick dip in a kaki shibu bath.  Kaki shibu is green persimmon tannin which gives a brown color and is used to strengthen cloth: it also makes the cloth a bit impermeable to water.

The hemp thread stitches are really wonderful, too: have a careful look.  And do spend some time considering the patches and their arrangement on the bag, which I think is really fantastic.

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