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Archives for March, 2009

A Boro Sakiori Noragi: Indigo Rags and Patches

March 31, 2009

This post shows a wonderful, boro sakiori noragi, a work coat that is created from home made cotton rag weft woven against a cotton warp. The coat has been heavily patched from having been worn hard over the course of many years.


Sakiori’s history in rural Japan extends back about two hundred years, when finished cotton products were just being made available to the urban population of Japan.

The wives and daughters of farmers, fisherman and the like would buy cast-off rags from rag sellers who traveled from urban centers into the countryside to sell rags; a famous intra-Japan trade ship would also travel the coast of Japan, carrying with it rags to sell, among other cargo.


Sometimes a group of women would pool their meager resources to buy a bundle of rags.  They’d sort the rags, wash them and then prepare them for use as yarn to create these thick coats.  Prior to this, farmers and rural folk would wear what they could forage for and turn that into yarn, so they wore clothing of hemp, ramie, wisteria and the like.


With the advent of cotton and cotton rags, you could say this was the first time that the poor people of Japan–about 90% of the total population–enjoyed warm clothing.  Bast fiber clothing, that made of ramie, etc., is not warming, as you can imagine.


It’s wonderful to see a sakiori coat woven from just indigo yarns.  Because of its fine color and its wonderfully arranged patches, this boro sakiori noragi is a gorgeous example of Japanese rural clothing.


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A Very Fine 19th Century Child’s Omi Jofu Kimono with an Elaborate Semamori Stitched on the Back

March 25, 2009

Omi jofu, or the exceptionally fine hemp or ramie cloth from Omi in Shiga Prefecture in Japan, is one of the most refined of Japan’s bast fiber cloth.  Along with the fine-as-silk Miyako jofu from Okinawa and Echigo jofu of Niigata Prefecture, Omi jofu ranks high in the top tier of Japanese traditional bast fiber weaving.

That said, the child who once owned this kimono must have been quite a fashion plate, certainly this was a child from a well-to-do family.   Note the intricate kasuri or ikat pattern that shows koi, bamboo leaves and swirling water; this pattern is repeated in a kind of mirror-image.  The swirling forms of the design smack of Art Nourveau design and this influence may or may not have been intentional.

Note the wonderful, chartreuse green silk sleeve lining and the marvelous semamori or semori protective stitch that runs up the back of the garment, terminating is a cluster of tasseled knots.  Semori is stitched with intention: it is meant to protect the wearer, so it carries with it a kind of magical power.

Notice the pieced cloth on the inside of the collar: this is a fragment of katazome dyed silk chuugata or middle figure cloth which was popular among those who could afford it in the 19th century.

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