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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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“Unwrapping the Secrets of Korean Textiles: An Exhibition of Pojagi” at the Korea Society, New York

March 22, 2009

In the gallery at New York’s  Korea Society there is a small but fantastic exhibition of pojagi, traditional wrapping cloths of Korea.  Each of the items in the exhibition is from one of several New York collections who lent pieces to this show.

The pojagi included in this exhibition are a range of types: from piece-constructed utilitarian examples stitched from leftover ramie cloth to those which are artfully constructed of brilliantly colored silks to heavily embroidered examples used for ceremonies such as weddings.

The exhibition also shows related material such as Korean embroidery, objects from daily life, and cultural kin to pojagi from sources outside Korea such as American style quilt squares and Japanese fukusa.

On March 18th the Korea Society presented a panel discussion entitled “Pojagi: Cloth, Color and Beyond” which examined the history of pojagi in Korea, its impact on international contemporary fiber arts and a glance at the universal impulse toward patchwork, focusing on American pieced quilts.

Presenters were Lee Talbot, Assistant Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Collections at The Textile Museum, Washington, DC;  Seta K.Wehbé, Assistant Collection Manager of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Chunghie Lee, the well-known artist whose own work is based in the pojagi tradition.

Below is a 20th century chogak po pojagi made of ramie (moshi) from Koo New York.

On my website, I have a beautiful, small, ramie pojagi for sale: even though it is small and deceptively simple-looking, the skill necessary to stitch the “petal-like” forms on the cloth is quite extraordinary.  Have a look here.

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A Collection of Shape Resist and Tie-Dyed Indian Turbans: Lahariya, Mothara and Bandhani

March 19, 2009

The flinty light of today’s rainy spring day makes for a subdued atmosphere to present a collection of exuberantly colored Indian turbans that were dyed and worn in the bright desert sun of Rajasthan.

This is a tight little group of mothara, lahariya and bandhani turbans: generally speaking you can characterize the shape resist techniques as such: mothara , very simply put is pleated and twisted on two diagonals and can yield a  complex and dazzling criss-cross effect.  Lahariya–which literally means “waves”– shows an intricate chevron-like pattern, and bandhani is what is called tie-dye.

Three madder-dyed bandhani turbans are positioned on the right side of the group: do they seem familiar in design?  Through a circuitous history of trade and travel, bandhani morphed into the present-day bandanna.

The group of turbans sits in a mended wooden trough from Gilgit, Pakistan; the trough sits on a collection of ralli quilts from Sindh, an area that traverses Pakistan and India.

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A Large, Signed and Dated Kantha

March 12, 2009

Today I am showing some Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi textiles.  The tall, red-figured cloth is a phulkari from Punjab in Pakistan and/or India, and the horizontally positioned cloth is a kantha which has the unusual attribute of being signed by the maker and dated in English: usually such inscription would be stitched in Bengali, the native language of West Bengal and Bangladesh, the areas which have produced kanthas for centuries.

The wide border on the kantha is not embroidered as is the case with many.  Instead, it is a border which has been borrowed from what is said to be a Jamdani saree and machine stitched on to the piece.  Jamdani sarees are revered in Bangladesh for their high quality and the best examples could only be bought by the very rich or aristocratic.   Jamdani is said to be a hybrid of traditional Bangladeshi weaving fused with the gorgeous cotton muslin weaving brought by Muslims to Bangladesh around the 14th century.

The center of this kantha is stitched in a fanciful manner by a Hindu lady: we know this because of the central, stylized lotus, a Hindu symbol of the universe which is a standard kantha design motif.  Surrounding the lotus are swirling forms called shostir chinho, an iteration of the swastika, which in India is a sacred symbol which suggests the motion of God’s universe.

We also see butterflies, what seem to be hobby horses, and fish; fish play a large role in Bengali daily, symbolic and ritual life, and the utilization of the fish motif is not surprising as it can convey a wish for fertility, among other things.

This kantha, as can be seen by the inscription, was stitched by Nani Baia Debi and was finished in 1934.  For more images of kantha, please click here for a view onto some in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Seen below is a stack of other kanthas in my collection as well as a selection of rallis from Sindh, an area which traverses Pakistan and India.

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A Wall of Antique Japanese Sashiko Stitched Indigo Folk Textiles

March 3, 2009

Today I hung a selection of some of my favorite sashiko stitched textiles on my entrance wall: some of the pieces have been seen on this blog in previous postings and others have been posted to Sri, my other site, the online store.  I was in the mood to display sashiko stitching, so this mood was the impetus for the array which can be seen in the photos below.

In the center of this display is a 19th century, very repaired, hand woven, indigo dyed boro furoshiki or wrapping cloth: it’s wonderfully mended with patches and lots of eddies of stitching–and notice the mending to the top, central portion where the mender actually carried through a new area of sashiko stitching into a patch they applied.  Quite ingenious–and I show detail photo at the end of this post.

Below are indigo dyed “foot guards” that are reinforced with sashiko stitches using hemp thread–quite rustic.  Below this pair of foot guards are four indigo dyed, sashiko stitched bags: the lowest bag on the right probably has the nicest stitching of all.

On the photo below, notice the thread counted sashiko stitching which reinforces the bag’s bottom it’s a kind of flame stitch that is commonly used for the purposes of reinforcement in country sashiko textiles.

Here, below, is a close-up of what I described in the caption to the very first photo shown above: a patch was applied to an area that was originally very sashiko stitched: to this new patch, new sashiko stitching was done in order to provide design continuity!  Have a look:

And in the detail photo below, if you look carefully, you get a sense of the amount of repair and reinforcement that was done throughout this furoshiki: it is laden with repairs and it is beautiful because of it.

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