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Archives for April, 2009

A Large, Layered and Very Stitched Boro Furoshiki and a Collection of Sashiko Stitched Zokin

April 24, 2009

Today’s post features a large, very layered and very eccentrically sashiko stitched, boro furoshiki, or wrapping cloth which is  flanked by a collection of densely stitched zokin or dustrags made from  re-used, re-purposed cloth.

The furoshiki measures 68″ x 60″/ 173 cm x 152.5 cm and it is an elegant mess of scraps of cotton cloth that are layered in areas and arranged with no regard for symmetry: the entire wrapping cloth is pierced by a heavy network of sashiko stitching which travels strange paths in odd directions, often pooling up in tight, eddies of thread.

Below the furoshiki you’ll see a stack of vintage, hemp cloth zabuton and a large, 19th century silk drawstring bag.




Which is front and which is back?  Each side is a similarly interesting exploration of re-using cloth scraps and employing stitching as a means to strengthen and reinforce re-purposed materials.  Even though this furoshiki contains scraps of cloth from the late 19th century, most of the cloth is from the 20th, and my guess is that this was made in the 1930s or 40s.


The images of two zokin, below, show a tough little work horse of a cloth: each is a concentrated pad made of layers of recycled coton which has been thoroughly and completely stitched.

As with the furoshiki shown here, I’ll be offering the zokin for sale on my website in the next week or so.



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A Sakiori Kotasugake, Apron and a Child’s Vest

April 21, 2009

Pictured hanging on the wall is a group of three very attractive sakiori pieces: on the top left is a child’s vest, underneath is a very rustic, repaired apron with cotton ties and on the right is a kotatsugake (a cover for a brazier which was used as a heat source) which is edged in red plaid cotton and is repaired with small patches.  This kotatsugake will be offered for sale on on 22 April on my website.


Each of these pieces dates to the early-to-mid twentieth century: sakiori is a weaving technique whereby scraps of cotton or silk cloth is shredded and turned into yarn.   When cotton first became widely available in Japan in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, it was worn by urbanites who could afford this new cloth.  Very poor country people could only afford to buy cotton scraps which they used as a weft yarn, weaving it against a bast fiber warp.   Later, when cotton became more available, cotton yarn was used for the warp, as is the case with these pieces.


This child’s vest, below, is made from wool threads and shreds, slightly unusual for a sakiori piece as most are made from cotton.  It comes from an important sakiori collection and was found in Shimane Prefecture in 1993, a gift from the woman who made it to the collector.  Apparently, the weaver made this small sodenashi, or vest, for her grandchild.  Note the grey felt lining that has been partially removed.   Wool fibers were chosen for their lightness and warmth.


The apron, shown below here is very well-used.  In old Japan, aprons were an important accessory in the attire worn for work in every day life: they were worn for work in the home, in the fields and, if you were a shopkeeper, in your store.  This one of alternating white and blue cotton strips was clearly used everyday by a country lady as it shows the patina of wear, has some crude mendings, and shows some discoloration.  I like this piece a lot, for all these reasons.


Below is a stack of kotatsugake or brazier covers.  Pay special attention to the bright piece in the center of the stack.  This one comes from Aomori, one of the most remote and rural areas of Japan.  When commercially dyed cottons in bright colors became available in the early 20th century, they were employed for sakiori: imagine that these new colors were a novelty to country folk who only wove with natural fibers or cloth dyed in indigo or from other botanical sources.  This kind of bright cloth was referred to as karafuru a version of the borrowed English word, “colorful.”


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