Written on 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.”