Written on August 17, 2009
Today I am posting images of a very nice example of a boro yogi, or sleeping kimono. Originally, this yogi would have been stuffed with cotton wadding and would have been quilted: as it is now, the stuffing has been removed, and what we see here is its shell, viewed inside-out because all the gorgeous stitching and patches are best seen on the inside.
Even though this yogi is shaped like an over sized kimono (it measures 51″ x 52″ or 130 cm x 132 cm) it was not worn as a garment: instead, this heavily padded garment-shaped thing would have been used in the same manner as a duvet or a quilt is used, as a cover for a person sleeping underneath it. Japanese people say that the extra flaps of the arms and the collar areas envelope the body in a good way, trapping much-needed heat around the sleeping person.
Have a look at all the wonderful, small scraps of indigo dyed cotton that are used to create this yogi. Notice, as well, that a good portion of the stitching is done with hemp thread; I tend to like to see the presence of hemp thread in the stitching of boro items. To me, it indicates age or suggests the piece is very rural: keep in mind that in the initial phase of making cotton garments from scraps, rural folk had no accessibility to cotton, therefore they did not have cotton thread, so hemp or other bast fiber threads were used for sewing.
This yogi was most likely constructed sometime during the late nineteenth or early twentieth century; the material used in the sewing could be much older.
In most cases, not all, yogis are constructed with a central panel running vertically down the center of the back as can be seen in the photo above: this is a kind of gusset that adds width and area to the piece.