Written on December 4, 2009
Today I am showing a Meiji Era (1868-1912) boro tsutsugaki futon cover in its original state: most often we see boro textiles that have been removed from a larger piece such as the one highlighted here. I thought showing this intact futon cover would provide a nice context for better understanding boro textiles.
This futon cover would have been stuffed with some kind of fill and used as a comforter: in this case, the futonji was stuffed with cotton wadding (now removed), but rice straw and okuso were also used as padding for warmth.
A tsutsugaki yogi, or a kimono-shaped duvet, was re-fashioned to become the flat futon cover we see here: obviously the yogi’s original parts were disassembled and then re-stitched. Patches, too, were used to cover holes or to reinforce areas that were worn thin from stress. This re-working and re-stitching provides the wonderfully disjointed “modernist” image we see above: a family crest, peonies and a butterfly, the continuity of which is fractured by having been re-worked.
Above you’ll see that the futon cover was set into a mitered “frame” which was also made from re-assembled scraps of indigo dyed cotton.
Notice how the a patch bearing a similar motif to the original fabric was used to mend the central area: clearly the home maker who was mending this piece was attempting a kind of design continuity between the new cloth patch and the textile’s original base cloth.
Above and below, in more detail, you’ll see how the hole in the center of this tsutsugaki peony was mended in a way that creates a gentle visual transition between the original cloth and the applied patch.
Below see a full-on image of the back of the futon cover: the opening you see is a seam that was ripped to remove the cotton batting.
Now, look inside. Here is where the real beauty of the boro can be seen: many more patches than are visible on the “public” side of this futon cover are sewn onto the side hidden from view. It is a treasure trove of mending.
When pieces such as this come to the marketplace, very often they are taken apart, and it is the inside that is displayed. The back side of boro textiles (above and below) very often show a profusion of patches and this is what is considered by some to be the most beautiful aspect of the cloth.
This futon cover is a treat to share and wonderful to own.