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Archives for February, 2011

A Boro Asa Textile: Beautiful Translucency

February 28, 2011

Japanese asa, or bast fiber cloth, is wonderful in so many ways, and I love the way patched hemp or ramie cloth looks against the light.This piece here is sewn from two one-loom-width pieces of indigo dyed hemp cloth; the cloth is recycled from a kimono, as we can tell by the two resist dyed family crests which appear on the piece.I’m not sure what was the intended function of this piece, but it’s finished on the top and the bottom.  I’m showing it on the webshop this week. It looks quite different there as it is not seen with light streaming trough it.Lovely patches–and some holes along the center seam.

Can you see one of the resist dyed family crests in the  photo, above?  The crest depicts two stylized cranes.

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A Boro Hemp Edo Komon Kimono: Pattern upon Pattern, Patches and Holes

February 25, 2011

This boro kimono, as it is, with its great distress, its heavy wear and its large, missing pieces of cloth, is evocative of a life of poverty in old Japan.

The original kimono, before the damage from heavy use, was a fine one: it is a 19th century hemp Edo komon kimono, or a kimono that has been stencil resist dyed with a very tiny, all-over pattern, like this one here.The inside of the kimono, glimpsed here, is rich in patches and mending: the use of the word “rich” carrying with it a profound irony as the owner of this heavily worn coat of recycled cloth was anything but rich.On the sleeve, below, we can see the original kimono’s komon pattern–and we can see that it was patched with other komon cloth of different patterns.

A closer view onto the pattern-on-pattern komon layering can be seen in these two photos, above and below.The photographs, below, show the kimono inside-out, for a better view onto the patches which are attached to the interior.  The patches are of hand spun cotton and hand plied hemp fragments.

Some boro garments and textiles can take a visual detour from being something wonderful to look to being something that gives one pause.  This kimono, which is such a stark reminder of poverty in old Japan, carries with it a feeling of the burden of an indigent life, and from this, we can think much more broadly about the human condition.

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A Boro Burlap Suit

February 19, 2011

What a marvelous thing: this is a Western styled boy’s–or man’s–suit sewn entirely from scraps of burlap.  It probably dates from the early twentieth century.The suit is unlined, and as you an imagine, it would be very scratchy on the skin were under garments not worn–or even if they were. From seeing this suit, with its non-Japanese buttons and pockets, with its belt loops, with its Western style collar and other non-traditional details, we know that this suit was made in an era when Western influence pervaded Japan, starting in the late nineteenth century.Even though the suit is made from salvaged cloth of the lowest possible quality, most likely this was a dressy suit for its owner who we have to surmise had very little money or social standing.Notice that the burlap is mended and is threadbare.  Imagine the life of the person who owned this, especially if this was his “Sunday best.”The suit is small; you’d think it would fit an adolescent boy.  Possibly it belonged to a man, but there is no way to know. The sewn details are beautiful.  The entire suit is heart-breakingly lovely.

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A Superb Boro Yogi: Part Two

February 15, 2011

Just before the new year, I posted photos of a fantastic, boro yogi–but I just showed its front.  Today, I’m showing its other side, which some of you may prefer to the front.  For me it’s a toss-up.The layers of hand loomed cotton patches are delicious–as is the variety of cottons used in the mending and reinforcement of this sleeping kimono.


Look at all the different patterns of katazome or stencil resist dyed cloth used in constructing this yogi: clearly whoever made this took delight in applying these patterned patches to this yogi.

I thought this magnificent thing needed a second look.  I hope you enjoyed it.

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A Large, Complex, Beautifully Stitched Boro Futon Cover

February 12, 2011

I’m crazy about the boro futon cover I”m showing today and it’s a wonder that I haven’t yet posted it on this blog.  In a way I have, because it’s the source for the blog’s banner, above, but I think it merits a closer look–and a bit of appreciation.

It’s a big bear of a thing, with large, contrasting patches of blue and brown cottons and fantastically marvelous meanderings of mending stitches.The indigo dyed cottons are old pieces that are hand woven from hand spun cotton yarns.  Some of the brown patches date to the early twentieth century.  Note the kasuri flower patch, below.  It looks as if it is niko niko kasuri, a kind of semi-mechanized ikat cloth that was produced in the early twentieth century.

The back of the futon cover–which would have been the proper, outside of the textile when in use–is beautifully battered.

This beauty measures 79″ x 64″ or 200.5 cm x 162.5 cm.

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Piece Constructed Textiles: A Botanically Dyed 19th Century Silk Juban and Drawstring Bags

February 8, 2011

In old Japan, hand loomed and hand dyed cloth was constantly re-purposed.  Indigo dyed cotton cloth was often hand woven in the home from yarns which were hand spun by the weaver. The time and labor which went into the creation of cloth gave it great value.  It was not a disposable commodity.  The same is true of silks, which were also re-purposed.  Silks were likely not woven at home, but their intrinsic value was understood.  Today I am showing three piece constructed bags of indigo dyed cotton and I am highlighting a marvelous, 19th century silk yose juban, or an under kimono that is constructed from disparate fragments of botanically dyed silks.What a beautiful attempt at symmetry on the top half of the back of the juban: the many small fragments of safflower (benibana) and gromwell root (shikon) dyed crepe silks are stitched together in such a way as to create an appealing, ordered design.The benibana silks are dyed mainly in the itajime or kyokechi technique, whereby fabric is pressed between hand carved boards before they are dyed, the pressure of  the carvings against each other offering a resist to the dye and creating a white, figured pattern.There are so many hand stitched fragments of chirimen, or crepe silk cloth that the area of stitching is akin to shingling.  The slight variation in tones of safflower-derived orange dye is just lovely to see.Those of you who have seen 19th century Japanese piece constructed undergarments before have noticed that the predominant color palette is based on three basic dyes: shikon (purple), benibana (orange) and variations on ai (indigo).
The front of the juban, seen below, is as lovely as the back.  And what’s wonderful about this particular juban is its very good condition–aside, of course, from its very handsome arrangement of color, pattern, and texture.


Seen by themselves, the sleeves of this garment, one of them below, are just gorgeous.The benibana dyed silk lining, seen below, is a typical feature of these old juban which were often constructed with similarly dyed linings.


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An Artfully Patched Boro Maekake

February 5, 2011

In my previous post, directly below this one, I mentioned that I love old, traditional, Japanese aprons.  Well, here’s another one, very different from the sashiko stitched piece shown in the last post–and this one is smashing.

This is an indigo dyed cotton maekake or apron, the patching and stitching are superbly beautiful, as you can easily see.

The tight tonal range of the blues really enhances the enjoyment of the arrangement of patches.  The fine weave of the mending cotton against the thick weave of the base cloth enriches the visual experience.

The back of the apron, shown below, is quite different from the front, yet it has a striking and subtle presence.

The apron measures 27″ x 24″ or 68.5 cm x 61.

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A Beautifully Sashiko Stitched Maekake or Maedare

February 2, 2011

I love Japanese aprons–and luckily for me there are a lot to love.  Aprons of some fashion were worn every day by almost every woman–and some men–in old Japan, so there are some interesting examples still available to be seen.This very fancifully stitched apron is a knock-out, and with such an elaborate field of sashiko stitching, it’s hard to imagine that this was worn everyday, around the house, or while working outside.  Most likely this was reserved for special occasions.The layout of the stitched design is beautifully regular–it’s almost architectural in its design.It’s astonishing to see the expert work on this apron and then to consider that so much of the sashiko stitching of this type that we see is of equally good quality.  Or better.  Thinking about this makes you realize that in old Japan, expert hand work and stitching was rampant and widespread, that in most households there would have been at least one woman who had a fantastic facility with needle and thread.Even more astonishing to think about is that in the traditional Japanese home there is very little light–and at nights, when some stitching was done, especially in times past, you can only assume that the interior was shadowy or was illuminated with soft or indirect lighting.Not to mention the fact that many of the women in old Japan, of course, were poor.  Maybe they didn’t have eyeglasses.  Imagine doing this kind of detail work with the naked eye?Beautiful.This indigo dyed cotton apron was probably made in the first half of the twentieth century.   Shown above and below is the apron’s back.

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