Written on 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.