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Archives for June, 2011

A Nest of Hand Plied Hemp Yarn

June 27, 2011

Today I”m showing a recent acquisition from my recent trip to Japan: a basket full of hand plied hemp yarn.  I love it.
I’m not sure where in Japan the hemp fiber was grown and plied.  Hemp was grown throughout Japan, so this collection could hail from almost anywhere.Just wonderful–and a real reminder of everyday life in old Japan.

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Back from Japan

June 23, 2011

Just back from Japan last night–and I thought I’d share a few photos.  More soon….

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June in Japan

June 20, 2011

June is a rainy month in Japan–and Japanese summers are notoriously humid.  Here’s some mist clinging to the mountains of Ohara.
Mercifully the weather here has been on the cool side, so the humidity is not oppressive as it can be as the days heat up.

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June 17, 2011

In the post before this one, I mentioned that  hydrangeas are abundant in Japan in June.  Since they are growing everywhere, I had to show some to you today.
I forgot to bring my camera with me today, but had I had it with me, this post would show more variety of hydrangeas than it does: the sheer spectrum of colors–from pale to dark, from white to pink to lavender to blue to indigo–is rather astonishing to witness.  And these rich, passive colors are very cooling to the eyes and spirit–much needed in summer in Japan.Funnily enough, even though Japan is bursting with hydrangea blooms in summer, the hydrangea motif is rarely seen in the textile arts.It’s not known why this flower hasn’t crept into the design lexicon as other plants and animals have: perhaps there is no real symbolgy surrounding this flower.I asked this question of a Japanese folk art historian.  She gave it some thought but didn’t know why the hydrangea is not represented in Japanese design more than it is.  She ventured a guess by saying June is a kind of transitional month in Japan, that it is in some way “in between” seasons, somewhere between spring and the full force of summer, therefore, it is not firmly associated with a season as are other flora–the cherry blossom, for example, which is the embodiment of spring.

Seeing hydrangea blossoms indeed helps cool down the mind and body–it’s quite amazing that color can have such a noticeable psychological impact.


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On the Road. Again.

June 14, 2011

I’ve decided to make a last-minute trip to Japan, to see friends and to source new textiles.  I can’t wait.  I’m leaving today.
I’ll be updating the webshop from the road as is normal, 11 AM New York time, on Wednesday.  Any orders placed from today until 22 June will be shipped out on 23 June when I return from my trip.Here are some sights from a previous June trip–and I had to show hydrangeas, which should be blooming in abundance right now.I’ll be posting more images from the road.  Stay tuned!

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Beautifully Intricate and Elaborate Katazome Dyed Cloth

June 10, 2011

It’s nice to see graceful, floral pattens in summer–somehow they seem cooling to the eye.  Today I’m showing a fabulously elaborate example of katazome dyeing that incorporates indigo, bengara, an iron oxide based dye material and a grey/black dye.
The motif is a familiar one in old Japan, that of the arabesque, or karakusa as it is called.  Often this karakusa motif is highly stylized as can be seen here, but in this case its rendered quite naturalistically.The design is beautifully delicate and luxurious in its details.  This is a small textile–it measures 38″ x 25″ or 96.5 cm x 63.5 cm.  It  is probably recycled from a larger piece, most likely a futon cover.As it is shown here, this wonderful katazome futonji was repurposed and is now a cotton zabuton, or seating cushion.  It is backed with a subtle, zanshi-ori cotton or a fabric woven from leftover yarns and its original cotton wadding has been removed.The pattern and design of this cloth has a kind of delicate intensity that reminds me of batik, the wax-resist cloth from Indonesia.This piece dates from the mid to late nineteenth century.Notice the marvelous tooth to the cotton fibers: clearly the cotton yarns were hand spun and the cloth was hand woven.A sensational old katazome textile–still fresh and beautiful.

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A Sakiori Sodenashi

June 8, 2011

In the previous post, below this one, I featured a sakiori sodenashi–a sleeveless garment woven from indigo rags–which was heavily used, patched and repaired.  The one I am showing today is its opposite: it is beautifully finished, in fine condition, and whereas the previously posted sodenashi has wild stitching, the stitching on this garment is precise, practiced and regular.Notice the stitches joining the two pieces of sakiori cloth: this beautiful way of composing this garment is what sold me on it.Of course, the hand woven, indigo dyed  cotton banding which finishes the edges of the garment is also a really nice touch–as is the beautifully placed and stitched shoulder reinforcements, seen below.  In addition to the details mentioned above, this sodenashi also bears an essential detail which makes it desirable: it is woven using a hemp warp, which is something I love to see in sakiori.And the color.  This rich, warm, indigo blue is simply beautiful–this sakiori sodenashi is understated, elegant and in very good condition.

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A Boro Sakiori Sodenashi: Eccentric Hemp Stitching

June 5, 2011

Shown today is a heavily patched and mended sakiori–or rag woven–sleeveless work coat.  To appreciate the cotton patches and eccentric hemp mending stitches, I’m showing this sodenashi inside-out.If you look on the right side of the photo, below, you can see the very worn and abraded sakiori exterior of the coat.  This same photo also zeroes in on the unusual hemp mending stitches–I’ve not seen this kind of mending on other garments or textiles.The mending stitches are long and vertically oriented.

Another interesting aspect of this sodenashi is that it is not stitched closed on the sides, nor does it have  tabs connecting the front and back panels.  Most likely these have fallen off from wear.I love the resist dyed cotton patch showing a zig-zag geometric design.

Most of the mending on this sodenashi is done with rustic hemp thread.This work vest probably dates to the early-to-mid twentieth century.  The sakiori cloth is woven with a cotton warp and weft.

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Sunrise on Cloth: Hinode Shibori

June 1, 2011

It’s been unseasonally hot and humid in New York; it feels more like August than early June.   My comment on this is to show a traditional Japanese garment, a yukata, that has been dyed in the shibori method, showing a pattern called hinode or sunrise.Yukata are cooling, casual garments–they’re unlined, cotton kimono which are worn about town in summer, especially during festivals or other social events.   Yukata are worn at home, too.  Imagine coming home from work, taking a relaxing, cleansing soak in the tub, then slipping into a comfortable yukata; until recently, if your home didn’t have a bath room, you’d wear your yukata to and from the public bath.Yukata are still worn in Japan–go to an onsen or hot spring, or stay in a ryokan or traditional inn, and the yukata will be the de rigueur outfit during your stay.  Western style hotels in Japan also provide in-house yukata in every room.Unfortunately, today’s commercially produced yukata are no where near as beautiful as this one, which is made from hand loomed cotton and is dyed in botanical indigo using a complex process of stitching and tying.  The puckering of the fabric–still very much evident–shows how the cotton was shape resisted before it was dyed.This stunning yukata dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century and comes from Japan’s shibori center, the town of Arimatsu, near Nagoya,  in Aichi Prefecture.

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