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Archives for August, 2011

A Stack of Kaya: Indigo Dyed Hemp Mosquito Netting

August 29, 2011

As we’re in late summer, I thought I’d show a luscious stack of indigo dyed hemp kaya, or traditional Japanese mosquito netting.

I won’t say much about it today; I think the photos and the hyperlinks say it all.Stay cool!

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All That Glitters–Is Usually Rajasthani

August 26, 2011

I recently had the good fortune to have been offered a fantastic collection of Rajasthani textiles.  Over the years I have seen many, and very often I felt they looked so familiar that they didn’t provoke a strong reaction from me.This group floored me.  The age, the condition and the rich, deep colors were something of a revelation.   Look at these marvelous, broodingly dark backdrops to the little shimmering drops of mirror work.They are all roughly between 40 – 70 years old and each is in mint condition: beads are all intact, mirrors are not cracked or none of the threads are loose.  But not only that, the detailed stitching is done with a kind of expertise that you have to see firsthand to really appreciate.I love the darkness of these.They are sitting on a stitched cotton prayer mat from Rajasthan’s Muslim Said community: the stitch which looks so familiar to Japanese eyes, the kaki no hana or persimmon flower, is called kambira.I have acquired more than I’m showing on this post today.  I’m looking forward to hanging them all in the showroom and making a display which will best showcase their intricate and glimmering beauty.  They look marvelous when seen together.

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Color and Texture: Three Rolls of Hemp Kaya

August 22, 2011

Since we are in late summer, I thought I would show some old rolls of hemp kaya, or mosquito netting, which is very much necessary in the hot, humid, buggy Japanese summers.Kaya is usually produced in this family of colors: undyed, indigo dyed, and indigo which is over dyed with a yellow dye, as can be seen on the roll on the right.  The middle roll is offered for sale on the webshop, here.
Sometimes indigo dyed kaya has a blue/green look in certain lights; the warm color of the natural hemp can push a soft blue tone into the soft green color range.The three rolls are nested in an old, hand-hewn and repaired Korean wooden bowl.  Under the bowl is a three panel fragment of an old, boro kaya, taken from the same tent as this one.

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A Pieced Mid Century Cotton Kotatsu Cover

August 17, 2011

In Japan a kotatsu is a traditional form of heating one’s home.  Imagine a small brazier over which a table is placed.  Layers of square cloth are placed on the table to keep in heat, and the family would sit around the table with their legs under the covers to soak up the warmth generated from the brazier.
This mid century cotton textile is one of the layers of cloth that would have been draped over the kotatsu.  It is hand stitched from a variety of hand loomed and commercially produced cottons which have clearly been recycled.The kotatsu cover is essentially made of two layers: the backing is of an olive green power loomed cotton.  On top of this, puzzle pieces of cotton cloth were arranged with some slight overlapping.Where the irregularly shaped pieces on the top layer of the cloth did not meet or overlap the green cotton backing is exposed–and the random, triangular areas of green cloth enhance the visual interest of this kotatsu cover.The kotatsu cover measures 60″ x 58″ or 152.5 cm x 147 cm, which is the standard size for this kind of utilitarian cloth.

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A Taisho Era Cotton Shibori Yukata

August 12, 2011

For those of you who know, Taisho era (1912-1936)  kimonos have a distinctive look.  Usually large-scale patterns come into play, as do contrasting values and sometimes bright, chemically dyed colors.
Shibori of the type shown here, which is indigo, white and grey, indicates that this yukata, or unlined summer kimono, was most likely dyed in the Taisho era when a grey tone was often added to indigo dyed shibori yukata.The motif which runs in lovely diagonals is fuji or wisteria.  The softness of the shibori dye and the rendering of the fuji is really lovely–and cooling–to the eye. 

The design and execution of this casual kimono is splendid and is evocative of a bygone era.  This yukata has been worn as can be seen by about 4 or 5 small, pale stains.I love this detail, above.  Usually a piece from the end of the bolt was used as a patch on the seat of an unlined kimono: this area of the kimono receives a lot of stress from crouching, sitting, standing, etc., so it is almost always reinforced to keep the yukata’s center seam from splitting.  In this case, the image on the patch, and its orientation against the flow of the design of the yukata, is a lovely, hidden detail.

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A Japanese American Quilt–or Kotatsugake?

August 9, 2011

This is puzzling.   And before I get started here, I have to admit, and I am embarrassed to say, that I don’t know anything about American quilts.  This fact is even more embarrassing when you read more details, below.
I recently bought this square-shaped American quilt or coverlet: clearly it’s been pieced from suiting material, probably in the 1930s or 1940s.  

But what’s really interesting about it is that this coverlet is backed with Japanese cotton fabrics, again, probably dating to the 1930s or 1940s.What makes it even more interesting–to me, at least–is that I was told it was acquired from Berks County, PA, where I was born and raised until I graduated from high school.   And many of you know that Berks County is part of the Pennsylvania Dutch country and has a history of quilting.  Which is why my lack of knowledge about quilts is hard to admit.One more odd detail is that my home town of Reading, PA is recognized by a very unusual feature, a Japanese-inspired pagoda that sits atop Mt. Penn and is the symbol of the city.This is not to say that Reading has anything to do with Japan or Japanese culture, it just adds layers of intrigue and coincidence to this unusual Japanese-American coverlet.This coverlet is quite heavy, as heavy as a kotatsugake, and it’s the same shape and size.  So the question is, is this an American coverlet that is backed with Japanese fabrics, or is it a Japanese kotatsugake that has been customized using American cloth and quilting techniques?I’ll have to do some non-invasive textile archaeology to find out more about this very unusual textile.

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Habu Textiles’ New Website

August 5, 2011

Habu Textiles, a mecca for fiber artists, has just launched their new website.  And it’s gorgeous.

Habu Textiles is a purveyor of some of the most luscious yarns and fibers you can imagine–and many of them, being Japanese, are made of the same fibers as the antique, rural textiles that I sell on my website:
kuzu (kudzu), hemp, ramie, nettle, kozo (paper mulberry). And there are many more.  Habu’s cotton, steel, wool, bamboo/rayon, silk and novelty yarns are each wonderful for their color and texture, and each is hand chosen by Takako Ueki, Habu’s founder and owner.  I am sure many of you know Takako from the many shows she participates in around the world.Below is a scant and random sampling of what  can be found on Habu Textiles site–all gorgeous.

Above: Hand-dyed Kasuri Linen Paper

above: Hand-tied Kozo

above: Cork Chenille Cotton

above: Hand-tied Kuzu

above: Rolling Stone

above: Hand-tied Ramie (futo-ito)

above: Fringe Tape Ribbon

above: Hand-dyed Kasuri Silk Mohair

above: Handspun Nettle

above: Ultra Fine Stainless Steel

above: Entomology Pins

Should you find yourself in New York City, make sure to stop by Habu Textiles: seeing these yarns in person is sheer bliss for anyone who loves beauty.  But do enjoy a few minutes perusing the new website: you’ll be inspired.

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Plaid Kaya: A Length of Hemp Mosquito Netting

August 2, 2011

Live and learn.  Until this spring, when I found this length of plaid kaya, or traditional hemp mosquito netting, I hadn’t seen any kaya that was patterned.  Previously, I had seen it only undyed or piece dyed in blue, green or blue green–or, in the case of mid-to-late 20th century examples, dyed in a kind of gradient ombre.So, not only was it a real treat (it still is) to find patterned kaya, it was especially gratifying to find such a good looking example.The kaya certainly shows wear, some overall light fading and some faded splotches, but what a gorgeous length of asa cloth.The green color is woven into the cloth, not stencil applied.  And it’s subtle.  And beautiful.

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