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A Good, Large Shimacho: Home Weaving Samples

Written on January 24, 2012

As many of you know, a shimacho–or stripe album–is a keepsake of home weaving swatches which was composed by families to remember the cloth they’ve woven.It’s been said that girls leaving their homes upon marriage would carry such an album with them to their husband’s family’s home in order to replicate or be inspired by her family’s woven cloth.Most likely these descriptions are true to some extent, but my personal feeling is that the use of these was a bit broader and a bit less sentimental than that.  In a culture and time where weaving was done in every home, my hunch is that there was a lot of swapping of fragments between families and neighbors, as there must have been a lot of mutual admiration and intrigue between household weavers, and these weavers wanted to compile as much inspiration as possible.Shimacho show us a very good cross section of the type of cloth which was being woven and worn in the 19th century, when most of these books were made.  The preponderance of dark tones and subtle stripes is due to sumptuary laws: during the Edo period (1603- 1868) the government dictated what a person could wear.  For the most part, common people had to dress in cotton or bast fiber clothing with dark colors and small repeats: bright colors, silks and textiles showing large repeats were relegated to the upper or ruling classes.This shimacho is typical of most: slivers of cloth were pasted into an already-existing book, the leaves of which were filled as swatches were gathered.It measures 9″ x 6″ or 23 cm x 15.25 cm and contains 15 leaves–and many worm holes, a common feature of almost any shimacho.

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12 Comments

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  1. Comment by indiana:

    is the exquisite object being offered for sale?

    January 24, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

  2. Comment by Stephen:

    I’m hanging on to this one for a while, India. And thank you: it IS pretty exquisite, I agree….

    January 24, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

  3. Comment by onesmallstitch:

    I love these, keep thinking I’ll do something similar but never get around to it. Stripes are the language of a weaver.

    January 24, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

  4. Comment by velma:

    i love these. reusing a book, filling it with samples of the cloth you admire or love or want to make, or need to remember the sett and the pattern changes because they are so perfect… they remind me of my amish friend francis’ order book, a tiny, bulging, spiral notebook full of her swatches and color combinations and notes on quilt designs and orders.

    January 24, 2012 @ 7:39 pm

  5. Comment by Amy V:

    Oh I wish every weaver made a book like this! Such an incredible treasure!

    January 25, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

  6. Comment by helen salo:

    Yes, Totally incredible and would hold onto it also. 🙂

    January 25, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

  7. Comment by ACL Handweaver:

    Every weaver should keep a sample/portfolio book like this for their own inspiration as well as for others. I try to keep swatches of everything I weave, photo albums and a scrapbook of shows, articles, & news, for my own reference as well. Each piece represents a moment in history and skill, as well as inspirations. It can be fun to leaf through at any moment.

    January 29, 2012 @ 8:26 am

  8. Comment by pam newton:

    A fascinating object. I just began a portfolio book of small stitched work samples. I love sample books of all types & decided to make my own. This one is a beauty & I loved he background info. Thanks — as always your posts are intriguing.

    January 30, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

  9. Comment by kaari:

    wonderful…so rare! I am a collector of sample books – and this one is just that much better than any of them!

    February 3, 2012 @ 12:40 am

  10. Comment by judy martin:

    Thank you very much for showing such detailed images of this truly inspirational and strange and full-of-life object.

    February 3, 2012 @ 9:52 am

  11. Comment by Elisabet:

    Thanks for sharing all your treasures!

    February 7, 2012 @ 7:53 am

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