Written on February 23, 2012
Today I’m showing two pairs of beautifully sashiko stitched akutogake or heel guards. These small, hand decorated cotton pieces are used to cover the back of the heel of the foot, for protection while working, walking or foraging for food. They’re beautiful, don’t you think? I really like the stark visual contrast of the blue-on-white patterns. Anyone who has done hand stitching of any kind, whether it be mending or embroidery, knows the amount of time and skill that is necessary to create hand stitched work–even folk textiles, such as these, which were meant for utilitarian use.Although these akutogake were used for work and for everyday chores, of course they were intentionally meant to be as attractive as possible, and great care was given to the patterns and how they were stitched.
My hunch is that these heel guards were stitched somewhere in Tohoku, or north eastern Japan; they date to the early-to-mid twentieth century.