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Archives for November, 2012

A Spectacular Sakiori Hanten: Counted Thread Embroidered Collar and Kasuri Sleeves

November 30, 2012

On my recent trip to Japan in October of this year, I acquired this magnificent sakiori hanten.  This is a major piece, for many reasons.It’s of good size and is in great condition with no stains or holes; it is still bright blue from its indigo dyed cotton weft.  The warp yarns are a bast fiber, probably hemp, which is what you want in giving high marks to a sakiori hanten.   But notice the collar.The collar appears to be made from a woven textile, but in actual fact this yabane or arrow feather pattern is the result of painstakingly-done counted thread embroidery or sashiko.The sakiori, or ragwoven, fabric of the coat is the ideal for this genre of textile: primarily indigo dyed weft yarns, tightly woven, close in tonal and color range.  And no damage.It’s difficult to pin an age on this kind of piece because traditional garments such as this were being made and worn well into the early-to-mid twentieth century.  Because of the propensity of blue in the fill and because of the bast warp,  it seems that this coat was made in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century.  The kasuri cotton sleeves are probably of a later vintage, but as you know, sleeves and collars were taken on and off as they were replaced when they wore out.

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A Kogin Stitching Sampler: Nambu-hishizashi Embroidery from Aomori Prefecture

November 16, 2012

Those of you who know about sashiko stitching probably know something about kogin sashiko the intricate, complex, counted-thread stitching of Aomori prefecture, one of Japan’s most remote and rural areas.Aomori resides at the most northeastern tip of Honshu island and it is known for its harsh, inhospitable winters and its lavish, heavy snowfalls.  There is some irony in that some of Japan’s most magnificent, hand embroidered, cotton sashiko stitching comes from a place where cotton could never grow, and where it was only seen by trading cotton rags which probably arrived to Aomori sometime well into the 19th century.  Until then, the people of Aomori were clothed in garments woven from bast fiber.The kogin stitching of snowy Tsugaru is widely known.  It is characterized by white cotton thread stitched in blocks of tight geometric shapes onto an indigo dyed, hemp ground, like the example that can be seen here.In Nambu, a more southern and eastern area of Aomori, where the climate is a bit less harsh than in Tsugaru, Nambu-hishizashi embroidery was done.  Shown here is a sampler of the distinctive, colored, lozenge shapes that are characteristic of Nambu-hishizashi work.Traditional Nambu-hishizashi stitching was done in cotton thread on hemp cloth.  This sampler, with its ultra-fine work, is cotton on cotton.  Later on, in the early twentieth century, wool threads were used to augment the cotton stitched embroidery.  Very often, the colorful, lozenge shaped embroidery of Nambu, (similar to these examples) was used as the central panel on a three panel, traditional apron called maedare.Most likely this little sampler dates to the Meiji era (1868-1912), and by looking carefully at these photos, you can see how fine and intricate this stitching is

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