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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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A Last-Minute Trip to Takamiya: October in Japan

November 8, 2012

I’ve been meaning to write about a magical, last-minute trip to Takamiya.  When I was in Japan in October, I went to Shiga Prefecture to visit two, small, little-known Buddhist temples.  At the end of the day, my friends decided we should try to visit Takamiya, a largely forgotten town that was once a powerhouse, which now, sadly, is visibly in decline .  During the Edo Period (1603-1868), Takamiya was a thriving commercial center.  It is where the region’s extremely fine hemp and ramie cloth was finished, bought and sold on a large scale.  At that time the cloth was called Takamiya fu.  Now we call this luxury cloth Omi jofu.The town is still dominated by a preponderance of large, white, stucco buildings, or kura, like the one above.  Kura are fire-proof storehouses that can be seen in every Japanese town–but I’ve never seen so many as I did in Takamiya.  The treasures that must have been stored there in the past…and for textile-sensitive people, the vibrant, commercial past of Takamiya was brought alive in the imagination when walking down these streets.

The long, main street in Takamiya was lined on both sides by buildings of the type shown above and below.  These massive, storefront buildings were where all the business transactions took place during the Edo period.  By the great size of the buildings, and by their large number, it’s clear that this town was once a commercial heavyweight. It is this very town which is the origin of this set of eight books which I showed on this blog some time ago.  It was important to visit this place to gain a better understanding of these important historical documents.

We visited Takamiya at the end of the day, and as we were there, we experienced twilight.It was hard to leave Takamiya.  The spirit of old Japan is truly in your grasp when you visit this place, especially as night begins to fall, and in the shadowy streets of this forgotten town, ghosts of the past start stirring.


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A Group of Sakiori Obis and Miura Shibori

November 7, 2012

When I was in Japan last month, I found a good group of sakiori obis.

When I go on buying trips, I never know what I’m going to find, and that I found a nice assortment of these ragweave kimono sashes was a good thing.  Of course, with the dollar being lower than it’s ever been and the yen being astronomically high, this material is more expensive than ever, but I couldn’t resist.  They were there.  I had to have them.  And they’re all in good condition.  I’ll be offering them on the webshop over time.

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Follow Sri on Instagram: Sri Threads

November 4, 2012

I just started posting to Instagram, and I’ve been having a blast.  Follow me, Sri Threads, as I’ll posting a new photo every day (hopefully).The photo, above, is a two-process, itajime dyed hand spun cotton length from Izumo, Japan.  I’ll be blogging about it, with more photos and information, soon.

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A Very Abraded and Beautiful Pakistani Ralli: Textile Archaeology

November 1, 2012

Today I’m showing a super-amazing, large Pakistani ralli.   Although some rallis show a surface that is highly abraded–and beautiful–this one is just fascinating for HOW it’s been abraded.You can see that through a worn-away brown figured surface there is the suggestion of  another layer of patterning.What this is is fascinating: the original surface of this ralli was piece constructed like the rallis seen here.  Obviously, a solid layer of cloth was stitched entirely over this piece constructed top, and over time this solid layer of cloth was worn away to expose bits of the multi-colored layer underneath.Feast your eyes.  This is wonderful.

And the back is certainly a surprise.   Again we have leftover pieces of cotton that are pieced together to form one, complete surface.  And included in these pieces are what appear to be some kind of Pakistani cotton grain sacks.

This piece probably dates to the mid twentieth century.  It measures 86″ x 52″ or 218.5 cm x 132 cm.

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