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A Long Boro Noragi: Sankuzushi Cloth

August 2, 2010

As boro noragi, or patched and mended work coats go, this one is as handsome as they get.  The patches are beautifully placed; there is just the right amount of uncontrolled eccentricity in their arrangement and stitching.

However, for me, what makes this coat special is the base cloth, an indigo dyed cotton whose woven pattern is referred to in Japan as sankuzushi.In the photo above, and the two below, I’ve focused in on some of the stitched details, since they are so marvelous.  In the last photo, at the bottom of this post, I’ve zeroed in on the sankuzushi cloth, so you can have a better look at it.
In the photo below you will see the woven pattern that is one of my favorites: sometimes in Japan sankuzushi is called ajiro or “split bamboo mat.”   In any case, this kind of pattern was popular in 19th century Japan.  Its popularity probably had to do with its intricacy and its small pattern–keep in mind that throughout Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1868) sumptuary laws were levied on the general population, controlling, among other things, the kind of cloth one could wear.  Most Japanese were required to wear subtle clothing in somber colors. Another element that may have made this cloth attractive was its exotic origins.  My understanding is that this kind of cloth was first woven as export cloth in India and was subsequently copied in China.  Ultimately, the Japanese starting weaving their own version of this woven-looking cloth although it is still possible to find Indian and Chinese examples in Japan.

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An Old Shima Cho: Stripe Album

January 9, 2014

ShimaCho093I really love shima cho or “stripe albums.”   Shima cho are said to be a collection of home weaving samples taken by a new bride when she leaves home and joins her husband’s family.  Carrying an album of home weaving is a way for the bride to remember the weaving patterns of her birth family.

ShimaCho093aI’ve always thought this notion was a bit prosaic, but that’s what’s said of shima cho in Japan.  This one I’m showing today is a beautiful one.  I think it’s from the mid 19th century and it shows a very good selection of hand loomed cottons that are dyed in natural dyes.

ShimaCho093bIt shows a lot of plaids, which I love, including one of my favorite types of old cotton, a woven, basket weave type plaid called sankuzushi in Japan.


ShimaCho093d Below is a close-up of a wonderful example of sankuzushi.

ShimaCho093eThis shima cho was featured with other items from my collection on the website Bureau of Trade.  And I’m offering it for sale here on my website.





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A 19th Century Boro Work Coat: Great Old Cottons

January 31, 2013

Noragi12Sometimes it happens that I discover something really wonderful that I bought a long time ago and that I forgot about.  Finding it is often a revelation, as was the case when I recently came upon  this very good old work coat.

Noragi12aI don’t know how–or why–I forgot about it, but often seeing something after a long time gives you “new eyes” and makes you appreciate it more. That’s the case with this boro coat.

Noragi12bIt’s a very nice one.  It is hand stitched from old  home spun, hand woven cottons of great variety.  There’s wonderful sashiko stitching–and the indigo blue is beautifully faded and worn.  But for me it’s the ito aji or thread flavor that makes me admire this piece so much.

Noragi12cCan you see that this is an older piece?  There is an indescribable eloquence in its character which comes from the warmth of human wear.

Noragi12dIt more than likely dates to the late nineteenth century.  It measures 49″ x 47″ or 124.5 cm x 119.5 cm.

Noragi12eThe cottons are really good.  I love the small checks which are emblematic of the 19th century, especially those that appear to be woven bamboo.  This pattern is called sankuzushi, and it’s one of my favorites.




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