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A Faded, Abraded and Beautifully Colored Layered Ralli

November 8, 2010

Today I am showing a magnificently worn, off-square, stitched and appliqued cotton ralli which was made in the Sindh region of Pakistan. A ralli is a quilted textile made from layers of discarded cloth; rallis are sewn into various sizes for various purposes.  This piece measures 29″ x 29″ or 73.5 cm x 73.5 cm and was most likely used as a seating cushion of sorts.The name ralli is derived from the local Sindhi word ralanna which means to mix or to connect. Rallis can be used as dowry items as well as symbol of a family’s wealth.This ralli is magnificently destroyed by wear; the layers of this quilted cloth are all exposed by years of abrasion and use, so colors that were once hidden are now revealed through the action of usage and wear.

The strong diagonal composition of this ralli is dynamic–and unusual.  The soft colors are just gorgeous.

Those of you familiar with the Japanese resist dye technique, shibori, will see similarities between the areas of abrasion on this ralli, below, and the shibori technique called mokumeMokume shibori is achieved by sewing a running stitch, bundling and pulling tight the stitched cloth and dyeing it, the result being a motif that suggests wood grain.

This strange and wonderful ralli most likely dates to the middle of the twentieth century.

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An Edo Period Painted Paper Carpet

November 4, 2010

Today I am showing something which I consider beautiful, although I am not going to speak much about it.The reason that I am not narrating the photos I’ve posted here is that I don’t have a lot of information on this stenciled, paper carpet which dates from the late Edo Period (1603-1868). My understanding is that this type of painted rug was used by Japan’s elite for purposes related the tea ceremony.Since my interest is Japanese folk textiles, this carpet–which was used by people of means for a rarefied purpose–falls outside the category of strictly utilitarian textiles and therefore I don’t know much about it.  Still, I was highly intrigued by this piece which is made of two sheets of thick paper, inside which is a “padding” of what appears to be okuso or the refuse collected from the hemp yarn making process.

Certainly the design which has been stenciled onto the carpet is not Japanese in origin: it smacks of Central Asian tribal carpets or of Persian rugs, and, in the context of Edo Period Japan, this kind of design was meant to be an allusion to the exotic, or to something of foreign origin.I love the wear patterns on the piece; the rug is decorated on both sides, as can be seen in the photos below.The carpet measures 40 1/2″ x 25 1/2″ or 103 cm x 63.5 cm.

And of course if anyone knows more about these kind of paper carpets, and if you’d like to share your knowledge, please do.

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A Luxuriously Sashiko Stitched Indigo Dyed Cotton Bag

October 30, 2010

This lavishly sashiko stitched, indigo dyed bag is fashioned in an unusual way, with a plunging cleft at top.  Why is this?  Most likely this bag was used to carry a sake bottle.The bag is big, and is sake bottle sized, so this assumption is probably correct.  The bag, dating from the Meiji Era (1868-1912) measures 19″ x 10 1/2″ or 48 cm x 26.5 cm.The sashiko stitching is a repeat pattern of the popular, traditional motif asa-no-ha or hemp leaf.  The bag is lined in hand woven cotton.

The cotton cord is original to the bag.This is a fantastically beautiful bag, for its stitching, its unusual form, and the wonderful patina from wear.

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A Complex and Beautiful, Mid-19th Century Katazome Dyed Han Juban made of Samples

October 27, 2010

This intricately stencil resist dyed han juban is a feast for the eyes: what variety is there in the many, very complex patterns dyed in exquisitely clear, blue indigo.The color is beautiful: the powdery, rich, sky-blue color is called asagi.  And the delicacy of the rendering of the many patterns shown is poetic.Each of the patterns is based on a design concept wherein a patterned motif is seen through a mist of vertical bars; this “screening” of the motif adds air and light to the design.This han juban, or half-under kimono, is cotton and was made in the mid nineteenth century, during the last years of the Edo Period (1603-1868).  The katazome dyeing seen on this example is masterful.Can you see bats flying in the image above?  Swallows, or tsubame, are seen below, among other traditional motives.Peonies and geese are seen below.Within the swirling arabesques, below,  is the mokume or woodgrain pattern.These patterns are cooling to the eye.  The reason for so many patterns is that this han juban was sewn from a dyer’s sampler, a length of cloth from which special orders would be taken.The lyricism of these patterns is not quite cloying; the designer was too smart for something saccharine, and delivered images that are ethereal and structured at the same time.

I could admire this piece for hours.  It’s peaceful,  inventive and beautiful.   And its age adds something mysterious to its beauty.

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A Wonderful and Unusually Mended Boro Work Coat

October 23, 2010

By unusually mended, I mean the long, narrow, vertically oriented mendings that add character to the back of the exterior of this indigo dyed cotton boro noragi, or work coat.They’re strange and beautiful–and there are many of them.  I like them.  The mendings appear to be like raindrops, or spilled paint–something liquid and randomly placed.This is a real boro jacket in the sense that it shows wear, mending, and more wear: there are unmended areas here and there.

This jacket is as visually interesting outside as it is inside, which is not always the case with boro garments.  Have a look below for some images of the coat’s “lining.”

The stitching, seen below, is fantastically quirky and somehow very sophisticated in the way it snakes around itself.

I’ll be offering this coat on my webshop this coming Wednesday.

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A Big, Beautifully Blue, Stitched, Five Panel Boro Futon Cover

October 20, 2010

I just acquired this big, beautifully blue, cotton, boro futon cover on my recent trip to Japan.

It is comprised of five panels, with magnificent stitching and fantastic layers of old, patched cottons.  The intricate details, which abound, are exactly what you’d want to find in a superb, old, boro futon cover.  Have a look:

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A Work Coat Woven from Wisteria Yarn

October 17, 2010

In old Japan, of the many bast fibers used to weave cloth–ramie, hemp, linden, kudzu, paper mulberry–wisteria can be considered one of the rarest and most desirable.  This coat is woven entirely from wisteria yarn, the cloth being called fujifu.

One of the reasons that fujifu is so desirable is that there was not that much of this cloth made; the gathering of raw material and processing it into pliable thread which is able to be woven is arduous, to put it mildly.This coat is overdyed fujifu; it was probably dipped into kaki shibu, or green persimmon tannin, hence the coppery color of the cloth.   Undyed wisteria is a pale, wheat color.  This coat was entirely dip dyed into kaki shibu as is evidenced by the brown color in the indigo cotton details as well as the stitching, all of which have been tinted by kaki shibu.

Fujifu has a distinctive hand.  It is rugged but silken at the same time.  This coat most likely comes from northern Kyoto Prefecture, in a rural area near the Japan Sea, or possibly from neighboring Fukui Prefecture, another area where fujifu was woven.  Fujifu was also woven in other regions of Japan, such as present day Niigata and Ishikawa Prefectures.Imagine a surface texture that is not at all abrasive, as would be, say, burlap.  This yarn is tight and sleek.

Below, see  the kaki shibu dye that has mingled with the indigo cotton?

This coat probably dates to the Meiji Era (1868-1912).  It’s a treasure.

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A Swath of Woven Swan Feathers

October 13, 2010

…well, it’s probably more accurate to say “down” instead of “feathers,” but, yes, this is an indigo dyed cotton cloth that shows striations of woven swan “feathers.”This kind of cloth was woven in Japan’s snowy and rural Tohoku region, specifically in the regions of Akita, Niigata and Yamagata.  Hakucho-ori or swan weaving, was not worn by regular folk, it was the province of well-to-do women: it was a luxury fabric which, I understand, was used to fashion a kind of outer garment.The base is indigo dyed cotton, very tightly woven; the white, fluffy streaks along the weft direction, of course, are swan down.This length of cloth was woven in the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

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A Three Panel Kumanozome Futonji: Meiji Era Stencil Dyed Moire Cotton

October 10, 2010

It’s hard to believe that this wildly patterned and dazzling cloth was made 100 years ago, during the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

Kumanozome is extremely distinctive–in fact it’s impossible to mistake–in its almost vertigo-inducing eye trickery.  Stencils cut into striped patterns would be laid onto cloth.  They were layered and set slightly askew from one another, and the result is this almost 3-D “energy field” of pulsating, contrasting blues and white.Kumanozome was produce using a blue palette, as shown here, but other color combinations were also dyed: red and blue, mustard and brown, red and brown.  I like the blue variant for its vibrance.Fantastic, isn’t it?  Garments were also made using this same moire pattern, however from what I’ve seen, the scale of the stripes on garments is much smaller, so as to create a more delicate effect than the almost motion-sickness vitality of this large-scale pattern.

This futon cover measures 72″ x 38″ or 183  cm x 96.5 cm.

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Back from Japan

October 6, 2010

…with wonderful new threads.   Here’s a glimpse of late summer/ early autumn in Japan–gold-colored rice paddies studded with stunning red higanbana, a Japanese tiger lily.

These photos were shot in Asuka, the site of one of Japan’s earliest historical periods,  during which Buddhism was introduced from Korea.

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