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A Pieced Mid Century Cotton Kotatsu Cover

August 17, 2011

In Japan a kotatsu is a traditional form of heating one’s home.  Imagine a small brazier over which a table is placed.  Layers of square cloth are placed on the table to keep in heat, and the family would sit around the table with their legs under the covers to soak up the warmth generated from the brazier.
This mid century cotton textile is one of the layers of cloth that would have been draped over the kotatsu.  It is hand stitched from a variety of hand loomed and commercially produced cottons which have clearly been recycled.The kotatsu cover is essentially made of two layers: the backing is of an olive green power loomed cotton.  On top of this, puzzle pieces of cotton cloth were arranged with some slight overlapping.Where the irregularly shaped pieces on the top layer of the cloth did not meet or overlap the green cotton backing is exposed–and the random, triangular areas of green cloth enhance the visual interest of this kotatsu cover.The kotatsu cover measures 60″ x 58″ or 152.5 cm x 147 cm, which is the standard size for this kind of utilitarian cloth.

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A Boro Sakiori Sodenashi: Eccentric Hemp Stitching

June 5, 2011

Shown today is a heavily patched and mended sakiori–or rag woven–sleeveless work coat.  To appreciate the cotton patches and eccentric hemp mending stitches, I’m showing this sodenashi inside-out.If you look on the right side of the photo, below, you can see the very worn and abraded sakiori exterior of the coat.  This same photo also zeroes in on the unusual hemp mending stitches–I’ve not seen this kind of mending on other garments or textiles.The mending stitches are long and vertically oriented.

Another interesting aspect of this sodenashi is that it is not stitched closed on the sides, nor does it have  tabs connecting the front and back panels.  Most likely these have fallen off from wear.I love the resist dyed cotton patch showing a zig-zag geometric design.

Most of the mending on this sodenashi is done with rustic hemp thread.This work vest probably dates to the early-to-mid twentieth century.  The sakiori cloth is woven with a cotton warp and weft.

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

May 14, 2011

A paulownia tree, that is.  Coincidentally, Betty Smith’s famous novel from 1943 is set in my neighborhood, the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, just where this tree is blooming.
Paulownia, or kiri as it is known in Japan, is one of that country’s most popular family crests and it is a well-used motif in textile and lacquer design, among others.  It is loaded with historical and legendary significance–and the actual tree shows beautiful blooms, as can be seen here.The kiri motif is borrowed from China.  In Chinese lore it is believed that the mythical phoenix (called Hoo-oo in Japan), when it comes to earth, will alight only on the branches of this tree–and it will only eat the seeds of bamboo.

During the late Heian Period, the kiri motif became fashionable among the aristocracy and it is often associated with this class of Japanese society.  The world’s first psychological novel, The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, opens at the aristocratic Paulownia Court. And here’s more, quoted from this wonderful website:

According to legend (mostly from China), the Hō-ō appears very rarely, and only to mark the beginning of a new era — the birth of a virtuous ruler, for example. In other traditions, the Hō-ō appears only in peaceful and prosperous times (nesting, it is said, in paulownia trees), and hides itself when there is trouble.

As the herald of a new age, the Hō-ō decends from heaven to earth to do good deeds, and then it returns to its celestial abode to await a new era. It is both a symbol of peace (when the bird appears) and a symbol of disharmony (when the bird disappears).

In China, early artifacts show the Phoenix (female) as intimately associated with the Dragon (male) — the two are portrayed either as mortal enemies or as blissful lovers. When shown together, the two symbolize both conflict and wedded bliss, and are a common design motif even today in many parts of Asia.Above is a kiri-karakusa or paulownia-arabesque pattern done in the katazome method; this cloth is from a futon cover.And these images, above and below, show the kiri motif on a boro futon cover, rendered in the tsutsugaki method.

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An Exceptionally Beautiful Indigo Cotton Boro Noragi

May 2, 2011

In the past, I’ve shown several fantastically good indigo dyed boro noragi or work coats.  This one I am showing to day, I think, is a very good one–and one that is of the same high quality as the ones I’ve shown before.
I say this for many reasons.  First, the arrangement of patches to the top, back of the piece is exceptionally strong–and the placement of shape, size and color is visually perfect, at least to my eye.The jacket is made of wonderful, old hand loomed indigo dyed cotton which has been worn and faded beautifully.  The entire coat is stitched, adding a textural element.The stitching is beautiful, as can be seen above and below.The patina to the surface of the cloth is also a beautiful feature of the coat.  The faded blue has become soft and powdery in appearance.The proper front of the coat is also wonderfully patched and distressed–but it is the back of the coat where most of the magic happens.  This is a fantastically good boro noragi. And have a look at a very good piece for sale at the webshop, here.


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A Huge and Fabulous Ralli

April 1, 2011

This is an instance where scale is important.   Below is a shot of a huge, exceptionally good Pakistani ralli quilt which I’m trying to show in the context of a room to give a sense of its large size.  You really have to be standing in front of the piece to be  wowed by it, but stay with me.
Shown in these photos is its back: its fantastic, glorious back, a smattering of pale colors, abraded surfaces, soft floral patterns and the rich patina of lots of wear.Again, as I look at the real thing, then compare it to these photos, the impact of scale–which is important to truly appreciate this piece–is lost.  But even in miniature, I think this ralli has a lot to say.

The cloth is very soft from wear.  The colors are very soft, too.  And the arrangement of the colors, patterns and size of the patches is, well–these are the reasons I’m posting images.  I think you see what I see.

This piece measures 82″ x 62″ or 208 cm x 157.5 cm.Finding this rare and beautiful ralli quilt was a thrill.  Now I want to find it the right home.And if you’d like to sign up for my weekly emailing announcing new items posted on our webshop (coming soon–I promise!), please drop me a line at [email protected]

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Back from Japan: A Very Large Hemp Tstutsugaki Furoshiki– A Freehand Drawn Auspicious Motif

March 24, 2011

I arrived back from Japan late at night on the day before yesterday.  With the Japanese disaster weighing heavily on my mind, I thought it would be a good time to show a traditional Japanese motif that conveys good wishes.
Shown today is a very large, six panel, tsutsugaki furoshiki made from hemp; this furoshiki was likely part of a bridal trousseau.  The image is auspicious, it depicts a bundle of noshi, or ceremonial dried abalone.Noshi is dried abalone that is stretched into long, ribbon like strips.  The word noshi is a homonyn for the word “prolong,” so it became customary to include noshi with a gift as a symbol of longevity and prolonged happiness.The fact that the noshi depicted here reaches into so many different areas is symbolic of fortune finding its way in all directions.Shown here is the back of the furoshiki in order to highlight the many, attractive kasuri woven hemp patches that are used to mend and strengthen this traditional wrapping cloth.In my opinion, this is an excellent example of an old tsutsugaki furoshiki.  The indigo is wonderfully faded, the image is rustic and lively, the hemp cloth is rich and is in very good condition.  Most likely this piece dates to the Meiji Era (1868-1912).This gorgeous tsutsugaki furoshiki measures 60″ x 65″, 152.5 cm x 165 cm.

…and a quick update on the webshop: it’s taking a bit longer to produce than expected, so I appreciate you hanging in there with me while it is being developed.

Again, if you are interested in joining our mailing list, please do send an email to me at [email protected] and I’ll sign you up!

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March 7, 2011

It’s been a bit dark here and at our webshop lately.  And there’s a reason why.
My web administrator and I are moving servers and redesigning the webshop while I am in Japan for the next two weeks, so the webshop www.srithreads.com will be closed during this time.

When I’m back on 29 March, we’ll have (fingers crossed) the first, test phase of a new shop with more fluid functionality and hopefully a bit more ease of check out.

Most likely the webshop will have to go through an additional stint of kink-removing and maybe a little design tweaking thereafter, but the hope is for something a bit better than what I have now–so please bear with me!

In the meantime, I’ll be regularly updating this blog with some new postings about old threads, and, with luck, I may also do a bit of posting while I am on the road in Japan.

And what, you may ask, is this strange image today?

It’s this backlit.

A big, layered, patched and threadbare futon cover, that I always admire at night, for its lush, dark translucency.   It has almost a Jekyll and Hyde personality split: beautifully blue and rustic in daylight, and brooding, looming and shadowy at night.

I think it’s beautiful at night and during the day.  Equally so.

So stay tuned to the blog for new postings–and thank you for your patience while the new webshop is in redesign.

I’ll be back from Japan with plenty of new inventory, and I look forward to offering it to you at www.srithreads.com in April.

And I’ll post something new here in the next day or so–please stop by soon!

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A Boro Asa Textile: Beautiful Translucency

February 28, 2011

Japanese asa, or bast fiber cloth, is wonderful in so many ways, and I love the way patched hemp or ramie cloth looks against the light.This piece here is sewn from two one-loom-width pieces of indigo dyed hemp cloth; the cloth is recycled from a kimono, as we can tell by the two resist dyed family crests which appear on the piece.I’m not sure what was the intended function of this piece, but it’s finished on the top and the bottom.  I’m showing it on the webshop this week. It looks quite different there as it is not seen with light streaming trough it.Lovely patches–and some holes along the center seam.

Can you see one of the resist dyed family crests in the  photo, above?  The crest depicts two stylized cranes.

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A Boro Hemp Edo Komon Kimono: Pattern upon Pattern, Patches and Holes

February 25, 2011

This boro kimono, as it is, with its great distress, its heavy wear and its large, missing pieces of cloth, is evocative of a life of poverty in old Japan.

The original kimono, before the damage from heavy use, was a fine one: it is a 19th century hemp Edo komon kimono, or a kimono that has been stencil resist dyed with a very tiny, all-over pattern, like this one here.The inside of the kimono, glimpsed here, is rich in patches and mending: the use of the word “rich” carrying with it a profound irony as the owner of this heavily worn coat of recycled cloth was anything but rich.On the sleeve, below, we can see the original kimono’s komon pattern–and we can see that it was patched with other komon cloth of different patterns.

A closer view onto the pattern-on-pattern komon layering can be seen in these two photos, above and below.The photographs, below, show the kimono inside-out, for a better view onto the patches which are attached to the interior.  The patches are of hand spun cotton and hand plied hemp fragments.

Some boro garments and textiles can take a visual detour from being something wonderful to look to being something that gives one pause.  This kimono, which is such a stark reminder of poverty in old Japan, carries with it a feeling of the burden of an indigent life, and from this, we can think much more broadly about the human condition.

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A Boro Burlap Suit

February 19, 2011

What a marvelous thing: this is a Western styled boy’s–or man’s–suit sewn entirely from scraps of burlap.  It probably dates from the early twentieth century.The suit is unlined, and as you an imagine, it would be very scratchy on the skin were under garments not worn–or even if they were. From seeing this suit, with its non-Japanese buttons and pockets, with its belt loops, with its Western style collar and other non-traditional details, we know that this suit was made in an era when Western influence pervaded Japan, starting in the late nineteenth century.Even though the suit is made from salvaged cloth of the lowest possible quality, most likely this was a dressy suit for its owner who we have to surmise had very little money or social standing.Notice that the burlap is mended and is threadbare.  Imagine the life of the person who owned this, especially if this was his “Sunday best.”The suit is small; you’d think it would fit an adolescent boy.  Possibly it belonged to a man, but there is no way to know. The sewn details are beautiful.  The entire suit is heart-breakingly lovely.

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