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A Patched and Re-Patched, Mended and Re-Mended Boro Sashiko Furoshiki: Hand Spun Cotton

September 8, 2012

I love the sashiko stitched furoshiki of old Japan.  These traditional, indigo dyed cotton wrapping or storage cloths are decorated with white sashiko stitching, usually on the corner areas, and they’re stitched there to reinforce the areas that would be tied and twisted together when the furoshiki is filled with goods to store or carry.As much as I like sashiko stitched furoshiki, when one is marvelously mended, as is this one, I like this boro version more than one that’s not boro.  This example has been used and mended hard over time, with layers of patches and lots of extra stitching.Have a look at the layered patches.  The layered mending stitches are gorgeous, and both blue and white threads are used in the stitching.

Notice the photo above and below.  Have a look at the mending patches.  And then see how the white sashiko stitched motif of the original furoshiki is carried over on top of the patch, for the sake of design continuity.You can see this also in the photo below.

So much texture due to patching, re-patching, stitching and re-stitching.

This furoshiki is large.  It measures 63″ x 61″, 160 cm x 155 cm and it dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

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A Cotton Kasuri Furoshiki: Alternating Dark and Light Indigo

May 10, 2011

When I saw this on my recent trip to Japan, I had to have it: I love when kasuri, or ikat, is faintly resisted as this one is.  What I mean by that is that I like graphic kasuri where the resisted “white” areas show bleeding and skidding from not being tied tightly before dyeing.
Kasuri, or ikat, as it is called, is a resist dyeing method whereby the yarns are tied before being dyed.  When woven properly, the resisted areas–which should remain white–create a pattern or, in some cases, an image.This is a furoshiki or a traditional wrapping cloth–it has never been used.  I believe it dates to the mid twentieth century.I really like the subtlety to be found in the light areas of the cloth: the variegated blues are beautiful.  Or so I think.This piece is fairly large.  It measures 57″ x 54″ or 144.5 cm x 137 cm.  It is completely hand stitched and it is hand loomed.

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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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Have You Ever Looked into the Eyes of a Butterfly?

August 5, 2010

Few have, but thanks to Japanese folk textiles, we are all given this rare opportunity.Some time ago, when looking at a large depiction of a butterfly on a tsutsugaki futon cover, I discovered that Japanese textile artisans sometimes show the butterfly up-close and head on: you can literally lock eyes with the beauty, as you can do here, on this four-panel furoshiki, or traditional wrapping cloth.Very unusual–especially since the face of a butterfly lacks the elegance of its wings, which is the reason the Japanese admire the butterfly, for its delicacy and its ethereal elegance.

This is a  marvelous, 19th century cotton furoshiki: it is dyed in the tsutsugaki method whereby rice paste is applied freehand directly to cloth; where there is rice paste, dye will be resisted.  The furoshiki was first dyed in indigo then it was overdyed using a yellow dyestuff, yielding a rich, mossy green color.  Said butterfly is at the center of the design; it is surrounded by a traditional “snowflake” form and the remaining ground around the central design is decorated by free-form, very animated pairs of pine needles.The cotton yarn is hand spun and the cloth is hand woven.  This piece is rich in ito aji or “thread taste,” which is something one should always look for when acquiring old, Japanese folk cotton.  There is nothing more beautiful than wonderfully hand spun cotton cloth.The depiction of pine needles is wonderfully spirited.  The Japanese often associate pine needles with conjugal fidelity since the pine is a symbol of long life and pine needles fall in pairs.The furoshiki measures 55″ x 52″ or 140 cm x 132 cm.  It’s fantastic.

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A Resist Dyed Furoshiki: Free Form Technique

June 16, 2010

This resist dyed, cotton, indigo furoshiki, a traditional wrapping cloth, is quite unusual.  Usually resist dyeing in Japan is done with rice paste and stencils (katazome) or by drawing directly on to cloth using a kind of cone applicator to guide the rice paste onto the cloth (tsutsugaki).

The free form, non-repeating, resisted white marks on this furoshiki were not done in either the katazome or tsutsugaki technique, but rather they were just spattered all-over the cloth, freestyle.Of course we are all thinking the same thing: Jackson Pollock.   And probably for good reason.  The action painting of New York’s Abstract Expressionist painters infiltrated culture all over the globe, so it’s not at all wrong to think that Pollock’s groundbreaking drip technique, pioneered in the 1950s, should be copied by an indigo dyer in Japan, probably some time in the 1960s or 70s when this furoshiki was made.I am sure the indigo artisan who dyed this furoshiki was having a little fun, experimenting with technique and nodding his head to the radical paintings of Post-War America.  Certainly the results the dyer achieved while dyeing this cloth are really delightful and vibrant.  Have a look:

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A Large, Boro, Sashiko Furoshiki

May 22, 2010

Today I’m showing a large, boro, indigo dyed cotton, sashiko stitched furoshiki–a furoshiki is a traditional, Japanese wrapping cloth, used for both storage and for transporting things from place to place.

Notice the stitching on each of the four corners: the stitches are formed in a chrysanthemum motif and were sewn on to provide strength and durability to the furoshiki.Furoshiki such as this were often presented to a newly married couple as a part of their wedding trousseau.  Depending on where one lived and what one’s social status was, trousseaux were often composed of a prescribed set of items: so many furoshiki in so many sizes, futon covers, x number of diapers and the like.    Very often wedding trousseau items were decorated using “fancy” techniques such as sashiko stitching or resist dyeing such as katazome or tsutsugaki.The patching and mending to this piece are really wonderful, as is the large, central white cotton piece that was used for added strength.  Clearly this furoshiki was well-used.

This furoshiki probably dates to the late nineteenth, early twentieth century.  It measures 65″ x 65″ or 165 cm x 165 cm.

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A Rustic and Beautiful Katazome Furoshiki

January 15, 2010

Shown here is an indigo dyed cotton, katazome furoshiki, or a traditional wrapping cloth.  Most likely this furoshiki, which dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, comes from Japan’s eastern Tohoku region.
I’m fascinated by the strange repeat pattern composed of  upward and downward pointing triangles: even though there is a logic and order to the pattern, the way in which the three panels of this cloth are stitched together somehow misalign the field of the pattern, creating a kind of syncopated “white noise” of marks.


The stencil resist dyed katazome pattern is vaguely dissonant—and very unusual and beautiful.


The folding fan, a depiction of which is shown here, is a Japanese invention; the motif is used on cloth for different reasons: in some cases the folding fan is emblazoned as a family crest, in other cases it is shown as an auspicious symbol on wedding textiles as it symbolizes the “opening of things.”  Where marriage is concerned, the folding fan motif  suggests the beginning of, or opening up of, a new life.


The rustic and crudely dyed resist is attractive, I think:  have a look at the imperfect way that the pattern is resisted–the toothy hand woven cotton and the very inky indigo color enhance these imperfections, adding a luster of strange beauty to this country textile.


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A Large, Layered and Very Stitched Boro Furoshiki and a Collection of Sashiko Stitched Zokin

April 24, 2009

Today’s post features a large, very layered and very eccentrically sashiko stitched, boro furoshiki, or wrapping cloth which is  flanked by a collection of densely stitched zokin or dustrags made from  re-used, re-purposed cloth.

The furoshiki measures 68″ x 60″/ 173 cm x 152.5 cm and it is an elegant mess of scraps of cotton cloth that are layered in areas and arranged with no regard for symmetry: the entire wrapping cloth is pierced by a heavy network of sashiko stitching which travels strange paths in odd directions, often pooling up in tight, eddies of thread.

Below the furoshiki you’ll see a stack of vintage, hemp cloth zabuton and a large, 19th century silk drawstring bag.




Which is front and which is back?  Each side is a similarly interesting exploration of re-using cloth scraps and employing stitching as a means to strengthen and reinforce re-purposed materials.  Even though this furoshiki contains scraps of cloth from the late 19th century, most of the cloth is from the 20th, and my guess is that this was made in the 1930s or 40s.


The images of two zokin, below, show a tough little work horse of a cloth: each is a concentrated pad made of layers of recycled coton which has been thoroughly and completely stitched.

As with the furoshiki shown here, I’ll be offering the zokin for sale on my website in the next week or so.



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September 30, 2008

It is overcast here today so the photos I took of some of the sashiko pieces in my showroom reflect the grey weather.  As I wanted to post something on sashiko, I decided to go ahead with it, even if the ambient light isn’t the best.

Sashiko stitching is a hallmark of Japanese folk textiles and here you see a stack of sashiko stitched furoshiki (wrapping cloths) and, on the wall above the stack, are two sashiko stitched bags.   A quilting stitch, sashiko was first employed to add stability and to reinforce cloth, very often it was used to create layers of cloth for clothing. (The stack of brown cloth to the right of the sashiko furoshiki is a pile of sakabukuro or sake straining bags).

When cotton thread became widely available in Japan by the mid to late nineteenth century, sashiko stitching developed and became a more decorative stitch while still retaining its usefulness as a tool for reinforcement.  Sashiko furoshiki are stitched on the corners for the purpose of durability, for example.  As well, ‘fancy’ sashiko stitched utilitarian cloth was offered as part of a bridal trousseau and elaborately sashiko stitched clothing, more or less, were used for celebration and ceremony.

Kogin, the mind-bogglingly gorgeous sashiko from Japan’s far northern Aomori prefecture is a prime example of elaborate sashiko stitching.  (Go to the tag cloud to the right of this post and click on kogin to go directly to a post dedicated to this kind of stitching).

I love this heavily sashiko stitched bag: it’s on my website here.

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