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An Elaborately Stencil Resist Dyed Peacock: Katazome

February 15, 2014

Peacock1When I first saw these three panels from a futon cover I thought the large, multi-toned indigo dyed image was a phoenix; having a better look it was clear that this image is a peacock, an image not often seen on folk textiles.

Peacock1aThe peacock was resist dyed, possibly using a set of stencils, the technique is called katazome.  Or, maybe, this image was made using a combination of katazome with a free hand resist dyeing technique called tsutsugaki.  And what a complex image this is–and what a large one, too.  The peacock itself measures 27″ x 32″, 68.5 cm x 81 cm.

Peacock1bThe three panels are taken from a futon cover and as you can see by the wonderful fading on the indigo dyed cotton, this futonji was used hard.

Peacock1cThe level of detail on this piece is just fantastic–it’s a beautifully realized rendering.

Peacock1dIt probably dates to the late nineteenth century and its overall dimensions are 71″ x 37 1/2″ or 180.5 cm x 95 cm.  I will be listing this for sale on the webshop in the next few weeks.




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A Beautifully Patched Boro Futon Cover: Katazome Cotton

April 25, 2013

BoroFutonji3It’s been too long since I’ve last posted here, the reason being that I returned from Japan with a lot of antique Japanese folk textiles I found on my buying trip, and getting them all ready to show is time consuming.

I’ll be rolling out these new items on the webshop, with a good line-up to be shown this coming Wednesday, May 1 at 11 AM NY time.

BoroFutonji3aShown here is a wonderfully patched, large boro futon cover I just found on my trip.  The combination of the geometric katazome cloth overlaid by the random–and many–patches is gorgeous.  I was really happy when I found this one.

BoroFutonji3bThe indigo dyed cotton background shows a repeat pattern of hexagons or kikko, the traditional tortoiseshell pattern.   This design conveys a wish for long life.

BoroFutonji3cThe hand loomed cotton is gauzy, very soft and drapey.  The color is a beautifully faded indigo, softened from decades of wear.

BoroFutonji3dThe size is nice.  It’s 60″ x 48″ or 152.5 cm x 122 cm and it probably dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.


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A Six Panel Itajime Shibori Futonji: Sekka and Kikko

October 27, 2012

Many of you are familiar with sekka itajime shibori, or clamp resist dyed shibori which ends up looking something like a flower, in this case, sekka or a snowflower.  And as this shibori technique was commonly used for diapers, many of you are used to seeing this type of shibori done small, like this.As sekka shibori is a fairly straightforward and relatively easy-to-do shibori technique, it was used a great deal in old Japan, especially in the 20th century.  Here we see it covering a marvelously large area as 6 standard-sized loom widths are machine stitched together to create a futon cover (which is now opened, as shown here).  But sekka shibori was also used for undergarments and yukata.In addition to the snowflower motif, you’ll also see an all-over configuration of hexagons.  This could be read as kikko or tortoiseshell, and, as you can imagine, it is a traditional motif that conveys wishes for a long life.This is a huge piece.  It measures 89″ x 72″ or 226 cm x 183 cm and it’s in quite good condition.  Every so often there’s a match head-sized hole, but the cotton is bright white and the indigo is a rich sapphire blue.  It was probably made in the 1950s or 60s.

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A Tsutsugaki Futon Cover: Tsurukame, Kamon and Faux Shibori

January 30, 2012

Today I’m showing a stark and interesting four panel, indigo dyed cotton futon cover that is decorated using a free hand paste resist technique called tsutsugaki.  The images on this futon cover are concise yet celebratory: the tortoise and crane (tsuru and kame in Japanese) and a centrally placed, large kamon or family crest.The kamon is interesting: first, it is a rendition of stripes whose source has a martial background.  During wartime in feudal Japan a general’s encampment would be surrounded by curtains of alternating colors in order to distinguish his from the rest.  This kind of stripe or hikiryo is the basis of this mon or family crest.Notice how this mon is designed using a fake kanoko or fawn dappled shibori pattern.  Really charming.And the crane and the tortoise–it is fairly well known that these animals symbolize longevity in the language of Chinese and Japanese design.Not only does the crane represent long life, its elegant form conveys a sense of beauty.  Also, the crane is a symbol of conjugal fidelity as cranes mate for life.These tortoises are charmingly rendered–and once when I was traveling in China I saw hairy shelled turtles, much like these.This futon cover was most likely created for a wedding trousseau.  In the Meiji Era (1868-1912) there was an easing of government strictures upon Japanese citizens and at this time ordinary people could produce showy bridal trousseaux and could present them in a lavish fashion with great ceremony to a newly married couple.

In feudal Japan, which essentially ended at the end of the Edo period in the mid-nineteenth century, ordinary people would not have been allowed to create such an ostentatious show of wedding gifts as started being customary with the onset of  the Meiji period–nor would common folk have had the money to have commissioned such beautifully decorated utilitarian textiles as this one.


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Mottainai: The Fabric of Life at the Portland Japanese Garden 4-27 November

October 29, 2011

I’m really pleased to say that the Portland Japanese Garden has asked my close friend and colleague, Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei in Kyoto, and me, to mount an exhibition which will run through November.The show, called “Mottainai: The Fabric of Life, Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan,” opens on 4 November and is on view until 27 November.Both Kei and I are planning to show some of the highlights from our collections and we will be exhibiting some extraordinary and rare pieces.  In order to illustrate the breadth of traditional Japanese textiles Kei will be showing bast fiber textiles: wisteria, linden, hemp, ramie, paper, paper mulberry, etc., and I will be showing cotton boro textiles.  I’ll be exhibiting a range of types, from everyday utilitarian textiles to large, complex garments.The images here are details of some of my pieces which will be in the show.We’ll both be in Portland this coming week setting up the show: I’m really looking forward to it.  Kei has produced a beautifully illustrated catalog for the show for which both she and I have contributed essays.  I’ll let you know when it is available.I will be updating the webshop as per usual this Wednesday at 11 AM New York time.  *As I’ll be in Portland until 5 November, any order placed from 30 October through 5 November will be shipped on Monday, 7 November.*If I’m able to do so, this coming week I’ll blog some images from the set-up at the Garden.  Stay tuned….

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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 Large, Complex, Beautifully Stitched Boro Futon Cover

February 12, 2011

I’m crazy about the boro futon cover I”m showing today and it’s a wonder that I haven’t yet posted it on this blog.  In a way I have, because it’s the source for the blog’s banner, above, but I think it merits a closer look–and a bit of appreciation.

It’s a big bear of a thing, with large, contrasting patches of blue and brown cottons and fantastically marvelous meanderings of mending stitches.The indigo dyed cottons are old pieces that are hand woven from hand spun cotton yarns.  Some of the brown patches date to the early twentieth century.  Note the kasuri flower patch, below.  It looks as if it is niko niko kasuri, a kind of semi-mechanized ikat cloth that was produced in the early twentieth century.

The back of the futon cover–which would have been the proper, outside of the textile when in use–is beautifully battered.

This beauty measures 79″ x 64″ or 200.5 cm x 162.5 cm.

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A Stunningly Artful Mid-Century Boro Textile

November 28, 2010

What a beautifully layered, patched and arranged boro textile, and one that shows fabrics from nineteenth century hand woven indigo cottons to mid twentieth century, commercially produced textiles.The way the patches are crowded toward the left half  of the piece–and the sheer variety of textures, colors and stitching to be found–is so engaging to look at.Some boro connoisseurs can be purists and will only consider boro textiles that are made entirely of hand spun, hand woven, indigo dyed cloth, much like this one shown here. I know of one Japanese textile dealer who only collects boro cloth of pure, old blue cotton and hemp: he will not collect boros that are constructed of striped or patterned cloth, even if they are nineteenth century.I bring this up for some perspective: the person I just mentioned, above, would not have a high regard for this piece because it shows so many commercially produced fabrics.  I understand his purity of vision, and I agree with him that the more “valuable” boros are sewn from very old cloth, but I can certainly appreciate this piece for its artftulness–and also because this kind of textile is indeed very authentic to old Japan, even if it was made in the 1930s or 40s.   People made and used this kind of cloth for themselves well into the twentieth century.

Note the patch of faux kanoko shibori or fawn dappled shibori, above.Even though my “purist” colleague has narrow parameters for collecting boro, I have to admit that I really like the way the woven cotton damask patch, seen above, works as a foil to the other patches that surround it.  This piece was either a kotatsugake or a futon cover.  A kotatsugake is a thickly woven or patched textile that is used to retain heat from a central heating brazier called a kotatsu; a table is set up over the brazier and thick cloth is draped over it.  Family members would have sat around the brazier, with their laps under the draped fabric, and in this way, they would have been kept warm.This piece measures 59″ x 50″ or 150 cm x 127 cm.

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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 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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