[ Content | Sidebar ]

A Niko-Niko Kasuri Child’s Kimono: Toddler Size

December 22, 2012

NikoNikoChildsKimono01a This very wonderful, very worn, very small cotton kimono measures 21″ x 20″ or 53.25 cm x 50.75 cm.  It dates from approximately the 1930s.

NikoNikoChildsKimono01The kimono is hand stitched from a commercially produced kasuri or ikat cotton called Niko-Niko.  This kind of faux-kasuri is really faux: the cloth was commercially printed to mimic the look of true kasuri cloth.  This kind of cotton was very popular in Japan in the 1930s.

NikoNikoChildsKimono01bThe image on this kimono is just charming.  It seems that the cloth is imprinted with a repeating design of pigeons and chrysanthemums.  The scale of the print in proportion to the very small kimono is delightful to see.

NikoNikoChildsKimono01cThe collar area and a patch on the back of this tiny robe are of actual, hand woven kasuri cotton, and this contrast is very subtle and beautiful.

NikoNikoChildsKimono01dSeeing this very small kimono in person is endearing: it is so small, it is so well-worn, it is so shabby that we know that the child who wore this kimono was certainly not of means.   We can also speculate that the child had few other garments, if any.

A really charming piece of children’s clothing from old Japan.

In: Tags: - Comments closed

A Bashofu Kimono: Kasuri in Banana Fiber

July 17, 2012

Many of you are familiar with bashofu, the famous banana fiber cloth woven in the Ryukyu Islands, or Okinawa.  Today I’m showing a very good kasuri or ikat kimono woven from bashofu.You can see that the cloth is double kasuri, meaning both the warp and weft yarns are tied before dyeing in order to create a pattern once they are woven.  The warp yarns are dyed in a brown dye called sharinbai while the weft yarns are dyed using Okinawan indigo or Ryukyu ai.As can be seen in the photo, above, there is a stitched pleat that encircles the garment about a 18 inches above the bottom hem: for some reason the owner of this kimono shortened the coat this way.  At first I thought this seam was the joining of two pieces, but when I examined the inside of the kimono I noticed the kimono was uncut.The indigo weft yarns are subtle but beautiful.  And as is not the case with most bashofu kimono, this one shows virtually no wear or damage.  I estimate that it was woven in the early 20th century.This garment would have been worn by a commoner, but its a very good example of a bashofu kimono that shows an attractive pattern and is in very fine condition.

In: Tags: , - Comments closed

A Super Subtle Very Sashiko Stitched Work Coat: Kagasuri

January 21, 2012

I really like this work jacket but I was wondering if I should post images of it.  I thought that in photos the dark indigo cotton cloth too murkily masks the subtle details of the jacket: the details are easier to see in person.The coat is densely stitched with tiny stitches of dark blue threads on a dark blue background.  In photos this is a bit lost, but in daylight, when standing in front of the piece, this detail is beautifully evident.  In the photos posted here, any slight undulation to the surface of the coat is due to the countless stitches which hold the two or three layers of cotton cloth together, making this a durable, warm garment.Add to that, the cloth on the exterior of the garment is something special, it’s referred to as mosquito kasuri or kagasuri: the intersections of white, resisted areas of the warp and weft yarns are as tiny as mosquitoes.  Imagine the great skill needed to weave such a delicate pattern.The interior of the coat, below, with its lighter color, shows a bit more evidence of the coat’s stitching–and many hand tied knots can be seen.The lining, too, is of kagasuri–and the entire coat is made of recycled cloth.When looking at the coat head-on, as in the first photo shown, above, the bold placement of the central patch on the back of the jacket is a visual treat, and is one of the things that tempted me to acquire this softspoken beauty.  And the color, the rich, sapphire blue was hard to resist.

Most likely this dates to the early-to-middle part of the 20th century and measures 44″ x 49″ or 112 x 124.5 cm.



In: Tags: , , - Comments closed

Mottainai The Fabric of Life: Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan

November 6, 2011

The exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden, Mottainai, The Fabric of Life: Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan opened on 4 November.  Here are some installation shots.
I’m exhibiting with my friend, Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei in Kyoto.   Kei and I decided that I would show indigo dyed cotton boro pieces and she would show bast fiber and paper pieces.  The items I have contributed to the show can be seen below.Above and below is a large, woven cotton boro mosquito netting or kaya.

Above and below are sashiko stitched pieces.  Centrally place above is a large, sashiko stitched kotatugake.  To the left and right are garments from Yamagata prefecture.Stitched aprons and zokin can be seen above.

Above and below are sakiori garments.

Above is pictured a boro yogi or sleeping kimono, while below you can see noragi or work coats.Below is a fantastic boro futonji or futon cover.This piece, below, a shinafu or linden fiber tsunobukuro or horn bag is filled with balls of shredded indigo dyed cotton yarn and twisted paper yarn.   Kei brought this to the show to act as a transition between her bast fiber textiles and my indigo dyed cotton ones.  It’s an amazing object.  Kei’s other textiles can be seen in the images below.

Above and below are some woven paper garments.  On the photo, above, situated on the right is an okuso zakkuri or a coat made of woven hemp waste.  Below, seen in the middle, is a fujifu or woven wisteria garment and a shinafu or linden fiber garment to its left.

Below are two elm fiber garments: to the right is a traditional Ainu attush, to the left is an unusual dochugi or traveling coat, made from ohyo or elm fiber.  Since this dochugi is made from traditional Ainu cloth, we can assume that the cloth was traded with the Ainu by a merchant from Honsu island.

A marvelous, resist dyed ramie kazuki from Yamagata prefecture can be seen above and below.  A kazuki is a kimono-shaped veil which was worn on the head by upper class women.Below are repurposed paper items. A splendid bashofu or banana fiber kimono from Okinawa can be seen below.All of the pieces are for sale through the Portland Japanese Garden.  If any are interesting to you, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the Garden.

In: Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , - Comments closed

An Absolutely Gorgeous Hemp Komebukuro: Benibana Dyed Details

July 6, 2011

Komebukuro–or so-called “rice bags”–which are usually made from scraps of leftover cloth and configured to convey a festive air, are hardly ever more lovely than this one, which is hand stitched from hemp cloth.This one is in pristine condition and is sewn from about 18 separate pieces of hemp cloth–and the great joy of this bag is its ultra-pale pink-colored panels, the result of benibana or safflower dyeing.The pale pink against the indigo dyed kasuri cloth needs no explanation as to why it’s so lovely.  It just is.  And note the bag’s original drawstring which is hand braided from pale blue cotton yarns.And the bottom: just lovely.  Komebukuro were used to offer dry rice or beans to temples and shrines, mainly during festival times.  The pieced effect of the bags was to convey a joyous mood.  In truth, I’ve just acquired a group of old, cotton komebukuro that, when I’ve been sorting through them, have dropped a considerable amount of old, single grains of rice.  Clearly those komebukuro had been used.This drawstring bag seems not to have been used, it measures 8″ x 7″ x7″ or 20 cm x 17.5 cm x 17.5 cm and it most certainly dates to the 19th century.

In: Tags: , , , - Comments closed

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.

In: Tags: , - Comments closed

A Stack of Omi Jofu Zabutons

March 31, 2010

I love antique Japanese zabuton, which are traditional cushions that are still very much in daily use in Japan.  Here is a stack of fine, old ones that are made from the marvelously good Omi jofu, a kind of super fine hemp and ramie kasuri (ikat) from Shiga Prefecture.

Zabuton1aAren’t they beautiful?  The warm tone of the indigo and the very good kasuri is just wonderful–as is the old, cotton batting which fills out the cushions.  These old zabuton are thin with batting and they don’t provide a lot of  “cushion.”  Newer, commercial zabuton are quite thick and bouncy, but in old Japan, when cotton was expensive, the padding was minimal, as can be seen in these examples shown here.Zabuton1

Zabuton1bNote the contrasting, red cotton threads used to “quilt” the cushions.  Notice, as well, the lush pattern created mainly of folding fans and plum blossoms, both tradtional Japanese design motives.Zabuton1cI estimate that these cushions date to the 1920s or 1930s; for having been used and for having such age they are still in very good condition and are still amazingly attractive–and they are still very much able to be used in the home.  Zabuton1dThere are 11 of them and each measures 11″ x 21″/ 28 cm x 53.5 cm.

Just gorgeous.

In: Tags: , , - Comments closed

A Group of Western Style Japanese Shirts Sewn from Hand Woven Japanese Cottons

January 22, 2010

Shown today are eight Western tailored shirts sewn from traditional, Japanese cotton cloth, most probably sewn some time around 1950 or 1960.  The cloth of some of the shirts is older, and each of these small garments is unused.


Judging from their small size, bright colors and patterns, and the way the buttons fasten, most of the shirts shown here were intended for women and girls.  The shirt shown bottom, center in the photo above seems to have been for a man.

ShirtsBlog1bThe shirt, above, closes with metal snaps.  The shirt, below, closes with white, plastic buttons.  Each of these eight shirts is machine stitched.ShirtsBlog1cThe shirts shown above and the two below are sewn from kasuri or ikat woven cotton.ShirtsBlog1d

ShirtsBlog1eThese shirts are an interesting illustration of Western fashion infiltrating Japanese daily life, a trend that began in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), when Japan moved from being an insular, feudal society toward a more international, modern one.   20th century shirts such as the last one pictured (below), the shirt with the “Henley collar,” were often worn by male workers under a traditional noragi or hanten as they worked the fields.ShirtsBlog1fThe man’s shirt, below, fastens with white, plastic buttons–and the fabric is a wonderful, hand loomed indigo dyed cotton.  The shirt is partially lined.ShirtsBlog1g

This is a really delightful group of garments from old Japan–and if you are small enough, they’d be great fun to wear.

In: Tags: - Comments closed

A Very Rare Group of Eight 19th Century Notebooks from a Kasuri Dyeworks in Omi

January 20, 2010

This set of eight books is a treasure.  The books are the journals of a kasuri weaver/dyer from Omi, an area of Japan (present-day Shiga Prefecture)  which produced some of Japan’s finest hemp and ramie kasuri textiles, known as Omi jofu.

OmibooksBlog1The books date from 1859 through the beginning of last century.  Within them are countless pages of sketches, notes, ideas, technical renderings and working drawings of the patterns and motives that will be dyed and woven by the atelier.  This is a remarkable archive.


By looking at the entries in these books, one has an intimate view onto the mind of a kasuri weaver.  Through these books we can see first hand how the weaver worked out patterns and plotted designs.

OmibooksBlog1bThe paper of these books is extremely soft and pliable from wear.  Obviously the books were handled a great deal during their lifetime.OmibooksBlog1c

The book, shown above,  is a sample book of swatches of kasuri dyed asa (hemp or ramie) cloth along with some bold sketches: it’s not clear if the samples were woven by the owner of these journals, or if they were culled from disparate sources, to be drawn on for inspiration.  Some of the patterns look remarkably like those from Okinawa, which is the artistic home of  Japanese kasuri weaving.





Aside from the information conveyed to us by these books, each page displays a kind of artistry that can be appreciated even if the subject of this book is not known.


In: Tags: , , - Comments closed

A Beautifully Rustic Indigo Dyed Kasuri Futon Cover

December 17, 2009

My taste in kasuri, or Japanese ikat weaving, is quite narrow, and I tend not to collect many pieces.  I could not help myself when I found this piece, the subject of today’s posting.

I had seen this on a previous trip to Japan and was really intrigued by the rustic beauty of this very simple, resist dyed pattern.  I didn’t buy this piece when I first saw it, but when I returned six months later and saw it again, my mind was made up.

I absolutely love that the pattern is not regular, that the large, white blocks are not perfectly formed and that they have some “skids” of stray indigo dye within them.


I also love the pared-down design, and how it is not reaching to be complex or sophisticated in any way.  In its beautiful, “flawed” simplicity, the appeal of this kasuri futon cover is almost “tribal”, if you get what I mean.

I am not sure if this futon cover was dyed and woven in Kurume (on Kyushu Island) or in Iyo (Matsuyama City on Shikoko Island), however I think this piece probably comes from Kurume. Most definitely the cotton yarn is home spun and the piece is hand woven.  And it is spectacularly beautiful, to my eye, at least.


In: Tags: , - Comments closed