[ Content | Sidebar ]

A Miniature Cotton Kaya: Sewing Practice

September 13, 2012

Today I’m showing a miniature (14 1/2″ h x 13″  w x 12″ d or 37 cm h x  33 cm w x  30 cm d) kaya which is traditional mosquito netting found all over old Japan.  You can see that I placed a zokin under the kaya to convey a sense of its small size–but also to mimic what a futon cover would look like in full scale.  A full scale kaya is a tent under which a person would sleep during Japan’s steamy, buggy summers.It was customary in Japan, as it was in other parts of the world, to learn sewing skills by first producing small models.  This is how this mini-kaya came to be–it was probably made during the second quarter of last century.Traditional kaya were usually made of woven hemp fiber.  This model is made of cotton.You can see how the seams here are scaled-down versions of the traditional Japanese loom width of about 12″ – 14″ or 30 cm to 36 cm.
The rigging of this practice kaya is completely as it would be were the kaya actual size.Really remarkable in its detail: you know that the person–likely a girl–who stitched this was doing so under stern eye of a strict teacher.  Imperfection was not an option.Even the details, like the small brass ring, are intact and in scale to this model.Overall, this small kaya is in very good condition.  From decades of storage there is  wide band of  ingrained dirt around its center, as well as a few holes the size of match heads, but other than that, this is kaya is in good shape.

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

A Stack of Kaya: Indigo Dyed Hemp Mosquito Netting

August 29, 2011

As we’re in late summer, I thought I’d show a luscious stack of indigo dyed hemp kaya, or traditional Japanese mosquito netting.

I won’t say much about it today; I think the photos and the hyperlinks say it all.Stay cool!

In: Tags: , - Comments closed

Color and Texture: Three Rolls of Hemp Kaya

August 22, 2011

Since we are in late summer, I thought I would show some old rolls of hemp kaya, or mosquito netting, which is very much necessary in the hot, humid, buggy Japanese summers.Kaya is usually produced in this family of colors: undyed, indigo dyed, and indigo which is over dyed with a yellow dye, as can be seen on the roll on the right.  The middle roll is offered for sale on the webshop, here.
Sometimes indigo dyed kaya has a blue/green look in certain lights; the warm color of the natural hemp can push a soft blue tone into the soft green color range.The three rolls are nested in an old, hand-hewn and repaired Korean wooden bowl.  Under the bowl is a three panel fragment of an old, boro kaya, taken from the same tent as this one.

In: Tags: , - Comments closed

Plaid Kaya: A Length of Hemp Mosquito Netting

August 2, 2011

Live and learn.  Until this spring, when I found this length of plaid kaya, or traditional hemp mosquito netting, I hadn’t seen any kaya that was patterned.  Previously, I had seen it only undyed or piece dyed in blue, green or blue green–or, in the case of mid-to-late 20th century examples, dyed in a kind of gradient ombre.So, not only was it a real treat (it still is) to find patterned kaya, it was especially gratifying to find such a good looking example.The kaya certainly shows wear, some overall light fading and some faded splotches, but what a gorgeous length of asa cloth.The green color is woven into the cloth, not stencil applied.  And it’s subtle.  And beautiful.

In: Tags: - Comments closed

Gradient Indigo Blues and Greens: Kaya or Hemp Mosquito Netting

January 22, 2011

Kaya, or Japanese mosquito netting woven from hemp, is one of my favorite types of Japanese textiles.  Kaya’s open weave and its warm colors–ranging from natural to indigo to over-dyed indigo– are simply beautiful.Often the green colors are hard to convey in photographs as they are somewhere on the spectrum between blue and green.  That said, you may have to enrich the photos presented here with your imagination.

The texture is rustic and rich, and the weave is open.This configuration of blue and green kaya looks wonderful against the light.

Have a look at the tags to the right of this posting for previous discussions of kaya on this blog.

In: Tags: , - Comments closed

A Large, Nine Panel Boro Hemp Kaya

November 20, 2010

Kaya, or mosquito netting, was a staple of life in old Japan: Japan’s hot, humid summers are a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so tents of woven hemp were a de rigueur fixture, even in humble or poor homes, all across Japan.

This fabulous, large, old, very repaired, boro, nine panel, loosely woven, hemp kaya is overdyed: it was first dipped in indigo, then dipped again in a yellow dye.  Like the post below this one, this kaya is from the Tohoku region, or rural northeast of Japan.The kaya would have originally been hung with the seams running vertically, not as shown.  This is a fragment from a large tent which would have been placed over a futon–or futons–for protection against pesky mosquitoes.The patching is fantastic.

Below is a historical woodblock print of a woman of means reclining on her futon, enclosed within a tent of kaya. Of course, the kaya shown in this post was not used in an upper class home such as pictured below, but it was used in exactly the same way as can be seen in the print shown here.Note the construction of the tent: the seams joining the sides and the top are sewn with cotton fabric, for strength and durability.

In: Tags: , , - Comments closed

A Magnificently Boro, Very Large Kaya: Cotton Mosquito Netting

October 26, 2009

Today I am showing a really marvelous, country textile—a six-panel, cotton mosquito netting, or kaya—that is intensely patched and mended.


The color of the kaya, or mosquito netting, is dark green, however it’s interesting to note that the green color is the result of age, oxidation and years of exposure to smoke and dirt: the actual color of the kaya, as can be seen by the unfaded, bottom edge, is a deep, indigo blue.


The array of patches is dense and they are made of various materials: the largest patches are hemp, the smaller patches are of stencils resist cotton.


This kaya, as the name suggests, was used in summer as mosquito netting.  However, the kaya was also used year-round within the house as it also served as kind of insulation in the winter months.  This is one of the most fabulous kayas I have seen, and its large size, 67″ x 80″,        1.7 m x 2 m, is something rare to see.


I am lucky to have this piece and other fragments of one and two panels from the same kaya, which I will offer on my website at some point soon.


In: Tags: , - Comments closed

Three Panels of Patched Cotton Kaya: Mosquito Netting

August 28, 2009

While I was in Japan last month,  I came across a stack of panels of patched, cotton kaya or mosquito netting, three panels of which are shown here.  These panels were taken from a full kaya, which was a tent of gauzy cotton and was  feature of almost every home in old Japan–Japanese summers are hot and sticky, and mosquitoes are everywhere.

I think these panels look best when suspended and back lit; in this way, the layered patches play best against the translucent, gauzy cotton, creating a beautiful contrast.

By seeing these three panels together, you get a good sense of what the owner of this full kaya would have seen in their own home: quite a beautiful display of patches and unintended visual syncopation.

Notice, too, how the blue, vertical stripes are woven into the cloth: at each selvedge edge they are given 1/2 their normal width: this was done to create visual coherence when one panel was placed next to another panel.  The flow of stripes would be even all around the kaya.



Over time, starting soon, on my website I will be offering these kaya panels for sale.  If you’re interested in them, please don’t hesitate writing.


In: Tags: , - Comments closed

An Intact Kaya: A Tent of Hemp Fiber Mosquito Netting

June 2, 2009

Japan’s summers are brutally hot and humid, and with muggy weather comes mosquitoes, as we all know.  Kaya, or mosquito netting, has been a staple of Japanese life for centuries, and for as long, it was woven from hand plied bast fiber, usually hemp, and fashioned into a tent-like structure of varying sizes.


This one probably dates to the 1950s or so, is made from hemp cloth which is dyed a gradient blue.   I’m offering this beauty for sale on my website on June 3, 2009.


I’m thrilled to offer this, and I’m very pleased to be able to show an intact kaya.  I’ve sold many single panels which have been removed from the entire tent, so I hope these images provide a better understanding of kaya. Note that this piece, above and below, is in great shape, down to the steel rings on each, top, corner.  They are still very sturdily attached.


Here’s a wonderful website showing great, historical images of kaya–and discusses the languid, hot summers of Japan.



In: Tags: , - Comments closed