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A Sashiko Stitched Noragi with White-on-Blue Gussets

August 28, 2010

This sashiko stitched noragi is a work coat that is as subtle as it is beautiful.   Sewn from repurposed indigo dyed cotton, the entire coat is pierced with horizontal rows of stitching, too numerous to count.The beauty of this soulful coat is enhanced by a remarkable feature: small, white-on-blue stitched gussets, one under each sleeve, perfectly placed, with the white color doled out in just the right amount.  Kind of perfect, aren’t they?Have another look at this wonderful feature, below.And in considering these stitched gussets, let’s not overlook the beautiful tone-on-tone fabric collage that is the back of this jacket.   Just extraordinary.The coat dates to the first half of the twentieth century and its condition is fine–it is still very wearable and durable, as many of these old coats are.

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A Stunning Sakiori Hanten with Recycled Sashiko Sleeves

August 25, 2010

What a beautiful coat: this is a sakiori hanten, a work coat that is woven from a white cotton warp which is fed by weft yarns of shredded, recycled indigo dyed cotton.   The sashiko stitched sleeves seem to be sewn from a recycled sashiko furoshiki; the reinforcement on the neck area is meant to guard against wear, presumably from the strap of a burden basket.

The weaving of the body of the coat is tight and regular; a sakiori garment woven from indigo dyed weft is desirable. The sashiko stitching on the neck reinforcement is just wonderful: the tight stitching gives added strength that area of the coat, and zigzag pattern is the traditional yabane or arrow feather motif.The interlocking circle motif, again, beautifully stitched on the sleeves, is a traditional Japanese motif which is borrowed from the Chinese.  In Japan it is called shippo tsunagi and it is a representation of the “seven Buddhist jewels” mentioned in Buddhist sutras: agate, amber, coral, gold, lapis lazuli, pearl and silver.I find this coat to be phenomenally handsome.  It’s very lightly used and most likely it dates to the mid-twentieth century.  Traditional work coats were still being hand woven and hand sewn well into the twentieth century in rural Japan.

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A Curious 19th Century Indigo Dyed Jacket: Insects and Radiating Lines

August 21, 2010

What a fanciful garment: this is an indigo dyed cotton han juban which is a woman’s half-under-kimono, that has been dyed in using the stencil resist method called katazome.
By fanciful, I mean the pattern on the han juban, not the garment itself.   It’s wonderful to see the repeat pattern of what appears to be bumblebees amid a network of angled, radiating, dotted lines.  This linear pattern evokes a spiderweb, which I think this is not.
The cotton of this piece is just what you’d want to see on an old, Japanese textile: hand spun cotton that has been hand loomed.  The condition of this piece, too, is very good, with the indigo still very strong and clear, and devoid of stains or distracting patina.  This han juban was made in the mid to late 19th century.A repeat pattern of insects, such as this, is not usually seen on old textiles, so this is a treat to contemplate.

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A Small, Sashiko Stitched Coat

August 14, 2010

This is a wonderful-looking, small, very sashiko stitched, indigo dyed cotton coat, dating to the mid-twentieth century or so.  It most likely was intended to be worn by a child.The area of  stitched decoration on the coat is in equal proportion on top and bottom: the top half is a densely stitched field of small, cross shapes, while the bottom is a more open, lattice pattern.The lining is of a beautiful, asagi, or sky blue, indigo dyed cotton.The coat measures 30″ or 76 cm from hem to shoulder and 30″ or 76 cm from sleeve tip to sleeve tip.  If this is a child’s coat, as I believe it to be, it would have been a long coat used at local, town celebrations.

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A Long Boro Noragi: Sankuzushi Cloth

August 2, 2010

As boro noragi, or patched and mended work coats go, this one is as handsome as they get.  The patches are beautifully placed; there is just the right amount of uncontrolled eccentricity in their arrangement and stitching.

However, for me, what makes this coat special is the base cloth, an indigo dyed cotton whose woven pattern is referred to in Japan as sankuzushi.In the photo above, and the two below, I’ve focused in on some of the stitched details, since they are so marvelous.  In the last photo, at the bottom of this post, I’ve zeroed in on the sankuzushi cloth, so you can have a better look at it.
In the photo below you will see the woven pattern that is one of my favorites: sometimes in Japan sankuzushi is called ajiro or “split bamboo mat.”   In any case, this kind of pattern was popular in 19th century Japan.  Its popularity probably had to do with its intricacy and its small pattern–keep in mind that throughout Japan’s Edo Period (1603-1868) sumptuary laws were levied on the general population, controlling, among other things, the kind of cloth one could wear.  Most Japanese were required to wear subtle clothing in somber colors. Another element that may have made this cloth attractive was its exotic origins.  My understanding is that this kind of cloth was first woven as export cloth in India and was subsequently copied in China.  Ultimately, the Japanese starting weaving their own version of this woven-looking cloth although it is still possible to find Indian and Chinese examples in Japan.

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A Wonderful Boro Work Coat: Fantastically Good Threads

January 29, 2010

I always look forward to posting images of excellent quality boro garments, which I’ve done a few times in the past and which I’m doing again today.

Noragi1This is a marvelous, very heavily patched and mended boro work kimono, sometimes referred to as a nagagi.

What makes this a superlative coat is its age, the quality of the indigo dyed cottons (the yarns are hand spun and all the cloth is hand woven),  its broad, thick stitching, and the inclusion of some very interesting resist dyed cottons and some fantastic, old plaids.

The wear and the fading also contribute to the unconventional beauty of this coat; its soulfulness is the messenger of its appeal.  Noragi1aMost of the cloth used to stitch this coat dates to the mid-to-late nineteenth century: have a look at the photo, below, showing a patch on the coat’s sleeve: notice the katazome, or stencil resist dyed cloth which shows gradient stripes: the Japanese refer to this kind of optical striping as “waterfall.”  Noragi1bAgain, below, look at the nice, big patch of beautifully faded katazome dyed cotton.  Of course the indigo dye used for all the cloth on this coat is botanical.Noragi1c

The coat’s back is almost three-dimensional from the profusion and layering of patches.  Noragi1dThe stitching on some of the pieces is done in thick, white sashiko thread, creating a kind of tracery–a very interesting and delicate contrast to the body of the coat.Noragi1e

Tokyo’s Amuse Museum is now showing the boro collection of the esteemed ethnologist Mr. Chuzaburo Tanaka, whose extensive collection of boro garments–amassed over forty years–was acquired in one of Japan’s most remote and rural regions, Aomori Prefecture.

Please see the link to this phenomenal exhibition here. Those of you familiar with the book “Boro: Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan” will recognize this exhibition as the same collection shown in the book.

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A Very Layered, Very Stitched and Very Beautiful Boro Noragi with Benibana Patches

January 18, 2010

Of the many boro noragi, or patched and mended work coats, that I have seen over the years, this one, below, is a personal favorite.

This coat, probably a woman’s, is extremely thick from many layers of patching.  The patches are all of really rustic, homespun cotton cloth, so the textural quality of the noragi is amplified by the toothy, hand woven cottons that were used to mend it.


The faded blues and the naturally unbleached whites of this coat are in beautiful contrast to the soft salmon colored patches that were dyed in benibana or safflower.


Note the way the dense stitching has embedded itself in the many layers of mending; gorgeous.NoragiBeniBlog1c

Which is the best view onto this noragi?  The front, the back, the inside, the outside?  Any way you turn this coat, inside or out, it’s magnificent.


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