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A Group of Sakiori Obis and Miura Shibori

November 7, 2012

When I was in Japan last month, I found a good group of sakiori obis.

When I go on buying trips, I never know what I’m going to find, and that I found a nice assortment of these ragweave kimono sashes was a good thing.  Of course, with the dollar being lower than it’s ever been and the yen being astronomically high, this material is more expensive than ever, but I couldn’t resist.  They were there.  I had to have them.  And they’re all in good condition.  I’ll be offering them on the webshop over time.

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A Group of Thickly Textured Folk Obis

May 22, 2012

Notice I didn’t entitle this post “A Group of Sakiori Obis.”  At first glance this kind of thickly woven, richly textured obi is assumed to be made of ragweave (called sakiori).  Often such obis are of ragweave, but you have to look closer to see if this is the case.Among this group there are obis with a cotton warp and a rag weft.  But in other cases thick yarn is used to feed the weft, which gives the appearance that the obi is sakiori.And in the case of the white and orange obi, above, this is woven from a warp of silk or rayon (probably rayon) and a weft of paper.  Like most of these obis, the paper weft obi dates to the mid twentieth century.This is a  nice group–and they look good together.

I’ve sold a few from the original group which I found in March in Japan, and I will be offering these on the webshop over time.    As I rarely see affordable and attractive sakiori-style obis in Japan anymore, I was quite pleased to have come upon this many good looking obis.

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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.

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A Sakiori Sodenashi

June 8, 2011

In the previous post, below this one, I featured a sakiori sodenashi–a sleeveless garment woven from indigo rags–which was heavily used, patched and repaired.  The one I am showing today is its opposite: it is beautifully finished, in fine condition, and whereas the previously posted sodenashi has wild stitching, the stitching on this garment is precise, practiced and regular.Notice the stitches joining the two pieces of sakiori cloth: this beautiful way of composing this garment is what sold me on it.Of course, the hand woven, indigo dyed  cotton banding which finishes the edges of the garment is also a really nice touch–as is the beautifully placed and stitched shoulder reinforcements, seen below.  In addition to the details mentioned above, this sodenashi also bears an essential detail which makes it desirable: it is woven using a hemp warp, which is something I love to see in sakiori.And the color.  This rich, warm, indigo blue is simply beautiful–this sakiori sodenashi is understated, elegant and in very good condition.

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A Boro Sakiori Sodenashi: Eccentric Hemp Stitching

June 5, 2011

Shown today is a heavily patched and mended sakiori–or rag woven–sleeveless work coat.  To appreciate the cotton patches and eccentric hemp mending stitches, I’m showing this sodenashi inside-out.If you look on the right side of the photo, below, you can see the very worn and abraded sakiori exterior of the coat.  This same photo also zeroes in on the unusual hemp mending stitches–I’ve not seen this kind of mending on other garments or textiles.The mending stitches are long and vertically oriented.

Another interesting aspect of this sodenashi is that it is not stitched closed on the sides, nor does it have  tabs connecting the front and back panels.  Most likely these have fallen off from wear.I love the resist dyed cotton patch showing a zig-zag geometric design.

Most of the mending on this sodenashi is done with rustic hemp thread.This work vest probably dates to the early-to-mid twentieth century.  The sakiori cloth is woven with a cotton warp and weft.

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An Extraordinary Sakiori Hanten: Hemp Warp, Cotton Weft, Sashiko Stitched Sleeves

January 26, 2011

This sakiori hanten has it all: indigo cotton rag weft, hemp warp, great condition, nice proportions, good mending– and a fine, old age.   These characteristics make for a grade A sakiori garment.What sends it over the top, however, are the asagi (pale blue) cotton sleeves which are densely sashiko stitched and so worn that the stitches seem embedded in the fibers of the cloth.Isn’t this sleeve, below, a thing of beauty?  The color, the texture, the patina, the wear–and when paired with the coat itself, it looks even better.It’s interesting that such “fancy” sleeves were attached to such a hardy work coat.  Sleeves were put on and taken off coats during their lifetime, but these seem as if they were attached to this coat for a very long time.   Unless, of course, they were taken from another garment and affixed to this one at some point.  This is highly possible.Since the sleeves ARE so fancy, it has me wondering if this garment was worn by a rural person to go to town or on special occasions.In my estimation, if you are looking for a superb sakiori garment, you’d want to see a bast warp, an indigo cotton rag weft and you’ll want it to have some age.  It has to be in good condition, of course.Sakiori garments are difficult place in time: they were worn from the late eighteenth century well into the mid twentieth century, so one needs to use conjecture to date such garments.  Unless, of course, you are given some kind of history from the family who owned the garment.   This is not the case with this one, though.  I’d guess this to be from the 1930s or so.  It may be older; it may be younger.  There’s just no way of zeroing in on an exact date in this case.It measures 117 cm x 112 cm or 46″ x 44″.

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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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Two Braided and Woven Rustic Rag Back Pads

February 23, 2010

Today I am showing two rustic seate, a seate being  a kind of protective back pad used for carrying burden.

Seate1These two seate are a mid-twentieth century types; each is made of shredded cotton cloth that has been braided, twined and woven along with some hemp fibers.  Other seate–ones that pre-date these as well as ones that are contemporary to these shown here–are woven of rush, bast fibers or rice straw.   I posted an earlier entry on similar pieces with these two shown here visible in the photos, but they are not featured.   Have a look here.

Seate1aThe “festive” look of these fringed, brightly colored objects is a strange, visual irony when you consider that these pieces were used in heavy labor, on an ongoing basis.Seate1b

Seate1cIt seems that most of the rags used to weave these seate are commercially produced cottons: by the mid twentieth century when these seate were woven, mass produced cotton fabrics were ubiquitous in Japan.Seate1d


Seate1fNote the presence of some hemp twine in the construction of these seate.Seate1gI find this pair fascinating, compelling and really beautiful.

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A Group of Images: Color, Texture, Indigo, Cloth

February 3, 2010

Today I’m posting a suite of images that was shot by the wonderful photographer, Lyn Hughes. No words, just images.







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Part Two: An Exhbition of Japanese Country Textiles at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin

October 22, 2009

I just received installation shots from the exhibition of Japanese textiles currently on view at The Douglas Hyde Gallery at Trinity College in Dublin.  I’ve introduced the exhibition in an earlier post, so please scroll down and have a look.

Above are shown, from left to right, an Ainu elm bark (ohyo) attush, an Okinawan banana leaf fiber (bashofu) kimono, an indigo dyed shifu or woven paper noragi or work coat, a sakiori or rag woven hanten with sashiko stitched cotton sleeves and a very fine okusozakkuri or work coat woven from hemp debris.

Above, to the right of the okusozakkuri shown in the first photo are a hemp stitched indigo dyed cotton boro noragi and, finally, a kogin stitched kimono from Tsugaru, Aomori Precture at the Easternmost tip of Honshu Island.

The director and staff of The Douglas Hyde Gallery did a marvelous job installing this exhibit and I’m terribly proud to have collaborated with them on this show.

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