January 24, 2012
As many of you know, a shimacho–or stripe album–is a keepsake of home weaving swatches which was composed by families to remember the cloth they’ve woven.It’s been said that girls leaving their homes upon marriage would carry such an album with them to their husband’s family’s home in order to replicate or be inspired by her family’s woven cloth.Most likely these descriptions are true to some extent, but my personal feeling is that the use of these was a bit broader and a bit less sentimental than that. In a culture and time where weaving was done in every home, my hunch is that there was a lot of swapping of fragments between families and neighbors, as there must have been a lot of mutual admiration and intrigue between household weavers, and these weavers wanted to compile as much inspiration as possible.Shimacho show us a very good cross section of the type of cloth which was being woven and worn in the 19th century, when most of these books were made. The preponderance of dark tones and subtle stripes is due to sumptuary laws: during the Edo period (1603- 1868) the government dictated what a person could wear. For the most part, common people had to dress in cotton or bast fiber clothing with dark colors and small repeats: bright colors, silks and textiles showing large repeats were relegated to the upper or ruling classes.This shimacho is typical of most: slivers of cloth were pasted into an already-existing book, the leaves of which were filled as swatches were gathered.It measures 9″ x 6″ or 23 cm x 15.25 cm and contains 15 leaves–and many worm holes, a common feature of almost any shimacho.