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A Good, Large Shimacho: Home Weaving Samples

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.

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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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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.


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A Shima Cho or Stripe Album of Hand Loomed Cottons

September 25, 2008

On today’s new posting at Sri, I am showing a really fine example of an antique shima cho.

Very collectible, a shima cho is a home made book showing small samples of hand woven cloth, many of which were purportedly woven at home by one family.  It has been said that these sample albums were created by a family to remember the weaving patterns done by family members, and it has also been said that brides would take this album to the home of her in-laws so as to remember the weaving traditions of her own family.

This shima cho is rich in hand woven cotton fragments, many of which are the dark, subtle narrow stripes popular in the late Edo era, ca. 1800-1868.  There are 4 1/2 leaves of samples showing 9 pages of fragments.

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