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A Very Patched and Layered Zanshi Boro Textile

Written on January 9, 2010

Zanshi, or cloth which is handwoven from leftover yarns, is one of my favorite of the many different types of Japanese folk textiles.  Today I am showing a small, boro cloth that is rich and deep in many applied patches on one side, and on the other side, we see deliciously abraded zanshi cotton.

This zanshi boro piece, which is literally congested with patches, is one favorite from my collection of boro.


Below is shown the gorgeous zanshi base cloth onto which many patches were sewn: apparently this three panel cloth, which measures 43″ x 38″ or 109 cm x 96.5 cm, was taken from a futon cover.


Notice the irregular striping–blue/white, white/blue–that occurs up the length of the cloth: leftover cotton yarns were tied together to form the weft, the result is a random patterning from these tied yarns.


This piece was used hard: note ALL that abrasion, and then refer to the other side, the top two photos shown here.  Now it’s clear just why so many patches were applied; the zanshi cloth had grown threadbare from use.


Now think about this: the zanshi cloth was woven from leftover yarns.  This life of this cloth, borne of “recycled” materials, was further extended by patching and mending: this is a clear indication how people in old Japan valued the hand woven cloth they produced–and it also is a vivid illustration of  their frugality.


I find this zanshi fragment a wonderful thing to look at and to contemplate–and the softness of the cotton and the layers upon layers of patches lend a wonderful tactility that adds even more appreciation to the enjoyment of this old cloth.

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  1. Comment by Teresa aka Tess:

    When I seen the first photo I thought denim quilt. I like the browse the pictures first and imagine a story and then read. This cloths story is much more imaginative than I had imagined. Lovely cloth, wonderful story and excellent storyteller. 🙂

    January 13, 2010 @ 9:59 pm