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An Exceedingly Sashiko Stitched Kotatsu Cover

Written on February 10, 2010

There is such a density of small, evenly spaced sashiko stitches on this kotatsu cover that this old Japanese textile appears to be obscured by a thin veil of mist.

BlogSashiKo1This large (approximately 5 1/2′ x 5′ or 1.5 m x 1.7 m) cloth is sewn from layers of indigo dyed cotton and was used to cover a table-like armature that was placed over a brazier: in old Japan, a family would gather around the brazier and they would tuck themselves under this cover to keep warm.BlogSashiKo1aLooking at this stunning cloth we are reminded of Minimal Art from the 70s: imagine giving Agnes Martin a needle and thread.  I think this is pretty much what would have been produced.BlogSashiKo1bThe surface of this kotatsu cover has an almost silver-like sheen from the field of small, white cotton stitches: it may not be so ironic that I decided to post images of this cloth on the very day that New York–and so much of the Eastern seaboard of the United States–was hit with a blizzard and buried in snow.  When I looked out my window today, the scene outside was not so different than the photos above, and below.BlogSashiKo1cOn the first two photos, above, I love the subtle, dark mark dead-center on this cloth: the discoloration from prolonged exposure to the brazier still retains its heat.  Well, on the suggestive level, at least. BlogSashiKo1d

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  1. Comment by Adina:

    Sitting with your loved ones huddled around the kotatsu under a cover such as this brings thoughts of the comforts of home on long, dark and cold winter nights. I hope that those of you who are enduring the snowstorms on the east coast of the USA are keeping safe and warm.

    February 11, 2010 @ 5:31 am

  2. Comment by Heather:

    Right on about Agnes Martin. I have often felt while stitching that the process reminded me of her drawings.

    February 11, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

  3. Comment by Daisy:

    Are those really sashiko ?
    Even close up it looks like warp and weft..a cloth woven of denim strips and cotton threads?

    February 11, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

  4. Comment by Cati:

    Is the white thread the warp of this cloth?

    February 11, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

  5. Comment by admin:

    To Cati,
    The white threads are stitched; they are stitched into layered indigo dyed cotton in so many tight rows that they call to mind a woven structure, however they are in fact applied. This kind of tight sashiko stitching is a fairly often seen, traditional form of reinforcing in Japanese folk textiles, however it is not so common to see such a large area (as on the piece shown here) stitched so tightly.

    February 11, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  6. Comment by Cati:

    Thanks, I’m very impressed.

    February 11, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

  7. Comment by dee:

    very beautiful — i esp. love the deteriorating quilt.

    February 11, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

  8. Comment by Darlene:

    I can’t even begin to imagine the number of hours of work that went into this piece. This is amazing and beautiful!

    February 12, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

  9. Comment by Toni Sadlier:

    Beautiful work. Can you tell me how they extracted the fiber out of the wisteria.

    September 1, 2010 @ 1:31 pm