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Indigo Dyed Rustic Cloth: Hemp Sashiko Stitching

Written on March 17, 2010

Sashiko stitching, a Japanese running stitch, is used to strengthen cloth: this is a universal practice, employed by many cultures around the world, and it goes by many names depending where you are.

Booty1Today, however, I am showing two distinctly Japanese items: instep guards called kougake and a very heavily stitched. small pad of indigo dyed cotton.  Both of these old Japanese things are stitched using hemp thread.  Very often we think of sashiko stitching being done in white cotton thread against a blue ground: this is quite typical, but hemp thread was also used for mending and reinforcement.Booty1a

Below is a heavily sashiko stitched pad: it seems the chevron shapes or the “arrow feather” pattern was stitched by counting threads.  At first I thought this was a zokin or dustcloth, then I realized it was probably created to be used as a gusset to reinforce a vest or jacket, as can be seen on an example here. In and of itself it is really beautiful.Booty1b

Seen close up, in detail, and out of context like the photo above, you’d almost think this was Op Art from the 1960s.

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  1. Comment by glennis:

    wow- that is an amazing piece of sashiko. i was just reading where special sashiko pieces were made with the intention of applying the patch to garments as a means of protecting certain areas of the body for various reasons and had significant meanings. do you think this was the case here? were you able to date this piece at all?

    March 18, 2010 @ 11:12 am

  2. Comment by velma bolyard:

    wow is right. all i could think of was a weird/wonderful fusion of japan and scotland. looks so tweedy! it’s great!

    March 18, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

  3. Comment by Darlene:

    I thought the sashiko pad was handwoven until I saw the close-up. I have a weaving sampler that I made when I was learning to weave that has a pattern almost identical to this one.

    March 19, 2010 @ 6:17 pm