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Archives for June, 2010

A Nineteenth Century Tsutsugaki Yogi: Sleeping Kimono

June 30, 2010

Shown today is a mid-to-late nineteenth century, indigo dyed cotton tsutsugaki yogi, a sleeping kimono onto which auspicious symbols have been hand drawn and resist-dyed.

Most likely this yogi was part of a larger trousseau of items that were offered to a newly married couple, the trousseau usually consisting of one or more futon covers, diapers, furoshiki or wrapping cloths and the like.  This yogi is not worn on the body, but rather it is laid over the body as a duvet would be: this yogi would have been stuffed with some kind of wadding–cotton or other–to provide warmth.  The original wadding has been taken from this sleeping kimono.The top, central roundel design shows a tortoise and a crane.   The crane is a symbol of long life and conjugal fidelity as cranes mate for life.  The tortoise, too, is a wish for longevity, both for the life of the couple and for that of the marriage.The image, below, is that of the pine.  Again, pine–being evergreen–is a symbol of long life, but as its needles fall in pairs, it is also a talisman bestowing good things to the married couple.Bamboo, below, is a wonderful symbol as it suggests resilience–it bends but does not break.This yogi is hand woven from hand spun cotton and is faded beautifully.  As well, it is nicely patched and mended as it has been used very well since it was made, well over 100 years ago.

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Zanshi-ori: Cloth Woven from Leftover Threads

June 25, 2010

Today I am showing a group of zanshi-ori, or cloth woven from leftover, cotton yarns.  The centerpiece of this group is a work coat, or noragi, unusual for its lining of zanshi-ori, shown here as the coat’s exterior.

For some reason, zanshi-ori is most often woven and used as bedding, so seeing it applied to a garment is refreshing.  This particular coat seems not to have been worn, and its proper exterior is not of zanshi-ori, but of a hand woven, checked cotton.  This coat most likely dates from the mid-twentieth century.Zanshi-ori is usually distinguished by its randomly spaced pattern of stripes seen on the weft.  In most cases, the warp is fixed–as in the case with this coat–and the weft is fed with an assortment of yarns that have been knotted together:  the result is this intermittent striping.Zanshi-ori is one of my personal favorite categories of Japanese country textiles: not only is it distinctive and beautiful, its origins in thrift and resourcefulness are inspiring, and something of a life lesson.  Below, on the right-hand side, you’ll see a length of zanshi-ori cotton that belies what I said above, that the warp is fixed with a non-zanshi yarn and the weft is fed with zanshi threads.  In this case, the cloth is woven from a warp made from leftover kasuri threads and the weft is a regular pattern of stripes.What I love about the zanshi-ori futon cover, below, is there is evidence that kasuri or ikat threads were used in weaving this piece, as little blips of weft kasuri images appear on this cloth, as can be seen below.

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Balls of Hemp and Cotton Fiber

June 22, 2010

Today I’m showing five really lovely balls of fiber–three of hemp and two of what appear to be cotton that has been dipped in kaki shibu, or the tannin extracted from bitter, green persimmons.

I always love to find threads in this state, and this group of five looks really lovely: the balls range in size from 4″/ 10 cm in diameter to 2″/ 5 cm in diameter.The texture of the hemp filaments is taut and wiry.  The cotton appears very similar to the hemp–probably due to the kaki shibu dye– however its texture is a bit softer and more pliable.

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A Beautiful Sashiko Stitched Sledge-Hauling Vest from Yamagata

June 19, 2010

This stunning sleeveless, sashiko stitched work coat, or sodenashi, is from Yamagata Prefecture in the Tohoku Region of Japan.

The indigo dyed cotton vest is thick with layers which have been sashiko stitched together.  Likewise, the distinctive, diagonal applied band of stitching is added as protection for the wearer who is pulling a sledge, the strap of which is, of course, abrasive. This particular kind of sodenashi was used by men who pulled sledges in wintertime, to spread manure over their fields.  Wives would stitch intricate patterns to reinforce the jacket, as can be seen in photos above and below.Similar examples of this type of vest are shown on page 60 of the Kyoto Shoin book, Kogin and Sashiko Stitch, available from my web shop.

The entire body of the vest is pierced with minuscule stitches, adding a wonderful texture and visual interest to the garment.  The layers of cloth which are over-stitched onto the body of the vest are there for added durability.Shown below are a group of beautifully sashiko stitched drawstring bags which I will probably offer for sale in my web shop at some point in the near future.

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A Resist Dyed Furoshiki: Free Form Technique

June 16, 2010

This resist dyed, cotton, indigo furoshiki, a traditional wrapping cloth, is quite unusual.  Usually resist dyeing in Japan is done with rice paste and stencils (katazome) or by drawing directly on to cloth using a kind of cone applicator to guide the rice paste onto the cloth (tsutsugaki).

The free form, non-repeating, resisted white marks on this furoshiki were not done in either the katazome or tsutsugaki technique, but rather they were just spattered all-over the cloth, freestyle.Of course we are all thinking the same thing: Jackson Pollock.   And probably for good reason.  The action painting of New York’s Abstract Expressionist painters infiltrated culture all over the globe, so it’s not at all wrong to think that Pollock’s groundbreaking drip technique, pioneered in the 1950s, should be copied by an indigo dyer in Japan, probably some time in the 1960s or 70s when this furoshiki was made.I am sure the indigo artisan who dyed this furoshiki was having a little fun, experimenting with technique and nodding his head to the radical paintings of Post-War America.  Certainly the results the dyer achieved while dyeing this cloth are really delightful and vibrant.  Have a look:

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Two Faced: Twice-Dyed Cloth

June 14, 2010

Today I am showing two different textiles, each of which is dyed on both sides.

On the left is a bolt of Edo komon cotton: Edo komon is a stencil-dyed small-figured cloth that was popular in the early to mid 19th century.  The bolt is constructed from a kimono that has been taken apart and then put back together as a full bolt, probably for the ease of dyeing the other side and for future use.    What I mean by “dyeing the other side” is that this reconstructed bolt of Edo komon cotton was then stencil dyed on its reverse side at a more recent date than the original.

Shown above and in detail shots below, is a something very interesting: it is a panel of arashi shibori cotton that has been taken from a yukata which is an unlined, casual kimono.  On the reverse side of this arashi shibori, a stencil dyed pattern showing cranes and chrysanthemums was applied using the surikomi method, where color is forced through stencils directly onto cloth.  After the surikomi was applied, this cloth then was used to cover a futon.

Note the small figured Edo komon pattern in the cloth above, and below: in this case, the pattern is the all-over Genji-ko which has to do with an incense naming and memory exercise for refined aficionados of incense and aroma.You’ll notice that on the reverse side of the Edo komon cloth, seen clearly below, the pattern that has been applied is a simple one, a kind of  “faux” kasuri, and applied using  the surikomi method.

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June 7, 2010

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A Sashiko Stitched Noragi: Stitching over Shibori

June 5, 2010

Today I’m showing another beautifully sashiko stitched, indigo dyed cotton noragi, similar in spirit to the noragi shown in the previous post, below this one.

The sashiko stitching, which is arranged in a pattern of a radiating cross-like forms, is stitched over a base of indigo dyed shibori.Like the sashiko stitched noragi in the previous post, this jacket, too, comes from the Tohoku, or north east region of Japan.  The asymmetry of the shibori dyed cloth on the back of this work coat is a wonderful design detail–the stark, broken arcs of the shibori design is just beautiful.  Most likely this jacket dates to the mid-twentieth century.

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A Sashiko Stitched Noragi: Rectangles, Squares or Diamonds?

June 2, 2010

This is a marvelous, very intricately sashiko stitched coat, most likely from the Shonai district in Yamagata Prefecture. Do you see stitched rectangles, squares or diamonds?

The evenness of the sashiko stitching, which covers the entirety of the coat, front and back, is a marvel.    And as much as this coat is something of a tour de force of sashiko stitching, keep in mind that this level of stitching skill was shared by most girls and women of old Japan, all of whom cultivated a sure hand and exquisite stitching skill.

This indigo dyed, cotton coat most likely dates from the mid-twentieth century.

Similar examples to this coat are pictured in the Kyoto Shoin volume “Kogin and Sashiko Stitch” and the book suggests that this kind of garment was “worn by those carrying goods on their backs.”  I will be offering this book, and other titles from the Kyoto Shoin collection on my website beginning next week.

The book also mentions a fascinating fact about the size of the, yes, “squares,” which are stitched on the coat: “The size of the square represents labor productivity: the smallest square symbolizes the productivity of married women; the medium-sized square the labor of young men; and the largest square symbolizes the labor of middle-aged or elderly men.”

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