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Luxuriously Sumptuous Recycling: An Edo Period Komebukuro

Written on December 2, 2010

Today I am showing something shimmering and beautiful: a piece-constructed drawstring bag composed of fragments of luxurious silks, some brocade, some embroidered, some couched, all colored by botanical dyes.This komebukuro, or rice bag, dates to the Edo Period probably around the late 18th century.  A komebukuro is a festive offering bag: typically a komebukuro is constructed from fanciful scraps of cloth.  A token offering of uncooked rice or beans would be placed in the bag which would then be brought to a temple or shrine, often during festivals.This komebukuro could have been used for other purposes, and, if so, would probably have been used at a Buddhist temple: the silk pieces which comprise this bag are donations from wealthy members of the temple.Some of the pieces of luxurious silk are culled from formal kimono and/or from uchishiki, altar cloths woven of richly brocaded silks which are used to dress the inner precincts of a temple.

Stunning work. And by looking at some of these fragments, you can imagine from where they came.  For example, the white fragment shown above is most definitely taken from a formal kimono, such as a kosode. The center piece, above, shows couched gold threads, embroidered silk floss, and some small dots of kanoko or fawn dappled shibori.

As shown in these photos, this bag measures 11″ x 10″ x 10″ or 28 cm x 25.5 cm x 25.5 cm.The bottom panel of the bag is beautiful, and the design echos that of the pieced pattern of the bag, which can be seen as stars or “tumbling blocks” depending on how you perceive the design.Below you’ll see a photo I snapped at a temple in Japan: notice the pieced cloth that is used as a cover: quite similar in style, feeling, flavor and design to the bag shown on this post.  This kind of piece constructed silk cloth is part of the Japanese textile lexicon.

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  1. Comment by Eva:

    Lovely! Patchwork is so Buddhist because of the renunciation vow the monks take.

    December 3, 2010 @ 10:54 am

  2. Comment by paula:

    what stunning pieces and juxtaposition. i think that’s the first time i’ve seen 18th-c. komebukuro. and thanks for the photo from the temple. wonderful to see something that puts this in context.

    December 5, 2010 @ 12:32 am