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Archives for January, 2011

A Pieced, Sheer Cotton Koshimaki

January 29, 2011

Two days ago, New York City was hit with a tremendous snowfall.  Although the blizzard threw the city in disarray and created havoc at the local airports, the blanket of snow on the city streets is lovely, the snow-muffled city noises are welcome–and the diffused light reflected off the snow lends a soft, cool glow to interior spaces.

And that’s why today I am showing this wonderful, piece constructed sheer cotton indigo dyed koshimaki–a kind of woman’s undergarment–against the silvery winter light.  The piecing and the translucency of the koshimaki is shown off to good advantage when back lit.I love the cotton of this koshimaki with its wiggly warp yarns which create something of a visual texture: weavers who are reading this will know how this erratic warp effect is achieved.I also like the shadowy look of these photos–and how the back lighting shows off the seams of the koshimaki.  Obviously this underskirt was sewn from left over pieces.  The center, opaque square is a piece of indigo dyed cotton.

Wonderful looking, isn’t it?It measures 20″ x 44″ or 51 cm x 111.5 cm and dates to the mid twentieth century or thereabouts.

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An Extraordinary Sakiori Hanten: Hemp Warp, Cotton Weft, Sashiko Stitched Sleeves

January 26, 2011

This sakiori hanten has it all: indigo cotton rag weft, hemp warp, great condition, nice proportions, good mending– and a fine, old age.   These characteristics make for a grade A sakiori garment.What sends it over the top, however, are the asagi (pale blue) cotton sleeves which are densely sashiko stitched and so worn that the stitches seem embedded in the fibers of the cloth.Isn’t this sleeve, below, a thing of beauty?  The color, the texture, the patina, the wear–and when paired with the coat itself, it looks even better.It’s interesting that such “fancy” sleeves were attached to such a hardy work coat.  Sleeves were put on and taken off coats during their lifetime, but these seem as if they were attached to this coat for a very long time.   Unless, of course, they were taken from another garment and affixed to this one at some point.  This is highly possible.Since the sleeves ARE so fancy, it has me wondering if this garment was worn by a rural person to go to town or on special occasions.In my estimation, if you are looking for a superb sakiori garment, you’d want to see a bast warp, an indigo cotton rag weft and you’ll want it to have some age.  It has to be in good condition, of course.Sakiori garments are difficult place in time: they were worn from the late eighteenth century well into the mid twentieth century, so one needs to use conjecture to date such garments.  Unless, of course, you are given some kind of history from the family who owned the garment.   This is not the case with this one, though.  I’d guess this to be from the 1930s or so.  It may be older; it may be younger.  There’s just no way of zeroing in on an exact date in this case.It measures 117 cm x 112 cm or 46″ x 44″.

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Gradient Indigo Blues and Greens: Kaya or Hemp Mosquito Netting

January 22, 2011

Kaya, or Japanese mosquito netting woven from hemp, is one of my favorite types of Japanese textiles.  Kaya’s open weave and its warm colors–ranging from natural to indigo to over-dyed indigo– are simply beautiful.Often the green colors are hard to convey in photographs as they are somewhere on the spectrum between blue and green.  That said, you may have to enrich the photos presented here with your imagination.

The texture is rustic and rich, and the weave is open.This configuration of blue and green kaya looks wonderful against the light.

Have a look at the tags to the right of this posting for previous discussions of kaya on this blog.

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A Small Heap of Soft Cotton Bags

January 19, 2011

I’m posting these photos today as a way to bring you to a corner of my showroom: shown on the bottom right of this photo is a little pile of soft, cotton bags, the type that were made to store stacked lacquer bowls.I like the combination of the pale, indigo dyed bags mixed with the overdyed, or green, indigo bags.  Notice how the bags are gathered at the bottom in order to form a cup-like shape.  This feature is designed to cradle the bottom-most bowl that would have been stored in the bag.The bag in the foreground, right, has a nice little patch.  I think these bags date to the early-to-mid twentieth century.  Soon I will start offering these on my webshop, as I did with this one here.Each of these bags is hand stitched from very nice, hand loomed cotton.

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An Itajime Shibori Apron: Asa-no-ha Pattern

January 16, 2011

In front of the big, boro yogi that I featured in a previous post, today I am showing a hand woven cotton apron which is dyed in indigo using the itajime or clamp dye method, a form of shibori.

Itajime dyeing may be familiar to many of you, and often the pattern dyed in itajime shibori is that of a sekka or snow flower, like this piece here.In the case of this cotton apron, the pattern is a bit more complex than sekka: this pattern is very traditional an very Japanese, and is called asa-no-ha or a stylized hemp leaf.

Just beautiful, isn’t it?  I don’t think it was ever used as a garment as it does not show signs of wear.And of course the entire garment is hand stitched.

It measures 24″ x 36″ or 61 cm x 91.5 cm.

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A Pair of Tsutsugaki Zokin: Lyrical Dust Rags

January 13, 2011

It’s funny to think that something so common as a dust rag can be decorative and can be made of  hand dyed, hand woven cloth.  The pair I am showing today is just that.On today’s post is pair of zokin, or dust rags, which are beautiful and unusual: they are sewn from tsutsugaki dyed cotton and are very heavily sashiko stitched. As zokin are sewn from scraps of “recycled” cloth, these are no exception.  The cloth which makes this pair was culled from a larger piece, most likely a tsutsugaki futon cover which was probably part of a Meiji era (1868-1912) couple’s wedding trousseau.The tsutsugaki cloth on the right-hand zokin shows a faded spray of flowers situated by the edge of a stream; on the left-hand zokin is a beautiful, lattice-fenced foot bridge which crosses the same stream.Equally beautiful, but slightly less lyrical from the image standpoint, are the backs of the zokin, shown below.I believe these zokin were sewn in the mid -twentieth century, and it seems pretty clear that the lady who stitched these zokin carefully chose the cloth and framed the tsutsugaki images with care.

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“Recycled” 19th Century Embroidered and Couched Silks: Buddhist Temple Cloth

January 8, 2011

Today I am showing two silk Buddhist temple dressings which are made from recycled silk kimonos, the silk being offered to a temple by donors.Each of these pieces is constructed from 20 separate, long streamers of silk, many of which are chirimen (crepe) silk that are embroidered with silk floss and couched with gold thread.  These lavish silks were culled from formal kimono which probably date to the late 18th or early 19th century.The silk is backed with paper, which can be seen through some of the splits in the silk and on the various areas where the silk has degraded.  The expertly formed blue silk terminals of each of the 40 flaps shown here are also backed with paper; they are formed in the matsukawa bishi or pine bark motif.Ritual silk banners, or ban, hang in Japanese Buddhist temples, usually flanking the sanctum sanctorum in some symmetrical arrangement nearby the altar.  Here is one from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and one that I sold some time ago.

The detail work is exceptionally precise and clean, as can be seen on the tips of each of the silk streamers.Notice the embroidered turtle on the photo above–what is not shown on this detail is that the tortoise is placed within the context of  embroidered plum, bamboo and pine, or the auspicious trio of traditional motives called shochikubai.Each of these pieces measures 43 1/2″ x 44″ or 110 cm x 101.5 cm.

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An Indigo Dyed Ramie Kumanozome Yukata

January 5, 2011

Last October, I published a post that showed a three-panel Kumanozome futon cover.  Today, I am showing another Kumanozome textile, this time it is a yukata, or unlined casual kimono, woven from ramie.The trademark feature of a Kumanozome textile is the dizzying optics produced by a technique of dyeing cloth using an overlay of striped stencils to create a moire effect.In the case of the futon cover mentioned above, the stripes are wide and bold; in the case of this yukata, the stripes are very narrow and give a subtle, overall moire pattern, sort of like an undulating mist.  If the moire pattern on this garment were any bolder, it would probably be visually unsettling, both for the wearer and for those around her.I love Kumanozome textiles because they are daring and strange: they’re not beautiful in the conventional sense.  Unlike most Japanese textiles whose patterns evoke the natural world and the changing of the seasons, or are based on a repeat of highly stylized everyday objects, Kumanozome cloth is full-out, untethered visual trickery and does not call up any recognizable reference.The Japanese love their shima, or striped fabrics, and although you could say that Kumanozome textiles riff on stripes, I think that they are really all about optics and don’t have much to do with any conventional textile.  My hunch is that this kind of moire was the result of dyers playing with striped stencils, and discovering this effect as they worked.As I said, my theory about Kumanozome cloth is a hunch; there’s not much written in English about the development and production of this type of cloth. This yukata probably dates to the early twentieth century and is in very good condition.

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A Group of Four Pale and Patched Boro Sakabukuro

January 2, 2011

This is a group of four, boro sakabukuro, or sake straining bags: the pale brown color and the strident white patching and mending are really beautiful.

I’ve shown some other sakabukuro on this blog in the past, so have a look at the word cloud or “tags” to the right of this posting, click on sakabukuro.  You can view some of the preceding posts.These bags are made of a commercial grade cotton duck canvas cloth which has been saturated in kaki shibu, or the tannin of green persimmons.  Kaki shibu helps strengthen the fibers of the cotton and that’s a good thing: in order to make sake, these bags were filled with unfiltered sake lees; the filled bags were then pressed so a purer form of sake would start draining from the bag, leaving the solids behind.The repeated pressure applied to these bags during the sake making process would affect the condition of the bags, necessitating patching and mending.Soy sauce was made in a similar way using similar bags and although these bags are generally referred to as sakabukuro, one cannot be certain if they were used for making sake or soy sauce.  Unless, of course, someone tells you from where these bags were procured.All the patching and mending of the bag is done by hand.  However, the top seam is finished with machine stitching.Each of these bags measures 30″ x 10″ or 76.5 cm x 25.5 cm.  They probably date to the mid twentieth century.   A gorgeous group!

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