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A Rustic Apron Woven from Okuso: Hemp Yarn Waste Material

Written on July 8, 2013

OkusozakkuriMaekake1This humble garment may not be the most beautiful country textile you’ve seen, but for me, cloth of this kind is some of the most valuable there is. This is an apron woven from okuso.  Okuso is the waste material left behind from the process of making fine, hand-plied hemp yarn.

OkusozakkuriMaekake1aPoor people in old Japan had the skill to make hand plied, hemp yarns of fine quality, however they were not so rich to be able to afford such yarns for their own use.  They sold the high quality, hand plied yarn to a broker and used rougher or less fine yarns to weave their own garments.

OkusozakkuriMaekake1bCloth and garments woven from okuso are not easy to find these days, and because okuso represents the resourcefulness of Japan’s peasant class of the deep past, it is highly prized, very collectible, and always commands a high price.   This simple garment is a well-worn apron which can be seen by the staining, the holes, the patching and the overall wear.  The details are hand stitched of indigo dyed cotton.

OkusozakkuriMaekake1cBy looking at the photo, above, you can see a close-up of the surface of this recycled-yarn cloth.  Note the thin striations of indigo-dyed blue cotton threads that have worked their way into the finished cloth.  An image of raw oksuo fiber is shown below.

rawokuso11The apron itself measures 22″ x 34″ or 56 cm x 86.5 cm and dates to the late nineteenth century.  A self-effacing beauty and something to treasure from old Japan.



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