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A Small Book of Magic Symbols: Stitched Amulets

Written on July 30, 2013

SemamoriCho03In Japan, there is a certain magic associated with stitching: the act of enclosing a body in cloth is rich in meaning and stitching a garment closed has power in it.  It’s no wonder that stitches applied to children’s garments are done so intentionally, and that they are meant to protect the child from harm.

SemamoriCho03aThese protective stitches are called semamori, and shown here today is a semamori cho, or a practice album of decorative stitches that, when stitched on a child’s garment, would have been held in place one of the kimono’s two ties.

SemamoriCho03bThese semamori are decorative; some are auspicious, like the crane, above left, which is a wish for longevity.  Sometimes semamori are a series of stitches on the back of a kimono, not decorative, like the kind shown here.


SemamoriCho03dAbove, right, is a folding fan that is made of arrow feathers.  Below, right, are pine trees.

SemamoriCho03eThe paulownia flower is shown below left, and the genji ko, a marker in an incense memory game, is shown next to it.

SemamoriCho03f Below, left, is a crane that is also a folding fan.  Pines are to its right.

SemamoriCho03gThis little book measures 5″ x 3 1/4″, 13 cm x 8 cm and contains 26 pages showing 52 different stitched semamori images.   It probably dates to the first half of the twentieth century.



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  1. Comment by Jill:

    such a beautiful little book….

    July 30, 2013 @ 2:45 pm

  2. Comment by Carol Ann Eades:

    So intricate

    July 30, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

  3. Comment by velma:

    oh, my. oh, my!

    July 30, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

  4. Comment by jean betts:

    a lovely treasure

    July 31, 2013 @ 10:45 am

  5. Comment by Karen:

    Is this going to be for sale?

    July 31, 2013 @ 10:59 am

  6. Comment by Stephen:

    Dear Karen, this book is for sale, however it is on offer to someone right now….

    July 31, 2013 @ 11:01 am

  7. Comment by Maya Sara Matthew:

    What a treasure. I’m altering a couple of books with stitch and this little booklet is so inspiring.
    Thank you for introducing me to the whole semamori concept.

    August 2, 2013 @ 6:08 am

  8. Comment by Clare:

    How absolutely lovely! Thank you for sharing!

    August 3, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

  9. Comment by Allison:

    So precious!

    August 5, 2013 @ 9:42 pm