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A Silk Boro Cloth: Safflower Dyed Paper Patches

June 5, 2014

PaperRepair3I bought this boro textile on my recent April trip to Japan, but it wasn’t until I returned home and had a good look at it that I realized there was some something special going on: some of the patches on this tsumugi silk boro piece are paper which was dyed in safflower or benibana.

PaperRepair3aQuite wonderful: paper patches.  Those of you who know washi, or traditional Japanese paper, know that it’s made of long fibers and is a very versatile and strong material: it’s kind of like a non-woven textile. That said, it’s no wonder that paper patches were used here, being that washi is a strong and lightweight material.

PaperRepair3bLooking at the base cloth you can see that it’s a lightweight, brown-dyed raw silk.  The white splotch was resisted when the cloth was dyed and it’s a family crest.  This means that this cloth was once a kimono because kimono were decorated with family crests of this size and placement.


PaperRepair3dThis is a gorgeously boro or tattered old cloth, probably dating from the Meiji era (1868-1912).  It measures 32″ x 27″ or 81 cm x 68.5 cm


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Sashiko Stitched Hand Guards

October 26, 2013

Handcovers09I just returned from a buying trip to Japan, and when I’m there I never know what I’ll find–and what I won’t find.  Luckily, this past time I happened upon things I rarely see, sashiko stitched hand guards.  And I didn’t find just one pair–I found three.

Handcovers09aThe pair shown above is my favorite for its age, its good stitching and its wear.  But I’m thrilled to own all three of them.  They probably date to the early to mid twentieth century.

Handcovers09bAlthough I can’t be sure, I have a hunch, based on the situation where I acquired these, that the two pairs shown above are from Japan’s northern or eastern area.

Handcovers09cThe pair shown above is wonderful for its base cloth of kasuri or ikat woven cotton.  The white dots, which are the result of all-over sashiko stitching, are a wonderful design foil to the kasuri cloth which composes most of each of the gloves.

As I’m so enamored of these pairs of mittens I am in no rush to sell them. But do have a look at my webshop from time to time to see if I’ve decided to list a pair for sale.


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A Whole Lot of Zokin: Sashiko Stitched Dustrags

September 17, 2013

Zokin12Those of you who follow my webshop know that I regularly offer for sale zokin.  Zokin are traditional Japanese dust rags which are hand stitched from leftover or re-purposed cotton cloth.

Zokin12aI just love zokin.  Each time I travel to Japan I buy all those that I can find if I’m lucky to find any at all.  I’m voracious in acquiring them not only because I like them so much, but also because they are harder and harder to find, like all Japanese folk textiles.

Zokin12bAsk any Japanese friend and they’ll tell you that they stitched their own zokin in first grade and that they used it to clean their desk and classroom.  Zokin are ingrained in Japanese culture.

Zokin12cMost zokin are hand stitched from about four layers of recycled cloth and they are usually stitched in the manner of those shown here, using broad sashiko stitching.  Sometimes they show fancier sashiko stitching, but the type on this page are most common.

Zokin12dMany of those who buy these zokin actually use them in the home, either as a place mat or for presentation, placing a zokin under a special ceramic piece or a vase of flowers.  Stay tuned to the webshop as I will be listing these zokin from time to time.

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A Beautifully Patched Boro Futon Cover: Katazome Cotton

April 25, 2013

BoroFutonji3It’s been too long since I’ve last posted here, the reason being that I returned from Japan with a lot of antique Japanese folk textiles I found on my buying trip, and getting them all ready to show is time consuming.

I’ll be rolling out these new items on the webshop, with a good line-up to be shown this coming Wednesday, May 1 at 11 AM NY time.

BoroFutonji3aShown here is a wonderfully patched, large boro futon cover I just found on my trip.  The combination of the geometric katazome cloth overlaid by the random–and many–patches is gorgeous.  I was really happy when I found this one.

BoroFutonji3bThe indigo dyed cotton background shows a repeat pattern of hexagons or kikko, the traditional tortoiseshell pattern.   This design conveys a wish for long life.

BoroFutonji3cThe hand loomed cotton is gauzy, very soft and drapey.  The color is a beautifully faded indigo, softened from decades of wear.

BoroFutonji3dThe size is nice.  It’s 60″ x 48″ or 152.5 cm x 122 cm and it probably dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.


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A Silk and Cotton Boro Han Juban: Some Hemp Thread Stitching

February 22, 2013

SilkBoro2Since I specialize in indigo dyed cotton boro textiles, today I thought I would show a variation on this theme by posting images of a silk and cotton piece-constructed han juban, a half under-kimono.

SilkBoro2aIn old Japan, many han juban were made by piecing together scraps of cloth and no doubt you’ve seen examples on this blog.  In this case, both indigo dyed cotton and silk fragments were pieced together using a very strident and noticeable stitching, much of it done using hemp thread.

SilkBoro2aaOn the above photo you can see how direct the stitching on this han juban is.

SilkBoro2bAnd above you will see a detail of the collar area: the bottom part of the collar is indigo dyed cotton and the top is of nice, 19th century katazome silk.

SilkBoro2cAnd the inside is very interesting, as well, with more examples of piece construction.


SilkBoro2eThe back, too, has interesting details.

SilkBoro2fI think this piece probably dates to the Meiji era (1868-1912) and it measures  30″,76 cm from shoulder to hem x 48″, 122 cm from sleeve tip to sleeve tip.


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A 19th Century Boro Work Coat: Great Old Cottons

January 31, 2013

Noragi12Sometimes it happens that I discover something really wonderful that I bought a long time ago and that I forgot about.  Finding it is often a revelation, as was the case when I recently came upon  this very good old work coat.

Noragi12aI don’t know how–or why–I forgot about it, but often seeing something after a long time gives you “new eyes” and makes you appreciate it more. That’s the case with this boro coat.

Noragi12bIt’s a very nice one.  It is hand stitched from old  home spun, hand woven cottons of great variety.  There’s wonderful sashiko stitching–and the indigo blue is beautifully faded and worn.  But for me it’s the ito aji or thread flavor that makes me admire this piece so much.

Noragi12cCan you see that this is an older piece?  There is an indescribable eloquence in its character which comes from the warmth of human wear.

Noragi12dIt more than likely dates to the late nineteenth century.  It measures 49″ x 47″ or 124.5 cm x 119.5 cm.

Noragi12eThe cottons are really good.  I love the small checks which are emblematic of the 19th century, especially those that appear to be woven bamboo.  This pattern is called sankuzushi, and it’s one of my favorites.




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Translucency: Three Katazome Dyed Hemp Panels

September 17, 2012

I love showing patched hemp textiles against the light, and if you follow this blog, you’ve seen this set-up before.  Today I’m showing three patched fragments from summer futon covers, each hemp, each katazome or  stencil resist dyed.The two panels shown above are large-scale repeats from the 1920s or so.

The fragment shown above is a wonderful piece of old Omi jofu, or silk-like hemp or ramie weaving from present-day Shiga PrefectureHave a closer look at a similar piece here.

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A Patched and Re-Patched, Mended and Re-Mended Boro Sashiko Furoshiki: Hand Spun Cotton

September 8, 2012

I love the sashiko stitched furoshiki of old Japan.  These traditional, indigo dyed cotton wrapping or storage cloths are decorated with white sashiko stitching, usually on the corner areas, and they’re stitched there to reinforce the areas that would be tied and twisted together when the furoshiki is filled with goods to store or carry.As much as I like sashiko stitched furoshiki, when one is marvelously mended, as is this one, I like this boro version more than one that’s not boro.  This example has been used and mended hard over time, with layers of patches and lots of extra stitching.Have a look at the layered patches.  The layered mending stitches are gorgeous, and both blue and white threads are used in the stitching.

Notice the photo above and below.  Have a look at the mending patches.  And then see how the white sashiko stitched motif of the original furoshiki is carried over on top of the patch, for the sake of design continuity.You can see this also in the photo below.

So much texture due to patching, re-patching, stitching and re-stitching.

This furoshiki is large.  It measures 63″ x 61″, 160 cm x 155 cm and it dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

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A Magnificently Beautiful 18th Century Ramie Boro: Formal Kimono

May 1, 2012

This fragile, delicate and beautiful boro cloth is hand stitched from elegant, hand decorated 18th century kimono pieces.  The kimono, which once belonged to a woman of means, is made from indigo dyed, hand-plied ramie cloth.The ramie is extremely finely woven from hair-thin yarns.  It is almost silky in the hand.  As a kimono it was probably unlined.The decorations are resisted; the hand applied color which would have been very clear when first made is now faded away, leaving barely a trace.The cloth is soft and delicate–it flutters even in the most subtle breeze.

And on these photos you can see that the cloth is translucent.Most likely this cloth was fashioned as a futon cover; its small size suggests it was made for a child, but this would have been a pampered child who would have needed very good manners.

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A Patched Cotton Shibori Han Juban

March 12, 2012

I’ve had this indigo dyed cotton shibori han juban for a few years.  I bought it for its wonderful, hand spun cotton yarns and its beautiful shibori pattern.  Only recently, though, did I turn it inside-out, only to realize that I like the “inside” better than the “outside.”As you can see from these photos, the inside of the han juban or half under-kimono, shows a centrally placed, undyed, hand spun and hand woven cotton panel which reinforces the back of the piece, shown here.  Very nice cotton indeed.  And flanking it are two patches, one pinkish and one white.  It’s amazing how perfectly placed these patches are: the visual allure is uncanny and unintended.Very nice shibori, too.This lovely piece probably dates to the late nineteenth century or so, and like many other Japanese folk textiles, is full of surprises once you start really looking.

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