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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 Set of Six Small Sashiko Samples: Practice

December 10, 2012

Today I’m showing a set of six, small, layered cotton pieces, each of which has been sashiko stitched.  As you can tell from a quick glance, a girl in old Japan was being taught to stitch and these are her small practice pieces.
Common stitches are being practiced here, and likely you’ve already seen these stitches on sashiko textiles: the stepped design on the lower, left, above is the persimmon flower motif.  The larger design on the right, above, is a variation on another common pattern, the asa no ha or hemp leaf.
And here are the backs.  Pretty clean work for a novice, wouldn’t you say?

The larger pieces measure around 5 1/2″ x 6″ or 14 cm x 15.25 cm and the smaller pieces measure about 3 1/4″ x 3 1/2″ or 8 cm x 9 cm each.   Of course they made from a cotton base and cotton thread–and they probably date to somewhere just before the middle of the twentieth century.


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A Kogin Stitching Sampler: Nambu-hishizashi Embroidery from Aomori Prefecture

November 16, 2012

Those of you who know about sashiko stitching probably know something about kogin sashiko the intricate, complex, counted-thread stitching of Aomori prefecture, one of Japan’s most remote and rural areas.Aomori resides at the most northeastern tip of Honshu island and it is known for its harsh, inhospitable winters and its lavish, heavy snowfalls.  There is some irony in that some of Japan’s most magnificent, hand embroidered, cotton sashiko stitching comes from a place where cotton could never grow, and where it was only seen by trading cotton rags which probably arrived to Aomori sometime well into the 19th century.  Until then, the people of Aomori were clothed in garments woven from bast fiber.The kogin stitching of snowy Tsugaru is widely known.  It is characterized by white cotton thread stitched in blocks of tight geometric shapes onto an indigo dyed, hemp ground, like the example that can be seen here.In Nambu, a more southern and eastern area of Aomori, where the climate is a bit less harsh than in Tsugaru, Nambu-hishizashi embroidery was done.  Shown here is a sampler of the distinctive, colored, lozenge shapes that are characteristic of Nambu-hishizashi work.Traditional Nambu-hishizashi stitching was done in cotton thread on hemp cloth.  This sampler, with its ultra-fine work, is cotton on cotton.  Later on, in the early twentieth century, wool threads were used to augment the cotton stitched embroidery.  Very often, the colorful, lozenge shaped embroidery of Nambu, (similar to these examples) was used as the central panel on a three panel, traditional apron called maedare.Most likely this little sampler dates to the Meiji era (1868-1912), and by looking carefully at these photos, you can see how fine and intricate this stitching is

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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 Short Stack of Sashiko Kotatsu Accessories: Large Squares of Stitched and Layered Cotton

August 7, 2012

I love kotatsu accessories, and by that I mean kotatsugake or the quilted throws that are placed over the heated table where families would congregate to keep warm in winter months.  Very often kotatsugake can be made of sakiori, or ragweave, but in this case, they are made of layered, recycled cotton which have been beautifully sashiko stitched.  Shown here are five similar pieces, but I have others which are much heavier due to the layering of more cotton pieces.And I have them displayed on my beautiful and simply detailed Korean wooden chest.Each kotatsugake is about 60″ or 152 cm square and I think these date to the mid twentieth century.

And those of you in the New York area, please to stop by my weekend showroom sale.

Everything will be 30% off for just two days: Saturday, 11 August (12 noon – 5 PM) and Sunday 12 August (1 PM – 6 PM).

No appointments necessary for this two day event. Directions are here.

**As I’ve never done this before I don’t know if I’ll get 1 or 100 people visiting, so I’m hoping to be as prepared as I can be.

If there are many visitors at once, I ask your patience: my usual method is to book single appointments and work with people one-on-one.**






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A Super Subtle Very Sashiko Stitched Work Coat: Kagasuri

January 21, 2012

I really like this work jacket but I was wondering if I should post images of it.  I thought that in photos the dark indigo cotton cloth too murkily masks the subtle details of the jacket: the details are easier to see in person.The coat is densely stitched with tiny stitches of dark blue threads on a dark blue background.  In photos this is a bit lost, but in daylight, when standing in front of the piece, this detail is beautifully evident.  In the photos posted here, any slight undulation to the surface of the coat is due to the countless stitches which hold the two or three layers of cotton cloth together, making this a durable, warm garment.Add to that, the cloth on the exterior of the garment is something special, it’s referred to as mosquito kasuri or kagasuri: the intersections of white, resisted areas of the warp and weft yarns are as tiny as mosquitoes.  Imagine the great skill needed to weave such a delicate pattern.The interior of the coat, below, with its lighter color, shows a bit more evidence of the coat’s stitching–and many hand tied knots can be seen.The lining, too, is of kagasuri–and the entire coat is made of recycled cloth.When looking at the coat head-on, as in the first photo shown, above, the bold placement of the central patch on the back of the jacket is a visual treat, and is one of the things that tempted me to acquire this softspoken beauty.  And the color, the rich, sapphire blue was hard to resist.

Most likely this dates to the early-to-middle part of the 20th century and measures 44″ x 49″ or 112 x 124.5 cm.



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A Beautiful and Unusual Kogin Kimono: Sashiko Stitching from Aomori

January 16, 2012

This katazome dyed hemp kimono with a heavily sashiko stitched bodice is a variant on the traditional kogin kimono, kogin being a kind of sashiko stitching from the Tsugaru district in Aomori prefecture in Japan’s Tohoku region.Kogin stitching is emblematic of this very rural part of Japan, Honshu island’s northern or easternmost point.  From Kogin and Sashiko Stitch from the Kyoto Shoin’s Art Library of Japanese Textiles, Vol. 13:

The Tsugaru district in the western part of Aomori prefecture is famous for deep snow.  Due to the extreme cold, cotton is hard to grow; and, as cotton that was grown and brought in from the western part of Japan was too expensive, people living in the district were compelled to wear hemp clothes.  The kogin stitch was produced under these conditions.  The white stitches, sewn with valuable cotton thread, are reminiscent of the deep snow of Tsugaru.In referencing the above captioned book to understand this example better, it seems that this kogin is called higashi-kogin, as the design and stitching style comes from areas east of Mt. Iwaki.Generally we see kogin kimono which are constructed from a deep blue indigo dyed hemp and a sashiko stitched bodice, the cotton stitching worked on a hemp base.  This stitched bodice is a separate piece and sleeves, a skirt and collar area are all stitched to this kogin stitched bodice, the sides of which are closed and form the side seams of the garment.In this case, things are not as just described.  A rustic, stencil resist dyed hemp cloth kimono–in this case the hemp cloth is called Nambu katazome–is used for a base, and a kogin bodice is overlayed onto the existing garment and is firmly stitched to the base.  Kogin, as you can imagine, is extremely valuable, so it will be used and reused over time.  Examples showing this kind of re-use and this kind of katazome kimono base are fairly rare.The stitching is done with fairly thick cotton threads and is extremely dense.The kogin stitching dates to the late nineteenth century, the Nambu katazome kimono could be later, and it probably is.  The garment measures 45 1/2″ x 44″ or 115.5 cm x 112 cm.

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Some End-of-the-Year Details–and a Wish for a Happy New Year!

December 31, 2011

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Mottainai The Fabric of Life: Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan

November 6, 2011

The exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden, Mottainai, The Fabric of Life: Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan opened on 4 November.  Here are some installation shots.
I’m exhibiting with my friend, Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei in Kyoto.   Kei and I decided that I would show indigo dyed cotton boro pieces and she would show bast fiber and paper pieces.  The items I have contributed to the show can be seen below.Above and below is a large, woven cotton boro mosquito netting or kaya.

Above and below are sashiko stitched pieces.  Centrally place above is a large, sashiko stitched kotatugake.  To the left and right are garments from Yamagata prefecture.Stitched aprons and zokin can be seen above.

Above and below are sakiori garments.

Above is pictured a boro yogi or sleeping kimono, while below you can see noragi or work coats.Below is a fantastic boro futonji or futon cover.This piece, below, a shinafu or linden fiber tsunobukuro or horn bag is filled with balls of shredded indigo dyed cotton yarn and twisted paper yarn.   Kei brought this to the show to act as a transition between her bast fiber textiles and my indigo dyed cotton ones.  It’s an amazing object.  Kei’s other textiles can be seen in the images below.

Above and below are some woven paper garments.  On the photo, above, situated on the right is an okuso zakkuri or a coat made of woven hemp waste.  Below, seen in the middle, is a fujifu or woven wisteria garment and a shinafu or linden fiber garment to its left.

Below are two elm fiber garments: to the right is a traditional Ainu attush, to the left is an unusual dochugi or traveling coat, made from ohyo or elm fiber.  Since this dochugi is made from traditional Ainu cloth, we can assume that the cloth was traded with the Ainu by a merchant from Honsu island.

A marvelous, resist dyed ramie kazuki from Yamagata prefecture can be seen above and below.  A kazuki is a kimono-shaped veil which was worn on the head by upper class women.Below are repurposed paper items. A splendid bashofu or banana fiber kimono from Okinawa can be seen below.All of the pieces are for sale through the Portland Japanese Garden.  If any are interesting to you, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the Garden.

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