Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In store... a few of my favourite things

Japanese textiles are much more than a business to me -  I collect them, read about them, sew them and  (to the frustration of my kids at times) basically live with them. I never tire of being surrounded by fabric and there are very few fabrics in the shop that I don't like or don't find inspiring in some way.  But of course  I have my favourites. The ones shown here are just a few of them. They're not new stock or in some cases very popular with customers but I've kept samples for myself  and would keep all of them if  I had unlimited space  - and didn't have to make a living!

The first picture is one of a selection of 1950's overprinted floral yukata (summer kimono) fabrics.Quite a few  of them have sold out but there are still some stunning ones left.  I remember they arrived in a large shipment with  boxes and boxes of other rolls of  kimono fabric but even amongst all the beautiful silk we were opening these cottons made me gasp.  The vibrant joyful  designs are printed on  soft, unstarched cotton and have a loveliness about them that I haven't seen in any of the later yukata fabrics we've had. For many Japanese in the early post-war years bold colourful fabrics like this must have been a refreshing change from the enforced austerity of the war years. Fashion designer  (and then kimono shop owner) Ayako Koshino recalled:  'Within two or three years of the end of the war, new clothes suddenly appeared again. Wild, large  flower patterns, tartan checks, bright colours. I thought, it's my world at last! Finally I could go wild.'*

The next picture is of sakabukuro - and a completely different aesthetic . These long thin bags were used as strainers in the traditional sake making process.  They're made of a heavy weight cotton that has been treated with persimmon tannin which prevents the cotton from rotting and gives it the distinctive brown colour. (You'll see  the same tones in the old kimono stencils which we have in the shop and were also treated with persimmon).  They've often been repaired with large cotton stitching which gives them a wonderful, rustic 'wabi-sabi' feel (which many of you know I love).  Cotton from sakabukuro is very popular in Japan for bag making because of it's sturdiness and warm colour that goes beautifully with antique indigo and other old printed cottons. Unfortunately this popularity has pushed  prices up but sakabukuro are still wonderful items to have and to use - even if it is just to stuff them to use as bolsters.

The third picture is a very fine handwoven indigo dyed katazome  probably from the 19th century. I will write in more detail about katazome another time, but it is basically created by stencilling a rice-paste resist on to cotton before it is dyed in indigo. This piece has a particularly fine and delicate gourd design and is in perfect condition. Most of the katazome we have in the shop is from futon cover panels but this piece has more likely come from a  juban undergarment.  It is one of a selection of equally fine pieces of katazome that Takashi bought  a few years ago. Most pieces were put aside for the shop but some of them just had to go into my collection. I could easily have kept them all.

Finally, some of my favourite things in the shop are the humble odds and ends of fabric and old garments that go into the rummage baskets....

* quote from 'Japan at War: An Oral History' by Haruko Taya Cook & Theodore F Cook

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