Another year has slipped by already. It's a busy time and I probably won't have time to post again before Christmas and the New Year - so this is a good chance to say 'thank you' to all our Wafu Works customers and friends who have taken an interest in my blog throughout 2012. I'm looking forward to a busy year in 2013. I always enjoy posting here even though I don't do it as regularly as I intend to. Please let me know if there is ever any topic do with Japanese textiles or culture generally that you'd like me to cover - and I'll do my best.
Wishing you and your families a safe and very happy holiday season.
This Santa sewing , with the clock ticking, is from the jokes page of the December 1934 edition of 'Fujin (housewives') Club' magazine.
We always have a selection of old and new Japanese paper in the shop (and some online) including handmade washi, wrapping papers, origami and packs of antique paper from various old books. We have lots of old books as well. These are full of character just as objects or you can use the paper in your art work or for covering lanterns for example. I just put out lots more this week:
This week I've also put out more large and small sheets of chiyogami or yuzen washi. Here are a few examples:
Another thing I've ended up accidentally collecting is old Japanese needle packets. These usually turn up when we buy old sewing boxes and they're still full of needles, buttons and threads. Some are sold in the shop but I usually keep a sample of different brands or unusual packets. Luckily they don't take up much space.
Most of these first ones probably date to the early 20th century, some are older, some a little newer. The black writing is the type or size of needle, for example, 'silk', 'tsumugi' ( a type of silk), 'small cotton', '4-2', '4-4'. I'm not sure how the sizes work.
Some are held together with a little thread:
Some machine needles:
Clover has been producing needles and other sewing accessories since the 1920's. I sell Clover needles in the shop. Here are three generations of Clover needle packets. The oldest packet contains 25 needles, the latest only six, which probably says something about the changing place of handstitching in everyday life. It's interesting and a little sad to see how much packaging it takes now for 6 needles compared to a small piece of paper for 25. In the old packages the needles are first wrapped in a small piece of foil and then simply folded in the paper. (I package sashiko needles for the shop and use this method - it's easiest and most economical).
This is an old shop display box for 'Clover top quality sewing needles' - '1 packet 10yen, futon needles 20 yen' :
Customers often ask me what kind of sewing I do and they're often surprised that I don't make kimonos, that I'm not a quilter and that I rarely sew with silk. The truth is that I do very little sewing! I'm usually kept busy enough preparing fabric for the shop - and being a mum. I never use a sewing machine unless I really really have to. My taste and temperament leans very much towards more rustic handstitching. I'm very interested in all traditional Japanese techniques for re-using and recycling old fabrics but I'm not good at all with little fiddly things (like the oshie in my previous post for example). I love and appreciate so many of these traditional crafts and I guess I could become better at that kind of work if I persevered, but it's not what I enjoy making. Here are some pieces that show what I do enjoy.
I made the first pieces some years ago for an exhibition that my sewing group put on in the shop.
This is a sashiko furoshiki wrapping cloth that I use as a table cloth in the shop. It's about 60cm square and is stitched on a piece of old futon cover. Some years ago I found an article in a Japanese magazine about an old lady from Kyushu who was doing the most amazing random freehand sashiko . I've seen very few other examples of it but I enjoy doing it myself and like how it looks. These coasters and mats were also for the exhibition:
This is a silk komebukuro (rice bag) style drawstring bag that I finished recently. I had started it years ago and purposely left it unfinished for komebukuro workshops. It's quite big ( a useful size for storing things) which made my husband comment that I couldn't really call a bag that size a kombukuro. I like this style of working with random sized strips.
This is the first, much smaller, bag I made for the komebukuro workshop, using antique cottons.
This piece of patchwork is a detail from a quilt (it will be tied not actually quilted) that I've been working on for years and will eventually finish one day - maybe. The squares are about 5 cm square but you can see that precision isn't really my thing! Again, I like the randomness of it.
Lately I've started working on some traditional sashiko cotton hanafukin cloths for a potential workshop. These dishclothes were the kind of stitching that women would sit and work on in the evenings to recycle their cotton remnants. The one on the left is hitomezashi stitching which is a kind of sashiko done in straight lines of vertical and horizontal running stitch on a grid. But again my taste is always to the more simple and I prefer the simple lines of the second one.
I haven't run any workshops for a few years now. We don't have very much space and as the shop got busier it became too difficult to run them when we're open. I'm thinking of starting a limited programme again in the new year. One of the workshops I'm working on is Ainu embroidery. The Ainu are an indigenous people of northern Japan and I will post about Ainu textiles again in future. I still have a lot of work to do to prepare for this workshop - my embroidery skills leave a lot to be desired. These are some of my first attempts - they don't have the same flare as original Ainu pieces - and please don't look too closely at the stitching!
This first image is of one of my favourite pieces in my collection. I used it in one of my first blog posts and it's the image on the home page of my website. It's a late Edo period oshie ( 押絵 lit. 'push picture') padded applique and probably dates from around the middle of the 19th century. It has the subtlety and delicacy that is characteristic of so many Edo period textiles, and which is rarely seen in later oshie.
Oshie developed as a craft in the second half of Edo period ( 1600-1868) as a pastime for wealthy women who had time on their hands. They also had access to silk remnants to re-use. Some oshie were displayed on small sticks which could be inserted into display stands. The ones here have been mounted on paper. Most of them have been pasted into the centre of the sheet with the side pieces folding over to close:
We bought these oshie together and they seem to have been made by the same person.
I love the attitude and the flirtatious sideways look of the woman in this final one.
Kimono silk off the roll is definitely the most popular item in the shop. It's being used for quilting, dressmaking, dolls, hats, bags, table runners, wall hangings, cushions, scarves, and much more. Here's a selection of our silks which shows the range of designs we have. These silks all date from mid-late 20th century and are the standard kimono width (approximately 35cm). They're all currently available in our online shop: www.wafuworks.com.au