Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Seams and Patches

I've had some customers recently asking about traditional patching techniques so I thought I would show this old  handmade sample book from my collection.  It seems to have been a high school project and has the name Kimiko Noda and her class number (2-2) very beautifully written by brush on the cover  and the title Tsugikata Tsugikata  -  'How to join(fabric). How to patch.' It's about 9cm x 14cm. Each sample piece has been stitched into the book with a single pine needle motif that allows you to see the reverse as well

Some of the seams might be a little difficult to see in the photos. The first is a 'folded back to one side join/seam'. This is a plain seam that has then been stitched down to one side  with tiny stitches showing on the right side of the fabric (there are probably English names for these techniques - I'm sorry I don't know them!).  The pictures show the front and then the reverse:
Next is a 'split seam' which is a regular seam with both sides stitched down:
The third seam is a 'kake-tsugi' which has simply been overstitched.
The next kasane-tsugi ('lie on top seam') has one piece flat on top of the other (rather than being stitched right sides together) and held with a running stitch:

Next is a  'face to face seam'  which is like a tight herringbone variation:

The word for patch is also tsugi  but with a different kanji character 繼to the tsugi which means seam 接. If you're interested in kanji you might note that the tsugi used to label the patch samples is the old unmodified version of the same character on the cover of the book 継 . The first  patch is simply 'hole patch (circle)' :
And 'hole patch (square)':
Next is a 'key tear patch',  (This is the same shape as the large keys which were poked through a hole in a door or gate to open the latch from the inside.)
The next is a 'sashi-tsugi' or stitched patch. This is the same 'sashi' as in sashiko'. This is a very common kind of darning  that we often find on old kimono and juban:
I'm not sure why this final one is called 'coloured paper patch'. It's a slightly more decorative version of the  previous one:



  1. Hi Jan, this is a treasure to have. I think it would be great to use these techniques in what seems to be called 'contemporary boro'. Thanks so much for such good images.
    Cheers, Claudia

  2. Thanks very much Claudia. I always appreciate your comments (even if I sometimes forget to reply quickly!)

  3. Jan, what a treasure of a book!!!

    I have several boro textiles that I fear repairing because I may destroy the value. Not so much because if my technique, my stitches would be indistinguishable from the original (I've been practicing!), but being a modern, not Japanese woman, I would be destroying it as a cultural artifact.

    So I've this dilemma: repair so now it's usable but destroy its value or
    Leave as-is, but now it can't be used because it's too damaged

    Any advice would be deeply appreciated.

  4. Hi Joyce

    I understand this dilemma but I think you should go with your own gut feeling, so to speak. I have some more precious pieces that I would never touch and choose to keep as 'artifacts' which I can enjoy as is and show people when I'm giving talks etc. One of my favourite boro pieces I use unaltered to cover an old trunk and I get to see it every day. I also have interesting ramie piece that had been used as an obi lining that I have hanging on the wall - and enjoy like that. Others (maybe less patched and stitched) I would be happy to repair and use - though when I do have time to sew I'm usually using smaller pieces anyway. Generally with most of the items that come through my shop I don't think there's anything sacreligious about adding another layer to the life and history of the piece - but there are definitely some things that I feel should be just left as they are. I guess it's just my own sense of the value of each piece ...usually I just know - and if I don't know it's put aside until I do.
    I'm glad you like the book - I thought you would!