Sunday, 8 August 2010

Japanese Sashiko

Last Saturday we visited a Japanese Sahiko exhibition in Plymouth which has been traveling around the UK.  It was a rather dimly lit room and no photos allowed but I managed to find enough publicity materials to illustrate and whet your appetite!   Sashiko means 'small stitches' and at its simplest is when layers of cotton- normally indigo dyed and often recycled from other clothing- are stitched together with a simple running stitch horizontally for strength.  It was traditionally used for work clothing - it is hard wearing and warm- and the exhibition featured these garments alongside designer pieces influenced by the process.

Sashiko is seen as an example of Mingei where everyday items-ceramics, kitchen utensils, practical clothing- made by anonymous craft people  are "beyond beauty and  ugliness".  I love this, makes me think of the growth in handmade crafts today, people making potholders and tea towels etc for family and friends.   It was the domestic and smaller items that interested me rather than the coats and jackets made largely for men but the little things were not displayed as well and had less information.  There was even a dish cloth made of scraps of indigo cotton clothing and stitched sahiko style.  These are leg protectors.

Pre 1955 Work pants with lots of patches for repair and strength- it seems trite to say lovely checks but they are very decorative

You can read all about the hard lives of the women who stitched these garments and much more in a pdf from the  exhibition curator and look at great pictures of hand protectors, tabi and more.  There is a very quirky picture of pins and needles stuck into a piece of tofu like a pincushion!  This is for Hari Kuyo, a special thanksgiving memorial on 8th February for worn sewing needles and pins.  As well as laying needles to rest in tofu the user takes time to thinks of secrets buried deep and "too personal to reveal".  Fascinating.

A week of book posts is coming up, I have found lots of lovely vintage sewing and children's books and I have some new sewing e-books to review. All coming this week! 

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