Ringing in the New Year with a pile of old indigo

IMG_2933I spent New Years Eve picking apart two vintage cotton kasuri kimono, stitch by stitch. The one on the right with the cypress fence design (numazugaki 沼津垣) was so carefully sewn that it was a terror to disassemble. However, I wasn’t the first one to have taken this kimono apart, as evidenced by how it had been reconstructed. The fabric was cut here and there into smaller pieces, the raw edges turned in and sewn, then reassembled. The stitches were neat and even and the seams almost invisible where they met.

The second kimono was a bit easier to unstitch. Stained, faded, worn, and undeniably soft, the kimono came apart with a fair bit of grace as each unpicked panel drifted to the floor from my lap. The grid design made me think of waffles. Evidently I didn’t get very much sleep over New Years Eve night because things got silly after that. Wide awake now, I can see that it resembles the kanji for a field of rice: 田. As rice is eaten with every meal in Japan it makes sense to use it as a design element celebrating the fall harvest, especially as this would have been more likely worn in the countryside than in the city.

Miss Daisy providing Quality Control
Miss Daisy providing Quality Control

The dust and dander found in these homey textiles always make me sneeze. Violently. That, and occasionally spending time under my dog’s butt mean that each piece of vintage cotton I handle is carefully washed with hypoallergenic detergent. After that they drip dry for a while, then I iron, roll onto a bolt, and shelve them with the others I’ve been working on since last summer.


This sun-faded length of Meiji Era katazome has been waiting to be included in a quilt I’ve been collecting bits and bobs for. All the faded, torn, stained, worn, and otherwise imperfect pieces of indigo I come across are candidates for the boro quilt I dream of making. Over the past six months the stash has grown larger and my ideas have grown with it. Piece by piece it is coming together.

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