Kogin Institute, Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan

I visited the Kogin Institute in Hirosaki on January 31, 2017 after visiting the Tokyo Quilt Festival, Takayama, and Osaka. It was a pleasant flight from Osaka to Hirosaki, with the view of snowy mountains most of the way, and many, many empty seats. My companion Toyo looked around the plane, counted the passengers, and…

Why is kimono fabric so narrow?

There is a lot of confusion among Westerners about this issue. We are accustomed to cutting patterns for clothing, quilts, and crafts from 42″-44″ wide bolts, so the idea that a bolt could be so much narrower–12″-15″–seems, well, foreign. Considering the width of a basic backstrap loom, the narrow fabric makes sense. Backstrap looms are easy…

Playing with Texture: Japanese Dobby Cottons

Dobby cottons are fun to play with, but most quilters outside of Japan may be unfamiliar with these highly textured fabrics. What exactly does “dobby” mean, anyway? Dobby looms entered into the weaving scene in the mid-19th century and the origin of the term comes from “draw boy”, usually a young helper who would pull strings…

Video of mechanized silk looms in a Japanese obi factory

It’s not the best footage, but this view of a working Japanese textile mill is entertaining if you enjoy seeing how machinery works, which I do. The sound inside this mill is a lot of clacking and thrumming, not very musical and quite monotonous. However, I enjoy watching the various bits of this and that moving about…

A Danish textile, and updates for spring

February was a busy month, and between four different conferences (only two of which had anything to do with textiles), I didn’t get around to posting. To make up for the time I took off, I will be posting more frequently about the amazing textiles I viewed last month, and trying out my skills at…

Tsuzure Ori

I was warned years ago that if I started studying Japanese and didn’t have many opportunities to speak the language, I’d lose it. This has sadly come to pass. Taking a few steps away from my kimono-focused business over the past few months, the words have been gradually slipping away from me. Conversational Japanese went…

Book reviews: ancient textile construction

Every morning after the dog has been fed and the kids shuttled off to school, I sit down at the kitchen table with a plate of last night’s leftovers, a pot of tea and a book or two. On occasion this leads to a loss of appetite, especially when dye techniques that involve dung or…

Awa Shijira-ori

Known for its distinctive crinkled, crepe-like texture, Awa Shijira-ori* is a cotton fabric ideal for making summertime yukata. The texture, similar to seersucker, does not stick to the skin in Japan’s hot, humid summers, and the openness of the weave allows for good airflow. Originating in the Tokushima Prefecture during the Meiji era (1868-1889), it…

Sakiori obi

Sakiori (saki=rag, oru=weaving) is one technique among the fine arts of resourcefulness and reuse. A worn out, damaged or otherwise ruined garment is torn to shreds and woven over a new warp to find another useful life. I know people who cringe when I tell them that I tear kimono apart, but this is something…

A little something to keep you warm

Digging through boxes in the garage today I came aross a few more vintage boro blankets I’ve had stashed for nearly two years now. I blogged about our family’s favorite last January, but this one has not been in use as it has only one layer with no backing or batting. The weave technique used…

Bast again

Ah, those wonderful mystery fibers. Gotta love ’em. It’s funny, but to the modern eye, “vintage” Japanese fibers tend to be either brightly colored silks or indigo blue and white cottons, but historically this was not so. Prior to the mechanization of weaving in the mid 19th century, a great deal of weaving was still…

Hello world!

I’m starting the new year with a little mystery. I discovered this piece being used as the stiffener inside an old obi recently. The obi itself was quite old, but the fabric has been repurposed and is likely from the 19th century so far as I can tell. It’s not cotton, rayon, wool, or silk,…