Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ode to Charlene

I always love it when I find a treasure that bears someone's name - even a first name only as is the case with this lovely Sashiko indigo work apron. Charlene did a masterful job of creating this Sashiko sampler, and very appropriately selected something indigo to work on. Likely we will never know who this lady Charlene is, and it is only my guess that she is from somewhere here in Southern California, or at least lives in this general area.  Was it perhaps made as a gift that for whatever reason was never used, or did Charlene just have a strong interest in learning Sashiko and perhaps decided to create this sampler to learn to work some of the various patterns that interested her?  Although I am always thrilled to find these beautiful treasures, I am also saddened that people don't treasure and keep handwork the way I know that we all did when I was younger. You can click on the image to see it in larger format.

Sashiko, literally "little stabs," is a form of decorative reinforcement stitching (or functional embroidery) from Japan. It was used by the poor country folks such as farmers and fishermen to reinforce points of wear, or to repair worn places or tears with patches in garments, bedding, and other everyday textile items such as Saki bags.  It is interesting that the thinking was such that even everyday items were deemed worthy of decorative quilting and embroidery, though to be honest, I have also seen many a piece with just plain straight Sashiko stitching lines. Still, it is clear that the indigo cloth was highly valued, not just by the stitching, but by the fact that there is still a lot of old Japanese clothing and household textile items made of indigo cloth to be had through dealers such as, one of my personal favorites. There is a link on this site for them. The white cotton thread on the traditional indigo blue cloth gives sashiko its distinctive appearance, though decorative items sometimes use red thread.

The oldest surviving item of Sashiko-stitched clothing is from the Asuka period and is a Buddhist priest's robe that was donated to a Japanese temple in AD 756.

Many Sashiko patterns were derived from Chinese designs, but the Japanese also developed many of the designs. The fact that we often see art forms in Japan derived from the Chinese makes me wonder about relationships that are not as obvious as what we read in history books.

In 1824, The artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) published the book New Forms for Design, and the designs from the book served as the inspiration for many Sashiko patterns.

Some of the better known patterns are:

    * Tate-Jima — Vertical stripes
    * Yoko-Jima — Horizontal stripes
    * Kōshi — Checks
    * Nakamura Kōshi — Plaid of Nakamura family
    * Hishi-moyō — Diamonds
    * Yarai — Bamboo Fence
    * Hishi-Igeta /Tasuki — Parallel diamonds / crossed cords
    * Kagome — Woven Bamboo
    * Uroko — Fish Scales
    * Tate-Waku — Rising steam
    * Fundō — Counterweights
    * Shippō— Seven Treasures of Buddha
    * Amime — Fishing nets
    * Toridasuki — Interlaced circle of two birds
    * Chidori — Plover
    * Kasumi — Haze
    * Asa no Ha — Hemp leaf
    * Mitsuba — Trefoil
    * Hirayama-Michi — Passes in the mountains
    * Kaki no Hana — Persimmon flower
    * Kaminari — Thunderbolts
    * Inazuma — Flash of Lightning
    * Sayagata — Key pattern
    * Matsukawa-Bishi — Pine Bark
    * Yabane — Fletching

There are many other names of patterns that stem from nature or from meaningful symbols. For me, it is a testimony to mankind that throughout history, man has had an intimate connection with his surroundings and has taken meaning and seen beauty in the simplest of everyday experiences with those things.

1 comment:

Chris Wooten said...

I am wanting to learn to sew. I just purchase a cheap brother ci6000 to teach myself. Have not had much time to do it though.

Love the write about this apron. I agree.