Saturday, April 23, 2011
Ode to Charlene
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 SRI.com, 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.