Friday, 17 October 2014

Sashiko, chikuchiku and boromono

I sometimes get questions about sashiko and other aspects of Japanese textiles by e mail.  Today,  Gerry Kortekaas from the Netherlands asked -

Can you tell me what boromono is exactly? Is it just like "our" quilts a 3-layered piece?
Is it put together like our quilts, or do the pieces also have rough edges? And is the quilting done in sashiko style, or in chikuchiku style?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is chikuchiku more colourfull and less refined than sashiko?

To me sashiko looks more refined, with delicate patterns and blocks. And chikuchiku looks more robust and all over, with less patterns, using only straight stitches and cross-stitches.

I thought it was easier to reply on my blog, so I could include photos. Click on any photo to see it full size. There are LOTS of links too - please click to follow them.

First, boromono.  The word means 'rag thing' - boro means 'rag' and mono is 'thing'.  They are more like the kind of utilitarian rag quilts that were used by farmworkers and hired hands in places like Wales and Australia (where they are called 'waggas') than nicely made quilts that were used for best.  They can be all kinds of things - clothes as well as bedding.

The photos above and below are from The Amuse Museum in Asakusa, Toyko - please browse their website through that link.  This fascinating and very accessible museum is the personal collection of Chuzaburo Tanaka.  His book, 'Boro: Rags and Tatters from the far north of Japan', is available from, Amazon com and Amazon jp, although they all seem rather overpriced.  It was still on sale at the normal price in the museum shop, so if you want a copy, it may be worth contacting them to see if they could send it.  The text is in Japanese and English, so there's plenty to read - not just eye candy.

He has collected many items from his home region, Tsugaru (nowadays Aomori Prefecture).

The museum has excellent information panels about boro.  Not only the usual kinds of museum information, but Tanaka-san relays all the stories and personal feelings of people about boromono and fabric scraps.  You get a real sense of how these scraps were treasured and used to create something special, with love.


Donja or yogi... (a quilt shaped like a kimono)

Not only does the collection have many boromono, but it also has the little bundles that were the raw materials, carefully piled up and tied with strips of cloth.  These are the personal fabric stashes of the boromono makers.

These are links to some of my earlier posts on boromono and boro, and our visit to the Amuse Museum in April.  The current special exhibition is also on the topic of boro, so you can read more about it here - I hope it is still on when we visit in January, as it will be a chance to see more bormono than are usually on display.  The exhibition in London displayed boro as artworks, rather than with the more human touch, and also took them out of context.

Very simple sashiko is used to hold the layers of boro together, like the sashiko on this tebukuro (hand cover).

Sashiko is not physically delicate, although it may look so - it is one of the toughest stitching techniques around.  Also, whether or not it looks delicate depends on what kind of sashiko you are looking at.  Yuza or Shonai sashiko has very dense stitching.  These are old work jackets displayed at Yuza Sashiko and Peaceful Hearts Quilt Group's exhibition in 2006 - sorihikihappi (sledge pulling jackets).

For contemporary work by Yuza Sashiko Guild, follow this link.   There are photos of their most recent exhibition last month in these blog posts.

Chikuchiku is more colourful and more random than hitomezashi (one stitch sashiko) of the kind shown above, where neatness and even stitching are highly prized.  I wrote about chikuchiku on an earlier blog post here. The name is onomatopoeic and is the sound of the needle clicking through the fabric - it also seems to describe the way the fabric is pleated onto the needle very well.  It is also known as crazy sashiko. Junko Maeda (not to be confused with the fashion designer of the same name) and Ginka Niigata ('Silver flower of Niigata') aka Akiko Ike are both known for chikuchiku. Maeda-san recently exhibited in the USA and some of her work shows the influence of Korean pojagi, as well as sashiko and boromono.  Ike-san blogs about chikuchiku and other crafty things - she is the silver haired lady on the right in the first photo.  She exhibited at Pour L'amour du Fil in Nantes in April - there are photos of her exhibition on Minick and Simpson's blog, there was an article about her in Quiltmania issue 100 (still available as a back issue), and photos here.  Coincidentally, a friend in Japan visited her only a couple of days ago, so I'm looking forward to hearing about Ike-san's latest projects. I would love to meet her and study with her - if 'study' is the right word! Chikuchiku is very playful.

I hope that's answered the questions.  Have fun following all the links!

UPDATE - 20/10/14 - Blue and White, the famous shop in Tokyo, has just added a very nice blog post about crazy sashiko - read it here.

UPDATE - January 2017 - we visited Akiko Ike's shop and home at last!

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