Monday, November 01, 2010

Hidden Treasures

Last night, sitting in front of some trash TV, I was carefully taking apart a gorgeous Taisho period (1912 - 1926) Meisen Silk (ikat) kimono.  The main colour was a rich, deep purple with a floral crest and geometric pattern woven in lighter colours.  It has a beautiful crisp old silk feel to the touch and as I gently removed the hand stitching I tried to imagine who it had belonged to and what occasions it had seen.

And then I came to the lining...

Inside the kimono was this vibrant teal fabric, what feels like a silk-wool blend, quite raw, I suspect it was older that the outer kimono fabric.    At some point a little bug had taken a liking to the lining fabric and had munched through areas.

Rather than just throw the fabric out it had been patched up by what appears to be scraps on hand, pieces with bright red flowers and green leaves.  But what got me is the stitching, neat little rows of sashiko stitching in the boro tradition of mending old textiles.


At the time, this would have been hidden away, maybe for the embarrassment of not being able to afford new lining, or maybe not.  There is also a real sense of thriftiness in Japan, so I hope it was appreciated for the resourcefulness and fine handiwork that it really was.

Even some of the patches have been patched...



Round holes have been sewn around before the larger fabric has been stitched into place...


I'm not sure what I'll do with this treasured piece of fabric yet, but I think it's time that the fine handiwork saw some light.

6 comments:

Baa-Me Kniits said...

Those colours and that stitching!!!!! Don't you wish those fabrics could talk!! Thanks for sharing it is beautiful, can't wait to see what you do with it?? :-)

momijitomitsukoshi said...

What a magical piece of history. It makes me want to meet the person who did this - to go back to the time that it was made - I wish it was possible.

Emjie said...

Pure gold. If that kimono could speak it would have many tales to tell.
This reminds me of homemade family quilts which develop with new generation.

Sandrine said...

What an amazing treasure!The colours are quite amazing together.

Red Hen (dette) said...

I love when you connect with the origional artist/crafter when working with an old treasure like this one. I kind of feel that as you handle it you are interacting with the fabric in the same way as the person from the past has and this piece links you directly to that person. The first time I was really struck by this thought was while viewing a piece of ancient egyptian sculpture and as I was closely observed the face of this sculpture I realised that the sculptor had done exactly the same thing I was doing as he worked and I felt transported in a timeless way. I have to say most of my students thought I was a little crazy when I mentioned this but to my delight a couple of them got it.

Bebe Taian said...

In 1926, Taisho era ended. However, Taisho's son, Akihito, had been in control since 1922 due to his fathers' illness. Akihito was about 16 at the time, and power-hungry. He helped force his country into WW2, bringing it from the wealth and prestige of the 1910s-1920s to the poverty and despair of the 1930s-1940s. Because of this, many Taisho-era kimono which had survived the Kanto earthquakes, fires, and WW2 air raids were either not worn out of support for the countrys' values, or they were repaired endlessly and taken apart several times and made into new things because of the sheer shortage of fabric.

You may want to look up 'Kimono Asobi', a woman named Naomi. She used to run Puchi Maiko, and has a Flickr set of Shufu no Tomo issues from the 1930s on converting kimono to new things. At the end stages of a kimonos' life, it would be shredded to ribbons and woven into rugs, or small pieces would be patchworked for ranru blankets or floor mats. Personally, it saddens me greatly when a wearable kimono is taken apart for anything but cleaning and repair. But if it is too heavily damaged to be worn again, there is still much good silk on a piece! Might as well put it to use.

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