CharacteristicsTraditionally white hemp or cotton thread on indigo dyed even weave hemp Geometric designs usually diamond shaped Stitches of uneven length only stitched horizontally along the weft.
It is thought that the Japanese made contact with China between 300BC and 300AD and that Sashiko patterns were derived from Chinese designs. Many patterns are not native to China, but brought to China via the ‘Silk Road’ from Persia, India or Greece. The oldest surviving Sashiko design is found on a Bhuddist robe from 750AD.
The origins of Kogin can be traced to the northwestern tip of Honshu,Japan’s main island, in the remote and cold Aomori Prefecture during the feudal period (1590-1871).This area was too cold to grow cotton, which made a warmer fabric than other natural fibres.
Imported cotton, a rare and treasured commodity, was reserved for the nobles. Laws prohibited peasants from owning cotton clothing so their garments were made from native plants, wisteria and hemp dyed with indigo to strengthen the fibers. Stitching over with hemp and later, imported cotton thread added warmth and strength to the garment. It was discovered that garments became much warmer and functional if several layers of fabric were stitched together. Techniques, ‘little running stabs’ and darning were used to patch worn clothing. New patches were layered on older patches and so Japanese quilted fabric was born.
A new garment was worn for weddings, seasonal festivals and funerals. As it showed signs of wear it became work clothing. With minimal resources, the life of the garment was extended by repeatedly reinforcing worn areas of cloth with stitching and patching on extra fabric.
Piecework, September/October 1994
The Traveling Thread, USA publication © 2003 Beth Gardner
Leighton-White, S. and Lugg, W. Common Threads: Catalogue for WA exhibition 1999, Fremantle Arts Centre.
© Valerie Cavill, May 2009