May 20, 2016

hand-stitching antique Japanese cotton

In the background of life, I've been slowly working on hand-stitching patches of antique Japanese cotton that I've collected during my many trips to Japan. Most of them are indigo dyed. All of them are lovely, worn pieces of cotton that have passed through many hands.

Some of these patches are older than me! A few are more than 100 years old.

They are patches of katazome (which is cloth decorated with paste resist and stencils), kasuri (a woven textile decorated with two-tone thread), or hand woven cottons and other folk textiles. There's even a couple remnants of vintage advertising banners.

I'm hand stitching these using 100% cotton Japanese sashiko thread. My running stitch is improvisational... a folk art approach. I learned this type of stitching in Japan and it is sometimes called 'chiku-chiku', an ancient term that was made up to describe the sound the needle and thread make as they whip through fabric. This type of improv running stitch is very much a derivative of formal sashiko.

I love the look of these white stitches as they run down the textiles... they look like a gentle, falling rain. This photo shows only part of the progress, eventually I will cover the entire piece with these stitches.

Many of these patches can be considered boro, which means tattered rags or patched pieces.

I did not cut any of them. I just laid them out on a backing made from large pieces of antique cotton kimono (which I pieced on the machine). There is no batting or layer in between, just the cotton patches and the backing. Since these are so old, some of them are thick... so the hand stitching is slow going. I have to stop and rest my hands after a while.

But I am thrilled with the result. Just gotta keep going. The finished piece will be about 60 inches wide by about 45 inches.

Linking up with Off the Wall Friday


  1. I love this look. Aren't old, really old fabrics a wonderful thing to touch ever so carefully. I'd love to see the finished product. There is inspiration there to carry over to modern quilting. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Just so beautiful--lovely stitching you've got going on them...hugs, Julierose

  3. I love this! I too have many pieces of Japanese fabric that I treasure. How wonderful that you are creating this piece as it will bring back many memories.

  4. Love the worn indigo and it works so well with the other colors. I'm imagining how wonderful it feels to handle these old fabrics.

  5. Beautiful! It must make you very happy as you stitch through each fabric and wonder its story.

  6. Oh my, I adore this piece. So totally......well, wonderful!

  7. I love touching fabric I know has been touched and loved before. There seems to be a connection with all the hands that worked it before ours. Color, texture-- everything about this appeals to me! Enjoy your process!

  8. What a well-balanced arrangement of colors. Did you stop quilting around Mt. Fuji or applique that on top?

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