Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Value of the Handmade

One of the things I love most about Japan, is the immense variety of handmade crafts that continue to be done here as well as the continued appreciation of them.  I do understand that some of these traditions are not necessarily being handed down to the younger generations.  A few of the artists that I know personally do not have children that want the family business.  Some have assistants that they have trained that will continue the craft.

A few weeks ago was the Arimatsu Shibori Matsuri (festival).  I didn't get to go last year so jumped at the chance to go with our Japanese teacher and her husband this time.  I didn't even know it was scheduled, so I'm so glad they invited us.  Shibori is a type of fabric manipulation used when dyeing fabric.  It was probably handed down from China, but Arimatsu developed it's own style and was set along the Edo trail, which was the road from the capital of Tokyo (Edo) to Kyoto.  Arimatsu has a 400 year tradition of the shibori trade.

The streets and shops were swamped with people buying discounted shibori ready made and fabric yardage.  There were food booths (of course) and craft booths where you could learn several different craft techniques.  It isn't entirely handmade any longer.  Small tools have been developed to make it a less laborous process.

I ended up buying only a handmade and hand dyed linen scarf.  It was dyed with natural ingredients, the green was rosemary, blue was indigo and pink was madder.  Here is a description of madder.  The lovely lady that I bought it from had a henna rinse in her hair.  Ken says that's a "no go" when I mentioned getting a henna rinse myself. I think the scarf is so beautiful.  It has already softened up from wearing it.  

Here are some photos of beautiful fabrics at the festival.

This display was incredibly impossible to photograph.  It was in a gym so there was that distraction, but it was stunning the way the light played off of the fabrics.  

These are coasters I made for Mari's birthday.  They are made from vintage Yukata (summer cotton kimono) fabrics that have patches and stitches and seams.  She was actually with me when I purchased the fabrics over a year ago. Because the fabrics were rustic, I decided to do Sashiko stitches in a heavier weight thread with more of a rustic, primitive feel to them.  I love how they turned out and she did too.  I've learned recently that the traditional Sashiko indigo and white colors were used because it was illegal for commoners to wear bright colors or large ornamentation during the Edo period.  That is why most of the designs are small and the colors are blue and white.  This came from a book with the history of Sashiko that another Mari gave me.  It's called The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook by Susan Briscoe.  

Recently I asked a friend from the UK to teach me how to do EPP (English Paper Piecing).  Another friend joined in and we were taught this lovely piecing technique.  

I made a coaster for myself out of my little flower.  

Since I've been talking about Sashiko, I thought you might like to see how I mended my jeans recently. I used an iron-on patch on the back and then sewed some Sashiko stitches for reinforcement.  This idea is referred to as "visible mending".  Google it and you'll see lots of ideas.  I think it would've been easier if I would have used regular fabric instead of iron on.  That was difficult to stitch through.  But, I did and I read that they will be so strong that the fabric around it will be weaker.  So, we will see how these hold up.  In the mean time, I think they look cool.  Okay, so enough about Shibori and Sashiko for now.  We've had lots of company in June and so I've taken so many sightseeing pictures as well.  Maybe that will be my next post.  Or flowers.  
Our sensei and her husband, Keiko and Akio.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit,


  1. Hi!
    I love, love, love the fabrics, I would have been in sooo much
    trouble had I been with you!

    Your coaters and mending look fabulous!

    How much longer will you be in Japan?

    M : )

  2. We've enjoyed you living in Japan. You have embraced every aspect and make it an adventure. I like that about you!! The handmade arts have been incredibly interesting and beautiful. Katey


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