Monday, May 7, 2012

This is how history feels

One of the vintage fabric pieces I bought in Tokyo was a small roll of silk. When I unrolled it, it turned out to be the sleeve of a kimono lined with soft silk with a pink edge. I wanted to use it immediately but realised the sleeve was still stitched together. I remembered being told that kimonos were stored flat in pieces. They were stitched together in such a way that the stitches were easy to undo to store and to launder the pieces.  I examined the piece thoroughly before I started with  the seam ripper. What a treasure trove. There were tiny running stitches, ladder stitch, larger running stitches all beautifully even. Someone had very carefully stitched this sleeve together. I wondered who she was. Maybe a servant of the rich person who owned this beautiful silk kimono. I wondered if she had enough to eat, what her name was. I knew that she was the last person to touch the silk thread. The photo shows some of the stitching she did on the lining and some of the gorgeous kimono fabric. I  thought that despite our cultural differences, I could empathise with this woman who, many years ago, placed these stitches. I pay my respects to her now, unpicking the seams by hand.


  1. That was really treasure trove My. Now you know why I love vintage fabric! Ogata-san would have stitched a few kimonos in her life time. The piece you got is gorgeous. Is it done by katazume stencil? I wonder!

  2. It was so moving to read how you explored your vintage piece, the things they could tell us!

  3. I have the same kind of respect when I am in front of old embroideries: those unknown hands who left behind trace of themselves make me wonder.
    Lovely silk by the way.

  4. the design on your piece would indicate it is typical of "bingata" or Okinawan style of katazome. Your library might have "Japanese Stencil Dyeing" by Eisha Nakano & Barbara Stephan. Publ. Weatherhill in 1982. It's a gem and goes into stencil dyeing extensively.

    1. Thanks Jean, That sheds considerable light on the fabric and its decorations.