indigo and stitch

March 25, 2015

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Recently I have become obsessed with Japanese sashiko – those long mending stitches often seen on boro and other vintage cloths. In my search for everything sashiko, I came across a new favorite Etsy shop, Sasaki Yohinten, which sells vintage Japanese goods and European clothing, many of which have been revived with sashiko.

Sashiko is a mending technique born in the 18 and 19th century working class Japan. Too poor to buy new clothes these rural communities would lovingly patch and darn worn textiles with sashiko-style stitching. (Boro refers to textiles themselves that have been mended and patched many times. Sashiko is the actual embroidered stitch.) Today, along with boro, sashiko is back in vogue as a rustic art.

To me Sasaki Yohinten’s application of sashiko is particularly effecting. Small and spare, these understated adornments lend a quiet dignity to these repurposed clothes, not only paying homage to their working class origins, but also raising them to a level of art. To wear them, I think, is to recognize the creative force behind the work we do every day.

I also like the fact that here sashiko is applied to western-style work clothes. It’s as if Sasaki Yohinten seeks to bring sashiko out of feudal Japan and into the modern, multicultural age.

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