Sunday, 14 September 2014
We arrived in Tokyo early yesterday afternoon and I got most of the fabric buying out of the way before we headed off to Asakusa and the Ryokan Shigestsu where we are staying for the remainder of our trip. The Kaminarimon (above) is one of the places you just have to get a photo if you come to Asakusa.
Today we went to the Japan Folk Crafts Museum via Shibuya station - Shibuya crossing is above. Although the museum website gives information about how to get there, it didn't mention that the Keio Inokashira metro line runs express ('rapid'?) and local trains, so we managed to board an express that overshot the station where we were supposed to get off. But once we got the right train, it was easy enough to find.
No photos allowed inside the museum unfortunately. There was an exhibition of Kantha and Sashiko/Kogin pieces, so it was a shame there wasn't a catalogue, although I picked up a small booklet featuring some pieces (in black and white) and I already have many illustrated in other books.
The museum was much smaller than I expected. The building was beautiful - Japanese tradition meets the Arts and Crafts movement. The collection was founded by Soetsu Yanagi in the early C20th. The displays were very much of the objects in glass cases with small (Japanese only) labels and I imagine this is how pieces have always been shown here. I would have to say that the Amuse Museum in Asakusa has a more interesting and informative display of koginzashi. Certainly, the mingeikan has some very old pieces of Kogin, Nanbu Hishizashi and Sashiko, but the general feeling in the exhibition was that it was rather staid and lifeless. I think we have been spoiled on our trip by seeing Koginzashi and sashiko as living and evolving traditions, as well as some excellent private collections of work. The same can be said for the ceramics and lacquerware collections. The Serizawa exhibition mentioned on the museum's facebook page is actually at Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi, but as that is only 16 minutes by underground from here, I think we should go to see that too.
In the afternoon, we went to Harajuku. Yoyogi Park has been closed due to the first dengue fever outbreak in Japan in seventy years, so we kept away from the park side and headed for the shops. There were a few people out in their finest weekend fashions, but mostly it was full of high school girls shopping.
Looking at cute stuff - seifuku (old style school uniform) outfit.
Tonight we just had a stroll around the Sensoji temple at Asakusa before dinner.
More exploring tomorrow, and hopefully going to the Serizawa exhibition. The Amuse Museum is closed Mondays, so that is the plan for Tuesday, among other things.
Thursday, 4 September 2014
This morning we visited Yoko Satoh, an expert Kogin stitcher, collector and teacher in Hirosaki. Her house was the most amazing treasure trove of Kogin - a little bit museum, a little bit teaching studio, a little bit display and a lot of talent for making the traditional vocabulary of Kogin into something new. A previous post explaining some of my interest in kogin is here.
The reverse of the panels are also very interesting and tightly stitched, unlike Shonai Sashiko. With Satoh-sensei (below).
There are many traditional pattern combinations from about 24 basic designs and three main styles of koginu jacket - Higashi (East), Nishi (West) and Mishima (three stripe).
This sampler by Satoh-sensei shows how beautifully the patterns work with a reverse of the white thread on dark indigo background traditionally used. Some of these patterns also occur in Yuza Sashiko, but not counted.
Satoh- sensei knows how to really show off her collection in an accessible and interesting way in her personal kogin exhibit, from well lit and displayed valuable antique pieces from 150 years ago to handling samples. After seeing the historical work, it was time to move on to her own designs and pieces designed by her teacher, Setsu Maeda (1919 - 1980?), who was a prolific kogin stitcher and designer, creating pieces relevant to modern use and bringing the tough qualities of kogin up to date. It reminded me very much of the way that Yuza Sashiko has been updated and brought into modern life and was very inspirational. The piece behind me below was on a theme of sakura (cherry blossoms), contrasting threads shaded into pink on dark blue fabric with a shaded background cloth with the same thread for stitching.
Although Satoh-sensei doesn't hold a regular class, she kindly gave us a kogin lesson. It is a little like counted cross stitch, in that we followed a chart - this would be necessary for beginners like us but also to produce the more complicated designs with patterns in a large scale diamond format, as the designs are worked in continuous rows across the cloth (traditionally hemp).
Satoh-sensei shows a particularly complex piece of work in progress to our friends. This is one that she had to chart - the design is visible just under her stitching.
I was very impressed, not only with the kogin but in the way that Satoh-sensei had created a kogin inspiration environment in her home. Even Mount Iwaki was beautifully framed by a special wooden aperture in a tiny window - a heart or an apple (Hirosaki is famous for apples)?
On our first day in Hirosaki, we are going to have a koginzashi (kogin sashiko) lesson with Yoko Sato, a local kogin expert. So far, my limited experience of Kogin has been the Nanbu hishizashi sample I made for 'The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook' (above) and a small piece I stitched in Yuza in 2006, when Yuza Sashiko member Keiko Hori kindly gave me a lesson. She had come to Hirosaki to learn kogin about twenty years ago, so I had hoped to come here and do the same. Now we are at our hotel near Hirosaki station and I will have a kogin lesson today.
These are the special threads used for kogin. They are stranded, more like a six strand embroidery thread, although Nanbu hishizashi has been stitched with wool as well as cotton, especially for the colourful maekake aprons popular from c1900 (my sample at the top is wool).
I've wanted to come to Hirosaki to learn kogin for a long time, so it is great to be here and I'm looking forward to my lesson very much today. Yoko Sato was taught by Setsu Maeda (1919 - 1980?), so she will have learned all the traditional styles. I am interested in the names of the patterns too.
Here's some more kogin and Nanbu hishizashi from the Amuse Museum, Tokyo.
This is the garment that gives Kogin it's name - a koginu work jacket. The embroidered kogin sections would be reused from one garment to another.
Nanbu hishizashi work pants. The shape is elongated because it is stitched over even numbers of threads rather than uneven numbers like Kogin.
I don't think I'll be good enough to do a panel like this for some time. The part of the kogin I really don't understand yet is how to plan a bigger piece. The first two photos are actually the back!
Time to go and get stitching...
Sunday, 20 April 2014
We are planning to visit the Amuse Museum while we are staying in Asakusa, and I am looking forward to this exhibition very much. Nanbu Hishizashi is a side shoot from Kogin or Koginzashi, the counted sashiko from Aomori Prefecture at the top end of Honshu. Read more about it here.
When I wanted to include a sample of Nanbu Hishizashi in 'The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook', I stitched a replica piece for the photo, because the originals are so rare now. It was much harder to stitch than Shonai hitomezashi.
Nanbu Hishizashi is stitched over even numbers of threads across the width, which gives it the elongated shape, whereas Kogin is stitched over uneven numbers of threads (my sample piece is shown below). This gives a different proportion to the stitching.
Our main reason for wanting to go to the Amuse Museum is to see the boromono from the Tanaka Collection, so this is a bit of an added bonus.
Saturday, 23 April 2011
This is one of the most useful books on the history of sashiko, often very difficult to track down, as the publisher went out of business over fifteen years ago. I often take a copy for the 'library' when I teach sashiko courses. Kyotocollection on eBay has three copies of 'Kogin and Sashiko Stitch' at only $18.50 USD each - 5o% off! This offer only lasts for another day or two.
Gary Bloom, aka kyotocollection, also supplied the lovely rabbit and moon furoshiki wrapping cloth I used for the centre of one of the quilts in 'Japanese Quilt Inspirations' (I wanted to feature one that quilters would be able to buy from outside Japan). He has currently got these listed, along with a great selection of other cotton furoshiki, in his eBay shop. If you would like to make the quilt as shown in the book, you'll need the larger size furoshiki for the centre panel. All the furoshiki he sells are night quality 100% cotton, not the rayon chirimen furoshiki which don't wear as well for quilts.
UPDATE: re the books - Gary e mailed me today and has got a few more copies, so he has listed those too. Check out the others he has listed in the same series! The one on 'Kasuri' has some fantastic designs, plus the 'Furisode' one is a must if you are interested in historical kimono. The book about the Shosoin textiles is a treat too, with incredible textiles preserved from the eighth century, showing how Japanese design was influenced by treasures imported along the silk route. The book on Yuzen dyeing is full of fabulous designs. 'Modern Japanese Textiles' deals more with late nineteenth and early twentieth century designs than contemporary work, a great resource if you are into Meiji and Taisho era designs.
Thursday, 26 February 2009
A couple of days later, I went to her house for a kogin lesson. I really enjoyed it, although it takes a lot more concentration than (even) the more elaborate hitomezashi (one stitch sashiko) stitches. Maybe it gets easier the more you do. This is what I stitched that afternoon (only the part on the blue).
Isn't this reversible obi stunning?
Keiko's work is beautiful. Here are some details -
Kogin is a kind of counted sashiko and is named after a koginu (a style of farmer's jacket from Aomori Prefecture). It is generally accepted to have developed from something similar to the pattern darning style of some hitomezashi (one stitch sashiko) patterns. It is counted over and under uneven numbers of threads, while a subgroup of kogin called nanbu hishizashi (Nanbu-region diamond sashiko) is stitched over and under even numbers of threads. There is quite a bit of information about it in the history section of "The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook", although actually including any specific kogin patterns were outside the remit of that book. Here are a couple of small samples I made for that book - a kogin panel first, stitched on dark blue prairie cloth -
Old pieces of kogin and nanbu hishizashi are much rarer than old sashiko. Kogin is traditionally stitched with cotton on hemp, though nowadays cotton or even wool cloth is used. Nanbu hishizashi was stitched using colourful imported wools for about thirty years at the start of the last century, but was originally cotton on hemp too. This is my nanbu hishizashi sample. I used 28-count evenweave embroidery fabric and crewel wools in the same colours as the original wools, which look like Berlin woolwork threads -
Kogin now uses coloured threads and fabrics. The thread is similar to stranded embroidery cotton.
Some pieces of sashiko stitched in Akita prefecture are technically kogin, as they are counted, like the end panel on this traditional headscarf.
I found it! Here is a chunk of text from the first draft of "The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook" history section, including more about kogin than appeared in the final version. The "Kitamaesen" was a trade route, from Kobe/Osaka area and up the Western side of Japan.
Kogin and Nanbu Hishizashi
Some Shonai sashiko patterns resemble kogin, a form of counted embroidery from the Tsugaru region, around Hirosaki,
Tsugaru was a prosperous rice growing area. Kogin is from koginu, a dialect word for a farmer’s unlined work jacket, first appearing in Tsugaru clan records in 1685. The local ‘Frugality Act for Farmers’ of 1724 forbade the wearing of cotton fabric, so kogin used cotton threads darned into hemp cloth. Late eighteenth century records mention kogin as farmers’ wear, mostly white on indigo, although indigo on white was used for women’s festival. Cotton was permitted after the Meji Restoration (1868) and kogin became increasingly elaborate, for special occasions and bridal trousseau. In the 1890s, the railway came to Tsugaru and factory made textiles became readily available, including wool. Kogin declined in the early twentieth century but has been revived recently.
Nanbu Hishizashi (diamond sashiko) is similar to kogin and comes from the southeast of Tsugaru, eastern