There is a very interesting exhibition of Boro currently on display at Kimono House in the Nicholas Building in Melbourne. Boro means ragged and the textiles are utility items created by the repeated patching of worn garments and bedding. This patching was done on the inside so that the contrasting pieces would not show, and dignity could be maintained. Of course now we love to see the pattern and texture of the layers of cloth and stitching.
The pieces on display are from the Meiji era 1868 – 1912 and included farmers jackets, vests, a child’s kimono, tatami cover and many futon covers all patched in indigo dyed cotton fabric pieces that had been put aside for such a purpose. The ultimate boro it the dust rag, carefully stitched with sashiko to strengthen the cloth and make useful when no other purpose is possible.
I enjoyed viewing this exhibition and the demonstration of the stitching with a group of friends. Intrigued by the use of needle and thimble I have searched out a video which shows the sewing of a seam. The needle is held still and the fabric moves rapidly in the hand of this expert seamstress who uses her toes as a third hand.
While there I mentioned that I had a number of sewing boxes, haribako, which literally means needle box. So here is a picture of one of them.
The raised arm has a pin cushion on the top and a hole beneath to attach the “third hand” which is a metal clamp to hold the end of the fabric taught while the kimono is being stitched. The arm also contains a bamboo ruler. This one is metric, which became the official measure in 1924. One of my other boxes is older and has a kujirajaku rule, a unit of length used in clothing and based on the length of a whale baleen. The box is made of Keyaki wood, from the Zeltova serrata or Japanese elm. It has beautiful colour and distinct graining which continues across the little drawers. I use this sewing box for my hand quilting supplies.