Nina's Textile Trail

My OCA Textile Tales

Supplementary Research to Assignment 5 in response to Tutor Report – Japanese Boro

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Considering patchwork of other cultures, I have been looking at Japanese Boro.  I have admired these textiles in the past and included a magazine cutting in my theme book (page 18)


Japanese Boro textiles are part of a cultural heritage where need and scarcity led to garments being repeatedly repaired and patched, enabling them to be re-used for generations.  I find beauty in such work which is now seen as collectible textile art, fetching high prices.

I really admire these artefacts and their character, the subtle differences in the shades of the worn indigo-dyed cotton, the white stitching against the blues, the texture of the loose weave hemp/cotton, frayed edges, layering, lines of stitch and sashiko stitching on some.

Boro textiles are created by a practice of layering several pieces of cloth, predominantly indigo-dyed cotton, held together with sashiko stitching.  Sashiko is a simple running stitch usually in line with the warp or weft, reinforcing the fabric. Working scraps of fabric together, a stronger, heavier material is produced.

Looking at various samples of boro patchwork on and, I noted the following characteristics:

  • close rows of stitching giving a quilted effect
  • some cut/broken threads and knotted ends on the right side of the garment or cover
  • worn holes patched from behind with the raw edges of the holes stitched around in running stitch
  • the raw edge of the whole cloth finished in parallel whip stitch, blanket stitch or double/triple rows running stitch
  • most visible stitching in coarse white, blue to blue black cotton thread
  • on close inspection, tinier stitches in finer thread are apparent in some areas, sometimes in a coloured thread
  • in some cases, stitching regularly and evenly in vertical lines across the whole piece.
  • sometimes vertical stitching is limited to edges of patches
  • occasionally patches had edges folded under but predominantly raw edges
  • occasional stitched curves
  • Some futon & table covers comprised of larger strips of patched fabric stitched together


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