Friday, 1 April 2016

Japanese pincushion: boro and sashiko

Gosh, what a rush the past few weeks have been: I have just got back from moving my daughter north for her new job and new flat in a new city.  I shall miss having her at home, though not the early morning/late night trips to the railway station.  Younger son back for university hols so my husband and I are not quite empty nesters - three weeks to go...  

And three weeks till I go on a quilting jolly to the French quilt show organised by Quiltmania in Nantes, Pour l'Amour du Fil.  Much more about that in later posts, I hope.

For today though, I am looking back about three weeks to a lovely day I had with sewing friends Mary, Sylvia and Helen.  We had a mini workshop round Mary's kitchen table, hand stitching under Helen's guidance a piece of sashiko and a boro-inspired piece to make a double sided pincushion.

Helen has lived in Japan and she brought along wonderful fabrics and threads to inspire us and the most amazing Japanese patchwork books.  The time flew past as we stitched and chatted, refreshed by a delicious lunch Mary had prepared.  It was bliss to take time out and enter a different zone, a more peaceful place where we concentrated only on the next stitch.

I had done sashiko before, some years ago, and very much enjoyed it; although it looks simple - and very elegant in the crisp contrast of white thread on plain indigo fabric - the discipline of trying to make the stitches even and not to cross threads is surprisingly challenging.

I had never tried to imitate boro before and I don't think I have done a particularly brilliant job, but I did enough to get a feel for what it is/was: the patching of worn out cloth with precious scraps, all stitched together, sometimes with decorative stitches but usually with a simple running stitch.  The resulting textured collage is admired now as art but grew out of necessity, at a time when cloth was so precious it was never thrown away, but continually repaired.

Helen was able to show us some beautiful examples of boro pieces she had bought; it was quite moving to handle the cloth and feel perhaps a small connection to the women of the past who had patched on the small pieces to strengthen and repair the garment.  It made me think of my husband's grandmother who loved to darn the family's socks, another uncommon activity nowadays.

Here is a little article which tells you more about boro: if you are interested you can find lots of examples of boro on the internet and Pinterest.

As you have probably gathered if you have looked at my blog over the past couple of years, I am pretty much wedded to my sewing machine and rotary cutter; I don't do much hand sewing other than the bindings on my quilts or the occasional hand quilting project, which often takes years to finish.  But I so enjoyed our slow sewing day and the companionship of like-minded friends.

Having said that, it has taken me three weeks to actually get around to finishing off the little pincushion so I can show it to you today.  And I hardly had anything left to do, shameful really that I had delayed, because the truth is that it doesn't actually take all that long to make something lovely by hand - I just think it does.  So thank you Helen and Mary for a memorable day, and a pincushion to remind me to do some slow sewing now and then.

The pincushion measures 4" square and the two finished pieces of fabric are simply whipstitched together around the edge.  The tiny flowers are made from kimono silk by nimbler fingers than mine and measure just 1/4" across. All the materials were a very generous gift from Helen, who has collected so many small treasures on her travels and was so kind to share them with us.

Linking today to Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday.  I am hoping to be back on track with some more finishes before too long - I haven't quilted my Scrap Vortex quilt yet - though the garden has now woken up....

Hope you have a productive weekend, whatever you choose to do.