Beautiful boro textiles

I’m fascinated by folk crafts – wherever you go in the world you find art born out of necessity and hardship. It seems that it’s an innate human desire to beautify and embellish the things we have around us, however functional and humble their origins.

I recently stumbled across the tradition of Japanese Boro textiles and I think they’re as interesting as they are beautiful.

Japanese boro textiles

Japanese boro cloth

In the years before WWII many people in rural areas of Japan lived in extreme poverty. Boro means ‘tattered cloth’ and is the term given to heavily patched and repaired indigo cotton – mostly bedclothes, futon covers and fisherman’s jackets. Some have been repaired so many times that the original material is barely visible.

boro cloth fishermans vests

indigo Japanese boro textile fabric

Women would sit down to sew in the evenings when the men returned home, and the hands of the makers are traced all over each piece of cloth. This kind of running stitch is called sashiko and had both a practical and decorative purpose – as well as joining the scraps and adding simple embroidery, the fabric was also made stronger and warmer as the layers built up and up over the years.

Japanese boro cloth futon cover

Japanese patched boro cloth{all Siri Threads}

After the war, boro cloth became a sad reminder of the desperate times people wanted to leave behind, and using or wearing the fabrics was something to be ashamed of. More recently though, collectors have recognised their beauty and importance and original pieces now fetch hundreds of dollars.

Owning one of these would feel like owning a little piece of someone else’s history and I’d love to feel I had a little of this sad and inspiring story woven into the fabric of my home.

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Comments

  1. says

    Dear DN,

    I’m a quilter and fascinated by boro textiles. I’d like to include a couple of your images in a future blog post (the kimono front and wall hanging with bench). I’ve already set up a link with your name that will refer any readers back to this post but was wondering if I need to credit a photographer too?

    Kind regards,
    Elizabeth

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