The peasant weavers of Japan

Japan is well known for its exquisite fine silk textiles and many, such as the kimonos, are highly collectible, but a new wave of conservation of the peasant weaving techniques started. Collecting antique Japanese peasant textiles is the new craze!

Peasants in Japan did not have silks to weave with because this very expensive medium was solely reserved for the Emperor and the wealthy. Instead the peasants used what was available, hemp and linen mostly before the import of cotton, and ensured that they wove their textiles well so that it could be passed down to future generations. Of course textiles disentegrate over time so the Japanese peasantry found very innovative methods to use all the old textiles to make new garments, bedding and other household textiles.

The first of these methods we want to discuss is Boro. The word means something tattered or repaired in Japanese and the method is basic patchwork. As garments or blankets got holes from wear and tear, it would be patched with a new piece of material. After some time and many generations of use, a most interesting patched item would be created with pieces of materials spanning many decades (sometimes a century) patched onto it. Today these antique Boro textiles are highly collectible and sought after and many textile producers copy the look.

The next method is called Sakiori which translates to tear up (saki) and weave (ori). This is exactly what sakiori is. Old textiles would be torn into long strips with the long strips then used as wefts to produce a new textile to make garments or other items from. There is a revival in Japan to use this method and in so doing recycling old materials.

The last method we want to discuss is Sashiko. Sashiko embroidery was used to strengthen the homespun clothes of olden times. Worn out clothes were pieced together to make new garments by using simple running stitches. These clothes increased their strength with this durable embroidery. Nowadays sashiko is mostly used for decorative purposes on textiles and very popular.