Boro is a Japanese Folk Art Fabric that literally means “tattered rags”. Peasants between the 17th and 20th centuries couldn’t afford expensive silk and used cheaper materials like hemp and cotton to make their clothing. They discovered that by sewing several layers of material together, using a simple running stitch called Sashiko, they could create a more long lasting item that would also provide considerable warmth. No scrap of fabric was too small to throw away and nothing was wasted. They lived by the value of “Mottainai” which means “too good to waste”. Small pieces of secondhand cloth, originally dyed with indigo, were patched together to make clothes and other household items such as futons and blankets. Generations used and reused these items.
A “Bodo” or Life Cloth was usually used as a sheet, but was also used during childbirth as the sheet for the baby to be delivered on.
Detail of a robe (left) and detail of a bed comforter from 1870’s-1920’s (right)
The women prided themselves on making these textiles beautiful to look at. They painstakingly labored over the stitching designs and various materials.
This is quoted from a wall plaque in the Amuse Museum:
“Merchants were even treated better than their own relatives. Since those merchants already worked on the fields during the summertime, they walked around doing business in the wintertime. The merchants were especially important guests for bringing the commodities as well as local news and latest topics into the snow-surrounded sedentary villages.
Among the merchants, especially the ones who sell needles received favorable treatments. Threads were possible to obtain from fibers on their own, but without needles, women could never do their jobs of making fabrics.
In some cases where the woman’s mournful cries could be heard on the streets were often simply due to the tragic case of a broken needle. This explains how important needles were for those women back in the days.”
All of the photos were taken on my visit to the Boro exhibitiion at the Amuse Museum.