What is Boro?
The story of Boro begins in the early nineteenth-century rural Japan. Weather in the northern provinces was too cold for growing cotton, so women in farming and fishing villages wove fabric from hemp and ramie. Preparing the plants and weaving the coarse fiber was time-consuming, so out of necessity women patched clothing and futon covers with scraps of fabric and sashiko stitching.
Over many generations, the repaired textiles acquired more and more layers of patching and stitching, until the original fabric was unrecognizable. The remaining examples of these garments are on exhibit in museums and have become known as Boro – a Japanese word meaning “tattered rags”.
Boro-Style for MODERN MAKERS
Not unlike quilting, boro developed out of necessity and is now a creative textile tehnique. Modern makers practice extreme patching and visible mending as both an artistic expression and a statement of the recycle/reuse/re-purpose movement.
What is sashiko? I have two answers – a stitching style and a stitching technique.
JAPANESE-STYLE sashiko stitching developed in rural Japan in the 1600’s. Today the most popular technique for sewing Japanese-style designs is a running stitch.
Beautiful repeat designs were stitched on indigo blue fabric with white thread to patch and mend worn garments and bedding.
Patches and stitching were added until it became what we call BORO, from the Japanese word BoroBoro, meaning rags. The Amuse Museum in Tokyo exhibits original boro pieces.
The repeat design on the boro vest is available to stitchers today as a sampler, pre-printed on fabric with a dashed line to guide your stitches.
Sashiko Pre-printed Sampler – # 0004 Saya-gata (Key Maze) – White
Japanese-style samplers were my introduction to sashiko. I appliqued the finished pieces onto pillows and garments.
Sashiko is a one-stitch embroidery TECHNIQUE:
- Outline stitching
- Pattern embroidery
- Stitched shapes
- A running stitch is used for outline embroidery and repeated designs (often overlapping). Horizontal, vertical and curved lines are sewn with a space between each stitch; no stitches touch one another or cross over. Japanese: Sashiko Moyozashi
Redwork is a form of outline embroidery.
- A grid of stitches creates a pattern; horizontal, vertical and diagonal stitches often cross over (like cross stitch). Japanese: Sashiko Hitomezashi
Pattern darning is a form of grid stitching.
Darning samplers were made in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands between the 8th and early twentieth centuries. They were usually made by school girls as part of their education, either at home or in a school class.
- Varying lengths of closely worked stitches create a shape. Japanese: Kogin
Needle point is a form of shape stitching.
Another resource for images is the Quilt Index.