Why does this stitching, born solely of necessity, produce such compelling and powerful compositions? Does some perfect rhythm, some harmony with the universe reveal itself if we get out of the way?
And intertwined with the aesthetic appeal there is another sensibility about these patched and mended textiles. Stephen Szczepanek refers to Boro as having soulful beauty. I think that’s perfect, their unassuming and utilitarian nature and their absolute integration with life communicate an intimacy and humanity that is exquisite.
I chose some of my favorite examples of patched and mended old cloth to share with you below – click the images for the larger versions (all photos by Sri Threads).
There is beautiful evidence of time and use everywhere. I’ve been photographing my paintboxes for years, to record their transformations.
Like the Boro pieces I love them for their accidental beauty and for inspiration – there are so many things to think about and so many places to begin in them.
Note: this post was originally published in 2015 as part of my big creative year series and was edited and updated with new images on 4/6/2018
I can never remember where I parked my car or what I had for lunch but I have an excellent fabric memory – sort of. I have clear and very distinct memories of the fabrics of my childhood – my whole life really. I think I could draw them all – maybe I’ll try. And now, even if a tiny scrap has bee tucked away for years, it’s cataloged in my head, just not very specifically……. I was absolutely positive that the fabulous little blue scrap in the photo below was here somewhere. Positive. And positive that that blue songbird had to have it. Had to. And it was – that one little piece – in the only place it could be – at the very bottom of the very last box I looked in.
I’ve been working on this group of Sri Threads songbirds for weeks and they are just about ready. I was hoping for this week but I’m still climbing out of a crappy spring cold and everything is in slow motion. Some of these and a few other things will be in the shop next week sometime (sign up here to be notified by email if you like).
You can find the sewing pattern to make this bird in the shop, there is a print and pdf version and there is a free tutorial on how to make a realistic bird foot right here.
And when you join the mailing list you get a coupon code for 20% off your pattern purchase.
I love cloth.
I always have – as a child it was something I had in abundance and I learned to think well in stitches. I especially love old cloth. Lovely old cloth. I love it for it’s simplicity, it’s commonness, it’s possibilities and meaning.
I spend happy hours considering and choosing – today I’m gathering bits of indigo for an owl. I love the textures and patinas that comes from decades or centuries of life and use and I make things that celebrate it as I find it – all it’s scars and mending apparent. And I add my own patches and mends and visible stitching – I love the sewness, the make believe. The fragility and other unexpected qualities of very old cloth send me in new directions, new ways of doing things. I used some of my most treasured scraps from Sri Threads to make these toadstools.
I love the little guy. You can find all three in the shop today.
As I was working on them I was thinking about constructing shapes in cloth and what a fascinating process that is. If you’re experimenting with that kind of sewing, especially if you’re just beginning to play with three dimensional sewing – spheres are a great place to start. When I teach a workshop I almost always give away a pattern for three and four part spheres. You can download that pattern here if you like.
And speaking of patterns – more are coming soon – fabric boats, tiny dolls and the flamingo kit. I’ve hit a lot of snags and complications putting that together, it’s been a bigger mountain to climb than I expected but it’s almost there.
And in other news:
A new podcast interview! My second ever. Find my conversation with my good friend Elizabeth Duvivier (founder and director of Squam Art Retreats) here. I loved our chat – Elizabeth is a smart cookie, a truly curious person and I love her new podacast. Two of my favorite episodes are with Suzan Mischer and Kerry Lemon. I hope you check it out.
The incredibly generous Stephen Szczepanek of Sri sent over another package of marvelous bits of kimono and other amazing and inspiring Japanese textiles.
Check out the ” trans generational ” boro futon cover on his blog.