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An Introduction to Japanese Textiles and Embroidery with Mari Yamada

Introduction to Japanese Textiles and Embroidery with Mari Yamada

Hi, my name is Mari and I run a small embroidery business in Sydney called “NOKEBILITY”.  NOKEBILITY is a platform for those who love stitching, sewing and crafting using Japanese KOGIN and SASHIKO. I sell finished KOGIN & SASHIKO embroidery products, kits, materials and organic cotton items such as reusable kitchen towels and baby bibs. My aim is to share about KOGIN, SASHIKO and so many other Japanese materials with passionate sewing and stitching lovers all over the world.

I love making and sharing unique items via @nokebility that are useful at home, reusable and eco-friendly. I can’t stop thinking day and night! I am so excited to collaborate with the team of Megan Nielsen Patterns this time for the release of the Hovea Quilt Coat & Jacket pattern.

SASHIKO

Meaning “little stubs”, Sashiko is a traditional Japanese sewing method that uses evenly spaced simple running stitches to create eye-catching geometric patterns.

Mari Yamada SashikoMari Yamada SashikoStarted during the Edo Period (1603-1867), in Yamagata (northern area in Japan), it wasn’t warm enough to make cotton due to the cold area. People were suffered by lacking of materials but then started bringing some pieces of cotton fabric from warm area for making up clothes for their families. They kept using the clothes for a long, long time by dying, patching and stitching.

So no scrap of fabric was ever thrown away. Using fabric scraps dyed with indigo, because indigo dying can repel insects and bugs. The garments were continually mended and passed down over generations. However, it is now a popular form of decorative embroidery which can just as easily be applied to a range of useful and ornamental items for the home, accessories and gifts.

Mari Yamada SashikoYou can easily find and get Sashiko materials, books, articles on internet, beginners kits are sold over the world.  But we still love the traditional patterns with their own favourite color of threads sharing them on social media.

Mari Yamada SashikoOne of the recent popular sashiko idea is Sashiko wet hand towel called “oshibori”. It is offered to guests or customers in restaurants, and used to clean one’s hands before eating. Instead of wasting tissue to wipe your mouth, this is one of sustainable way to save your money and the earth!

BORO

Meaning “ragged”,  Boro would be “visible mending by heavily patching and repairing with Sashiko stitches.”

Sashiko Boro JacketBoro has now become Japanese vintage fashion in the world mostly in western countries. It is no more shameful and hidden thing to see and inspires a lot of fun and creators for their fashion designs.

However, if you ask any Japanese people on the street in Japan about “what Boro is?”, not many people would answer it. Because for them, Boro is not in a fashion category, it’s thought to be just a method of mending from old era.

So now, it is absolutely pleasant and honour to know that people outside Japan love the “spirit of not to waste anything (mottai-nai)” and inspired by its beauty of stitching and the sustainable thoughts from long time ago. Also, that makes me feeling to learn more about Sashiko and how we can bring this to another generation. 

KOGIN

Originally started in Aomori (snowy northern in Japan) to withstand the cold, Kogin is a counted thread embroidery technique which looks like cross stitch. In Aomori, people had only rough hemp fabric to wear. So, they started making hemp thread to fill the gaps of the fabric by stitching to make their clothing thicker and stronger.

Kogin motives (modoko) are absolutely neat and symmetric made by counting over mostly odd numbers of threads; one, three, five and seven, creating a simple but beautiful geometric pattern. Each modoko has name from the nature, animals and plants.

Kogin buttons Kogin buttons Kogin buttonsNowadays, it is also becoming popular in Japan and spreader to other countries as an enjoyable needle work to make buttons, coasters and so many things!

Kogin Lucky Charm BagsA recent popular item is lucky charm bags called “omamori” where a message is stitched.  The messages are variety such as GOOD LUCK, STAY SAFE or SUCCESS etc. in both Japanese or English. This Omamori is a great gift idea for your love ones who are facing challenging and changing times, or keep it yourself to wish luck.

My story of Japanese Embroidery

I was born in Aomori where Kogin was originally found.

I started Kogin when I was 10 years-old, leant by my grandmother and a few school teachers. I was fascinated by its unique and beautiful designs and was just as crazy about it. As I grow up, I met Sashiko and found that there’s no rules in Sashiko and its creativeness and simpleness.

Since then, I have started teaching both Kogin and Sashiko in Japan while working in a company making windbreaker jackets and pants.

In 2015, came to Australia, started teaching, making and selling Kogin & Sashiko products on online shops. I really enjoy meeting people from my workshops, Sashiko & Kogin community group and customers from my online shops. They are so enthusiastic about the embroidery and love to share what they create.

Also, I make and sell Japanese organic cotton items such as face masks, baby bibs and panty liners that are eco-friendly, vegan, sustainable and reusable. I believe that all my product ideas come from the “Mottai-nai spirits”, which we can still or must apply it to everything around us.

You can follow me on Instagram @nokebility and see more of my work on my website.

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About Author

Mari is from Tsugaru, Aomori, Japan - the place where Kogin was born. Growing up with many of the traditional Aomori art and crafts, she began learning Kogin when she was a child. She has been building her skills and knowledge for more than 20 years and has helped introduce many sewers to these overseas traditions. Despite all of the new styles of embroidery patterns today, the original Kogin techniques are still being created by needlework lovers in Japan. Its design and texture are well cared for, beautiful, cute, warm, stylish, and modern.

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