Make Do and Mend, Japanese Style.


This last week I took my two youngest kiddos and went to visit the two oldest kiddos in Melbourne. The older kiddos live in a cool share house with two other cool people, one of whom is one of their good buddies from school days here in Launceston. They have found a nice townhouse with room for us all to come and crash for a few nights, so we did. They live in a suburb which has housed lots of Greek and Italian immigrants for several generations, and is now attracting Asian immigrants as well. This is perfect for me as every day I could go for walks and be in awe of how much food was growing in front yards up and down every street. It was amazing. So much citrus, so many olive trees, pumpkin vines growing up hedges, pomegranates, and yards filled with vegetables. And these are not large yards, just little small handkerchief size gardens, stuffed with food. These are folks who are going to see $12 lettuces in shops and laugh...

One rainy day The Girl and Rosy and I went to the National Gallery of Victoria. I always like to do this in Melbourne, hang out with the Impressionists (there are no Monets in Launceston, but two in the NGV. Luxury) and take a visit to the Dutch masters gallery and stand in front of my two favourite paintings, still lifes from the 18th century with all the flowers and fruit so exquisitely rendered. Then, in the gallery under the beautiful stained glass roof that looks like a kaleidoscope, I found this.
A genuine, 19th century Japanese boro kimono (well, I'm pretty sure it's 19th century. I was so excited by the stitching that I forgot to check the date).

is the Japanese art of patching together scraps of old clothes to make a kimono or other clothing. And when the boro clothing wears out, it gets patched with extra scraps of old clothing. Indigo-dyed cotton gives the clothes their distinctive colour, and it is pieced in layers for extra warmth. Sashiko stitching, a running stitch employed in lots of decorative patterns, quilts the layers together and makes the fabric even more beautiful. I cannot tell you how much I want to make my own boro-inspired coat out of scraps I have stashed in boxes in the attic.

I tried to take detailed photos but most of them have my reflection in them. This part below is gorgeous. Scraps on scraps. The edging of the front hem of the kimono opening has worn through and shows the next layer down, in black and white stripes. 

And here is part of the lining, pieced together with all sorts of small bits, and extra small pieces providing reinforcement at the hem. 

Thank you, NGV, for your Make Do and Mend demonstration, 19th century, Japanese style (this wasn't part of an exhibition, but a long, narrow gallery just under the stained-glass roof. Last time I was there it was exhibiting pottery, but this time it is showing various items from their collection in a colour theme, with different coloured lights shining out from each display case and spilling across the floor in rainbow colours, possibly for Pride Month? Anyway, this display was indigo, of course). Of course, if the NGV ever does bring out a Make Do and Mend exhibition, I'll be there in a heartbeat.

I'll be back on Tuesday for Mending Club, inspired by boro, although I haven't even got the mending basket out yet. A reader has already sent me a link to her mending on her blog, which is very fun. 

See you then!


Anonymous said…
How wonderful you got to spend time with all your kiddos!
My mending needs mending... I don't know if that is a testament to the quality of my skill (probably) or just time to let go of the items (mainly socks). Boro patching is right up my alley. The kimono is beautiful.
How wonderful to see food growing in yards!
Have a great weeks.
sustainablemum said…
Wow that is a work of art, how beautiful. I would love to see that in real life.

Those gardens sound wonderful, I don't have a very big garden but every inch is given over to growing veg or plants for the bees, birds and any other insects that love them. I do love to explore a productive garden rather than an immaculate one.
Deborah said…

How wonderful you all got together in Melbourne! The exhibitions sound very good. I was reading in the paper this morning that modern Japanese are dumping their family kimonos as they are hard to wear and maintain but they're being bought and recycled into fashionable clothing.

Mending is still on my TO DO list, but not artistic colourful patching like your projects, I'm still mending as discretely as I can, especially my husband's very old, much loved silk pyjamas. My other mending involved restitching the armpit seams where the stitching had come apart.

One of my favourite gardening reference books is written by Jacklyn Crupi, 'Garden Like A Nonno' about her two Italian grandfathers who fed their families from small urban plots. Her(their) weed tea is an ongoing favourite. I always have weeds and diluted it makes a great tonic.

My favourite walks all include peering into peoples' gardens.

Jo said…
Patricia, it will be interesting to find out how far you can darn your darns! I wonder how much that original coat was patched? And if you can keep patching it long enough that it is all patches without a trace of the original coat? It is an experiment right up my alley.

sustainablemum, I was so excited to see a genuine boro coat at last:) and as for productive gardens, yes, they are the best, and so interesting. I find small gardens fascinating, seeing what people can integrate into them. And I do love seeing photos of your garden on your blog:)

Deborah, ah, yes, well, invisible mending requires a lot of skill, which is why I do the other kind! It is amazing that you can sew up silk pyjamas without them ripping further. What thread do you use?
Anonymous said…
Oh that sounds like my sort of suburb. And I bet my sort of people live there too!

I've literally just started exploring Sashiko and was fascinated to find that it started with poorer people using stitching to reinforce their clothing as they couldn't afford good quality fabric and wanted to prevent things wearing out quickly. How ingenious! I love the indigo fabric and the decorative element in something so practical.

Jo said…
Madeleine, yes, I love peasant gardens and peasant clothes the best. Comfortable, homey, warm, and lots of food. What's not to love?

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