“Hanten Jacket: Tradition from Japan

Susan Brisco’s The Book of Boro is about the traditional Japanese art of saving textiles over the course of generations. The history of how peasants used and reused fabric by adding layer upon layer is fascinating. According to Briscoe, laborers wore hanten jackets, or “half-jackets,” to work in the fields. Today, boro textiles are highly collectible and quite expensive. My plan is to to join friends in making a hanten jacket while learning about this traditional Japanese fiber art.

I’m stitching like crazy, using every free moment and hope to finish by the time we arrive at the retreat. This Pinterest board gathers some ideas for my jacket. Real boro, however, is created over time and generations. In fact, clothing was made in such a way that it was easily deconstructed for reuse in making another garment. The rice fields of northern Japan are probably the origin of the “green movement.”

There really is no rhyme or reason to my stitching. I improv something until another idea comes along. I am trying to throw in more straight lines than anything else. The straight lines should pull everything together but without gauging it, who knows?

The rabbit area. Several things are happening in the rabbit area. After the few flowers I added some neutral circles, thinking that they might look like flowers with the right stitches. Hmm, not especially happy work. My one “rule” is I cannot rip anything out. Wait, a loophole! Applique to the rescue!

Let’s try weaving. The little patchwork right in front of the rabbit is actually woven in place on top of the navy. Many women (not just Japanese women) used this technique to repair holes in clothing using only needle and thread (and lots of time). In essence, it is weaving fabric on top of the place where fabric is missing. It’s easy enough: begin with a good knot on one side of the hole. Stretch the thread across the space to the opposite side and anchor it with a knot. Keep going from side to side filling the entire space. The warp of your fabric is complete. Now feed the weft thread back and forth between the warp threads, pushing it tightly together. Anchor with a knot every few runs.

I made the most headway on this piece. This section is large enough that, once the stitches are in, a full section of the hanten jacket will be complete. Those straight lines are fast stitching. They aren’t perfectly straight, but that adds to the character of the jacket. Now that the water is calm, I can keep going. Eventually I’ll get to the shores.

Lastly, these triangles are below the rabbit but with a few lines of straight stitching separate the two areas. There’s space for two more boxes then everything will become straight stitching. And there you are: all caught up to my slow-stitching boro endeavor.

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