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Vintage and Collectable, Japanese Indigo Textiles

Vintage and Collectable, Japanese Indigo Textiles

In the mid-80's I lived in Osaka, Japan for about two years. During my time there, I would often take the train on weekends to Kyoto. There was a family - Mr. and Mrs. Takeda, whom I got to know, and they kindly took me 'under their wing'. Mrs. Takeda knew that I had a passion for indigo fabric and so, one day she took me to a shop in Kyoto that specialized in collectable fabrics. Indigo fabric was and still is a big part of Japanese culture.  Traditionally and historically there was much indigo dying in Japan. There has also been a world-wide revival of indigo dying. 

Here we are in Kyoto at the collector's shop. In the background you can see several woven cotton pieces that are dyed with indigo. Mrs. Takeda (in the floral dress) explaining to me some of the intricacies of the fabric. 

The shop owner showing us a prized piece of indigo fabric. 

Several pieces of vintage woven cotton (from my own personal collection), dyed with indigo and natural dyes. These piece are collector's items now and they were collectables 30 years ago when I was there! These fabrics were woven by hand and are a very narrow width. Another, sometimes tell-tale sign that they are hand woven. 
Boro Japanese vintage indigo-dyed fabric.

A close-up of a small section of the fabric that has been repaired. There is a name for this in Japanese called boro, which means to patch a worn piece of fabric using another piece of fabric. Boro came about out of necessity in the nineteenth and early twentieth century as cotton fabric was hard to find in Japan. Rural workers would use pieces of fabric to patch their kimono and pants worn in the rice fields.

A larger piece of this very special fabric. I don't know what the reddish dye is, but it may be madder root. This piece is woven with cotton, and I assume is dyed with natural dyes, but am not certain. Nonetheless, it is a collector's piece. 

A close-up of another specialty piece in a more delicate weave. Delicate colours, from natural dyes. 

A close-up of a cushion cover. Delicate colours in natural dyes with alternating indigo. 

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  • The reddish dye could possibly be persimmon. I have some sashiko thread that has been dyed with it and the color is similar. Apparently it can also change a bit with the passage of time and exposure to UV rays, etc. I love indigo fabrics, sashiko and boro!!

  • Boro intrigues me and I appreciate the great photos.

    Teresa Gagne
  • Thank you for sharing Kathleen. What beautiful fabric and a special story

    Barb Loland.

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