A kimono style jacket that has references to Boro cloth, using Shibori patterned and Indigo dyed pieces created in previous indigo workshops.

This summer ‘Gertrude and Friends’, a Crafts retreat with residential facilities at a restored chateau in, Aquitaine SW France, have invited me to teach some courses. One of the three courses I will lead is Magical blue and Gold ; Indigo, shibori and rust dyeing. It will be a combination course week looking at three related techniques that at least have one major connection in that they are all historic natural dyeing processes. The Kimono jacket is one of the ideas for something that the students may make as a way of contextualising their indigo, shibori and rust samples and experiments. Such an item, in other words, is the ‘walk-away-with’ product.

The Japanese term Boro can be roughly translated as ‘tattered’ and defines a genre of indigo dyed textiles ingeniously patched, pieced and mended throughout Japan from late C18 until the middle of the C20. It’s message of re-use and re-purposing aligns very much with what we, at Texatelier, are about.

Shibori “The inventive Art of Japanese shaped resist dyeing” Wada, Rice & Barton. The patterns which resist the dye when dipped in the dye vat are usually made on white cloth. The exquisite nature of the patterns are akin to an individual’s handwriting as no two hands can recreate the same pattern. Basic methods to create resist patterning include stitch, wrapping, clamping and knotting which can then be dyed in the natural indigo vat, after which they are untied or unstitched to reveal beautiful, intricate and inividual shibori resist patterns.

Sashiko is a form of decorative reinforcement stitching that started out of practical need during the Edo era. (The Edo period or Tokugawa period is the period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, when Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country’s 300 regional daimyō. [wikipedia])

Tattered or repaired

Derived from the Japanese boroboro, meaning something tattered or repaired, boro refers to the practice of reworking and repairing textiles (often clothes or bedding) through piecing, patching and stitching, in order to extend their use. It is associated with the indigo-dyed hemp clothing traditional in Japan before the introduction of cotton. Worn areas of cloth are patched over or older garments cut up and joined, with running stitches or areas of sashiko (running stitches sewn through layers of fabric), used for reinforcement and to quilt layers of cloth together. This historical spirit informs the contemporary trend for ‘distressed’ or repaired-looking clothes. [From V&A]

Thrift and creativity

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, boro garments might be handed down through many generations of impoverished rural families, their making an expression of mottainai – conveying a sense of regret concerning waste. This is an extreme example of patchwork’s association with thrift, but, as in other textile traditions, the joining of pre-existing materials to create a new fabric has generated a highly distinctive cultural product. Today, boro textiles, often futon covers, are regarded as works of art and a cultural record of homespun cloths, dyes and techniques. The most heavily patched side of a boro panel, prized for its spontaneous and abstract qualities today, is often the back or inside of the piece, as more care was taken to arrange fabrics on the side that would be seen. [From V&A]


An “arashi” (polewrapped) shibori patterned and indigo dyed Thai silk scarf overdyed with rust.

The two dye stuffs, indigo and rust, represent what I describe as the “Magical Blue and Gold” that can be achieved on cloth. Beautiful and individual scarves are another of the “walk away with” outcomes that students on my courses will be able to create.

If you want more details about this course Contact Gertrude and friends, all the information on this and other courses as well as the chateau are to be found there.


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