Ainu, a Japanese Community that Reveres Textiles

The Ainu. Picture from Thummanit Phuvasatien .

Ainu: We who love textiles know what it is to revere an exceptional piece of weaving or embroidery.  But there is a community where this is literally practiced. And that is by the Ainu. 

History of Ainu

The Ainu have lived on the island of Hokkaido for millennia, populating a culture distinct from the Japanese. Following a Hunter-gatherer lifestyle, they, like most communities that live off the land, revered all things natural. This reverence interestingly extended to tools and clothes, the minutiae of daily life.  One fascinating aspect of their culture is the reverence of bears, which are seen as gods.  The Ainu would often collect bear cubs and bring them up in their homes, exactly as they brought up children.  Eventually, these bears were sacrificed in a ritualistic ceremony,  with their flesh and fur highly valued as divine.  (more…)

A Humble Hanky –One of my earliest memories is my mother dabbing her lace-edged hanky with cologne and tucking it into her saree, along with her keys.  To the little me, this seemed the height of femininity and grace.  My mother kept her hankies, like precious keepsakes, in a box with a big bow on it.  A few years later, an aunt gifted me a set of seven, one for each day of the week, embroidered with pixies and flowers.  How delighted I was.  (more…)

Filigree: In the miraculous world and history of jewelry, there is one technique done in precious metal, but visually exactly like lace.  And that is filigree.  As the etymology of the word suggests (filum =thread, granum=grain), filigree involves twisting and curling precious metal threads into elaborate designs.  But that is a tiny part of the story of how complicated the process is. 

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Lace Making: My fascination for handmade laces started three years back in the summers of 2018 when I searched for artisan groups in India to help us recreate old collected laces and trims from Europe. Until then, my knowledge of high-quality handmade laces possible to accomplish in India was limited only to cotton crochet work. However, to my surprise, we found groups of women based in small villages across different states of Southern India, practicing a variety of high-skilled European lace making techniques.  (more…)

Jacobean Embroidery a Style Based on the Folklore of England

A floor covered in rush in a medieval home

Jacobean Embroidery : We live in our current times in houses or apartments, which are fully furnished, heated in winter, and adorned extensively with textiles for aesthetic reasons and utility.  But there was a time in England and the rest of the world that houses were draughty, furniture scarce, and cloth was restricted to wool, linen, and silk. There were rushes on the floor, which dogs and often people would relieve themselves in, making interiors malodorous. People often shifted from one house to another, an itinerant lifestyle because homes became quickly unhygienic.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, an awareness began to grow about beauty and comfort, both in interiors and dress. This age coincided with a time in England when huge homes were being built, abbeys were turned into residences, and lasting peace meant that they could give attention to aesthetic (more…)

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