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Genue Inc.
May 5, 2017

Cool Craft: Japanese Boro Clothing

When we set out to design a pattern, we often reach straight for a pencil or paintbrush. I know I do! Lately though, I have been thinking a lot about alternative ways of creating patterns- particularly through crafting. For textiles and fashion in particular, the act of making pattern designs can be very physical: weaving, knitting, stitching, etc. For example, did you know that in Japan, there is a beautiful pattern making technique using only recycled fabric and embroidery? This incredible craft, called boro” has been around for ages, and many designers have only recently gotten hip to its unique beauty.

 

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So what is boro exactly? The name means ragged or tattered, and gives a hint as to the nature of the technique. In 19th and 20th century rural Japan, cotton was not exactly readily available- this meant if a fabric was damaged, it got repaired instead of replaced. Women began using sashiko, a type of decorative running stitch embroidery, to repair holes in clothing, or stitch scraps of fabric together to create something new. There are many different types of sashiko stitches, but the entire practice of using embroidery patterns to repair clothing or salvage fabric scraps is referred to as boro.

 

Boro was used to repair everything from clothing to blankets, and has such a unique look. The sashiko stitching can be either very simple (the dotted lines of a running stitch) or highly complex (intricate geometric forms carefully planned and executed.) The embroidery serves two purposes; firstly, it is lovely to look at, and second, it reinforces the fabric, making it stronger. The result is a beautifully rugged patchwork that serves as a background for delicate embroidered patterns. And boro often didn’t stop at a single patch- it was possible for a single garment to be repaired over and over, sometimes to the point where it was difficult to discern which pieces of fabric were the originals.

 

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I am amazed by the technique! Boro is so much more than a decorative pattern or a piece of fabric- it’s a philosophy, a way of living and making. I think that part of the reason many designers have fallen in love with the craft is that it is a very relevant counterpoint to today’s oversaturation of fast fashion. It makes you stop and think- could I fix this instead of getting rid of it? It reminds us you don’t need to run out and replace a garment over a simple flaw- there is beauty in something that has been used, repaired, and well-loved.

 

What do you think of this unique pattern design technique?

 

The best way to understand Genue is to try it!

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The best way to understand Genue is to try it!

So ready... GIVE IT A TRY