Post WWII an area of northern Honshu Japan was a place of desperate poverty. Traditionally this region known as “Tohoku” is known for a traditional geometric needlework (kogin-sashi). Although “Boro Tsugihagi” was strong in this area it is not considered a cultural art form or folk craft. The people of this area, although impoverished used their cultural craft in combination with rags and tatters, to create some very beautiful garments. It is regarded with embarrassment because Boro-garments are a reminder of the extreme poverty.
Bast fibers, especially hemp were used, because cotton cannot grow in the chilly climate of Tohoku. This makes the fabric they used extra special because hemp is not usually used in Japan and growing such currently in Japan is illegal(some special exceptions exist for the emperor etc.). Their system of how they paid for the dyeing was interesting. People would grow enough for the clothing item, and use some to pay the indigo dyer, and and some to buy needles. “Boro ぼろ” means rags“Tsugihagi つぎはぎ” means patchwork.“Sashiko 刺し子” is a type of single thread embroidery. This book “Boro” has a clear and accurate explanation of Boro tsugihagi; it’s history and dismissal as a cultural folk craft.
Recently I have acquired some antique indigo dyed fabric rags. I am making a scarf and futon cover with the scraps. Here is one example so far before adding patches over the base patchwork.