Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Shirushi Banten

I put together a few trial workshops over the past few years on designing and sewing Japanese jackets before I had enough guts to officially hold a two-week course here at the house.  I  invited students who had been to my place in Japan and showed interest in coming back. Ten days of hard work so far. Four more to go.

I think it takes ten or so of these hanten jackets before you get the idea of measuring and finishing them up just perfectly.  We can finish two and perhaps a baby third if all goes well. I picked up some Edwin Jeans off cuts and we sewed jackets the first three days.

 Here they are:

The second jacket we made from either antique linen or some hand-woven organic fair trade cotton I  picked up in Sri Lanka a few months back. We calculated the measurements and dyed the designs right on the body of the cloth. Seven creative indigo hamsters on my hands. Things are coming together today.

We made some red pigment from madder roots to paint and steam onto the designs on the back of the jackets. 

The madder grows wild all around this area. There isn't enough time to dig it ourselves so I bought some and had it ready to boil. It takes over a week to get the red azilirin paste.

Here Teresa holds a madder stem. The roots is where the dye pigment is concentrated. 

After the liquid has been pH neutralised for a few days of rinsing and settling it is sieved through a coffee filter. Then the paste is ready to be painted on with soy bean juice and steamed. 

It needed a few hours in the sun to jell up.

Heather from Australia painted on the paste and then dyed the background with soot and indigo. Then after removing the paste she carefully painted in the red. First a sample on a small piece and then the actual jacket.


Hand made madder paste paint on the crest on the back of the jacket.

There was a lot of painting and steaming and paste resisting the past few days.

97 year old Ogata san came by and made udon from scratch for our lunch.

We needed a break from all this fresh green, croaking frogs and singing birds so we headed into Tokyo for a day. We went to the Amuse Boro Museum and the Edo Museum. We sought out old fireman jacket designs.

We were completely museumed-out at the end of the day. Overwhelmed by hundreds of years of sophisticated Japanese culture in our faces.

The small paper models of the festival-goers in Edo period were amazing.

The Edo period wood block pictures provided us with more insight into the jackets we are designing and sewing.

This particular wood block print commissioned for a fire brigade in Edo period was particularly informative.

And the beauty of resourcefulness at the Boro Museum.

As always we want more time to study and make things. It is frustrating. I wish we had months to really master the processes. The sewing of the jackets, the history behind Japanese clothing, the indigo dyeing and the pigment making and the design genius of the Japanese traditional Edo craft masters. But if we had months we would want years. And a decade would be necessary to really get it right.  (We know all a long that it takes a lifetime and even then we may miss the mark.) Jeeeeeeesh.

Julie Cat with her new kittens in her box.


  1. the boro museum is so thrilling. one can actually touch the fabrics! those ukiyo-e are magnificent.

  2. You are having so much fun making jackets and they are going to be beautiful. Julie looks happy.

  3. i am so happy that you give us a slide show of the doings. it's fascinating to see how rich the jacket-making experience is for this group. and i really love that yummy red pudding/dye (it does look edible...) thank you for the glimpse.

  4. I noticed the Edo museum has hot water bottles like yours!

    1. I noticed too. Except theirs was missing the cap...

  5. Thank you for this glimpse into your week and the new course.

  6. So nice works!!! bravo
    would like to be there !

  7. All of the jacket action looks fantastic! Thanks also for the update on Julie and her litter. It makes me nostalgic for when our Mrrr (at that time, still technically the neighbors' "Miss Kitty") had kittens.