Monday, January 30, 2012

the ground beneath

After a few too hot days at home scratching away at my journal, sewing, mooching among the bookshelves, tidying up a little fretfully, not feeling hungry but still thinking about food - I realised that I had cabin fever and I had to get out. The past few weeks I had been sewing - mending, patching, darning - and somehow that led to stitching cloth in a sort of dream - an unthinking meditation. I had been reading too about zokin - Japanese dusters, or cleaning cloths - repurposed material from clothes cut down and quilted together with tiny running stitches - a humble sashiko. These days it seems zokin are made only by the elderly, by women old enough to have memory of hard times, young enough to still want to do something with their hands. That is me, I thought, neither old or young - some time on my hands. I made three - quilted in different patterns - my sewing both inexpert and somehow satisfying hand work. When cabin fever finally struck I took myself into the city to buy proper sashiko thread, a Japanese leather thimble - worn just above the joint on long man - the middle finger. In an arcade upstairs in a tiny shop I found all kinds of sewing treasures. Stowing my sweet purchases in my basket I took out my stitching and showed the shop's owner Leanne. Leanne lived in Japan for many years and studied all kinds of traditional arts including sashiko. She was not really impressed with my work but gave me some helpful advice. I had pulled my stitches too tight,(story of my life) and had begun by quilting several layers together,(running before I could walk) - not good for a beginner. I blushed and took my leave. 
Sometimes I forget that the whole is made of many fragments. I forget that the journey can be at once humble and grand. I forget for a moment that I am a snail and that slow is my natural speed. Why I try to shuck this perfect rhythm I'm not sure. The years fly - sometimes it's good to have days that are slow. 

Memorandum: If you are in Melbourne the shop mentioned is Kimono House on the second floor of the Nicholas Building. It is an Aladdin's Cave of beautiful textiles and sewing tools. Kimono House offers courses in a variety of disciplines including sashiko. I have signed up for one.


  1. Those brilliantly coloured little stone shapes make me happy. When I was seven and eight, living in Italy, I spent hours, days, and weeks on overgrown heights above the town I lived, sometimes venturing up and over the heights (dangerously forbidden and far from home) to look thousands of meters (surely) to the ocean. I would find likely-looking spots and dig, and found many faded mosaic tiles.

    I've been wanting try my hand at these very stitches! I like the humble and functional idea of zokin. I could use some zokin around this place.

    Hmph shop assistant!

    I'm working at regaining my slow.

    xoxoxo, your sister M.

  2. Hello M! Thanks for dropping in here. I love your mosaic archeology! Of course mosaica loves mosaics. Do you still have those bits of Roman colour with you? I can imagine almost anywhere in Italy would have been good for a dig. So ancient. I was told by an Italian friend that often farmers smashed Etruscian pots turned up by the plough rather than turn their land over to the government for research. What year were you there? I was in Italy for a few months in 1972/73. Funny if we were both there...

    The other day I had been all hot and embarrassed about my sewing before I stopped and looked down and saw the beauty I was walking unthinkingly over. Beauty saves us don't you think?

    Wishing you a good slow.