A Very Tattered and Worn Boro Okuso Cloth Apron: Woven Hemp Waste Fiber
late nineteenth, early twentieth century
21 1/2" x 34", 54.5 cm x 86.5 cm
For those serious about Japanese folk textiles, the fiber called okuso is an important one to know about because it embodies everything relevant about rural life, primarily the concept of mottainai which cautions not to waste a thing. It is also a prized cloth among connoisseurs of Japanese country textiles.
In old Japan, rural folk cultivated hemp and ramie and they would process these plants into yarn of varying grades. They did not keep the fine yarns they produced which was sold to brokers.
The processes involved with turning the inner bark of hemp and ramie, called bast, into yarn is a complex one that created a great deal of waste. It was this waste, or okuso, that was first coffered and then spun to be used in home weaving.
The apron offered here is woven from undyed okuso or hemp waste. Showing so many details of the surface of this undyed, thickly textured cloth is an attempt to convey the rough surface of this material and to give a true sense of its tactile qualities.
This apron has been worn very hard and it is very stained all over. Please know this. Its condition is not "good," but rather it indicates the hardship of day to day life on a farm in old Japan.
The apron is hand stitched from three panels of okuso cloth. As can be seen there are stains, holes, and mending. Also hand stitched to the apron is a long, indigo dyed cotton tie. Please pay attention to the accompanying detail photos where you will see little blips of indigo colored threads in the weft material of the apron. No doubt stray fibers were spun into the okuso when it was being transformed into yarn. A charming detail.
The apron shown here is a rare opportunity to acquire a garment hand made from okuso cloth, which are not easy to find and, when possible, can be extravagantly prices.