An Extremely Pieced Kotatsugake: Mid 20th Century Hearth Textile

$495.00 USD

mid twentieth century
65" x 54 1/2", 165 cm x 138.5 cm

By now it is fairly well known that Japan's textile traditions include pieced, patched and mended textiles: indigo dyed cotton boro or folk textiles come to mind.

What might be less well known is the tradition of brightly colored, pieced textiles--this one from the 1960s or 1970s is an example whose antecedents date back many centuries before this was made.

By seeing this we see how ingrained traditions are in Japan, not only in the method of making something but also the enduring use of everyday objects.

This is a kotatsugake which is a cloth to be draped over a heated table or kotatsu. This traps the heat so a family who gathers near the hearth and places their legs under the cloth stays warm. To think that a kotatsu was still being used when this was made points to Japan's lingering traditions--nowadays kotatsu are usually in the form of an electric blanket.

But it is the pieced cloth which is historically interesting, too.

Over the centuries brightly colored silks were pieced in fanciful ways to be used as undergarments in the eras when Japan dictated that most of its citizens must wear drab colored clothing. By wearing wildly colored undergarments a person could feel refreshed of mind and spirit. An example is here and here.

Colored silk piecing was also very common in Buddhist temples where such textiles were made from luxury silks donated to the temple in the form of kimono.

In the 20th century we see these very interesting examples here and here. 

There is much more to say on this but this is all in the service of saying that although this kotatsugake looks not traditionally Japanese it is in fact part of Japan's textile history.

The kotatsugake is entirely hand stitched and it is backed. Some of the fragments of cloth might be synthetic but most, almost all, are cotton. 

Essentially the kotatsugake is two layers thick (face and backing) and it is tacked throughout to hold the two sides together.

Joyously fun to look at: and not the slightly irregular shape, paying attention to the lower, left-hand corner.

In seemingly unused condition with some slight scuffing on the back, lower left, shown in detail photos here.