A Curious Obi Shin: Two Overdyed Complete 19th Century Tenugui

$175.00 USD

late 19th century
120" x 12 1/4", 305 cm x 31 cm

An obi shin is a cloth that is used to line or pad an obi in order to give it form, shape and structure. In the old days scrap cloth was often used to make an obi shin, a logical idea since an obi shin was never meant to be seen.

Here we have something of a treasure: this obi shin contains two intact (probably late Edo period) hand spun, hand woven cotton tenugui, a kind of popular and essential hand towel which often bears fanciful decoration.

Both tenugui are over dyed and are a dull, medium blue-grey-green tone. The are shown "backwards" in order to illustrate the patch on one of them.

One shows a delightful scene of bamboo and a sparrow which is a classic pairing of motifs. Sparrows and bamboo are associated imagery probably because sparrows are often seen flocking in bamboo groves. The sparrow motif, however, bears a fairly noble meaning as it is said to convey "the virtue of repaying one's obligation."

The other tenugui shows kanji or Chinese calligraphy within a partial roundel that suggests a stylized snowflake. A small bat--a symbol of good fortune--flies above the kanji.

The rest of the obi shin is hand woven, undyed cotton. The entire obi is starched quite stiff.

A humble cloth with wonderful surprises in the form of the collectible tenugui this is a charming cloth from another era.