An Old Stripe Album: Shimacho of Home Weaving Samples
late nineteenth century
6 1/4" x 5", 16 cm x 12.75 cm
Shimacho means, literally, "stripe album." The small, cotton swatches contained within it are usually striped cotton, or some variation on striped cotton.
A shimacho is said to be an album of home weaving that a bride takes from her family home when she's married, leaves her family and begins her life in the home of her new husband's family. Most likely this is in part true, however it is more likely that a shimacho has a broader beginning and a less prosaic life. It is not unthinkable that a sliver of a neighbor's weaving found its way into a shimacho, or some such thing.
Often the striped cloth in a shimacho shows narrow stripes or small checks in dark colors. The reason for this is that in old Japan there were sumptuary laws which dictated how a person could dress and how they should conduct other aspects of their lives. Most of the population was only allowed to wear dark, somber colors and cloth showing very little pattern, if any. Therefore, shimacho usually reflect this societal dictate by showing scraps of hand woven cotton in dark colors.
This one contains lovely pieces of striped and checked hand loomed cotton cloth which date from the mid to late nineteenth century. Please turn the pages carefully as the swatches on facing pages tend to stick together and some of the old glue holding them has loosened its grip on the swatch.
And what a wild, hand-painted and distressed cover!
A wonderful thing to own.