A Tale of Two Sleeves

The odd piece of cloth I started right after the workshop with Dorothy Caldwell surged into the lead and crossed the finish line way ahead of all the other UFO's. I found it so comforting to work on. The finished size is 14.5" x 29" -- perfect for picking up and carrying around to work on during random moments. The burgundy kasuri at the centre came from a kimono, and the solid burgundy cotton was used to line the same garment. The fabulous worn gold bars were facings on the sleeve linings, and they are silk -- probably a poor choice for a part of the kimono that receives a lot of wear, but so gorgeous in its fragile decrepitude.

I worked very intuitively on this piece. I wanted to do crosses, but not the usual cross-stitch. I worked the bars of the cross in horizontal and vertical directions. I found out later that this is (confusingly) called diagonal cross-stitch and also upright cross. I wanted a very hand worked look, which I got, perhaps more than I am comfortable with. The light catches the threads in one plane or the other, resulting in a texture that is rougher than regular cross stitch.

I am also very fond of the reverse side.

The colours were quite impossible to capture accurately with my camera. The sewing thread I used for stitching on top of the gold was actually a gold-green, but the intense gold of the fabric just swallowed up the difference in shade. And I used a green floss for the running stitches around the edge, but they too look gold. All these phenomena are due to the complementary contrast of the colours burgundy and gold. Quite fascinating - and I am sure it is no coincidence that much of our theory of colour was developed by tapestry weavers. Fibre, threads and fabric are so varied in texture and reflectiveness that colour on them behaves more subtly and elusively than any other medium.

This piece is destined to return to its place of origin, a trans-Pacific journey of mending and metamorphosis. It's for my dear friend Jean-Pierre, who sent me the old kimono in a bundle of cloth he picked up from a temple market in Kyoto.


  1. Anonymous11:15 PM

    Hi Heather,

    beautiful piece and I will find a place of honour for it. By the way, the stitching looks a lot like those used in the borro-cloth pieces. I finally picked up a copy of that book in Tokyo and it's on its way to you. I think you'll find lots of inspiration in it. Maybe even a few tears. The pieces of borro-cloth in the book were collected by an ethnologist in Akita prefecture in northern Japan. He sensed that they were special artifacts of a way of life that had passed. People in the far north were financially destitute and just couldn't afford to throw anything away, even scraps of worn cloth. Everything was used and reused and reused until there was literally nothing left to use. The results are unbelievable.


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