Boro is the Japanese art of mending and the term boro is literally translated as rags or scraps of cloth. Boro is also used to describe clothes and household items which have been patched-up and repaired many times. This textile tradition comes from northern Japan, a poor region with a harsh climate.
Boro textiles were usually sewn from nineteenth and early twentieth century rags and patches of hand loomed indigo dyed cotton. Older boro pieces were made with fabric made from bast fibers (foraged local plant materials and hemp) then patched and quilted together with second-hand scraps of cotton garments. Boro garments were the work garb of both men and women working as farmers, lumberman, and fisherman. Boro techniques are also found in other household items, especially futon covers. A family futon cover might incorporate elements from clothing used by generations of family members.
As fabric was scarse and expensive, boro used patchwork quilting and sashiko stitching to mend and extend the life of all the pieces of worn fabric in a household. Sashiko, literally translated to “little stabs”, is a form of decorative reinforcement stitching, usually running stitch, for areas on clothing that get a lot of wear. No fabric would be thrown away, adhering to the concept of mottanai.
While frugality drove this textile tradition, the aesthetic sensibilities of the women stitching created beauty out of the materials at hand. These patched and heavily stitched articles of daily life are cultural textile treasures.