14 March 2016

Boro Bags!

What's with the bags? 

I usually teach bookmaking and paper arts classes but for a number of years now textiles have been creeping their way into my artwork, and naturally, my teaching.

Tsuno Bukuro and Azuma Bukuro

Japanese Boro textiles have been an inspiration to me and have greatly influenced my series KEEP: Modern Library. In researching Boro I have taught myself many of the stitching techniques, learned a great deal about the different kinds of textiles that form boro, and started a small collection of my own.

Some Boro Textile pieces from my collection

In looking at Boro textiles, I couldn't help but notice the beautiful cloth Japanese bags. Traditional and contemporary Japanese bags are simple yet ingenious in design, and combined with Japanese textile printing, dying and weaving techniques - gorgeous. And then patched and repaired - scrumptious! Possibly, too, I gravitate toward bags because, like books, they are containers that can be stitched in a number of different ways. Their construction fascinates me.

Stitching on one of my Boro Bag class samples

My gateway bag was the tsuno bukuro. Yoshiko Wada taught us how to make that bag at Shakerag and ever since then I have been teaching myself to make other types of bags, mostly by looking at bags that I have seen and/or collected.

Class samples and supplies

I had been teaching the Boro Sampler Book class for a while and it has continued to be popular but I wanted to mix things up a bit so I developed the Boro Bags class. In this workshop we use one length of cloth as our sampler enabling students to work on a larger scale than was possible with the books.

Student work - Boro Bags Workshop

Students learn basic Boro mending and repair techniques that they practice on their cloth and then at the end of the class they make the cloth into a bag. Two different bag patterns are taught - the tsuno bukuro and the azuma bukuro. They are both quite simple, but clever in design, and can be used as a project bag, shopping bag, or even a clutch like bag.

Student work - Boro Bags Workshop

Students can then incorporate the learned techniques, and what I call the Boro aesthetic, into future sewing projects or into their art practice. 

Student work - Boro Bags workshop

It took me a while to develop this class since there were so many variables so in January I ran a "beta" class in Wishi Washi Studio to test it out. Everything went swimmingly so I offered two more in the last month and I now feel like the class is tried and true!

Student work - Boro Bags workshop

Two more Boro Bags workshops are coming up so check out these venues if you would like to learn about Japanese Boro textiles, try your hand at some of the stitching and mending techniques, and make a bag!:

Mountain Maid Workshops, Grass Valley, CA - April 23rd

A Verb for Keeping Warm, Oakland, CA - May 14th

(Update: directions for the Boro Bags are in my book: The Boro Aesthetic available on Blurb.com)


  1. I signed up for your Oakland class. Looking forward.

  2. if i was nearby i'd sign up for sure!

  3. Hope you'll think about an online class or ebook - I'm on the east coast but love the look of Boro

  4. I saw your class on A VErb for Keeping Warm's roster....hoping to learn how to make these gorgeous bags soon this fall

  5. Here see examples of fabulous antique Japanese boro textiles: