Sunday, 1 December 2013

Kogin 1 - Kogin Country

Do you remember this photo I posted some weeks ago?
I took it during a trip to Hirosaki, which is in Aomori prefecture in the northern part of Japan's main island, Honshu.

Hirosaki castle park is famous for its many cherry trees, and autumn foliage, but I was lucky to see it in the first snow of the season.
The city of Hirosaki is well known for other things, too, like its summer festival 'Neputa', French food, apple pie, coffee, cocktails, three stringed shamisen...

Now this is a blog about needlework so I will leave the topic of tourist attractions, and talk instead of embroidery, because Hirosaki and the surrounding region, Tsugaru, is famous for Kogin embroidery.
This is a form of needle darning of fantastic geometric patterns. The stitch is simple, but the patterns complex.

Whenever I have seen Kogin embroidery, e.g. at the Amuse museum in Tokyo, or on handicraft projects I have been charmed by the designs. Whenever I have read about Kogin in books at the library or online, and there are a number of exceptional blogs (see below), I have been wanting to see and learn more.
So I went in search of Kogin on my trip to Hirosaki. I returned with reading matters, pattern, a ready stitched purse and sampler, and material to try it out for myself.

I will be blogging about my adventures with Kogin, but without any time plan or time pressure. The posts will be listed under 'Kogin' at the top of the blog.

The interest overseas for this kind of Japanese embroidery is growing and I have found several great blogs, written in English, if you would like to read more.
The Embroiderer's Guild W.A.
Japanese Textiles from a Westerner's Perspective
Emma Creations
Nuts About Needlepoint
A blogger many of my readers are already familiar with is Carolyn Foley of caro-rose-creations. Carolyn has made a fantastic job documenting hundreds of Hishizashi patterns and created several stunning projects. Read this and look at the first pattern here.

Red and white are the official colours of Japan, Hirosaki maple leaves in the snow were very red and white. Another colour combination commonly seen in Japan is, of course, blue and white. Kogin is mostly found to be white thread on dark blue fabric. The reason I selected the lighter blue fabric and white thread for sampler and the project
was this scene of Aomori's first snow
I will always see the resemblance between the snow covered rice fields and the structured stitches.

Until next Kogin post...

26 comments:

  1. I like the rather orderly structure of the Kogin.

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    1. Like sashiko, this is very graphic, especially when worked with white thread on blue.

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  2. Oooo this is new to me, and I will look forward to future "kogin" posts!

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    1. It is not as famous, in or outside Japan, as sashiko, but I think it is equally striking.

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  3. you have a lovely project here to do Queenie, I will look at the links you have given as this technique is new to me although I have come across needle darning before I expect it will be similar. Glad we have not got the snow you had on your visit to Hirosaki, it looks very pretty with all the snow but too cold for me.

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    1. The 'project' will take ages as it involves reading the Japanese text and trying to make heads and tails of it, as well as doing the actual stitching.

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  4. Lovely post and pictures! I came across kogin embroidery when I was doing a research on pattern darning around the world.I love the simple texture of this tecnique.I would love to read your future posts and your stitching as well.I believe many countries have a form of pattern darning embroidery.In India we have toda embroidery, mostly stitched on unbleached off-white fabric with red and black stripes(as border) with black/red yarn.

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    1. Unlike the running stitch of quilting or free form darning, I think you need to keep very concentrated when working Kogin. I hope I will be able to!!! It is fascinating to study embroidery as well as actually working it, so I am looking forward to this stitch journey.
      I know so little and want to learn so much. I just had a look at Toda embroidery on the internet and there are definite similarities with other forms of darning embroidery. Thank you for telling me about Toda embroidery.

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  5. Thanks for sharing the links. I stitched some Kogin in a stitchalong a few years ago and liked it very much.

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    1. Just like Anita pointed out in the comment above, there seems to be darning pattern embroidery in many countries and Kogin is just one of them. I am sure I will enjoy this 'research' work, although it will take time.

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  6. Beautiful pictures! I'll be watching for your kogin progress and think I will have to look into it for myself.

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    1. As you of course are already aware of, Japan has a rich textile heritage and there are so many forms and regions with their own style. I wonder if it would be possible to trace them all. Please enjoy!

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  7. Queenie, what a wonderful post! I love the combination of embroidery, Japanese culture and "touristic attractions"!
    In my opinion you are right to see a connection between rice fields and stitches. I also watched the same in Gee's Bend quilts, where you will find hats and other several elements of the surrounding. This is so interesting and worth to continue searching for connections! Thank you!

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    1. Thank you for your encouraging words! Although I enjoy free form, I love learning a bit about the background of things, the history and the life of the people who created the Kogin patterns. Like the Gee's Bend quilters, I think those who stitched Kogin had little or no education, lived in an extremely isolated area and maybe the designs were born out of a mixture of competition and co-operation. Many of the Kogin patterns have names, but I'll write about that later.

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    2. Looking forward to read about Kogin patterns!

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  8. Beautiful, another style of embroidery to add to my list of things to try! The lighter blue background works wonderfully and really does suggest the snowy landscape you photographed.

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    1. Yes, isn't it tempting to try!
      I will have to start making a list of other forms of decorative running stitches/needle darning. Already I have learned about Toda embroidery (see Anita's comment above).

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  9. The kogin looks interesting, I will watch with interest, the patterns do look intricate.
    You live in a beautiful country with lovely buildings and structures it is always nice to see the pictures. It is very gray cold and miserable here at the moment not picture taking weather!

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    1. It is always encouraging to read your comments. Thank you.
      Ahem, there ARE lovely buildings in Japan, but many are far from beautiful. Let's call them interesting instead! The weather in Tokyo has become the steady beautiful winter weather I like, cold, sunny, clear blue sky, dry air and a bit windy. it is cold, but never gray and miserable!

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  11. Thank you to show us Hirosaki and kogin embroidery . I didn't known this embroidery and I'll have pleasure to read your mail about it.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. It will be a pleasure to research about Kogin, but it will take time!

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  12. I've been doing a bit of catching up, enjoying reading your last few posts. Your quilt is looking good and well done for keeping up with the TAST challenge [I'm way behind]. I think I have seen kogin embroidery before but I didn't know what it was called. The castle looks so pretty and I like the contrast of the red fence in front of it.

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    1. Thank you for visiting my blog. I am so grateful for TAST and WIPW - both keep me on my toes.
      Japanese castles and shinto shrines often have red bridges. They are perfect in the snow, among pine trees or a cloud of pink cherry blossoms. Lucky me to see the bridge in the snow!

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  13. I have been away and am only just catching up. I had a feeling that you had been north and would have seen lots of Kogin embroidery. It is special isn't it? As you know I just love it and the wonderful culture of the women who stitched it. Every time I pick up my needle for this work I feel the spirit of these women. There is a kind of magic to Japanese stitching.

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    1. Kogin is absolutely stunning, especially the antique pieces, stitches tightly on fine weave. To me it is a kind of zen meditation, 'a bit of love/sorrow/happiness/frustration...in every stitch'. The trip was great and there is much to learn from the material I gathered. I WILL blog about my progress but it WILL take time! Please bear with me.

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