The Storied History of the Japanese Boro

 ‘Boro’ originated in rural Japan between 1850 and 1950. The technique was developed by humble peasant farmers of the era, out of the necessity to stay warm during periods of extreme temperatures and poverty.

The technique is layers upon layers of patch worked cotton (or hemp) cloth stitched and mended over time using the Sashiko method. Due to the demand for Cotton at this time, nothing was wasted, everything salvaged. This was the creation of a garment, which would be passed down, to represent generations of impoverished farming families.

The term is derived from Japanese boroboro, meaning something tattered or repaired.

- International Quilt Study Centre, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2009

During the post war period, Japan’s society started shifting towards modernization and this traditional folk craft was gladly left behind by it’s originators. To the working class Japanese, Boro garments are an embarrassing reminder of their former struggles.

Today, antique indigo cottons and Boro garments are highly sought after by young designers and collectors who see great beauty in the technique’s history and effect.

An image from ‘Boro – The Fabric of Life’ Boisbuchet exhibition 2013

Could Boro be an important lesson for the modern, fast fashion world ?

We encourage our customers to ‘hand down’ or repair their Good sport garments rather than replacing.

There are no rules when it comes to you Boro patch-working or Sashiko stitching. Give it a go !

Here are a few tips to use as guidance…

You will need:

  • Japanese Sashiko thread or high twist cotton/ embroidery cotton
  • Offcuts or scraps of woven fabric
  • Sashiko or darning needle
  • A ruler & fabric pen/chalk if you like to be precise.
  • A steady hand and some creativity

There is no right or wrong way to do it.

Be creative with your stitching, don’t feel limited to one design.

If the thread is too heavy try splitting it in half.

Secure your thread well at both start and finish so your hard work does not unravel.

If you are finding it hard to keep the cloth flat, you can try using a bit of fusing or interfacing between layers.

Use scraps of fabric rather than buying some especially.

Take your time and enjoy this ancient process.

A Good Sport Bomber made from antique Japanese Indigo - Patch worked to mend original faults or tarnishes.