Yesterday I got a few of the things accomplished that I had on my list but definitely not all of them. Continuing today.
One of the things that waylaid me (happily) was a visit to Quilt Pixie (Aug. 13) where she threw out the challenge to make an object of art from one of your old rags. That got me to thinking about how Japanese make rags, so before starting my cleaning etc. I decided to make a rag to show you (and use!) Not art but it is a rag.
A rag is a rag right? Actually I love these and have made loads over the years. An old t-shirt or holey socks just won't do it for me. These all turn out uniform in size so they store nicely and they are just right for squeezing out water, not to mention that they hang over the side of a bucket well and dry fairly quickly. (Whoever heard of being a connoisseur of rags!) In Japan, businesses will give out cheap towels about the size of a hand towel but longer, with the business logo printed on them. Going into establishments (restaurants, post office, mom and pop stores) at the beginning of the New Year, and you will be handed a nice little packaged folded towel. (There are other things you may receive too, such as tea cups, figurines etc.) Actually the towels are not great quality but they are extremely handy. Almost everyone drapes one around their neck when they are doing yard work, or the men will tie them around their heads to keep the sweat out of their eyes etc. Traditionally, housewives will sew them up into rags.
All through the years when my kids were going to school they were requested to bring in rags a couple times a year. This is a post in itself, but briefly, Japanese children are required to do cleaning chores as part of their education experience. They wash toilets and wipe down floors and even wax the classrooms so there is a great need for rags. I'm sure that each year, my children brought in 3 to 5 rags to be used at school. Multiply that number by how many kids are in the school and think of the number of rags that get used in a year! And no, they are not considered disposable rags (as in one-time use).
As I recall (it's been a few years now) I would sew up the cheap towels by sewing machine though perhaps most women do the sewing by hand. There are loosely set rules for making rags. Fold the towel in half with the long edges meeting in the middle. Fold the sides again and then sew all along the outer edges and in a criss-cross in the middle. All Japanese women know how to make these but I had to have someone explain it to me the first couple of times.
Yesterday's rag I made by hand using left over 6 ply embroidery floss. Just a simple running stitch to hold everything together and Voila! A rag. This is a pretty rudimentary sashiko stitch and I suppose that since sashiko was once used for function (mending) before it became decorative this is one way that it got started.
Ok. Now to get a bucket and use my rag today!