Thursday, August 16, 2007

Initiation into sewing again

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!


Mrs. Goodneedle said...

This was really informative, imagine... rules for rags. Thanks, this was a great post, I never would have known about these.

Quilt Pixie said...

I'd never considered sewing a rag! Around here the holey sock, torn bedsheet whatever just gets torn into a piece about 12X 8 inches and used until it falls apart too far... I have a bag that all cotton & knot pieces get dropped into for use as rags when I need them. I may have to explore layering them as they'd be much more useful sometimes that way then simply scrunched up into a blob :-)

Bellydancingknitter said...

Thanks for the explanation. When I was teaching children, this would have been the sort of lesson that they would have loved, an introduction to sewing and having the oportunity to make something that they might be excited to use in cleaning (my students also had to take care of their environment)

Fiona said...

I never cease to be fascinated by the snippets you give of the Japanese way of life. This sounds like something we all should do more of.

Anonymous said...

ぞうきん いいですね!!

marisa said...

Thanks for rag's lesson.Welcome to home.Ciao

siorinn said...

Hi.Tanya.It's Shiori^^I'm sorry to send letters.

Everyday my condition is bad,I'm go to the hospital(called Saiseikai).
The doctor sead to me,“You are Thrombocytopenic purple.”

From July 29 to 31,I went to Shimane meeting of calligraghy.I can be friends them I went together and I had very gond time.
And what's more,I could get a prize!
You think I'm wonderful don't you!?
I think so too!

I'm looking forward to seeing you^_^


Shelina said...

I did receive a couple of those towels as gifts. I'm thinking of using them in quilting rather than as rags though.
I had thought about giving our Japanese student some chores, but I didn't. I think it is great that the school expects the students to clean. I'm sure it encourges them from making a mess in the first place.

Connie W said...

Cleaning day at my house consists of the usual & customary cast-off washcloths, etc., but my favorite is made from old cotton undershirts. I had no idea that one could have specialty rags. I learn something new all the time from you.