A Treasure from Japan


When I saw this applique wall hanging in a show last fall, I fell in love with the sewing cabinet. It was made by Hiroko Watanabe.

On the second day in Okinawa I found “my” sewing cabinet in a tiny, crowded antique shop. I figured I’d have to carry it all around for three weeks but discovered it fit into my suitcase. (Taking up space I needed for other things.)

I knew it needed some kind of clip because of the way it was shown in the hanging. It took some searching, but I found it in the sewing notions area in a department store. Sewing shops didn’t carry them because “no one uses them or sews anymore.” All the kimonos I’ve seen are hand sewn using the clip to tension the cloth while sewing. It really works and I love it. I made the pin cushion as soon as I got home.

12 thoughts on “A Treasure from Japan

  1. Beautiful sewing cabinet – not sewing in Japan!! Love the pin cushion. What a wonderful souvenir of Japan for you to bring home.

  2. Can you elaborate on the clip that is used for sewing kimonos? I don’t quite understand– is that something one holds by hand to add tension on a sewing machine or with hand sewing? Such a lovely and useful antique find. I very much enjoyed your chronology of your visit to Japan.

    • Peggy’s clamp is a more modern version of what was called a sewing bird. The antique victorian ones actually had a bird that functioned as the clamp. I bought one of these (the modern version pictured here) within the last 20 years that I use all the time. Whenever I have a long seam to rip out, I clamp one end of the seam into the “bird” clamp (the “third hand” and I can hold the other end to put tension on it so my seam ripper just zips along the tensioned seam! Here is a link to buy the modern version: https://www.amazon.com/CLOTILDE-TH-100-Third-Hand-Sewing/dp/B00CDB5DMY
      If you do a search on “sewing bird” you will see pictures of the antique ones that were actually birds.

      • I have one of those bird clamps, I have had it long enough the plastic/rubber pads are deteriorating. But I wonder, if “originally”, pins were used to attach the cord to the kimono?

        • In Morocco I saw them using a cord tied in a loop which they put around their knee to attach to the sewing to create tension.

  3. I have one of these “clips” and now maybe I’ll even start using it! It’s like a third hand and similar to the ones shaped like a bird that clamps on to a table. I don’t have such a cool sewing box though….I’m going to keep an eye out for one. Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure in Japan with us!

  4. A beautiful memory to take home — who needs clothes on their way home anyway?? A dear friend who travels a lot (casually) takes only old clothes and leaves them as he travels so he can fill his suitcase with memories.

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