Please tell me about the colourful sewing kit “Kaga yubinuki (Japanese thimbles)” in Kanazawa.
Hi, this is Yoko from the SUNCHI editorial desk.
The Kaga yubinuki thimble has a long tradition in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (Kaga region of old Japan, modern day Ishikawa prefecture). This pattern, created by weaving threads one by one, is almost breathtakingly beautiful. I wanted to learn more about these thimbles, so I visited Mrs Yukiko Onishi, a maker based on Kanazawa.
—— Hello. Today I came here to learn about the Kaga yubinuki. We got straight to the point and upon seeing them I was mightily impressed with their exquisiteness!
Welcome to Kanazawa. The Kaga yubinuki thimbles were originally handed down as utility articles. Since Kanazawa was a castle town, there were many seamstresses who sewed beautiful kimonos. The making of a kimono requires various coloured threads. Those days thread was very valuable, so a seamstress would make a thimble for their use by using short, left-over threads or found scraps on their days off. Sewing was a daily task for people in the old days and perhaps they prepared a sewing set as we would prepare stationery or kitchen tools. The pattern is made by silk threads carefully being stitched one by one.
———— It is because it is made of silk thread, that’s why this is so glossy and bright, isn’t it? What I am familiar with is leather or metal thimbles but is it possible to use such a lovely Kaga thimble in reality?
Of course! The threads used to create the thimble are not just decorative but used to push a needle while sewing. These threads will become a hitching and the needle head won’t slip while being pushed firmly. This is very logical, you know? Still, it takes time to produce the Kaga thimble, so people gradually don’t make them once thimbles made of leather or metal are available. Since I started making the thimble, production has been on the decline quite a lot, even in Kanazawa.
—— When something convenient comes out, some cultures can become obsolete… I heard that I can experience making the Kaga thimble here. Can I try it?
Yes, of course you can. While we are making it, let’s chat about many things!
We are going to make a Kaga thimble together.
This place provides a hands-on class which lasts for about 2 hours. Usually a base will be made of paper and floss silk, then a pattern will be created by stitching silk threads on the surface one by one. Here I will mainly be helping make the thimble base properly and after I have learnt how to stitch threads, I will finish the rest at home. Thank you for your support in advance, Sensei!
Since I am a beginner, I am going to make a strip pattern with three matched colours. I choose my favourite coloured threads and the colour fabric which will be placed inside my thimble.
First, making the base. Since a thimble is a practical thing, it is important to measure the circumference of your finger, so it fits the thimble. As you can see in the above process, most of this is in fact about making the base. Actually, stitching threads takes time but once you learnt the basic methods of stitching, she says it is simple work, just repeating the work over and over.
At last, I stitch the threads. Basically, you just stitch the edge of the base in a zigzag, like this drawing. After one round stitch the next thread right next to the previous thread of the first round. It’s very simple. “There are various patterns for Kaga thimbles but the method of stitching is basically only this. As you continue stitching threads you will gradually create a pattern” says Yukiko. Amazing!