さんち 〜工芸と探訪〜

SUNCHI ~ Explore japan through regional crafts ~

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
このページの先頭へ

Please tell me about the colourful sewing kit “Kaga yubinuki (Japanese thimbles)” in Kanazawa.

Published : February 19, 2017
Production area : Kanazawa
Editor :
  • LINE

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.

This is a traditional pattern, scales.  One of Yukiko’s favourite patterns.

This is a traditional pattern, scales. One of Yukiko’s favourite patterns.

———— 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 is Mrs Yukiko Onishi.  A magically beautiful Kaga thimble is being born from her fingers.

This is Mrs Yukiko Onishi. A magically beautiful Kaga thimble is being born from her fingers.

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.

All the colours from manufacturers are available here.  It is fun just looking at them.

All the colours from manufacturers are available here. It is fun just looking at them.

The colour of fabric which goes inside is also lovely.  Your finger will be in contact with it, so cotton fabric which is kind to your skin will be used.

The colour of fabric which goes inside is also lovely. Your finger will be in contact with it, so cotton fabric which is kind to your skin will be used.

I chose these three colours after much agonizing thought.  The inner part of fabric is mustard colour.

I chose these three colours after much agonizing thought. The inner part of fabric is mustard colour.

For the production of making a Kaga thimble, she says the process of making the base is very important.

For the production of making a Kaga thimble, she says the process of making the base is very important.

To over-stitch threads still seems far in the future.

To over-stitch threads still seems far in the future.

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.

Making a cylinder which is the same size as the circumference of the finger which will wear a thimble, I feel happy as if it is order-made.  Coiling paperboard that has been finely cut around this cylinder to make a hard core.

Making a cylinder which is the same size as the circumference of the finger which will wear a thimble, I feel happy as if it is order-made. Coiling paperboard that has been finely cut around this cylinder to make a hard core.

Wrapping the paper core with the inner fabric which is stabilised with a thread.  The left one is made by Sensei and the right one is mine.  At this point the impression is already somewhat different but she told me “It’s not a problem”, so I will believe Yukiko’s words and continue.

Wrapping the paper core with the inner fabric which is stabilised with a thread. The left one is made by Sensei and the right one is mine. At this point the impression is already somewhat different but she told me “It’s not a problem”, so I will believe Yukiko’s words and continue.

Now to wrap floss silk.  Floss silk is the silken threads silkworms lay.  It’s silk.  Pulling fluffy floss and coiling it as tightly as possible so that the base will be very hard and strong.  Yukiko is skilfully coiling it around in an adroit manner.

Now to wrap floss silk. Floss silk is the silken threads silkworms lay. It’s silk. Pulling fluffy floss and coiling it as tightly as possible so that the base will be very hard and strong. Yukiko is skilfully coiling it around in an adroit manner.

When you reach your preferred thickness, it’s okay.  Yukiko’s was coiled firmly has a somewhat different surface gloss.

When you reach your preferred thickness, it’s okay. Yukiko’s was coiled firmly has a somewhat different surface gloss.

When you wrapped a thin washi paper, marked evenly on the base, the base is ready. You will be stitching in the direction of the arrow.

When you wrapped a thin washi paper, marked evenly on the base, the base is ready. You will be stitching in the direction of the arrow.

This is the drawing.  Check the order of colours according to the pattern.  She wrote a memo, so I would understand clearly.

This is the drawing. Check the order of colours according to the pattern. She wrote a memo, so I would understand clearly.

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!

This is Yukiko’s work in progress.  Repeat stitching in a zig-zag until the spaces on the base are all filled.

This is Yukiko’s work in progress. Repeat stitching in a zig-zag until the spaces on the base are all filled.

1 2
1⁄2
  • LINE

Follow us

Discover the regional crafts and production areas of Japan with new articles added daily.

We are on social media! Follow our accounts to get the latest information hot off the press.

Related articles