Please tell me about the colourful sewing kit “Kaga yubinuki (Japanese thimbles)” in Kanazawa.
Needlework that has been handed down through three generations.
—— Incidentally, did you learn to make Kaga thimbles since you were a child?
Actually, when I first made a Kaga thimble I was a university student, my mother taught me. My mother learnt it from my grandmother. Both my grandmother and mother have been making Temari (traditional Japanese embroidered silk balls) and Yubinuki, and I have seen them making them since I was small, but I was not particularly interested in craftworks.
——What was the trigger to start making it?
I had been living in Kanazawa until I left high school but I left Kanazawa to live in Hokkaido when I became a university student. I missed Kanazawa a little as Hokkaido’s weather and scenery are different. When I felt like acquiring something from Kanazawa to keep at hand, I remembered the beautiful thimbles my grandmother used to enjoy making. Then, during my home leave, I learnt the making process from my mother. Late in the night when I completed my first pink thimble, I was already excited thinking about the next colours and designs.
——Wow! You like fine work, don’t you?
This work tends to appear that “It looks detailed and difficult” but it is actually not as complicated as it looks. You don’t need large tools or space, some people make it on a train or bus. It is harder for me to work on PC, sitting in the same position.
——Has Kaga thimbles been made in different regions?
I think there are different types of thimbles made for practical purposes, but since the advent of manufactured products it seems that the culture of making has become obsolete. Old thimbles made in the Meiji and Taisho periods remain in the houses of old families in Kanazawa city and are valued as display objects on hina-dan, tiered doll stands as well as being useful articles. Here are some photos of old thimbles.
———— The ones you are making are very sensitive. There are many patterns and colours, I could look at them forever.
The number of drawings my grandmother produced is some hundred. My grandmother used to tell me “The thimble utilizes the wisdom of ancestors and it is very easy to use”. I created various patterns by myself as well and published books to promote Kaga yubinuki thimble broadly. I feel very strange and it’s interesting that people living far away are looking at these books and making a thimble from Kaga.
Well, the current work in my hands is just at the third round of zigzag stitching. There are quite a lot of small openings but I will continue the rest at home. “You’ve been doing well so far.” I am glad that I had a kind instructor. I will try my best!
A few days later when I showed Yukiko the photo, she gave me a delightful comment, “You finished your work very well. I think the colour blocking pops and is very cute. Do try to make a second one with the rest of materials.” I am the type to grow from being praised, so I will try making the second one too!
As Yukiko told me, stitching threads was a simpler action than I had thought, I could proceed with it smoothly. Despite the fact that many points should be reflected on, I would say this is quite good for a first attempt.
Thank you so much, Yukiko.
The shop I visited this time, Kaga Temari Mariya in Kanazawa is owned by Yukiko’s mother and Kaga Temari maker, Mrs Takako Koide. She also organises a workshop of Yubinuki and Temari and it is so popular that students come all the way from Tokyo and Kobe. It is fantastic that the old culture of Kaga is spreading far and wide this way. There are fewer people wearing kimonos today, but I hope that careful needlework with meticulous technique using sensitive silk threads will continue to be handed down to subsequent generations.Yukiko Onishi
Kaga Thimble maker. Born and bred in Kanazawa. After she learnt the traditional techniques of Thimble which were handed down in Kanazawa from her grandmother, Mrs Tsuyako Koide and mother, Mrs Takako Koide, she held her first exhibition in 2004. She set up a Kaga thimble class called “Kaga yubinuki no kai”, and held workshops in Kanazawa, Kyoto and Osaka promoting Kaga thimbles. She wrote “Silk thread Yubinuki of Kaga (NHK Publishing)” and “My First Kaga Yubinuki thimbles (Seibundo Shinkosha)”.
Kaga Temari Mariya
5-7 Minami-machi, Kanazawa city, Ishikawa Prefecture
Writer and photographer: Yoko Sugiura