Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/

doi: 10.32873/unl.dc.tsasp.0106


Copyright © 2020 Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada


This paper seeks to reveal the transformative power of stitchery by examining textile practices in Japan and articulating how a threaded needle can be viewed as the co-agent of stitchers, infusing their materials with properties in a “processual” and relational manner that reflects the currents of their lifeworld.[1] I will contrast and compare two practices, one ancient and one modern, one responding to life’s necessities and the other simply to the act of stitching. In the ancient world, stitchery was essential for human survival, and later in rural Japan, sashiko stitchery was a medium that connected textiles with daily life, providing for functional and decorative needs. In modern Japan, the stitchery of members of the Nui Project sustains their sense of well-being, which has been observed by the facility staff as the state of “satisfaction or contentment without a goal” which will be elucidated further under the section on the Nui Project[2](Figure One). In both cases, the materials that result from the act of stitching are produced by the movement of hands, eyes, and a threaded needle on cloth. The expressions of stitchers in the two groups are very different though equally powerful in transforming their lives along with the materials they stitch. In the process, they embed cloth with threads that record their experience.

[1] Tim Ingold, “Materials against materiality,” Archaeological Dialogues 14, no. 1 (2007), 1.

[2] Shin Fukumori, Arino mama ga aru tokoro (The place where things and people are accepted as they are) (Tokyo: Shobun-sha, 2019), 126.