What is Boro

What is BORO | Story from Fabrics in Japan

In a process of teaching the Sashiko we have been practicing for a long time, I often receive a question about “Japanese Boro”. Although it is quite challenging to describe what is Boro in words, let me keep trying to explain my understanding.


What is BORO | Definition

We keep stitching and stitching so the fabric can be usable even after generation of using.

As I have been saying continuously, I believe there is no “right” and “wrong” in Sashiko. Therefore, defining words of Sashiko & Boro is unnatural to me. However, to be on the same page to begin with, I share the tentative definition for Sashiko and Boro.

Sashiko is a form of hand-stitching developed in Japanese ordinary days. The Japanese started stitching the fabric for the purpose of surviving in poverty. Sashiko transformed its form over time as a stitching for different purposes such as mending, strengthening, and decorating the fabric.

Boro is a ultimate result of repetitive Sashiko stitchings over and over for many generations. The Japanese had to use the fabric even it gets tattered beyond the normal usage. They patched the fabric and stitched to make the fabric usable. Boro is merely a result of continuous stitching.


In my understanding, Boro is not a term for a specific stitching technique. It is not a style of patch-working. Boro is the result of the Sashiko stitching, and therefore, the Boro and Sashiko are on the same line. Instead of “Sashiko (style) or BORO (style)”, I understand “Sashiko and then Boro”.


Boro tells stories of Anonymous People in Japan

I find Boro very beautiful and inspiring because Boro tells stories of many anonymous people who had stitched Sashiko for their life. Boro is the ultimate result of hand-stitching in the extreme situation that they had to stitch to that extend.

There are numbers of stories I would like to share regarding Boro and Sashiko. Here, I made a video before, and I plan to continue sharing the stories of Boro and Sashiko.


Authentic Boro and Boro-inspired Patchworking

The following question is about authenticity of Japanese Boro. It is quite difficult to define what is “authentic” in the category of the ordinary. In my understanding, Boro can be the Boro after many days & years of using the fabric. We can find many beautiful patchworks inspired by Boro & following the concept of recycling. Although I find them very inspiring, I wouldn’t call them “Boro”. Some of the Boro Collection exhibited in Amuse Museum Asakusa (which is now traveling the world – In NYC, Japan Society, for March to June in 2020) .

Please do not get me wrong. I am not saying which is better and not. Boro, Authentic Boro, Boro-inspired patchwork, and any other textile/fashion influenced the culture/appearance of Boro are very powerful.


Social Experiment as a Sashiko artisan

Since I believe Boro becomes the Boro by using in the ordinary days, with many mending & stitching over time, I have a Jacket I have been wearing and using in my ordinary days. This Jacket already looks like “Boro” because we used the vintage fabrics (which couldn’t become a part of Boro). This is my social experiment as a Sashiko artisan how I can leave this piece to the next society, let’s say a few decades later.

I always bring this Jacket to my In-person workshop. It would be great if you could touch it, feel it, and wear it when you have a chance to meet/see me.


More Articles about Boro from Atsushi

I have been sharing what is Boro & Sashiko. Please find the link below for more reading materials.

Website about Japanese Boro – Boro Studio

The first article I wrote about Japanese Boro.
Trying to understand what is authenticity in Boro.
The summary of What is Sashiko

2 thoughts to “What is BORO | Story from Fabrics in Japan”

  1. I have researched the internet and cannot find the answer to my questions about AUTHENTIC BORO. Perhaps you could help.

    Historically, when a garment was new

    1) was it originally made of a few large pieces of cloth, and then patched over as time went on?
    2) did the original garment then act as a backing or a lining?
    3) was the original garment made up of large patches?
    4) did the patching occur on both the inside or the outside of the garment?

    Also I have been looking at countless photos of BORO INSPIRED quilts and blankets and can’t determine if

    1) a plain backing is added?
    2) or is the Sashiko stitching visible on both sides?

    Thank you for any information you have.

    1. Hello,

      I believe I have answered some of your questions already on my Instagram account & in this website articles.
      The more information is available on my Patreon page.
      https://www.patreon.com/sashiko

      I may be able to write an article with answering your questions on Patreon when I have time.

      In order to understand the Authentic Boro, it is critical to understand/learn how the Japanese practice(d) Sashiko.
      Please consider taking the Online Class with us, and once you complete the class, I will be happy to answer all of the questions with details.
      https://upcyclestitches.com/sashiko-online-class/

      Best Regards,
      Atsushi

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