Geometric Pattern Embroidery
“Kogin” embroidery is a traditional quilting method of Aomori's Tsugaru region. White cotton thread is embroidered in geometric patterns onto cloth dyed deep blue with indigo. “Kogin” embroidery's characteristic is the beauty of its design.
Handiwork of the Women of Tsugaru
During the Edo Period (1603-1867), farmers did not wear clothes made of cotton; instead, they wore layers of clothes made from hemp to withstand the cold. The women from the farming villages then began to stitch cotton thread into the hemp cloth in necessary places to reinforce the fabric and keep the body warm. The product of these women’s knowledge, those who made a living amongst the harsh nature of the northern country, can be seen today through “Kogin” embroidery.
Embroidering Hemp Fabric with Cotton Thread
“Kogin” embroidery is known for its hand stitching technique, in which white cotton thread is stitched through each hole of the indigo-colored fabric. Today, either wool or cotton is used depending on the function, and as the colors available and the times have changed, the color scheme has increased as well. This beautiful and simple geometric pattern, which continues to be created by hand and stitch by stich, has become a symbol of the strength and delicateness of the women of the northern country.
Rules of Kogin Embroidery
“Kogin” embroidery was originally a simple contrast of plain thread on a dyed fabric, but from that progressed to diagonal stripes, herringbone patterns, and then diamond shapes. This spontaneously generated design is the fundamental component of “Kogin” embroidery. With the use of methods to make a beautiful pattern appear within the diamond outline, the embroidery becomes truly exquisite. There are 30 of these patterns commonly used, and when combined with different border patterns there are an endless number of possibilities.
Western Kogin for Mountain Work
Western “Kogin” embroidery is a product of the region to the west of Hirosaki City's Iwaki River, in areas presently known as Nishimeya, Soma, Funazawa, and Kozawa. In these regions it was common to have to carry heavy loads while working in the mountains, so to prevent the shoulder area fabric from wearing down, the shoulders were embroidered with stripes. This pattern is made from 5 layers each of alternating black and white thread, and thus is also known as “Striped Kogin” embroidery. Compared to other regions, the hemp linen used for Western “Kogin” is fine and delicate, and the patterns are detailed and painstaking to create. Accordingly, these clothes are prized as finery. Their beauty was so highly regarded that there was a saying, “If you are going to marry, take a bride from the West.”
Eastern Kogin from Rice Growing Regions
Eastern “Kogin” embroidery is from the eastern side of Hirosaki, Kuroishi, Hirakawa, and the Ishikawa district of Hirosaki. Characteristics include the use of linen made from thick hemp yarn, the absence of stripes, and generally large, bold patterns.
Treasured Mishima Kogin
“Mishima Kogin” is mainly produced in Goshogawara's Kanagi district, as well as Tsugaru City, and its defining characteristic is its bright, thick 3 stripe patterns. In Kanagi, because cold weather damage and poor harvests are common, there was rarely any spare time to spend making “Kogin” embroidery, and there weren't many embroiderers. Thus there are very few articles still remaining, and the ones left are extremely valuable.
The Hirosaki “Kogin” Embroidery Research Institute
The Hirosaki “Kogin” Embroidery Research Institute is involved in the popularization, production, and sale of “Kogin” embroidery. Staff visited farming families of the Tsugaru region and collected 600 varieties of patterns and materials. Tours of the production site and workshops are also offered.
A “chanchanko” is a child's sleeveless formal coat. This article features “Kogin” embroidery.
A “hanten,” or short winter coat, featuring “Kogin” embroidery.
A shopping bag featuring “Kogin” embroidery.
A small bag featuring “Kogin” embroidery.
Works by Young Artists
In contrast to traditional “Kogin” embroidery, young embroiderers are creating unique original works. Here is a business card case made by Natsuki Nagahashi of Aomori.
The Debut of Cute Kogin
These are works by Noriko Kakudate of Iwate. Featuring a pastel color scheme, they’re cute enough to make you want to use them as everyday accessories.