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Release | nobu Kawashima

Participate in the Ainu Patterns embroidery workshop in Nibutani Biratori-Cho

I participated in an embroidery workshop to create Ainu Patterns in Nibutani region of Biratori-Cho. I barely had experienced embroidery nor sewing, but thanks to the instructor, I was okay! I made a pretty work from the workshop.


What are Ainu Patterns?

Have you heard of Ainu Patterns? They are patterns used in various life tools in the Ainu culture such as clothes and accessories. Patterns differ between regions and techniques varies, too. They are passed down from parents to children for generations. 


Learn more about Ainu Patterns from the article in Hokkaido Likers below:
“Ainu Patterns” (All around Hokkaido): Hokkaido Heritage Series 31


The embroidery workshop at Nibutani Kogeikan (Crafts Museum)

I visited Nibutani Kogeikan (Crafts Center). It’s a facility located inside Biratori-Cho Ainu Culture Information Center, located next to Nibutani Ainu Culture Museum. 
In the museum, they exhibit and sell crafts made by local artists and participate in various workshops such as embroidery, woodworking, and creating Mukkuri with reservations. 

アイヌ文様が施された布製コースターなどが並びます▲Many crafts such as textile coasters with Ainu Patterns are displayed. 

アイヌ文様が施された「二風谷イタ」(盆)。「二風谷アットゥシ」(樹皮から作った糸で織った反物)とともに経済産業省の「伝統的工芸品」に指定されています▲“Nibutani Ita (tray)” also has Ainu Patterns on it. It is designated as “Traditional Crafts” by Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry together with “Nibutani Attushi” (cloth made from thread out of barks).

The instructor was Maki Sekine, who involved in preserving and spreading Ainu Cultures from Nibutani.
She grew up at a folk art shop and was looking after the shop since 6 years old. Ainu culture and crafts are all around her for the whole life and learned Ainu Patterns embroidery, Attushi, and woodwork techniques. 

関根真紀さん。二風谷で生まれ育ち、一度地元を離れたもののUターン。アイヌ工芸家として活躍▲Maki Sekine. She was born and grew up in Nibutani, once away but came back to where she was born. She is now an Ainu crafts artist. 

No special preparation needed to participate in the embroidery workshop. All equipment such as needles and threads are already taken care. 
Okay, let’s start making! 


Struggled with needleworks which I was not used to

In the embroidery workshop, participants make a textile coaster with Ainu Patterns. 
You will stitch the Ainu Pattern on a 10cm square piece of textile. However, stitching Ainu Pattern onto a piece of textile is a bit hard for beginners so Ms. Sekine draws the Ainu Patterns with a light color pen. You will follow the drawing as a guide when you stitch. 

アイヌ文様はさまざまありますが、今回はふくろうの文様を描き用意してくれました▲There are various Ainu Patterns, but she prepared an owl pattern for the workshop. 

The textile used in this workshop is brown Ainu cotton. The reason for the color is that it stands out bright colors of threads and stains won’t be too distinct even if it gets dirty. 
First of all, Ms. Sekine shows an example as she explains. 


Every participant of the workshop this time had no experience in embroidery. On the contrary, some people had never sewed since classes in elementary school…
Before learning about Ainu culture and Ainu Patterns, the workshop taught us about the basics of sewing and embroidery. 

「どこに針を通しているんですか?」「糸どうなってるんですか?」みなさん関根さんの手元をガン見しながら質問攻め…▲“Where do you put the needle through?” “What happened to the threads?” Everyone observed Ms. Sekine’s hand and asked lots of questions. 

The way of stitching this time is called “Ohokara” in Ainu language. It is called “chain stitch” in English. 

縫い始めの部分はアイヌ語で「イカラリ」(日本語では「コードステッチ」や「駒縫い」)という技法。ここまで関根さんが準備してくれています▲The beginning part of the stitch is called “Ikarari”. Ms. Sekine prepares this part for us. 

The workshop should not be hard for those who have experiences in embroidery or sewing. However, it is a big event for me to experience the new world, who had almost no experience. I could not proceed smoothly at first because I had to check every step; where to put out needles, how strong I should pull the threads, etc. 

縫い始めの手元はおぼつかず…。お約束のごとく、針を指に刺してしまいちょっぴり流血…▲I did not know what I was doing at first… I hurt my finger. See this blood…


I got better as I got used to! Turned out to a beautiful art piece in the end

I was embarrassed how much I did not know about sewing and how clumsy I was… Threads went out from needles, threads tangles, and finally bleeding… However, it was only the beginning I struggled. As I continued stitching, I got better gradually. 

 10~20針縫うとコツをつかみ、このあとはスイスイと▲I learned the tricks after 10 to 20 stitches, and it went smoothly after that. 

I continued to stitch following the drawing, and I did well with the part called “Toge”, which is the tipping part of the pattern!
I became able to listen to Ms. Sekine’s explanations about Ainu culture and Nibutani Regions. 

 左が見本、右が作成途上の作品。鎖の輪の大きさにちょっとバラツキはありますが、概ねいい感じ!▲The left is the sample, and the right is my work. The sizes of chain look different, but it seems okay overall! 

After stitching along the drawing, stitch the four corners, and the workshop ends.



 手の平サイズの、アイヌ文様を施した布製コースター▲The hand-sized textile coaster with Ainu Patterns. 

It took about two hours to finish the workshop. I was not sure how well I could do with the workshop at first, but it turned out to a beautiful art piece in the end. Of course, you can bring the work with you. 


When I make Ainu Patterns which often appears in Ainu traditional clothes and accessories, I felt like I touched Ainu culture and became a little smarter. Also, I felt like an artist, too! 
Isn’t it good to feel Ainu culture while having fun? You can also keep your work in this workshop.
Why don’t you participate in the workshop, too? 
  • Participate in the Ainu Patterns embroidery workshop in Nibutani Biratori-Cho