Susan Briscoe, (Sew and So) 2019, ISBN: 978-1-4465-0732-8, $24.99
I have long been fascinated by Kogin, a Japanese form of folk embroidery related to pattern darning. It originated in northern Japan where the densely embroidered indigo cloth helped keep out the cold. I have even adapted some of the patterns to needlepoint.
Until today, finding information about kogin in English has been nearly impossible. There was one short book, maybe 25 pages, that has long been out of print. Folks who wanted to know about kogin had to rely on books in Japanese and some kits, most of them Japanese as well.
Susan Briscoe’s newest book has changed all that. Briscoe has done an amazing job of translating Japanese needle arts and design for western readers. Her book on Sashiko is one of my favorite books and has inspired many Blackwork projects. With The Ultimate Kogin Collection she has brought her skills to this little-known technique.
The book begins with an outstanding discussion of the origins and history of kogin. Next comes a section on tools and materials, followed by one on techniques. Realizing that the common materials used in Japan can be hard to find, she shows us how common threads and fabrics can be adapted to kogin. While she does not mention either needlepoint canvas or Congress Cloth both of these can be used successfully.
Next, come the projects, 12 in all. The projects have lovely pictures and instructions, but they do not contain the stitch diagrams. That is a deliberate choice. Partly it’s because Briscoe wants you to make your own choices about patterns. It’s also because every one of these patterns, and dozens more, are found in the Pattern Library.
The Pattern Library takes up nearly half the book, organizing and charting over 230 patterns. These include small and large motifs, repeating patterns, and borders. They are all charted in a style that is familiar to needlepointers with stitches beginning and ending in the middle of grid blocks, just like stitch diagrams. Each pattern has a number and its name in Japanese. Under it is a translation of the name. The Japanese names are often traditional for the patterns. You will also find numbers in parentheses here. These indicate either the repeat of the motif or the height and width.
If you are a needlepointer wanting to explore these patterns as darning patterns look at the small repeating patterns and the borders. These translate directly to darning. The diagonal borders also translate easily, but you’ll have to plan out the rest of your work carefully.
The motifs stand by themselves or in combinations. These will need to be stitched in the kogin methods described in the book.
Finally, she has a one-page listing of sources for materials in different countries. I’ve bought materials from one of the USsources kimonomomo (on Etsy) and can recommend them.
I can hardly wait to get started on these inspiring patterns!