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Never discard a piece cloth that is at least large enough to wrap 3 beans

Yesterday, I visited my friend Kawasaki Kei-san, proprietor of Kyoto's upper Teramachi textile gallery,  Gallery Kei.  The gallery had just finished an exhibition of 100 year-old offertory bags.  The old adage about saving patches of cloth large enough to wrap 3 beans came from a time when all textiles were precious.  Kei-san explained, "People in pre-industrial Japan would patch together various bits of cloth in long rolls.

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"They would then cut off  pieces in order to create special bags which would be filled with azuki beans or rice, and placed on the altars of Buddist Temples."

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Gallery Kei specializes in museum-quality folk textiles.  Until the modern era, cotton was difficult to come by in rural areas, especially in northern Japan.  Clothes were made from hand-spinning such things as linden bark, wisteria vines and kudzu vines.  Also used washi paper was cut into strips, hand-
spun and woven with cotton to create shifu, an excellent light, beathing textile.