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.
"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."
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.