Pouch, probably for tobacco
Silk, leather (lining)
Count stitch on gauze

Many Japanese textiles are decorated with highly sophisticated chain stitch, satin stitch and French knot embroidery, as well as couched gilt thread, but count stitch on gauze was not part of the general Japanese textile vocabulary, so this stitchwork is almost certainly imported. John Vollmer, noted Chinese textile scholar and museum consultant, says the pouch material looks like the “Reform period [1898 – 1911] insignia badge backgrounds with only blue and white clouds.” The rarity, the exotic design and the technical dexterity required, combined with the limited size of rank badges, would have made the material highly sought after, and perfectly suited for small but highly visible objects of conspicuous consumption, such as luxury tobacco pouches. Japan has a long tradition of tanning, dyeing and embossing leather, and the very soft leather lining is probably Japanese deerskin.

Unlike western petit point, often executed on a stiff needlepoint canvas, the Chinese count stitch on gauze is very soft and supple. When gathered with the drawstring, both the count stitch outer and the leather lining form soft gently rounded folds, with no sharp creases.

Daily Japanese Textile is indebted to John Vollmer for kindly sharing his expertise.

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