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MINOMUSHI WORKS OF TEXTILE ART
In the previous article, Our Friend the Bagworm, we discussed the life cycle of minomushi as well as how they are depicted in various forms in Japanese culture.
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ready for the runway
In this section, I’d like to introduce you to how they are used in textile art unique to Japan.
leaf clad for lunch
woven flower basket (vase)
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From travelhome to elegant clothing: the minomushi casings are flattened, cut, pieced, and stitched into an appliquéd design on silk. Both samples were used in obi.
(collection of the author)
The first step is to harvest the homes of the minomushi. If this is done shortly after the eggs have hatched no harm will come the to the insects. The parent moth died shortly after laying the eggs, and the youngsters will have set off on their own adventures, leaving the home abandoned.
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Above: open house

Right: house still attached to twig,
housing splayed open (unwashed),
and housing splayed open (washed)

(collection of the author)
Recently Eumeta japonica has been attacked by an invasive parasite and as a result it has become more difficult to collect the casings in large numbers. Most minomushi homes are now imported to Japan from Taiwan for commercial use. The minomushi on the twig above was collected in Japan. The splayed open samples are origially from Taiwan.
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Over the decades, the popularity of this technique has varied. The magazine shown above, Shufu-no-Tomo, is still published today and is somewhat comparable to Ladies Home Journal. This particular issue (April, 1935) also includes detailed directions for a range of other projects including doll making, tooling leather, ro-zashi* (somewhat akin to cross stitching), cutwork, appliqué, and silk dyeing.
*Samples of ro-zashi, minomushi casings, and 130 other tactile textile samples may be found in John’s publication, A Field Guide to Japanese Textiles.
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You won’t find many hobbyists attempting to work with minomushi today. The technique has evolved into what is considered a highly refined school of art and a status symbol among kimono aficionados.

Following are just a few samples from my collection of what is currently being produced in Japan.
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copyright John Marshall, 2020
The casings have been ironed flat and cut into squares or diamonds. They are then sewn together much like pieced quilts to be used in handbags and zori.
(collection of the author)
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Fukuro-obi depicting a character from Noh Theater. Written on the cover of the box (みのむし) is “minomushi”.
(collection of the author)
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Details from two nagoya-obi. The sample on the left is further embellished with sashiko and Sagara embroidery.
(collection of the author)
Kimono with cut and pieced bits of casing, some dyed, some natural color.
(collection of the author)
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This is my favorite minomushi article in my collection. It actually fits me, well almost. You can see by the label that it was tailored in Chicago and the lapels tell you that it is from the 1960s.  But I have to admit that the few times I have worn it people have kept their distance…
 
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Shufu-no-Tomo Magazine, April, 1935
Pages 13-15 give detailed directions for preparing the casings along with several easy-to-follow projects.
(collection of the author)
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