The Korean art of Bojagi

Sara Cook

We had a fascinating talk this month by Sara Cook, on the Korean art of Bojagi. Sara is a quilter, tutor and quilting judge, who was drawn to this specialist technique after seeing an exhibition of Korean textiles. She was already an experienced quilter, and this particular technique caught her imagination straight away – so much so that she booked a trip to the Korean Bojagi Forum in 2016 (in Korea) to study it first-hand. Since then she has developed her own interpretation of this ancient technique and has taught the subject all over the world.

Work by Sara Cook

Bojagi originates from the art of wrapping, both for practical/functional reasons and also for decorative reasons such as giving presents. It was used for every-day use such as food storage, sometimes waxed to seal the food and keep it fresh. It was also used to store personal belongings, since space was at a premium and homes were cleared of personal items when they weren’t in use. Thicker layered cloths were made for warmth, usually from silk as it is warm in winter and cool in summer. Functional items could also be very decorative, like the heavily stitched thumbles below (the second photo is a thimble-making kit that you can buy via Sara’s website)

Kit by Sara Cook

Sara spoke about the role of women in traditional Korean society. Women were expected to obey firstly their father, secondly their husband, and thirdly their son. Education was not permitted, and women could not leave the house without a male escort. When a woman married, she would leave her family home and would probably never see her family again, so the cloths made with her mother and sisters may have had particular significance in her new home. The giving of gifts was highly symbolic: for example ducks and geese, with blue and red to symbolise yin and yang.

By Sara Cook

Korean cultural traditions changed significantly since occupation and the war years. The position of women has improved, but alongside that there ha been concern about losing cultural traditions as society modernises. Korea introduced an innovative cultural heritage programme. People with  traditional skills are appointed as ‘national treasures’ and are given subsidised studios that enabled them to pass on their skills. This has led to techniques such as Bojagi being kept alive across the world. Sara has developed her own style of work using traditional Bojagi techniques. It involves a very particular and precise type of seam, and is worked to be hung against the light so that it’s translucent qualities are shown off to best advantage. You can see more of her work on her website at

Hand and Lock Visit

Ten of us from our group took the train up to London to visit Hand and Lock who have been producing fine embroidery for royalty and celebrities since 1767. We were taken into the ‘BeadRoom’ where two of the embroiderers told us about their work and how they came to be embroiderers for Hand and Lock.

Some interesting facts from our tour:

*Military uniforms for royalty are made with real gold braid (2% gold) film set uniforms use fake gold.

* When making a uniform like the one modelled by Susie, individual pieces are embroidered, it is then made up by a tailor then the embroidery is finished.

*Hand and Lock did much of the embroidery for the coronation but sadly they were not mentioned on the programme about the coronation tailors. They worked on Penny Mordant’s fabulous sea green coat, Queen Camilla’s shoes and 52 goldwork flags for Burberry’s flagship stores and the Household Cavalry uniforms.

* They work with skilled embroiderers in India who are mostly men. * They also do lots of machine embroidery for many other clients.

* They run loads of different embroidery courses on line. Check out their website.

Detail of the butterfly

The following photos give you a taster of the embroidery we saw.

Goldwork insects. Online courses are available to teach you to embroider these.
One of the machines used for the machine embroidery
Intricate embroidery on Tulle
Fascinated by our talk
Our group
When making a uniform like this the panels are embroidered separately then sewn together by the tailor. The embroidery is then completed over the seams. A hand embroidered coat such as this can take a year to make from start to finish and cost £50,000.
Inspecting the amazing work
Dinner at the end of a great day after fabric shopping at Macolloch and Wallis and Liberty’s.
Machine embroidered uniforms used in the film industry
An epaulette made from coils of gold wire
Susie modeling one of the embroidered uniforms
A chart of all the gold threads available to purchase
Machine embroiderd piece
Details of the dragonfly

Findon Christmas Tree Festival

This month in our sit and sew session we worked on decorations for our Christmas Tree to be displayed at the Findon Christmas Tree Festival on  2nd and 3rd  December, at St John the Baptist Church . The theme was gold hoops with a gold backing and members had free reign to creat a decoration. Watch this space to see the finished items and our tree!

New art from old treasures

Thanks to Chris for this description of Tuesday’s talk by Anne Kelly.

‘Today we had an interesting talk from textile artist and Author Anne Kelly. Anne is resident artist at Sussex Prairie gardens and lots of our members have been there to workshops with her. Anne brought lots of examples of her unique style of art using paper, hand and machine embroidery and reclaimed fabrics. She is a well travelled artist, originating in Canada and putting on shows in Australia, France and India to name but a few places. She likes to exhibit her work in places like hospitals and hospices and not just art galleries. Anne does lots of commissions and likes working on old maps which she treats with PVA glue and tissue paper before stitching onto them. She feels strongly about reusing old fabrics and putting them to new use. Lots of her work had bits of old embroidery stitched into it. She has an exhibition in Hackney coming up’.

The details of Anne’s exhibition in October are in the poster below. Scroll down below that for lots of photos of the work that Anne brought with her to show the group, and there are more lovely things to look at on her website

Tea and scones

Instead of the summer picnic that we had for our August meeting in the last two years, this year we decided to have a catered ‘posh tea’ instead. This turned out to be a stroke of luck, given the wind and rain that afternoon. Thankfully we weren’t holding on to gazebos that were trying to take off into the field! Valerie kindly organised the caterer, as well as finishing touches such as floral tea cups and table-cloths. Thanks to Margaret for providing floral table-decorations (despite the fact that she was on her way to catch a flight). We were treated to scones with jam and cream, a selection of sandwiches, several different cakes, and strawberries and cream. Naughty but nice! There was a little bit of stitching before tea was served, but when sticky things appeared the sewing was mainly put away. Here are a selection of photos of us stitching beforehand, and then enjoying the feast. If anyone is looking for a cake-maker or caterer, she is Janet Spoor at ‘Janet’s celebration Cakes and Catering’.

‘If I concentrate hard enough, maybe a scone will spontaneously jump onto my plate?

Dustbin lids and cabbage leaves…

Members enjoyed a fascinating and stimulating talk by textile artist Esther Collins at our June meeting. Esther is a local artist whose work is influenced by her interests in the History of Art, and also by her previous work in graphic design. Design influences include the natural environment, walking in the South Downs and local history.

I was so disappointed to miss Esther’s talk, and feedback from members has been very enthusiastic. Sadly I can’t add my own reflections on the talk as I usually do, but the talk generated appreciative comments from members, a couple of which I’ll add here: ‘I loved the leaf brooches and was inspired by the use of gold leaf in her decoupage work’ and ‘Esther produces beautiful work combining stitch, textiles and mixed media. I’ve never met any artist that gets inspiration from dustbin lids and cabbage leaves and then goes onto produce stunning pieces of creative work’. I’ll leave you with some images of Esther’s work taken by Maria Griggs and Margaret Borbone (thank you). Esther’s work can speak for itself! If you would like to see more of Esther’s work, and the courses she runs, you can go to her website at




Exhibition of Bojagi work

Sara Cook, a local quilter and quilting teacher, has an exhibition of Bojagi work coming up later this month at Colonnade House in Worthing. Bojagi is the art of Korean wrapping-cloths, which Sara makes into pieced and patched colourful wall-hangings which have a translucent quality. It’s from 20th to 25th June, open Tuesday – Sunday (Closed Mondays)  10.00 – 17.00.

The exhibition blurb says: ‘Her practice is influenced by the textile traditions of Bojagi, Korean wrapping cloths. The translucent qualities of Bojagi, seem to her a perfect medium to express these fleeting moments. The word Bo means wrapping happiness or fortune and was expressed using colour and symbolism. In her works she tries to achieve, Cheon-ji-in, which translates into sky, earth and the harmony of human coexistence. A traditional Korean value that chimes with the pressing need to find a way to live sustainably’. Well worth a visit.