I am having another round of selective perception. Do you know the feeling when you notice something once and then next thing you know it is just everywhere? That has been the case with vintage Japanese maekake, the heavy cotton aprons, usually dark indigo in color, historically worn by staff at small manufacturers and breweries. These days they are retro-chic with the young set, being worn by staff at cool izakayas (simple food and bar restaurants). They have almost a denim feel and the waist ties are a thick woven double-sided cotton, often bright orange. Their simple but strong graphics caught my eye again and again at the Heiwajima Antiques Fair last week.

Many are around the fifty year old mark. You can often tell more specifically by the old-fashioned telephone numbers or styles of writing.

One idea on how to reuse the maekake, besides the obvious original intention, is to turn them into visually graphic pillows like these in Paul Ludick’s living room made from simple kamon (japanese crests) banners.

But the best idea by far is one I don’t have a photo of. Aaargh! Much to my chagrin, I was too busy talking to a lovely gentleman at the fair about his handmade maekake tote bag that I forgot to take a photo. (Hmmm….seem to be doing a lot of that lately). Anyway, he (or actually his wife) had sewn a bag out of a vintage apron and it was great looking. The zipper pocket in this one got me thinking about making one for myself – perfect for a cellphone or a couple of bucks (or should I say yen?). I didn’t end up buying any but went home stewing on the idea.

A few days later the Kawagoe market was full of aprons too.

I found a fabulous and unusually colored faded green one too, but another young woman browsing seemed to want it so desperately that I gave it to her. I found more joy in her happiness than I would have had in purchasing it.

My favorite dealer was wearing one exactly as it should be worn! I noticed other dealers wearing the sturdy aprons too.

So if fate was surrounding me with aprons, then I was clearly meant to buy one. I found a really cute small one with an outside pocket and a great design. I am pretty sure it is from a sake brewery.

Stay tuned to see the finished project!

Speaking of indigo bags, my friend Jane Farrell has been sewing absolutely beautiful patchwork and sashiko totes. I am going to try to have her work for sale sometime soon!

And speaking of selective perception, the aprons are not the only things that have been clubbing me over the head. Remember those great vintage shoyu (soy sauce) bottles I just wrote about?  I had never particularly noticed them before either, yet I saw them everywhere at the Oedo fair with Peri Wolfman and also at Heiwajima. Definitely different bottles and different dealers too!

Continuing off the topic, but still kinda on it, hop over to the post I wrote this summer about Wedgwood jasperware cheese keepers. Had a huge spate of selective perception there too so I added a big addendum to the post!

Image credits: all photos mine with the exception of the Elle Decor December 2006, photo credit: William Waldron, and Jane Farrell bags courtesy of the artist.