The term “pojagi” actually refers to two different things – a piece that is made and a verb to describe the process of making it. In that way, it is similar to the word “quilt”. A quilt is usually a bed covering, but when we quilt, we are referring to a process that may involve making something different than a bed covering.
Pojagi is an ancient Korean art form. The first documented mention of it was in AD 42, so it is about 2,000 years old – much older than western quilting. A pojagi is a cloth that is used to wrap, carry and store things. Traditionally, they are square. In antique collections, the smallest measure about 35 cm (about 14 inches), but they went up to ten times that size.
These wrapping cloths were used by all classes in ancient Korean society and made with different fabrics. Fabrics available at the time were silk, cotton and ramie (a plant based fabric similar to linen or hemp). In the palace, each new item of clothing came wrapped in its own pojagi. People used pojagi to store family heirlooms and valuables and to give gifts. The wrapping ensured love and good wished were part of the gift. The were and still are used to carry things – the original reusable shopping bag. At Korean weddings, traditional carved wooden ducks or geese are wrapped in pojagi and given as a sign of fidelity. In Korean parliament, they are used to present important documents.
There are different terms to describe pojagi. Kung Po is the word for pojagi used in the palace and Min Po is pojagi used by commoners. Kyop Po (meaning double) is lined, Hot Po (meaning single) is unlined and reversible, Som Po is padded, and Nubi Po is quilted. Chogak Po is patchwork and Su Po is embroidered. A piece could be described using more than one term. If is was a lined, embroidered pojagi for a princess, it could be called su po, kyop po or kung po.
Chogak po (patchwork) was used only by commoners. You can imagine a Korean peasant of long ago sorting out scraps from clothes making and laying out beautiful patterns and designs. Although they were worlds apart and had very different materials, these women made beautiful things with their leftover pieces just like old western quilters and other women around the world.
The techniques used in traditional pojagi are used today to make many different things – not just wrapping cloths. I offer tutorials and patterns for you to try traditional pojagi, and I have also developed techniques for using materials more readily available in the west.
Welcome to the world of pojagi!