Zoukin (雑巾) are traditional Japanese cleaning cloths. Layers of cloth are hand stitched together with a sashiko stitch.
Used for general cleaning, especially floors, these textiles very resilient
You may have seen the image of school children holding the cloth against the floor and running up and down in systematic straight lines. This is known as zoukin gake and is a great way to make cleaning fun.
Of course, they are used at by all ages at home or elsewhere.
Vintage zoukin are very collectible. Often, they are made with high quality fabric such as aizome (indigo cotton) and kasuri (ikat). High quality fabrics such as these were never thrown away. To learn more about the tradition of mottainai (no waste) read my post on boro.
Collectors use zoukin in many ways.
Those with interesting designs can be framed and hung on the wall.
They make interesting place mats at the table. If you have a special ornament, seat it on a zoukin.
Each one is hand made at home and totally original. It is common for very skilled stitching to be used.
Perhaps the fabric was once part of a kimono that was repaired over and over again. The original patchwork could still be seen.
I have a collection of zoukin in my shop, FurugiStar. Stop by and take a look at all of my antique Japanese textiles.