Expansion, Absorption


Fabric is incredible. Never ceases to amaze me, teach me, tell me stories.

One of today’s revelation began with this hemp, purple kasuri (ikat) hemp from a very old kimono.

I have been pulling a lot of stuff out recently in a never ending attempt to pare down, get rid of some of the stuff I have accumulatd over the years. There is a lot of fabric. I was photographing and measuring this piece, etc etc , to eventually get it up on Etsy when I noticed something very interesting.

I have had lots of these machine-woven kasuri-like fabrics. Kasuri, also known as ikat in Indonesia, is a painstaking process of dyeing the threads b4hand so as to affect patterns and motifs in the woven fabric. Just found out on wikipedia that kasuri (Japanese-style ikat) is weft ikat. The weft is resist dyed first to create the pattern (in other versions, the warp is resist dyed).

Well, i assumed that this was more of the same, fake ikat. But then I got to looking closer. At first, I noticed by looking at the “coins” in the pattern, and the chords, that the pattern was minutely different in each coin or chord. When they are printed or woven using programs, every minute detail in the repeating pattern is identical. These ones were highly variable.

Then I got to looking at the selvidge, the edges of the fabric. Completely uneven, as you can see in the photo below. And then my inkling started coming to light. No, it couldn’t be….Looked closely at the weaving in the fabric. Not exactly delicate, almost deliberate….Is that a tie-off? Looks like where the string broke and they added a new string in there…..has the fatness of two strings just for a bit there….nubby hemp….but a stable, seasoned hand, for sure…no lack of skill….

But, I got to thinking about where the fabric came from, the old inn, a place which I salvaged in the spring. And remembered how all the fabrics which came out of there were of the utmost quality. (this lady had TASTE and these people had YEN!) And my inkling grew to a feeling!

This is handloomed~! This is homespun!! This is incredible!!

I look at the fabric and think, there’s no WAY I could ever pull something like this off! It must have driven the weaver plumb batty! And there is a whole kimonos worth, altogether over 10 meters. I sat and thought. Imagine weaving a whole bolt of this stuff!!

There’s no way. If I were to weave the bolt and had to put a price on it, the thing would be about $100,000! There’s no way a “modern person” (in their right mind) would even consider…yes, I know, some folks still do weave….but it’s hard to imagine, to putr a face to it and imagine someone doing this as a menas to make a kimono, let alone as a means to make money.

Have we changed that much in the 100 or so years since this fabric was woven? I’m afraid that we really have……and it could be dismaying…..but I’m sure we’re not completely beyond repair. I am quite sure of that!

At first, the objects seem quite mundane, quite one-dimensional. Fabric. So what? How much fabric do we have in the world? It’s become too commonplace, somewhat trite almost. So easy to disregard, like it’s a given part of the landscape.

But look a little deeper and things seem to expand, grow dimensionally, in stature and in import. What was once a point is now a plane, next a cosmos! Did something come from nothing?! Or was it the change in viewpoint, change of perspective, change in merely the attitude of the observer,which seems to have changed the very object itself?

DSCF2545DSCF2543Can see both uneven edges and the sort of “approximate” placement of the rows of color for the pattern.






There’s a link to ths fabric being sold on Etsy!! Go get it b4 someone does first!


Homespun kimono silks and piecing together the history–”内織り”絹で歴史が繋がっていく

I have been intrigued recently by apeice of the puzzle which I wasn’t sure about. I know that the local farmers used to grow silk coccoons every year as a “crop” and an important source of yearly income. I have found a good many of the artifacts involved and been able to somewhat peice the process, the story, together. Recently, I had even found this (see photo). It is a giant washi sack used to collect up all the coccoons in for transport from farm to factory. This one has the mark of the Gunze company, a popular underwear company herein Japan even today. The back side says “Ooi Factory”. It is bound for Ooi in Kyushu.

And I had often heard of the country folk using the lower quality, badly formed or otherwise unsellable coccoons to spin string, weave silk and create their own clothing. Basically, homespun and home woven. And so I figured a certain amount of the silk which I was acquiring was said “homespun ” silk. I would find rolls with very uneven selvidges or with more imperfections than most commercially machine-woven fabrics tend to have. And i would wonder….Are these the homespun fabrics?

Today, I had a chance to check while talking with a friend in Mino City nearby. She is an older woman who deals with old fabrics and remakes old kimonos into modern “Western” clothing, and she is where I go to get answers when I overflow with questions.

I brought with me one of the rolls I suspected, and asked her. And sure enuf, she told me it is “uchi-ori”, or home-woven. Slowly , but surely, the whole picture becomes easier to see, easier to imagine. because it is really not so far gone at all, here in Japan, especially here in the country. It’s right underneath the surface, and takes but a scratch to become exposed.

This green, red and white fabric is a recent acquisition from a very old ryokan, or “inn”. The place is over 200 years olsd! The fabric is in two parts, the first part being 720 cms long (that’s like over 8 yards!). A very open plaid pattern, I love the play between the colors in the warp and the weft and the way the overall effect makes it look quite different than just green, red and white.

For more photos of this peice, I will refer you to Etsy, where this peice will eventually be for sale.

I will upload photos of one more homespun fabric I have, a dissembled, laundered and never re-assembled kimono. Ths was the first fabric to get me wondering and suspicious that the homespuns were right there, all around me! Notice that these fabrics usually have simple patterns, stripes and plaids that even the unsophisticated home- weaver can acheive. I love the flavor, the warmth and approachability of the rustic textiles!

Oh, BTW, the green red white silk is for sale over on Etsy. http://www.etsy.com/listing/96750568/homespun-silk-kimono-fabric-over-7