I started a new project a few days ago. I used a natural linen for the warp with hand spun indigo dyed cotton and kudzu for the warp. I am pleased with how it is coming along.
Over the last month I have been trying to get better at taking fiber from kudzu vines. This was my last attempt and I’m pleased with the results. I gathered the vines from the forest floor where it was easy for me to find vines that were straight and were growing with almost no leaves. I boiled the vines for one hour and then allowed them to rot under a piece of old roofing tin for about 4 or 5 days before stripping the fiber from the vines and washing it with warm water and castile soap. The fiber is a very light golden color and the remaining bark is easily removed.
Kudzu fiber can be purchased from my web shop here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/204322779/raw-kudzu-kuzu-fiber?ref=shop_home_active_1
I recently found this late Edo or early Meiji period obi made from hand spun cotton. The obi has been dyed using indigo over dyed with a yellow to create a green color. The pattern was created using a katagami or “stencil” to deposit rice paste onto the fabric before dying. The obi is made from two lengths of fabric sewn together in the middle. I think it was made this way because the person who made it was taking advantage of leftover fabric.
I love this geometric repeat pattern. I think it could really work as a modern textile. I would like to try to reproduce this fabric in the future. The colors that come out in this last photo show off the colors possible when over dying indigo.
I’ve been spinning cotton for about 3 years now. I started by using a drop spindle and then moved to a spinning wheel and charkha. I have experimented spinning short staple, long staple upland and naturally colored cotton. Its really rewarding to dye upland cotton thread with indigo. Because of the luster in upland cotton the resulting color is bright and picks up different levels of color due to how much oxidation occurs. The process of spinning my own thread has allowed me understand the huge amount of patience and talent held by spinners dyers and weavers in the past.
This is fiber taken from the kudzu vine. Here in the South kudzu is an invasive plant that can take over entire tracts of land in a season or two. Despite being an invasive weed it is a beautiful lush green against the sometimes dry and burnt colors of late summer. Kudzu flowers give off a thick sweet scent, vines can be woven into baskets, and the fiber from the vines can be woven into fabric.
I took this kudzu fiber back in the fall last year. It is a delicate fiber that has a glossy sheen which I think was part of the reason it was such a desirable fiber for clothing of the upper classes in old Japan. I have it resting here in an Edo era lacquer ware bowl. The bowl has a beautiful uneven shape and thick deep red lacquer. I imagine that it was made by a rural lacquer maker as it has a strong rustic handmade feel rather than the delicateness of a more refined city made bowl. There is a long process of taking kudfu fiber from the vines. Vines are gathered and bound then boiled for about an hour. The bound and boiled rolls of kudzu vines are then left outside to ret under leaves or grasses for a few days. When a powdery white mold appears on the vines and they are slimy to the touch the inner vines can be stripped from the outer fiber. Then the fiber can be washed and scraped to remove the slimy outer coat. I have only attempted to make kudzu thread but this site http://www.ryukyutextile.com/kasuri/Weavers_studio_4.html is a great visual guide for processing kudzu fiber.