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.
This summer I planted a few ramie plants in the hopes of being able to harvest some ramie fiber next year. Ramie is a member of the nettle family and has been used throughout Asia to create a beautiful and strong fabric similar to linen or hemp.
Here are some examples of ramie fabric from a small komebukuro. Komebukuro are small patchwork bags used for giving gifts of rice and beans to friends, family, or a temple. The fabric was woven using a double ikat technique and may have originated from the Ryukyu Islands located at the southern end of the Japanese archipelago. Here is a short Japanese video about how ramie plants are processed into beautiful fabric. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIGscKahEqY
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
This vintage Japanese cotton plaid was hand woven using machine spun thread during the first half of the 20th century. The weaver included chunky silk threads in the weft to mimic the texture of hand spun threads. The deep indigo colors are great and the fabric has a wonderful worn feel. this fabric had been used as the top of a futonji.
Here is a new piece of cotton zanshi fabric I found. Zanshiori is the fabric woven at the end of a bolt that has a random pattern due to the use of leftover threads. I love the feel of this fabric. the knots give it a homemade rustic feel. The worn colors of this piece are also really nice. some of the strips seem like they may have once been red or pink probably from a commercial dye that was prone to fade over time. the indigo blue has held up well and still holds a deep dark blue in some spots.
this fabric can be purchased at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/158501070/antique-handwoven-japanese-zanshi-indigo?ref=shop_home_active
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.
Here is some Zanshi or “left over thread” fabric I recently found. Zanshi was traditionally woven at the end of a bolt of kimono fabric. Once the kimono length had been woven the weaver would use up left over threads and bits and pieces left at the ends of bobbins to fill up the end length of warp. The resulting fabric was used for domestic purposes while the kimono bolt was more than likely sold. Zanshi was used most often for futon covers or work clothing. Notice the variation in pattern due to the different colors of left over threads.
In these last two photos you can see the numerous knots used to bind the left over threads.
This antique paper covered basket holds some of the yarns I have been making over the past few months. The basket itself is really special. It has been covered with a layer of hand spun cloth and then encased in multiple layers of paper taken from daifukucho or shopkeepers ledgers. some of this paper has been treated with persimmon tannin which turned the paper dark red/brown and made the basket waterproof. I think the basket is probably from the early Meiji period.
Here are some wisteria or fuji yarns. The blue has been dyed with indigo.
I dyed this fuji yarn with indigo that was past its prime. It has a gray quality I really like.
This paper yarn or shifu I made from part of a roll of washi paper I found. I cut the paper into a long narrow strip and then spun it using an Ashford spinning wheel. the thread is really strong and has a lot of elasticity. I would like to try dying shifu in the future but it seems like the nature of paper and water might cause problems.
This is yarn I made from scrap cloth cut into strips and spun. some of the cloth has been dyed with indigo.