This past weekend I visited with my wonderful friend Cassie Dickson. Cassie lives in Western North Carolina and is an exceptional spinner and weaver. She focuses on the weaving of traditional overshot coverlets, but she also grows her own flax for spinning and weaving and raises silk worms each year. This batch of silk worms hatched late and as such Cassie had already collected cocoons and eggs from most of her silkworms. She offered to give me this box of 20 worms to take home. They have happily been eating mulberry leaves from the yard for the last several days
A small bed of Japanese Indigo plants I started from seed.
Newly spun kami-ito, paper thread, on homemade bamboo bobbins. I made this paper thread from beautiful hand made kozo paper from Korea. I first cut the kozo paper into thin strips leaving both ends attached, then left the paper strips under a damp towel overnight, in the morning I rolled the moist paper on concrete blocks, and then spun the thread using a Japanese spinning wheel. This thread still needs to be boiled or steamed to set the twist. This is my first real attempt at making paper thread.
When this thread arrived from Japan there were small bits of newspaper from the 40’s or 50’s clinging to some of the threads. I assume they were packed away in a weavers workshop for many years. Everything about this thread makes me contemplate the extreme skill needed to produce such consistent and strong thread. The hemp was harvested, steamed, dried, boiled, the fibers were then separated and hand spliced. In the second photo you can see the joins where the spicing was done. After splicing a final twist was added using a spinning wheel. I have several hanks of this thread and I think I will use it for the warp of an upcoming project.
I recently found this beautiful 19th century indigo dyed fabric that was more than likely used as a furniture cover. These were traditionally made for a wedding and often display the brides family crest. The hand spun cotton thread lends texture to the fabric. The design was worked using a rice paste resist and a method known as tsutsugaki. The light blue of the family crest is known as kame nozoki, or peeking in the vat. The fabric was first dyed with a yellow dye and later over dyed with indigo to create the beautiful green color. In the close up photos you can see the yellow dye that seeped under the resist paste. The last photo shows one of the corners where the yellow dye is also visible. I would guess that the yellow was obtained from gardenia seed pods.
I recently found these two wonderful books on shifu, paper thread making and paper thread weaving. The first book Kigami and Kami-ito is beautifully laid out and the images are inspiring. A Song Of Praise For Shifu is exceptionally full of information about paper making, as well as, the regional variations and history of shifu.
I have been collecting antique daifukucho, or account books. Some of these daifukucho date to the 1840’s and were used by a lumber company, but most of them date to the 1880’s and 1890’s. In the past it was common for these books to be taken apart and the strong kozo paper cut up to make paper thread which would be used as weft threads on a hemp or cotton warp. I bought many of these thinking that I might try my hand at making shifu using antique paper, but each page is like a work of art and I don’t know if I can ever bring myself to use them. You can purchase late 19th century daifukucho through my shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/luckyredbat?ref=hdr_shop_menu
I recently ordered some beautiful hand made kozo paper and tried making kami-ito, paper thread using the books on kami-ito and shifu I mentioned above. I cut the kozo paper into thin strips leaving both ends attached, then I left the paper strips under a damp towel overnight, in the morning I rolled the moist paper on concrete blocks, and then spun the thread using a Japanese spinning wheel.
This small two panel furoshiki was probably part of a set of three or four and has been decorated with a family crest indicating it may be part of a traditional wedding dowry. It dates to the late 19th century and is made of hand spun and hand woven cotton. The color is a worn grey which I think may have been obtained by using sumi ink as a dye. The small tsutsugaki pine tree design in the corner is wonderfully simple and sweet.