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.
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
I recently found this very worn zanshi fabric. The warp is hemp and the weft is cotton and hemp. It has a beautiful worn feel simular to antique linen. It has been dyed with indigo, but the natural color variations in the hemp thread also lend to the design. Zanshiori is fabric that has been woven using the threads left over at the ends of numerous bobbins. due to the use of thread fragments the fabric has a random pattern and a varied texture because of the knots used to bind all the threads in the weft together. Zanshi was often woven at the end of a bolt of fabric to make use of any remaining warp.
I have listed some of this zanshi fabric for purchase here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/178807794/antique-handwoven-japanese-zanshi-indigo?ref=shop_home_active_3
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.
This tsunobukuro or horn bag was used to hold grain. It more than likely comes from Northern Japan and it is made from linden fiber or shina. The bark is removed from the linden tree then it is bound and boiled with wood ash. After boiling the fiber is washed and separated before being spliced together to form thread. The threads are then spun and woven into shinafu. As shinafu ages it darkens in color. This bag is a deep red/brown color and has the feel of very stiff course linen. It is patched with cotton thread, white cotton cloth and several other bast fiber patches.
The bag is resting in the shade of some lemongrass.
I don’t know what this patch states. I can only make out a few of the kanji.