Tag Archives: shifu

Antique Japanese Shifu: Paper and Cotton Textile

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I found this fabric in Tokyo back in July. at first I thought it was just a piece of indigo dyed cotton, but after picking it up and noticing the texture and light weight I inspected it closer and found that it has a cotton warp and a paper weft. The fabric must date to around the early 20th century.

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Above you can clearly see the paper weft threads in one of the ragged ends of the fabric. Below I placed a skein of my handmade paper thread next to the fabric.

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While visiting Kyoto I went to Gallery Kei, the gallery had recently exhibited a huge collection of antique paper fabrics. Below is a link to the exhibit at Gallery Kei and some photos of the interior of this beautiful shop. http://gallerykei.jp/event-index.html

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Kami-Ito, Paper Thread Making

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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.

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Reading About Kami-Ito and Shifu

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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.

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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

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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.

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Handmade Thread In Antique Basket

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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.                                  Image

Here are some wisteria or fuji yarns. The blue has been dyed with indigo.

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I dyed this fuji yarn with indigo that was past its prime. It has a gray quality I really like.

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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.

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This is yarn I made from scrap cloth cut into strips and spun. some of the cloth has been dyed with indigo.