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rag weave/sakiori

February 22, 2011

weaving with rags has a history in many cultures but using silk kimono fabric has to be the ultimate. Kimono are always folded in exactly the same way and over the years the areas of the folds become weak and disintegrate. They are traditionally hand stitched, taken apart to clean and then stitched again. At the time of re-stitching the fabric can be turned to place weak or torn areas into seams or hems. This extends the life of treasured and costly fabrics.

Because the silk is fragile it can’t be torn and I cut it in 1/4″ – 1/2″ strips with scissors. I am always surprised at how much fabric is necessary to produce a reasonable amount of rag yarn. 

My first experiences buying old kimono was at Kitano Tenjin Shrine in Kyoto.

The large, open air market is has been held on the 25th of every month, rain or shine, for many years. It is a bargain hunter’s paradise. Piles of kimono dumped from the back of little trucks, antiques, ceramics, new merchandise, 300 year old bonsai and food stalls in several square blocks of temple grounds.

Preparing the rag thread is a slow process and I’m always cutting silk.  The last time I was in Japan a friend of a friend saved all her family’s old kimono for me and I had to buy a suitcase to bring them home. I wove a table runner for each of us. Each runner has the silk from one kimono as the weft.

Generally, silk kimono have silk linings, there is very little waste as the kimono is sewn from long narrow fabric pieces with little or no cut shaping.

Occasionally there are little treasures to be found in the linings, scraps of reinforcing material or unusual stitching.

An obi (kimono sash) woven from short lengths of many fabrics. The red stripes are from a priest’s robe.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2012 2:03 pm

    Your table runners are beautiful. I was at ZiguZagu yesterday with Nat and saw my first rag weave rug. We were in awe (and now trying to think of ways we could buy one). Very interesting post.

    Jacky xox


    • February 12, 2012 10:23 am

      thanks for the comment, Jackie. Lucky you to go to ZiguZagu with Nat. I love weaving sakiori but it is slow work. The old silk has to be cut as it won’t tear without shredding. Bed sheets are good to tear .


  2. February 22, 2011 8:13 pm

    I was lucky enough to visit the Kitano shrine market when I visited Kyoto – in fact my visit was planned to coincide! I have a few old silk kimono that I have taken apart, but mostly I have wool ones. The fabric is incredible, and I do hope to do some saki ori once I get the loom set up. Your fabrics are very inspiring.


  3. February 22, 2011 1:25 pm

    I don’t sew them, too time consuming. I narrow the ends to a point and overlap them by approx. 2″. And I have included a shirt or 2 and also men’s ties–but they are getting too expensive at the thrift store.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 24, 2013 7:48 am

      How do you cut the neckties so that you get even strips? I would like to use my ties in the weft but am struggling to get the strips evenly cut. Any ideas?


      • February 24, 2013 8:36 am

        hersheyl – as tie fabric is cut on the bais I just open them up and cut narrow 1/4 – 1/2 inch strips starting at the widest piece. they’ll curl up and once you beat them into the warp they are fine. this is rag weaving not perfection!


      • February 24, 2013 2:29 pm

        Thank you for your help. So you don’t cut the strips in one continuous length? Do you use scissors or a quilting blade? I think I may be overthinking this process a bit too much but I am making a scarf and so I want to get the most out of the ties and also cut them as neatly as possible.


      • February 24, 2013 3:32 pm

        hersheyl – I’m not a quilter and I don’t like rag cutters I use a large pr. of very sharp Henckel dressmaking sheers and I make the strips as long as possible by not cutting through the edge and just cutting back and forth.


      • February 25, 2013 9:36 am

        Thanks again. I use that cutting method on rectangular fabric but am making a lot of waste on the ties and thought there might be a better way.


  4. February 22, 2011 1:23 pm

    wow never thought about where all the material went when not needed any more. Thanks for telling us. What a lovely friend you have to give you all those Kimono.x lynda


  5. February 22, 2011 1:12 pm

    i love the colors in the rag weave obi. i, too, have saved old silks for rag weave–only they were those 1990s silk big shirts. (or was it 80s?). do you sew all ends together before weaving?

    Liked by 1 person

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