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March 23, 2011

  — when I first became interested in shifu at school in Japan in 1987, Western weavers were mostly unaware of the technique. The school was not interested in teaching it. We started our research at paper stores in Kyoto and with limited instructions proceeded to experiment. We found some old  stage/cast instruction books for kabuki and planned to cut them up, but couldn’t bring ourselves to destroy them. 

Years later Katsumi Sachi, an accomplished shifu weaver suggested I practise Japanese calligraphy on my paper with sumi ink and cut that. The day spent with Sachi-san is a treasured memory.

Spinning shifu in her traditional Japanese farmhouse. Her bobbins are short lengths of hollow bamboo.

She weaves her fabric with  paper thread in both warp and weft. On the noren, Japanese door hanging, she “paints” with paper pulp she has dyed. The technique won’t survive washing but noren are seldom washed and it is intended to be used inside.   

This is a formal “morning coat” woven with shifu warp and weft. It was made up by a tailor in Tokyo and has bound buttonholes.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Renee' Leach permalink
    June 23, 2012 2:33 am

    Love. It is part of my goal to go to Kawashima for the shifu classes. I think they are done this year but next year awaits.


    • June 23, 2012 7:48 am

      Renee – Kawashima has re-invented itself since I was there in 1987. At that time it mainly taught either 6 month or 2 year courses in traditional weaving which included dyeing. They didn’t include shifu. Another student and I found and paid for a shifu weaver to come to the school for a couple hours for one day.


  2. March 24, 2011 1:14 pm

    that’s much better jean. i really was flummoxed. i’m intrigued by heather’s video.


    • March 24, 2011 1:31 pm

      I, too am intrigued by Heather’s video. Have either of you seen the DVD “Arimatsu – Narumi SHIBORI” English narration by Yoshiko Wada, it pictures elderly hands tying shibori knots that is just amazing. Also, Maiwa’s DVD’s, “INDIGO a World of Blue and in search of LOST COLOUR the story of natural dyes ” are both remarkable. With such wonderful films around what is the point of TV?


      • March 24, 2011 6:17 pm

        i haven’t seen the point of tv since i was 16, and live w/o. however i don’t know these videos. would like to see them, though.


  3. Evelyn Oldroyd permalink
    March 24, 2011 7:59 am

    I have always been interested in trying to spin and weave paper. The coat is amazing, but I really like the door hangings.


  4. March 23, 2011 5:00 pm

    Absolutely amazing. I have a video documenting an elderly Japanese woman (probably a National Living Treasure) spinning paper that has been gold leafed. It always brings tears to my eyes.


  5. March 23, 2011 3:15 pm

    wow. thank you for this. i’m curious about your teacher–is the photo showing her spinning in the right direction (did it get reversed?) everyone else i have seen (in photos and in my experience) sit to the left of the wheel, parallel, and facing the spindle.


    • March 23, 2011 3:37 pm

      you are so-o observant. I realized it was flipped after it was in the post. will see if I can correct it without making a total mess of the blog. I seem to be completely backwards at the moment.


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