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books, bashofu and baste fibres of Japan

October 6, 2011

Bryan, who will be hosting the Japanese Textile Study Tour has been posting about the textile Living National Treasures of Japan. They are certified as “Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties. Textiles is 1 of 16 categories, National Geographic made a documentary showing the crafts and crafts-people. The Japanese magazine “Kateigaho, International Edition” has written articles.

 Bashofu is the art of preparing and weaving with banana fibre, it was designated as one of Japan’s important intangible cultural properties in 1974.

Ryukyu is the old name for the Okinawa Islands. Katrien Hendrickx has written a history of bashofu or banana fibre from earliest times in Southeast Asia, China and Ryukyu.



the book is very technical, written in English but with both Japanese and Chinese terms. It has copious footnotes, a lengthy bibliography and 4 appendix.



Other books dealing with the baste fibres of Japan are “Riches from Rags” published by the San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum.  As well as hemp and saki-ori (rags) it features textiles woven from nettle, linden, wisteria, ramie, paper mulberry, kudzu and elm.

and “Boro”, a collection of “Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan”.  These are textiles patched and stitched in times of desperate need, not art pieces. It is written in English and Japanese, the pictures are excellent .


I spin and weave with hemp, this is a “bump” of Chinese hemp weighing approximately 7-8 lbs. The ball of yarn is a boucle 2 ply that I used to weave bath mitts.

The fabric is woven with silk rags cut from old kimono.

If you want to experience rural Japan yourself there is still 1 or 2 spaces left in Japanese Textile Study Tour in April 2012.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2011 3:10 pm

    Thanks Jean, for the insight into some of the Japan’s textile history and great books. I’m lucky to have the Kateigaho, International Edition in my library. Thanks for the mentioned of the Japanese textile study tour here too – Hugs Nat


  2. October 6, 2011 4:05 pm

    i love all this! and, yes, i want to go, but no, i can’t. rats!


  3. October 7, 2011 10:36 am

    I would so love to go on the tour, can’t afford to this year, but who knows? Hopefully Nat has started a sustainable enterprise, with annual tours. Wouldn’t that be fabulous?


  4. October 8, 2011 11:20 pm

    Such a beautiful concept honouring people as ‘Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties’. More countries could do something like this.


  5. October 10, 2011 3:12 am

    interested in bashofu and the books. bet the boro one is worth it bcse of the photos alone, the rest is a bonus have some hemp yarn which i’m guarding like a treasure. guess want to be buried w. it 🙂


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