Treasures from old Japan

I went back to Stitches West this morning, this time to check out the vendor hall and help some friends do some shopping. I rapidly wound up back at John Marshall’s booth and, after a lengthy video conference with my friend Alison, bought a bunch of fine silk yarn for her. (I’m not sure remote shopping was what Apple had in mind when they invented FaceTime, but it sure worked!) And I spent some time chatting with John about Japanese textiles and materials. I showed him my phoenix samples, which were woven using his yarn, and he showed me some truly exquisite handwoven fabric: a turned taquete with insanely fine threads.

Here’s a photo of the fabric:

An exquisite handwoven piece in taquete

An exquisite handwoven piece in (turned?) taquete

John said the structure was taquete, but looking at it more closely, I thought it might be turned taquete because of the many mixed colors in the warp. Regardless, it was astoundingly beautiful and the yarns extremely fine. Here is a photo of the fringe at the bottom, with my fingers in the photo to give you a sense of scale:

fringe of insanely fine handwoven fabric

fringe of insanely fine handwoven fabric

This alone would have been worth the price of admission, but John had another intriguing fabric to show me:

fabric woven with lacquered paper!

fabric woven with lacquered paper!

This piece is interesting not because of the brocade, but because of the green and gold background. That’s not surface design – it’s a piece of paper, covered with lacquer, sliced uber-thinly, and then woven into cloth. A close look at the selvage will give a little more insight:

selvedge of lacquered paper weaving

selvedge of lacquered paper weaving

Here you can actually make out the individual strips of paper.

And here is the lacquered paper itself:

thinly sliced lacquered paper

thinly sliced lacquered paper

This is traditionally woven using a hook. You remove one  thin strip of paper, and run a thin wooden hook through the shed. You grab the paper with the hook, pull it through the shed, and carefully arrange it so it is lacquered side up (and not twisted). Beat GENTLY, then add one or two picks of a binding weft, and then put in another strip.

The resulting piece, as you can see from John’s example, is beautiful. However, it can’t be washed, so is best used for wall hangings and other uses where it won’t see a great deal of wear. I really really really want to try out this technique! If I can figure out how to manufacture the paper (laser cutter perhaps?) then all sorts of interesting phoenix-ly possibilities open.

I wound up coming home with one sheet of the lacquered paper – in fact, the one photographed above. John Marshall very generously gifted it to me, saying that he liked my work and wanted to see what I’d do with it. I was ecstatic, of course – and will definitely send him photos once it’s complete!

So yay! I have to try this technique out, perhaps after I finish weaving off this warp. Any information on how to weave with lacquered paper, or suggestions for tools for doing so, would be most welcome.

This entry was posted in Blog posts, textiles, weaving. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Bonnieinouye
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Not turned taquete- warp colors do not indicate structure. I would call this lovely old textile Lampas but there are Japanese terms for this cloth (which I do not recall at the moment). I belong to the Japanese Textiles study group of CW. We look at amazing silk textiles like this, sometimes a screen, some are for sale, many in museums and private collections. 
    When I visited the textile area in Kyoto, I watched a weaver using this gold-coated fine thread. It was held in a special sleeve next to the loom, an old Jaquard loom. His beautiful fabric was for an obi. Later, I bought a couple of sample pieces of similar cloth from a pile at a temple fair.
    I find Japanese textiles very inspiring.

  2. terri
    Posted February 26, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    those fabrics are amazing!  now i’m sad that i didn’t make it to stitches this year–john marshall’s booth is always at the top of my list of places to stop.

  3. Karen
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

     Here’s a link you may enjoy with some gorgeous photos of Saga Nishiki (the Japanese brocaded paper warp):

    Your idea for using a laser cutter to make paper is clever. I think that washi, the Japanese mulberry paper, is extra strong and that common paper might not work- but I’d definitely feel better sampling on regular paper and sparing the lacquer warp!

    I think I read somewhere that weavers use dowels of rolled paper to neaten the warps since the paper is even more light and gentle than the usual wooden tools.

  4. Fatcatkaw
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    The technique described is not saganishiki. The lacquered paper  from John Marshall is used for other textiles but not saganishiki. Saganishiki is woven on a loom with the paper as the warp and silk thread as the weft. The silk is wound on a shuttle and passed through the pattern shed.. My blog has photos of the equipment:
    I do look forward to see what you create with the laquered paper.

    • Posted March 2, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

       Thank you for the correction and for the link to your blog! Saga-nishiki looks fascinating – do you know where one can get the paper?

      • Fatcatkaw
        Posted March 2, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

        Unfortunately, I  only know of sources in Japan where I get all my materials. I can help you with that if you are interested.

        • Posted March 2, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

           I would love that. I’ll drop you an email.


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