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A Shifu Workcoat: Rustic, Indigo Dyed Woven Paper

Written on November 7, 2009

The previous post, just below this one, introduced the work of           Hiroko Karuno, a contemporary shifu artist who weaves cloth from paper.  This post shows a historical example of shifu, in this case an indigo dyed work coat which likely dates from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

This coat was woven from a shredded, recycled paper weft against a cotton warp; it seems the cloth was piece dyed before it was sewn.  The kasuri cotton used to reinforce the collar, seen above, appears to have been woven in Shonai or in Yamagata, Japan, so we may deduce this coat comes from Japan’s Tohoku Region.

Because of the nature of the paper mulberry washi which was used to weave shifu, paper cloth is surprisingly lighter in weight than woven cotton, bast fiber or silk.  Note the detail photos here which attempt to zero in on the quality of the paper woven cloth: rustic shifu such as this is usually slubby and knotty in appearance.



This coat has been worn as can be seen by the overall patina and some slight fraying to seams; still, it’s a beautiful example of shifu clothing, which is something of a rare commodity in the field of Japanese folk textiles.



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  1. Comment by Velma:

    amazing. i’m trying to imagine what this feels like on the body.

    November 16, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

  2. Comment by Michelle Webb:

    Just a comment on the slubs (which I’m sure you already know), they are part of the process of handmaking paper yarn, and the major way you differentiate handspun shifu from machine spun yarn like Habu textiles makes. However, you might have noticed Hiroko’s shifu has no slubs–she’s that good!

    January 25, 2011 @ 11:55 am