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A Length of Shifu: Woven Recycled Paper Yarn

November 8, 2013

ShifuLength2Shifu is a kind of Japanese cloth which is woven from paper yarn.  Usually the weft yarn is hand twisted from washi or paper and the warp yarns are of another material, in this case it’s indigo dyed cotton.

ShifuLength2aThis length is wonderful for its details.  As you can see, running from left to right on this length are dark colored blips.  These dark blips are remnants of the ink which stained the paper which was shredded into narrow lengths and twisted into warp yarns.

ShifuLength2bThe kind of paper that was often used for shifu weaving was taken from books, sometime accounting books such as this type were utilized.

ShifuLength2cShifuLength2dWhat I can’t convey in this blog posting is the light weight of this piece of shifu: paper is less dense than, say, cotton, so a woven length of shifu is quite a bit lighter than cotton or hemp cloth.

ShifuLength2eOn the photos above and below you can easily see the indigo dyed cotton warp yarns and some of the loose paper yarns.  This length probably dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.  Most probably this piece was taken from a shifu kimono.


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A Full Bolt of Shifu: Cotton Warp and Paper/Cotton Weft

July 12, 2012

About a year ago, on a shopping trip to Japan, I bought a full bolt (about 13 yards  or 12 meters) of shifu, or cloth woven with paper yarns.  Here it is: the bolt is warped with cotton yarns and the weft is paper and cotton intermittently.At the time I found this, I was hesitant to buy it as it was expensive–handwoven shifu always is.  But I couldn’t resist.  In these details you can see the slubby nature of the cloth; these slubs are the paper yarns.  Really lovely, aren’t they?In old Yamagata prefecture, known as Shonai, there was a tradition of paper/cotton weaving, and my hunch was that this bolt is from Shonai as it looks like the kind of paper/cotton weaving from that area.  The person from whom I acquired this bolt said it isn’t Shonai, but I have my doubts.Likely this bolt was intended for use as a futon cover; in fact, I had (and sold) a Shonai paper/cotton futon cover that very much resembled this, which further reinforces my gut feeling that this is Shonai.I love the cobalt blue quality of the indigo–and the slubby texture.  One of the many interesting things about shifu is its weight: because paper yarn is less dense than cotton or bast, it’s usually lighter in the hand than cotton or bast woven cloth.This cloth is thick, so the full bolt is quite hefty in volume.   It’s also in pristine condition: it appears that this piece was woven, stored, and never touched.  I think it’s beautiful.

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