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Fiber from Vines: The Beauty of Grape and Wisteria

Written on February 8, 2010

In rural, old Japan fibers used for clothing and utilitarian items were found in nature: some were cultivated like ramie and hemp, and some were foraged for in the wild, like linden (shina), wisteria (fuji) and kudzu (kuzu).  Today I’m showing a basket woven from wild grape (budo) vine bark along with some yarns which were obtained from the mountain wisteria.
Fuji1The basket, which is woven from the inner bark of a wild grape vine, was said to be used to forage for mushrooms, but it most likely was also used for gathering other kinds of material in the forest, such as nuts or vegetables.  Likely it dates to the mid-twentieth century.  A carrying cord was once attached to the lug handles, and the basket was either carried at the wearer’s side, or strapped to his or her back.
Fuji1aFuji, or wisteria, is one of the rarest and most precious of the fibers used in old Japan.  Shown below is raw wisteria fiber which was cultivated and processed  in late 20th century in Tango, Kyoto Prefecture, where some fuji preservation work is ongoing.
Fuji1bI am showing several close-ups of the fuji yarn in order for you to imagine its texture and color.
Fuji1cOld garments woven from fuji are very hard to find.  They are extremely prized if you do find them, and, moreover, they command top price should you be lucky enough to find (or afford) a garment woven of wisteria.
Fuji1dThese photos may seem to indicate that wisteria feels dry, like raffia or straw, but in actual fact, the fibers feel quite silky and pliant.

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  1. Comment by Darlene:

    It’s interesting to see how people made do with the materials they had on hand. Today we just run out to the store when we need something, but it didn’t use to be that easy. If you wanted something, you had to make it from what you had available. This is a fascinating window into the past.

    February 8, 2010 @ 7:32 am

  2. Comment by velma bolyard:

    as usual, i am in a swoon here, the wisteria! holy cow. and that basket, i have seen similar ones, and it feels like an old friend. lovely, stephen.

    February 8, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

  3. Comment by susan:

    ditto velma

    February 12, 2010 @ 12:02 am

  4. Comment by Mary Hanlon:

    What a treat to see this! Thank you!

    February 19, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  5. Comment by katie:

    I love the way you show us things – closer and closer – it is thrilling!

    February 28, 2010 @ 9:36 am