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A Swath of Woven Swan Feathers

Written on October 13, 2010

…well, it’s probably more accurate to say “down” instead of “feathers,” but, yes, this is an indigo dyed cotton cloth that shows striations of woven swan “feathers.”This kind of cloth was woven in Japan’s snowy and rural Tohoku region, specifically in the regions of Akita, Niigata and Yamagata.  Hakucho-ori or swan weaving, was not worn by regular folk, it was the province of well-to-do women: it was a luxury fabric which, I understand, was used to fashion a kind of outer garment.The base is indigo dyed cotton, very tightly woven; the white, fluffy streaks along the weft direction, of course, are swan down.This length of cloth was woven in the Meiji Era (1868-1912).



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  1. Comment by Cynthia Baxter:

    Very interesting!

    October 13, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  2. Comment by Erin:

    neat, I wonder if this area was the origin of the crane wife folk tale.

    October 13, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

  3. Comment by k:

    beautiful stuff – and interesting history behind it.

    October 14, 2010 @ 11:07 am

  4. Comment by caro:

    Just when I need it, I can turn here to be amazed at the things you find to share about textiles. I’ve never heard of using swan down in weaving like this. It’s beautiful, and not surprising it might be used mostly by the wealthy. Someone who was not wealthy probably made it, however. And the person who made it knew more about this cloth than the person who wore it.

    October 14, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

  5. Comment by velma:

    i have seen a small basket made of peacock feathers and silk (jeanine glaves), but never a swan down (and indigo) textile. wonderful!

    October 16, 2010 @ 12:25 pm