Monday, 29 March 2010

Warping Silk Preparation the Japanese Way

I learned to warp a traditional Japanese loom from an elderly woman in my town. I live in a town which had been a silk producing area for hundreds of years. Unfortunately I am the only one left raising silkworms.

My teacher had learned to weave from her mother and grandmother. Every house would have several looms for silk up until 40 years ago here.

I believe this silk thread preparation technique would have come from the late Meiji and Taisho period in this town. Early 1900's to the 1920's. Households would get thread from a distributor and they would weave "Oshima Tsumugi" and sell it to back to the wholesaler. The quantities of the rice and seaweed glue are probably appropriate to that specific thread and dyes. I've played around with the proportions but keep it much the same as how I had learned.

Three ingredients:
Funori. A type of white seaweed that melts in boiling water to a watery rubber cement consistency. When it dries it makes the threads stiff.

Rice. I boil a cup in two liters of water and filter out a milky paste that will bind the single threads together gently.

Walnuts. I crush two walnuts in a piece of heavy cheesecloth and then when I put in water I can get a slippery white milk. This let's the beater slide easily and improves the sheen of the silk.

I submerge the already warped threads in this mixture for less than a minute ands gently wring it out. Using a fan to dry the silk as it is warped onto the larger drum. Quite a process.

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