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Posts from the ‘Ikat/Kasuri’ Category

Make loads of clothes with your weaves – start with the Huipil inspired Maya top

Maya Top Handwoven
I think I take my sewing skills for granted. And I image everyone else has the same skills.  But increasingly, because we haven’t had to make our own clothes, we don’t need those skills.  I understand that others have more valuable skills to earn money. But to make your own clothes…that’s a freedom. To weave the cloth for them…even more so. You can save money, value what you make more, choose your fibres,  have less clothes, and have clothes that actually fit you. This year I’ll be taking more about clothing, sewing and how weaving fits in with it all in the Saori way.


This is the Maya top with versions of the huipil overlayed on top.

As a weaver, I’ve always made some clothes from my cloth but I haven’t been as productive in cloth yardage as I am now with the Saori loom. In the ’80s there were many books on clothing from rectangular and narrow widths which are often found in other cultures who use the backstrap loom. One of these is the simple and elegant Huipil. Like the Kimono, the beauty of the clothing is in the design of the cloth rather than the cut. It’s also about not wasting the energy and resources that go into the weaving and making the most out of the cloth without cutting it.

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Buttony, wavy, ribby and wide weaves


Glenda’s completed weave

Yet another magical workshop came to a close too quickly over the weekend.  Several of the participants were Sturtees and returnees.

Daisy selecting buttons

Ordering and threading the buttons

Daisy came to work on a special buttony weave which incorporated her mother’s buttons in a bed runner. Rather than stitch them onto the two metre plus cloth after weaving it, we decided to have the buttons threaded onto a warp thread which could be woven with each row and the buttons positioned as she went.

The buttons could also be positioned with the weft but I think the warp idea went better. A large shuttle full of many large buttons were a bit of a ‘danger’ in that movement usually twisted them around each other, so Daisy used a paper sleeve to protect them and the shuttle was left on top of the shelf. The buttons were stopped from falling with a little peg and just bought down as needed. She did very well indeed. Read more

Kasuri preservation

Cotton plants

Cotton planted by local school children

How exciting is this. Cotton plants welcoming visitors to a cotton Kasuri weaving studio.  This studio is in Okayama prefecture which seemed to reveal more cultural and textile riches as we journeyed into it.

Reaching it after a short walk through the narrow streets of the town we come to a place which signals ‘textile’ with the cotton plants. This small studio was abuzz with inspiration and the obvious heartfelt devotion and enthusiasm of the lead weaver Mrs Hinagawa. With the support and encouragement of their local area government, this craft centre also teaches the area’s revived Kasuri weaving.  The mission of the group is to continue the revival of this type of Kasuri cotton weaving, teaching it and passing it on, creating local specialty products from the workshop and to enhance activity and vibrance in the town.

As we enter there is a manual cotton ginning process shown to us as the basis for the cloth production.  The studio is full of looms in action with various styles and levels of complexity of Kasuri in progress. Some of the travellers got to weave on the looms which are also produced in the Perfecture. In this way we encountered much localism and pride in local traditions in Japan.  A sense of meaning in retaining skills and processes and support for it.  This is something that is difficult in Australia and although there are pockets of it, such as in Tasmania and some industries, it is generally weaker possibly connected to our particular social and political history which values different things. Even so, it is very encouraging to see anywhere and if it’s in my line of interest, even better.

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This week has been a time for completing. Then starting again.

It’s always very satisfying completing a textile. Finishing it then pressing and processing it for use or new ownership. I get so close to all of my textiles in weaving and seeing every little thread that I find it next to impossible to have any distance from them. I can’t see them well at all. Several years after I’ve woven a piece I think “that’s not bad and I like it”. But waiting a few years to assess the weave is a bit long! I let things pass me by then think about it when I’m at a safe distance. Most of my best pieces have actually just happened. I know this sounds very cliched. Yes, work, planning and designing went into it all but somehow things just happened beyond and within that. All the be creative books say just work and carry on and this is the best advice for anything despite failings and misunderstood turns. At least for me. This kasuri piece was like that in every way. The weft kasuri is a bit freeform and I added the twill blocks for some zest and somehow the unusual colour mix came together in the dye painting. But of course, it had the distance of a year or more in time for me to process and finish it this week. “It’s not bad and I like it.”

on loom

The woven shibori on loom…a tad boring


There is nothing…nothing like the thrill of woven shibori. So drab and uninspiring generally on the loom but ‘bang’! After the dyebath it’s all colour and patterns.This loom patterned controlled woven shibori has a different style to the  ‘shibori saori’ fabrics I’ve been weaving lately.

This piece is woven with a singles hemp yarn on 20 shafts to control the shibori patterning. The fabric is exciting; not only in patterning but the hemp yarn itself is very special and offers a nice weighty fabric. The hemp has a very organic sense and is a delight to work with (thanks Gail!) Although it functions like linen on the loom and there is no give in the yarn, it works towards a  balanced weave very well.

The completed fabric was tied up and dyed, overdyed again then partially untied for another bout.

woven shibori fabric

Completed fabric




Magical weaving

shifting thread

We weavers can spend  alot of time getting threads to behave. Not to let them run away, tangle or stretch out of tension. We tame them, or try to, so we can create with them. We want them to do things that they are sometimes reluctant to. Ikat (Kasuri) weaving has the same objective and this little warp shifting device  can deliberately shift the positions of  warp threads which have been ikat tied and dyed to form a pattern. You still need to work with the threads to get what you want but it is all quite magical.

The value of this little tool is that it is specifically designed for the types of looms we often use – as opposed to the back strap loom where much warp ikat cloth is created. It can be used to achieve quite detailed patterns.

easy warp ikat

Where the ikat shifting at the back rod takes place before beaming and threading the warp.

Similar  less precise shifting can be done without a shifter by tying sections of the warp at the back beam before beaming. I have found this to be very effective for my designs but it is less precise. It also requires warping from back to front and preferably with the warp loops threaded through the back rod.

The warp shifter  tool works really well and it meant for higher precision and finer threads in designing balanced weaves. Here is a lovely video of a weaving studio in Japan which is using the warp shifter. This type of shifter is one that is used at Kawashima Textile School in Kyoto. Their Kasuri courses cover this type of warp kasuri and just a study of how the patterns can be developed from quite simple tying and dyeing of the warp is fascinating.

warp ikat

Image from “The Exquisite Ikat Patterns and Their Designs”

You can see here a lovely black and white graphic which shows a shifted warp design plan. This is from a page in one of the fantastic four volumes on Okinawan Kasuri  – Textiles Across the Seas. One of the volumes is completely devoted to the designs in this format. Very strangely, these types of graphics do something to me inside and I just delight at looking through them – imagining myself creating such beautiful lines with dye, thread and weave. These volumes are published by the Textiles Across the Seas Executive Committee as a way of celebrating the ingenuity and skills of the weavers, and to keep the traditions alive and viable in our world. In the volumes I read that ‘craft is not art‘ – it must sell and circulate in a society. Craft needs to build skills and innovation within specific parameters. Business and sales are important and this has previously been strongly related to social organisation and perhaps ritual requirements. I know craft can be art but what do you think? In Australia craft of all kinds are practiced but the desire or perceived need for inclusion in wider, mainstream type training has diminished substantially.

Textiles across the seas

The amazing Textiles Across the Seas Kasuri volumes

Kasuri practice

After returning from Kawashima textile school I had to put what I had learnt into practice. Ways of working in my own studio needed to be integrated and combined into my newly learnt ways and I think it will take me a few pieces to fully implement this. My loom and tools are different and I wanted to use my new skills rather than falling back on my established ikat practice to see where it took me. I chose a simple weft kasuri on a painted warp. Seven different block patterns were dyed for the weft resist. I also wanted a bit of ‘mystery’ and added some hand picked twill blocks to overlay the kasuri resisted block patterning. Personally I find weft kasuri more challenging than warp kasuri but I know not everyone feels this.

In Kawashima all the (invisible) really hard work was done for us, i.e. calculations, so our work would proceed as successfully as possible…and it did. But it really is the calcs and measurements based on expected shrinkage with the yarn and how I actually weave that is the important foundation and basis for a good kasuri cloth.

I’ve woven two Kasuri pieces so far and you can see the beautiful kasuri wefts in their resisted blocks in this photo. The first piece reflects the intended design with a series of blocks and their reverse pattern. The second is using a shifting in the weft to produce more fluid and unexpected designs. Both textiles are on the same warp but have different coloured effects because of the warp painting process. Even the resist areas have different hues based on the warp colouring and don’t remain white.

I am happy with both of the pieces and love the technique. Next is using the warp shifting box to change the warp for kasuri/ikat.  This is something I’ve always done with a tying of the warp threads at the back of the loom before beaming. I think the warp shifting box will be more flexible and capable of changing the warp kasuri within the same warp.

Kasuri Heaven

Kasuri heaven, that’s what it is. The Kawashima Textile school was everything and more in providing the Kasuri experience I needed.

Although the origins of *Kasuri in Japan are debated and are sometimes said to be from Indonesia and South East Asia the time and skill committed to kasuri in Japan creating Kimono and other textiles over the centuries have surely made a firm claim to Kasuri as distinctively Japanese. It was this mystery of tying resist knots for an unformed textile that has always fascinated me. Creating textiles by knowing each thread before weaving and designing with dye allowing for undyed and overdyed elements.

Most ikat textiles produced in Indonesia such as geringsing are woven on the backstrap loom after resist tying on frames. Although I greatly admire the skills and strengths of the backstrap I generally use a floor loom to weave on and Japanese Kasuri offers this expertise. Without the frame how do you tie knots with precision on a warping board? How do you solve the problems of dragging a warp through heddles and reed and stopping too much blur in your design? It turns out that these questions are quite easy to answer and deal with after all. Kasuri heaven.

A few things struck me as significant. (note – this is only personal epiphany as I know many weavers who work in all sorts of viable ways that work)

Pre-sleying the warp is a normal thing to do!  In my years of learning weave pre-sleying was hardly ever mentioned or seemed just too hard and odd. Seemed like double the work of just using a raddle. But it’s not. It makes the warp glide on and is quick to set up and organise even small bouts of Kasuri or wild warps. I have bent over the back of looms at the raddle fiddling for hours when I could have been sitting on the lounge in front of TV pre-sleying a warp in perfection. It doesn’t matter that you have to sley the warp to the correct dentage once you’ve beamed it – it’s still easier…at least for me.  The Saori Threading box also leans on this tradition but you sley the warp for real and it doesn’t have to be done again.

Risk and commitment!

In 2008 I uploaded a video on how to tie an ikat knot. This is a +great knot. Very easy, quick and secure. So I went to Kawashima assuming this would be the knot and I would be advanced in the class. 🙂 Well, not so. The knot I learnt there, although similar, was different. It also had a temporary knot and plastic underneath, then tape over the top of it. Seemed to be security overkill, but when you are faced with hundreds of knots over many months to weave a kimono fabric length it isn’t the place for taking any risks whatsoever. This is where the very high level of skill and commitment to a design comes in. Once the design is underway there is no turning back. You commit your whole to it.

Winding, dyeing, rewinding…the Kiwaku for Australian handweavers

One of the biggest challenges I have had over my lifetime of weaving is yarn availability in Australia. Hence the lovely Saori yarns. We produce the world’s finest wool in raw form but have to buy it back from other nations who continue to house skills in producing yarn. There are a few mills in Australia but they are very limited for weaving yarns.

Consequently   I have always dyed my own.  This involves lots of winding, dyeing, rewinding back into a form that can be reeled onto a warping board etc. Although I have developed many tricks to avoid this as much as possible , the fine yarn I use makes reeling dyed skeins back into a good yarn package  difficult. Simple cone winders aren’t great and need a measure of luck to do it.

I’m hoping I’ve now found the answer in the Kiwaku and winder. The kiwaku is the Japanese form of a yarn cone. I always thought they were ancient and exotic yarn holders but they are very much alive and well used in producing woven textiles today. The kiwaku winder is efficient and reels the yarn into a very usable ‘cone’ for reeling into a warp after dyeing. I really think that kiwakus could be widely adopted by handweavers in Australia. We need to dye yarn, we need to cone all weights of yarn easily. We need a reliable way of doing this. Read more

Crazy weft Kasuri

Well, something went a little different to what I expected in my weft kasuri! It is very free form and improvisational looking when I wanted it to be ordered with design. I think I’ve found the error in my calculations for the weft allowance. I didn’t factor in a washed dyed weft length so I’ll work on that now. However, the design is still beautiful and I’m happy with it. It is very exciting weaving with bobbins full of  design, so I think the time spent is worth every second.

Kasuri effects range from nice subtle organisation to quite random marbled effects . It takes me lots of time to do my dyeing and tying but it doesn’t have to be that way!.

Kasuri or ikat techniques can mean unweaving and weaving to get the effects you want, so patience and planning can be vital in it’s process. These technniques are  unique and distinctive to woven cloth and other mediums copy the feathered patterns.