Bast again

Ah, those wonderful mystery fibers. Gotta love ’em. It’s funny, but to the modern eye, “vintage” Japanese fibers tend to be either brightly colored silks or indigo blue and white cottons, but historically this was not so. Prior to the mechanization of weaving in the mid 19th century, a great deal of weaving was still done at home with whatever material was available. Once a garment was worn to the point of rags, it might be sewn into something else until the fibers had completely disintegrated. In the case of the bast fiber examples I’m finding now, these were used as linings and stiffeners for obi. Considering how stiff and scratchy these fibers are, it’s no surprise the Japanese took to cotton with such enthusiasm once they managed to cultivate it.

This example was found inside of a nagoya obi, where it had been folded in half a long, long time. Yes, I know it’s about as visually exciting as a burlap sack, but consider the weaver. She wasn’t aiming for fancy, just utilitarian.

Now we pull out our handy dandy magnifying lens at 10x and take a closer look.

The fibers are not dyed, but they have been spun. In the first Mystery Fiber post earlier this month we could see that the warp had been spun, but the weft was not. This led me to believe that they were different fibers, as some of the tree and vine fibers such as wisteria, kuzu and others are not spun, but fibers such as linen and hemp are. The fibers in this example are all spun, but somewhat unevenly.

And at 15 x…

Now we can see some natural color variation!

As always, your input, technical or otherwise, is truly welcome. If there are any topics you’d like to see me cover, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do. Thanks for reading!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh dear, I’ve had a horrible thought: what if it actually IS just a burlap sack?! Ah well, it’s mighty fine burlap, in that case. Very soft.

  2. Fascinating! I enjoyed this education.

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