Noren how-to project with yukata fabric

It’s been quite hot here in the high desert lately, and since we don’t have air conditioning, that means leaving doors and windows open to allow for a pleasant breeze. Another thing we don’t have is a screen door for the front, so it’s rather bothersome when all sorts of winged annoyances start invading Chez Kimono. The solution? A noren.

Noren are traditional curtains used all over Japan, from shrines to shops to hot springs, often with a simple motif to signify what lies within. Some noren are more decorative and less utilitarian, with beautiful shibori designs, or even made of patchworked fabrics from old garments. Whatever the difference in appearance, they all serve the same purpose; to keep out wind, rain, dust, insects, or sunlight without having to shut a door.

I decided to make my own noren from yukata fabric rather than buy a commercially made one. I’m not a big fan of floral prints (and so many women’s yukata have floral prints), but love waves. Fortunately I had just the thing on hand. I cut three sections, each roughly one meter (39.5″) long or so and 13″ wide, to fit across my front door. Here they are hanging in the shower after being hand washed in mild soap. There was a bit of dye bleed, but the colors stayed true.

This fabric has been hand dyed on both sides, something rather rare on the market these days as it is quite labor intensive. Most commercially dyed yukata cottons are dyed using a vacuum machine that pulls the dye through multiple layers, whereas this was dyed with either a stencil or a block, one section at a time and then flipped over and the process done again on the other side. The result is a fabric with no “back” side, so when one side gets worn out or stained, the yukata can be taken apart and resewn with the inner part now facing out. Sometimes the dyer doesn’t quite line everything up perfectly and we see a flaw, as shown here:

All things considered, I feel it’s pretty reasonable to overlook the bit of blur and move on to the greater plan. How will this work as a noren? Is the design too busy, or will it impart an inviting sense of refreshing coolness to my doorway–and keep out bugs? (Keep in mind that indigo has been used as an insect repellent for centuries.) After fiddling about with the pieces for some time, here is the layout I decided would work best. It allows the checkerboard background to standout and the waves to ripple along without mirroring each other or moving at awkward angles.

I still need to decide if I want the bottom edges to be even or stepped. There’s also the problem of trying to figure out what the fabric actually is… I thought it was a stiff, coarse, unbleached cotton, but now I’m not so sure. It was incredibly stiff before and after hand washing, but softens up like a dream once it’s been handled enough. I rubbed the pieces together to fluff them a bit and it worked quite well. I am considering that the fiber is something other than cotton, but what? I have the tag somewhere and will post it later once I can get it translated.

Further details to come!

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