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We all appreciate the incredible range of technology and ingenuity that goes into Japanese textiles, but are you familiar with the basic structures of the weaves that form the foundation of all we admire? I would like this to be the first of several conversations dealing with how the fibers are manipulated to form the various weaves we lust after.
As most basic of all the weaves we find hiraori (literally, “flat weave”). Many of you may have made potholders or similar in scouts and used this simple one over, one under, one over, one under method of plying the yarn. One row after another, exactly the same. One of the most common forms of hiraori is habutae.
NOTE: ori means “weave”.
Habutae is one of the more commonly used weaves for men’s haori. The lining is shusu (see below).
While it may not appear to be related to hiraori at first, chirimen (Japanese crepe) is actually the same weave. The difference lies in how the yarn itself is treated. The weft thread is over-spun. That means that it has been twisted so much in the spinning process that it wants to double back on itself - big time. By keeping it pulled taught (and not letting it twist back on itself) it can be woven into a piece of yardage that looks almost exactly the same as habutae. Once the fabric is shocked (sometimes with chemicals, but traditionally with steam) it panics and like a chained wild beast, struggles against its manacles (in this case the warp threads). As it jerks and heaves, it forms the tactile nubs and crinkles typical of chirimen. This doubling back on itself also gives it a stretchy quality.
Chirimen is great for many craft projects, as seen in these pieces. It has a nice bit of stretch and  conforms wonderfully to soft curves.
One of my favorite doll artists is Tsujimura Jusaburo. He uses a great deal of chirimen in his work, as can be seen in the faces of these two characters.
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with John Marshall
Welcome new friends and old! I've often been asked to write about a variety of Japanese textile and culture related subjects. This page allows me the opportunity to address your requests and to ramble off on side subjects wherever my whim and imagination lead.
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