Textile of the Week: 201102 Donsu
For any of you who have had a chance to see up close the incredible workmanship found in Japanese suits of armor, you won’t be surprised to hear of the valuable silks used to enhance their quality. This week’s textile is a donsu (緞子) weave from Kyoto. It has a very finely executed, diminutive pattern coveted by the wealthier warriors. This type of fabric may have been used in making covers to various precious tools and weapons, as an item of luxurious clothing, or even as a trim laminated to portions of the armor itself.
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Donsu is a weave structure based upon combining warp and weft faced imagery, employing organzine  warp thread (organzine employs silk threads that have been additionally twisted in opposite directions) and glossy silk weft thread (made from raw silk treated in a solution to dissolve the sericin) . The play in structure and light reflection creates what the Japanese call “noon and night” weaving – a variation on a satin weave. (縦糸にモロヨリ本錬糸、ヨコ糸に練糸を使用し昼夜朱子組織に寄って模様を現した織物、これに類似の織物。)
Donsu 201102
Source: Unabridged Dictionary of Colors and Weaves, ©1977, Tankousha Publishing Company (原色染織り大辞典©昭和52年株式会社淡文社)
Sample 201102-Donsu
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This is an exquisitely minute pattern. So small that it is difficult to discern the true pattern unless it is enlarged. It seems to be a karakusa pattern made up of tiny leaves and stems, chrysanthemums, and peonies.
Let’s take a look at the back side. I’ve magnified it considerably to make it easier to examine.
Detail of Fabric Face
The circle is one inch wide.
Enlarged Detail of Back
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