Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hand-spun Shifu paper thread

Over the course of the past five months, I have been working hard towards researching and collecting what little information I can on the relatively unknown practice of Shifu-making.

In the Japanese language, the word shifu refers to woven paper.  Shifu can mean the fine-as-silk paper weaving that was given as tribute to regional rulers during the Edo Period or the very rustic, utilitarian cloth woven by peasants by shredding leftover ledger books and weaving this against a bast fiber warp.

Traditional shifu is spun from hand-made Japanese tissues, or strong paper made from vegetable fibres.

Japanese tissue may be made from one of three plants, the kozo plant (Paper Mulberry tree), the mitsumata shrub and the gampi tree. The long, strong fibers of the kozo produce very strong, dimensionally stable papers, and are the most commonly used fibers in the making of Japanese paper (washi). Tissue made from kozo, or kozogami comes in varying thicknesses and colors, and is an ideal paper to use in spinning fine shifu threads.

Here is a chronology of images as my samples have progressed over the past few months...

 First attempts using a drop spindle & sampling with coarse papers

Pattern drafting paper, newspaper and misc handmade fibres.

 Tengu-jo tissue & misc papers.

Sekishu Tsuru - spun using a traditional Ashford spinning wheel

Various kozo papers. 2nd ball dip dyed using Madder Root.

Skeins wound into balls.


  1. I really love these!!
    it's so cool just watching you spinning and spinning and spinning ;-D

  2. lovely results! have you checked out the work of hiroko karuno? she's a japanese artist who spins and weaves with shifu, she lives part time in toronto and the other times in kyoto. her process is intense.
    velma bolyard also spins shifu, she's having a workshop at the morgan conservatory this month.
    there's also a book artist, aimee lee, who spins paper based on the korean technique.
    good luck!