Make your own Japanese Clothes

One of the books I have borrowed on several occasions from my Guild library is Make your own Japanese Clothes by John Marshall. In fact, I have borrowed it so many times that I put the book on my gift wish list. A kind soul was paying attention and I now own my very own copy. The book respectfully explains the traditions of Japanese garment design, wearing and construction and also encourages the maker to adapt the designs for their own tastes, wearing occasions and body type.
My beloved wanted a smock to protect his clothes when he’s doing woodworking. He wanted something that would be easy to put on and take off (don and doff in the Covid language we’re all learning now), that could fit over a polar fleece jacket, with no belt or external pockets, and sleeves that wouldn’t get in the way. We settled on a jimbei, a traditional summer jacket in cross-over style with side slits, often worn with matching shorts by men and boys. I used his measurements to make a custom pattern following the instructions in the book, with a few design modifications. With a custom pattern ready to go, he has since made his own version, closer to the winter samue jacket, using fabric recycled from old curtains we inherited from the previous owners of our home. The samue will serve him for really messy jobs involving epoxy or paint.
A light coloured Japanes style jacket with a toggle closure at the wearer's right side lies on a wooden floor. The book Make your won Japanese clothes lies on top of the garment.
Here is the finished jimbei. The personalized fit means that the side slits are at just the right height and I snuck an interior pocket into the half lining. While I did not use handwoven for this project, some of the designs in the book would be well suited to handwoven fabric and could be designed as zero waste or close to zero waste projects, as this is in line with the tradition of Japanese garment construction. Of course, kumihimo or inkle bands would be a great choice for the side ties.

Fabric in Broken Point Twill

My first fabric from my Julia loom is a set of what was going to be dish cloths. But they’re too beautiful for dirty dishes! So now I’m thinking personal hand towels or wash cloths. In these days of the pandemic I carry a small hand towel in my purse so that I have one available when I visit a public restroom.

The pattern came from a back issue of Handwoven magazine that I had in my collection. It’s in the September October 2009 issue and the contributor calls it a good stash buster. I agree. I took her recommendation and used 22/2 cottolin for warp and played with 22/2 cottolin and also 8/2 cotton for weft. Both worked fine, as did Ashford 5/2 unmercerised. I did reduce the width to 11 1/2 inches measured in the reed.

The other change I made was using a very fine brown cotton for hems and weaving herringbone for the hems. My intent was to make the towels have some uniformity by all having the same hem treatment.

The Julia loom is a delight to weave on and tensioning is so easy. The quality of the cloth is definitely better for it.

Close up view of a set of four handwoven towels with the hem of one towel folded outwards. The towels have a bone coloured warp and the wefts are orange, yellow, green and brown. The hem has a herringbone design and is in brown.
Broken Point Twill Viking Cloth

The contributor to Handwoven said that the broken point twill was a Viking design but I was unable to find the book about historical textiles that she referenced. Then, by the magic of the internet, my fellow weaver Susan Scoville posted pictures her of broken point twill towels, that she captioned Viking towels. She kindly pointed me to Addyman, P. V., ed. (1989). Textiles, cordage and raw fibre from 16-22 Coppergate. York: Council for British Archaeology and I learned that several diamond twill samples were discovered at the Coppergate site, one being broken point twill. The History of York gives us some background on Viking life in York and the discoveries that were made during excavations for a new shopping centre at Coppergate.

It’s wonderful to continue the tradition of Nordic weaving and I am grateful for our ability to use the internet to connect with people who share our interests and are willing to pass on their knowledge.

Buying Weaving Supplies in Melbourne, Australia

Shelves filled with spools of cotton weaving yarn..

Good news for Australian weavers and even better news for Melbourne weavers is that we have a new yarn and weaving supplies shop in town.

Our lockdown restrictions were loosened last week and we had an errand to run in the suburb of Preston, in Melbourne, within our permitted travel zone.

As luck would have it, it was only a short detour to swing by The Weaving Room a new shop that had been recommended by one of my Guild contacts. As luck would additionally have it, my errand coincided with the shop opening hours on a Friday. They aren’t open every day so it’s worth checking their opening times if you plan to visit.

For June 2021 their opening hours are:

Thursday & Friday 11am- 6pm

Saturday 10am – 4pm

Large counterbalance weaving loom made of natural unstained pine. There is a shawl or blanket draped from one of the upper beams of the loom.
Counterbalance Loom

There is a lovely old counterbalance loom in the shop and the walls are lined with the most delectable range of weaving yarns. There are also a number of books and weaving accessories for sale. I purchased a reel of Brassard 8/2 yarn in a sea foam green that I absolutely love.

I’m very excited to have a local Melbourne supplier that specialises in weaving yarns and has such an extensive range of colours and yarn weights available. I have previously used the marvellous Glenora Weaving and Wool from whom I recently bought Texsolv pegs and an extra reed for my Julia loom but when I need to feast my eyes on yarns The Weaving Room will be my first choice. I believe they may have workshops or classes coming at a future time.

Bonus: you can get there by train or on Tram 86.

Glimåkra Julia Countermarche Loom

Glimåkra Julia

Close up of the upper lamms of a Julia countermarche floor loom with beads holding the treadle cords in place. The beads hold Texsolv cords which are attached to the treadles below.

I am happy to report that I have now completed the assembly of my second hard Glimakra Julia countermarche loom. I bought the loom a couple of years ago but was unable to get put it together at the time as we had some work being done at our home and floor space and head space were constrained at the time.

The assembly process was a very good brain training exercise during Melbourne’s most recent Covid-19 lockdown. My first attempt at tying up the lamms and treadles was a fail when I couldn’t get a clean shed. After sleeping on it and starting again, working from the shafts down I managed to get the loom working as it should. The warp tensioning is significantly better and easier to maintain on this loom than on any of the jack-style looms I’ve used in the past. I was surprised to find that threading the heddles was also more error-free than has been my experience using metal heddles. I had been concerned about how I would identify which shaft a heddle was on, given that the cords and heddles are all white. The Texsolv heddles are easy to move on the shafts so identifying their location wasn’t a problem. I’m still very slow at threading heddles but for this project I made no errors, a rare occurrence for me.

I had not used the Texsolv system before but found it easy, though I had a big breakage rate on the anchor pegs. My theory was that they had become brittle in the warmth of the loom’s previous home in sunny Queensland. I bought 25 straight pegs from Glenora and was able to get the tie up done using some of each type of peg. I also used cotton cord and knots for some of the lines where Texsolv wasn’t really required, e.g. for the temporary heddle bars.

The cords from the lamms to the treadles are anchored with beads as is often recommended. I colour coded my op shop sourced wooden beads green on the upper lamms and blue on the lower lamms and this helped me visually confirm I was getting the tie up right.

I will certainly want to make a few changes but for now I am enjoying my first project, a set of dish cloths or hand towels in broken twill from the September/October 2009 Handwoven magazine. I will decide what they will be used for after I get them off the loom and wet finished.