Shifu! Shifu! Shifu!

I have long been intrigued by shifu, the Japanese paper thread. It seems to be all the rage right now - for a look at what's possible see Heather Sauer's experiments (including a miniature knitted lace dress) and Lizz Aston's incredibly smooth, fine yarns. Velma Bolyard has posted about an awesome looking class on shifu she taught last month. There was an article in the Spring 2011 Spin Off about spinning pattern tissue paper that made it seem quite possible. But it was the weaving of Jean Betts that finally pushed me over the edge into the realm of "must try".

So, having (typically) misplaced the Spin Off article, I barged ahead, working with my vague recollections. I tried cutting strips from the folded pattern tissue of a free store find - first with an X-Acto and ruler (PITA) and then with a rotary cutter (much better).

I didn't dampen them, as the current humidity is so high that moss could grow indoors. Spinning was surprisingly pleasant and easy - I used my lowest ratio whorl, treadled slowly, and used a wee bit of spit for joins. My strips were quite coarse - about 1/4" - but not bad for my first attempt.

I have an obi woven with shifu weft that I will dig up to show you next post.


  1. Thanks Heather. I want to try it now - Nat xoxo

  2. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Heather, for a first try that looks remarkable. don't think the pattern paper would stand up to much dampening. the Japanese paper is so amazingly strong it needs it. when you tear the top and bottom piece off, end after end, lay it round and round in a large, smooth bowl or basket and it doesnt tangle as you spin. now what??

  3. I've done that too! Long ago now. Pattern tissue works really well because it's both strong and thin. I used mine to make a kumihimo braid along with some handspun linen thread. Worked great!

    You also might remember me blogging a while back about a shawl that I knitted and dye-painted from Korean mulberry paper yarn. It wasn't spun, just a flat strip but it held up well to all the abuse and is quite wearable. The right kind of paper is surprisingly durable.

  4. I am really stunned by what you ladies can come up with.

  5. Anonymous3:08 AM

    Japanese paper, and Korean too I am assuming, is made of long fibres that don't line up in one direction, like western paper. The fibres sort of squiggle all over and bind and mesh together, so the paper becomes amazingle strong. I am sure this is what makes the Japanese paper thread strong.


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