Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mystery fabric

Here's a conundrum for a fine summer's day - does anybody know what this is?



It's a roll containing 20 patterned fabric squares which my father-in-law gave me. I think he originally picked it up in an antique shop. Forgive my ignorance, but I have no idea if the printed characters are Chinese or Japanese - can anybody enlighten me please?!


The end of the roll has a small lime green panel with writing on it…


…then as it unrolls, there are 20 different fabric designs, each section approximately 14" x 11'.


These panels are numbered like so:


I've shown my favourite designs below, in addition to these, there are also several plum/purple based designs.







The Japanese fabric shop Fabric Tales carries a very similar design to the last pattern in its 'Traditional Patterns' section. It's called Asanoha or hemp leaf.  This makes me think that the fabric roll may be Japanese, but I could be completely wrong.  My father-in-law's guess is that it was a sample roll used to sell new fabric designs, hence the numbering and the small, sample sizes of each design. I think he could be right.

The fabric type feels incredibly soft and drapey, like some sort of silk crepe. I did initially toy with the idea of using some of the sections as secret pockets or facings, but when push came to shove, I just couldn't bear to cut into the roll. All I know for certain is that the designs are absolutely exquisite. It's a joy to unroll it and look at the beautiful colours and designs.

If anybody has the slightest inkling as to what this is, or even how old it might be, I'd love to hear! x

39 comments:

  1. I can't help you with this intriguing mystery but the prints are gorgeous! I wouldn't be able to cut them either. What a lovely father-in-law you have, too!

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  2. The printed characters are Japanese. ^.^

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  3. Yes definitely Japanese and silk crepe' probably kimono fabric samples! Nice find!

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  4. I have no idea, but it's really beautiful, what a great find. Definitely looks Japanese.

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  5. My uninformed opinion is that it looks Japanese, from the style of the fabric prints alone. What a lovely thing! You could frame up some of the pieces if you didn't want to cut into them

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  6. Can't help either, but it would look great framed and hanging in your sewing space!

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    1. Oops, that would be a huge frame! Maybe just hung then, or is it hanged?

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    2. Use a series of small frames, on for each fabric. Pinterest has lots of images of this.

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  7. Japanese for sure, perhaps a swatch book for salesman to take to clients to sell from?

    In Japan there are flags hung outside stores, in traditional areas there are no signs as such just small flags at the window or beside the entrance. Different colours and patterns mean noodle shop or sake or fish or whatever the store is selling. When I first read the description I thought it may be a roll of signs but the signs are generally cotton and not as lovely and drapey as you describe?

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  8. Definitely japanese. Being silk crepe is say it is most likely a kimono fabric sample roll. Obviously the most expensive kimono are emerald hand painted, but everyday traditional wear is more like these patterns. Obviously their everyday is exquisite to us. If it was mine I'd make a quilt from it.

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  9. I wonder also if it could be for doll-making or some other handicraft where lots of different patterns would be useful? It's a beautiful artifact!

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  10. It's Japanese... once upon a time I could've told you what it meant but I've forgotten most of the Kanji now :( If no-one here knows & you're still interested, maybe you could email Yoshimi. I was wondering if they could've been cut into squares & used as furoshiki but I think they're probably a bit small.

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  11. It's beautiful! No idea what it is but perhaps you could incorporate it into a quilt top?

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  12. I think it's beautiful! Well, I can understand that you don't want to cut it. You could make a scarf or cowl using this fabics.

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  13. So beautiful! I understand the reticence to cut into the fabric and if it turns out to be some sort of rare object of significance, then I probably wouldn't, but if it is something that is not historically rare as such then I would most certainly use it up. My first thought was a patchwork cushion or quilt, something that would show off the colours and designs. I probably wouldn't incorporate it into clothing as possibly the fabric won't take to being washed without shrinking and/or running. Let us know what you decide to do! x

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  14. I have no idea what it is, but it is beautiful! xx

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  15. I buy a lot of vintage obi pieces on e bay to make scarves. They are all about 14" wide and I can get them in various lengths, usually about 50 or 50 inches. Because of the 14" width, I wonder if they were samples for obi fabrics? Just a guess!

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  16. I've no idea, but if you happen to be going to the Knitting and Stitching Show there's always a lady there with a stand of Japanese fabrics, some of which are vintage/antique. I'd take it there and ask her (or John Gillow who collects and sells antique textiles)
    Or you could email TravelsinTextiles.com who is a textile researcher. Hope you get some answers! Gill x

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  17. traditionally kimono fabric is sold in 14" or 15" wide rolled bolts. i bought a lovely roll of kimono fabric from this seller a few year ago - http://www.ichiroya.com/

    you might be able to contact them and see if they know more about the provenance of your sample roll (it really looks like it a fabric pattern sampler to me). they're really knowledgeable!

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  18. They look a bit like Japanese wrapping cloths - could that be right? I bought one of these in Japan years ago (well before I could sew) and just love it

    http://www.studyjapan.go.jp/mm/ffs/007/en/furoshiki/furoshiki/

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  19. I should add - they are cloths that are used instead of wrapping paper, so you would wrap up your bottle of wine for a host etc. in them

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  20. Except for not being cut apart, serged around the edges, then stapled to a cardboard sign, this looks very like the samples distributed by fabric manufacturers so that furniture and drapery manufacturers can order supplies for each year's new styles. Nice to have the signage included as part of the sample ... saves labor and paper.

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  21. What a find! Will you cut the pieces up or use it as a whole?

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  22. No idea what they are, but they are certainly beautiful.

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  23. Such a beautiful find! My daughter tells me it is Japanese.

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  24. I was going to suggest the japanese wrapping cloth idea too. I have a number of them, only they often have a small embroiderymotif on too. Perhaps this roll was to allow you to personalise your own wrapping cloths. This is entirely supposition, but I woul say they look like the silk crepe which my wrapping cloths are made of and in definitely Japanese patterns.

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  25. One of my son's Taiwanese friends believes it to be Japanese and thinks it translates as "the person of dyer". So as it's fabric, the suggestion is it's about the skill/manufacturer of the fabric and that the pieces are probably samples of that artisan or manufacturer.
    I envy you owning such a wonderful item Jane, it's truly lovely and of course very mysterious!
    I wonder if the Japanese Embassy might be able to help?

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  26. No ideas sorry but whatever you make it needs to be something very special.

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  27. It's Japanese, and i think they're furoshiki samples (silk or crepe squares used to wrap gifts or bento boxes).

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  28. those prints and colors are lovely - they sure would make a luxurious quilt!

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  29. This is definitely a sample roll of Japanese kimono fabric. Rolls of this kind were produced to show a kimono merchant the various patterns and colour variations available from a manufacturer's range at a particular time. Your fabric appears to be a silk crepe but depending on its age, it may be a rayon or synthetic crepe. You could do a classic burn test to check on the fibre content. I have seen such lengths made into wonderful quilts - otherwise it's a great addition to a fabric collection! (I have several, collected while living in Japan for many years, and can't bear to cut into them...)

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  30. I have a similar roll at home which is just one design and it's a very light wool kimono fabric from Japan. What an excellent find, I love that so many different designs are sampled here in one place! How wonderful!!!

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  31. From the seals, it is Tango Chirimen, 100% silk. Produced by Shimazu Seiren.
    The seal on the right is the manufacturer's seal, the second from the right, I'm guessing, is an union approval seal.
    Tango is the northern part of Kyoto.
    Chirimen is a textile with bumps, which are created by weaving highly twisted thread in alternating the direction (right twist, left twist, right twist left...) then washing away the natural starch that the silk worms coated the fiber with. The washing away procedure is called 'seiren'. The technique was available from the 1700s.
    Tango Chirimen is a general term for high end silk textile from Tango. The dye (design) would have been done outside of Tango.
    (from Japanese wikipedia)

    Thank you for sharing. What was supposed to be a few clicks to search Tango (pronounced the same as with the dance) and Chirimen lead to a good study. Now I know not to wash it myself with woolite, because it will shrink with water!
    Looking forward to what you will do with it.

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  32. I like the green part, but have no idea what these japanese signs mean. Really nice work

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  33. They are beautiful. I have an outfit made for my grandmother in the 60s in Singapore in fabric identical to the second to last one. It doesn't fit me but I haven't the heart to cut into it to make it into something that would.

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  34. Oooh, beautiful! I'm not sure I'd be able to cut into them either, but perhaps you could frame them?

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  35. I'd say it was probably silk, I have a few rolls of Japanese fabric (these seem to be the standard size) and they are absolute top quality. Sometimes just owning them is enough to feel happy.

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