Reuse of Scraps with Roots in History.

Reuse of Scraps with Roots in History.

My Friend Jan Scott took a great class at our guild a few weeks ago. It fit with our second quarter challenge ( ) so well I asked her to do a blog post about it. It was a two day workshop This is the post about day one. Day two will be my next post.

Tom Knisely  workshop on Sakiori and Zanshi: Weaving Japanese Rural Cloth

Ottawa Valley Weavers and Spinners Guild June 2016 Our Guild was very fortunate to arrange a workshop with Tom Knisely’s and guild meeting presentation in conjunction with a talk he gave at the Almonte Textile Museum.


Tom is an internationally known Spinning and weaving instructor. Starting his career with the Mannings School at the age of 14 and eventually becoming education director and working for them for over 30 years. He has written books on rag rugs, baby blankets and created weaving videos for interweave press. He was voted teacher of the year by handwoven magazine in 2011. It’s easy to see why, he was always positive, supportive and unflappable.

jan 2

He has an interest in recycled weaving in all its variations. Normally you think of rag rugs or cattalong, there are even shaker rug vertion similar to the Acadian twisted weft technique.

jan 1

When Tom finally saw a rural northern Japanese obi woven with very fine strips of cloth he got very excited. As he researched he discovered a second group of textiles that were recycled but not made of strips of cloth but from threads ether the ends of warps or threads picked from scraps of cloth.

Jan 4

Notice the pile of samples, each one came with a story!!

There are two techniques, day one we worked with Sakiori. “Saki,” which means to tear or rip up, stripping it into pieces, and “ori,” which means weave. So it is reweaving thin strips of originally old silk or cotton.  The second technique was Zanshi weaving / (sandhi orimono) is a Japanese for “vestige,” or “leftover”. Zanshi textiles were woven from the extra threads which remained after weaving. (Loom waste). The area these techniques come from are rather poor, tend to grow bass fibers and are rather cold in the winter. The source of the rags are Rag merchants traveled up the cost buying rags in the south (silk and cotton) and selling them in the north. Sometimes the rags were used like a patchwork to create a new fabric but others were stripped and rewoven or picked apart for the threads which were tied together with tiny knots then used usually as weft. This labour intensive practice makes much more sense when you remember Silk and cotton are much warmer and softer than linin or hemp.

Jan 5

The workshop was to introduce us to the two techniques and we would create a scarf from our samples. As you will likely have noticed from the fish episode of making cat caves, I don’t usually wind up with something that looks like the rest of the class. So let’s see what happened.

Jan 6

Day One; Sakiori .

Tom demonstrated and discussed preparing the strips for weaving. Originally torn in thin strips, he used circular cutters and a cutting mat. Then we got to give it a try. He also demonstrated how to lash on to the front beam of a loom and to hemstitch without difficulty. One of the students had brought a very large quilters cutting guide which worked well for a lot of our fabrics.

Jan 7

We had pre-class instructions to seek out silk or polyester colourful scarves or men’s ties at Value villages and Salvation Army thrift stores. I brought a couple of my old silk saris and decided on one of them and a couple of the scarves I had found. Since Tom had found that 2 large lady’s silk scarves made one new scarf I cut up a lot of the sari and all the scarves. I over estimated as usual and have enough to left over to get a serious start on another project!

Jan 8 Jan 9 Jan 10 Jan 11

Sakiori was originally woven as a 2 harness weave structure. So we had a ridged heddle loom (with 2 heddles to get the warp spacing and my little 2 harness table loom in the class. In the second class there was a 2 harness saori loom.

Jan 12 Jan 13Jan 15

Often when you weave with rags you are making rugs. So you expect stiff cloth with little drape or flexibility. Because the strips are very thin and you have a second weft thread (most of us used Tensell-looks like silk but not as expensive) in between the cloth strips you get a very drapy silk cloth. You can sample with I 2 or 3 shots of tensell between the silk and see what you think. Or you can try it without any and just use the strips! I was enjoying my first sample so much I just kept going and did my whole warp in sari and scarf. I had enough to make a little sleeveless jacket! See it’s not really a scarf.

I think this might be interesting with strips of nuno felt or very thin strips of wool felt. I would love to see what you can remake with scarps and left over ends of felt!!

To inspire us further he showed a 4 harness vertion and the scarf it had been made from. There is a definite change in the colours from the original scarf to the newly woven one!

Jan 16

The blue and gold one is threaded similarly to an inkle pattern. Notice the really cool macramé fringe. See its coming back!!! Better dust off your books from the 70’s!!

jan 17 Jan 18

Although Sakiori is not a difficult technique to grasp it was absolutely enjoyable to spend time listening to the stories and gentle suggestions from Tom. He is extremely knowledgeable and vary gracious. If you ever get the opportunity as one of my classmates said she “would take a workshop on how to boil water” with him!

Jan 20 Jan 19

Ok Now for what my scarf looked like. (Considering what my cat cave looked like this is a bit closer)

Jan 21 Jan 22 Jan 23

The inside

Jan 25 Jan 24

AND it sort of fits my husband. He didn’t think it went with his Canada post shirt.

Jan 27 jan 26

Thank you Jan! It almost makes me want to weave.  Maybe If I could get the loom already warped LOL.




12 thoughts on “Reuse of Scraps with Roots in History.

  1. Beautiful Jan – you must be thrilled with it! Thank you for your lovely post and photos that captured the essence of an exciting workshop.

    1. Thankyou It was lots of fun and i hope you do get a chance to take a class with Tom!

  2. Oh, would loved to have been at that workshop! I have long admired the Japanese recycling which produces woven Sakiori garments. Interested to hear that the instructor uses circular cutting for thin strips in weaving. Does that produce fabric which drapes better? I am on the lookout for inexpensive rag shuttles for my Saori loom. Then there’s the challenge of warping, of course.
    Thanks for an informative blogpost, Jan and Ann!

    1. Tom said when he did rugs he bot bolts of fabric and had a frend help him tair stips lenth wise so he didnt have to change colours too frequently. (there are instructions in his rug book about how he tairs the fabric up) he prefered the cercular cutters for there ease of use and easy avlibility when working with the scarves. he had not seen the quilters guild befor and was extreemly impressed. i found one of my scarves was vary stadiky with the gide and it was not worth useing for that one. the gide gives vary consistant width of strips like the rag cutters but the hand cutters done by eye give variations which i found quite pleaseing in the woven cloth. one person did realy varyed widths and had an interesting look too. for weaving with the shortish stips i was useing i started with a rag shuttle then switched to my fingers then finaly decided i liked a stick shuttle not to rap around but just help “shove it through!” the shed it was faster than my fingers. this was fun and it produced intreging fabric i will look forword to using this teckneek in the future. (sorry about the spelling no husbandly-spellcheker here at the moment so i must rite in my first langwage dislexia)

  3. Jan, thanks for sharing this wonderful workshop! Great upcycling and it looks like you all had a good time.

  4. How interesting Ann, especially sice I now have a loom. I have lots of torn silk selvedges which I had thought might be incorporated into weaving. Now I’ll certainly give it a go when I have a little more experience.

  5. we used Tensell for warp it had grate drape and shine. play with how many ground threads you want to use. i used 2 shots tensell folowed by one of silk strip. but see what you find apealing. you can try just in plane weave or pick a difernt weaves structure. just have lots of fun!!

  6. Jan, just fyi. Tom’s books are available on Amazon but some of them carry quite a premium!
    I will keep my eyes peeled for a reasonably priced book on weaving Sakiori. Thanks again.

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