Japanese fabrics, The universe of fabrics

What and how are Japanese Crepe fabrics (Chirimen, Kinsha, Omeshi)?

Everything started with silk. It exists in many variants: satin, taffeta, twill, muslin, canvas, pongé, …. and crepe. And all those depend on:

  • the weave (plain, satin, twill are 3 different ways of weaving)
  • the characteritics of the yarns.

Before being woven, the silk yarn will be prepared. This step is called grinding. And it is about better calibrating and/or joining and/or twisting the original filaments in different ways. The result of this work will be called organzine, crêpe, grenadine, …

Crepe, originally from China, arrived in Japan at the end of the 16th century. The most famous Japanese crepe is the Chirimen. Its main characteristic? Those very little waves

Those waves are obtained thanks to specific tunings of the tensions, twists and thicknesses of the yarns.

What are the benefits of Chirimen?

There are several:

  • it does not crease.
  • with synthetic materials, it can dry fast
  • it is flexible, slightly stretchable, pleasant to wear.
  • since slightly airy, it helps to insulate from the cold in winter (especially if thick), and has the advantage to less stick on the skin during the hot season (when light and thiner);
  • since the yarn is solid and highly twisted, the fabric is really solid as well, durable. It can even be dyed several times.
  • thanks to the relief of the waves, the fabric is also richer under light, especially when in silk.

Are there differents kinds of Chirimens?

There are 6 core categories of chirimen, which depend on their material (silk, viscose, polyester), weight, weave and dying.

Those differences are mainly linked with the final use of the fabric; for kimonos, a chirimen with very little waves is prefered (Hitokoshi Chirimen). TTo make puppets, bags (furoshikis), or to decorate an object, a thicker version will be prefered.

Few more Info

The chirimen is made with raw silk, i.e. with its natural glue: sericin, and several of those filaments are joined and twisted together. This thick and solid yarn is used in the length of the fabric, while the yarns used in the width is finer. Once woven, the fabric is washed, what withdraws the sericin glue (1/4 of the total weighth)… and then, the highly twisted yarns start to untwist … and generate those reliefs like waves.

Another technique to obtain a chirimen and this kind of wave / crepe is to use, in one direction, a yarn with a clockwise twist (called S twist), and in other direction, a yarn with counterclockwise twist (called Z twist). Those 2, once together, will push each other and generate reliefs. To give an idea, a yarn here is twisted between 3,000 and 4,000 times per meter (cc the same per yard).

Nowadays, with all the technical progresses, the chirimen can be produced with Jacquard, i.e. with patterns. As it can be made with synthetic materials, and not only silk.

There are 2 great locations for chirimen in Japan: the region of Tango, and the Nagaham city. Both are close to Kyoto.

The Kinsha crepe is a chirimen which is together finer and lighter, and mainly used to make summer garments.

The omeshi crepe is dyed before the weaving. Therefore, the patterns are only obtained via the weaving.

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