Types of Japanese Scarves

Written by katrina arthurs
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  • Introduction

    Types of Japanese Scarves

    Japanese scarves range from the simple design and function of Tenugui head scarves to the elaborately detailed, highly stylised Maru Obi. Made from a variety of fabrics, including silk, cotton and brocade, Japanese scarves can feature a single colour or employ ancient dyeing techniques and intricate embroidery work and textures to produce a one-of-a-kind scarf.

    Japanese scarves can feature ancient dyeing techniques and intricate embroidery. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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    Hanji Scarves

    From the Japanese word for "puzzle pieces," a Hanji is a reversible scarf that combines hand-dyed silks with a variety of vintage silks to produce a scarf that appears to be several scarves in one. A Ruffled Hanji is made much the same way, but ruffles are sewn into the piece to create a cascade effect.

    Hanji means "puzzle pieces." (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

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    The term Shibori encompasses a variety of methods of embellishing textiles. The literal translation is "to wring, squeeze, press." In the Shibori method, fabric is treated as three-dimensional. It is twisted, folded, crumpled, stitched, plucked and plaited. Multiple dyes are used, and the fabric is secured using binding and knotting. There are several styles of Shibori practised throughout the world. Miura Shibori scarves, used primarily for common clothes, consists of looped bindings as opposed to the knots used in traditional Shibori. This allows more dye to enter the fabric, producing a softer effect. Arashi (storm) Shibori consists of folding a length of cloth and wrapping it around a 4-meter pole. The lines and dashes produced resemble a storm, hence the name. Traditional Kumo Shibori is a hand embellished scarf that features a spider web design. Suji Shibori consists of hand folding the scarf over a rope core, then binding and dying it. The material is then dried and carefully untied, steamed and stretched.

    Shibori means "to wring, squeeze, press." (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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    Obi Scarves

    A Japanese Obi scarf is a 12-foot long, 30-inch wide sash worn around the waist, over a Kimono. Worn by both men and women, Obis have various designs and purposes, with some being more casual, while others are reserved strictly for formal occasions. The Maru Obi is considered the most formal, and is made of brocade or tapestry that is elaborately embroidered using gold thread. It is most commonly worn for traditional Japanese weddings. The Fukuro Obi is considered little less formal than the Maru. It is made of tapestry or brocade, but the back is often lined with plain silk. Only about 60 per cent of the Fukuro Obi is embellished. Considered the most convenient Obi, the Nagoya Obi is much lighter and simply made. A portion of the Obi is pre-folded then stitched in half. The Nagoya Obi is tied using only a single fold, as opposed to the double fold needed for Fukuro and Maru Obis.

    There are three traditional styles of Obi scarves. (Dynamic Graphics/Dynamic Graphics Group/Getty Images)

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    Tenugui Head Scarves

    Tenugui, literally translated to "hand wipes" are Japanese cotton hand towels. They have a rich history of uses. A clay figurine dating back to the Kofun Era (250-538 A.D.) was found depicting a man with a Tenugui bandaged wrapped around his head. Until 749 A.D., Tenugui were made of hemp and silk and used in sacred rituals. Tenugui were used widely among Samurai during the Kamakura Period as a way to absorb perspiration under their helmets, but it wasn't until the 1600s that the general public began using Tenugui. With the spread of public baths, people began pay close attention to the design, colour and detail of Tenugui.

    Tenugui means "hand wipes." (Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

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