Thursday, February 26, 2009

While on a work assignment in Japan from 1999-2002, I had the opportunity to meet a very dear woman who did Saganishiki weaving. At the time, I was not into the fiber arts, just work, work, work! The woman who wove was 95 at the time; she showed me her loom, some examples of her weaving and a book that had some of her weave structures.

Upon retiring, I took lessons in weaving. I remembered obaasan (grandmother in Japanese) and her Saganishiki weaving. Now that I had some background in weaving, I had great appreciation for the skill involved in the Saganishiki weaving. That began my journey to Saganishiki weaving.

Saganishiki is a unique method of weaving. It used rice paper for the warp and silk thread for the weft. The weave is described as a type of brocade.

Saga is a prefecture in Japan on the island of Kyushu. A nobelwoman of the Nabashima clan developed the weave at the end of the Edo period, around 1810. A weave pattern in the ceiling was her inspiration.

Today, few are continuing with this type of weaving due to cost and time required. There are guilds under NHK that are teaching and exhibiting to keep this skill from dying out.

I tried to find classes here in the US to no avail. There had been a Japanese teacher, Mihoko Karaki, who taught Saganishiki at two past Convergences. She continues to return to Dallas to teach annually but other than that, there are no formal classes in the US. I did find a woman in Seattle, Jan Paul, who had taken Mihoko's classes and was still doing the weaving. I contacted her and arranged some private classes with her.

In 2007, I returned to Japan to take classes with Wakaba Miyata-san in Tokyo. Wakaba-san acquired the business from her associate, Inoue-san, who died. Inoue-san was born in Saga and learned the weaving in her home state. Inoue-san also was a classmate of the current Empress, also born in Saga. Inoue-san wove Saganishiki fabric used to make purses for the Empress. That tradition is continued today by Wakaba-san. It is helpful that the Empress appreciates the beauty of the weave and gives the purses to visiting dignitaries as gifts.

The obaasan who inspired me was also born in Saga. Her training was in Saga as well as the former teacher at Echizenya, Matsuno-san.


  1. I have a warped Saga Nishiki loom, with shuttles, 2 extra warps, and silk thread. After many years sitting on my top shelf, it deserves to be in the hands on somebody who will use it. Do you know of anyone who might be interested in purchasing it?
    Karen in upstate New York

  2. ELizabeth, contact me at

  3. perfect!
    great info. thank you sandy for taking the time to learn this as well as document what you are doing- that's one way to keep it alive.