Japanese Weaving Nails

by Cristian I

Forget a Trip to the Nail Salon If You Practice This Art

If you have ever seen the traditional brocades of Japanese tradition, you likely assumed that the products were machine-woven products.

They have a tight weave, after all, and that creates a durable item.

When you walk into the artist studios that produce these brocades, you’ll be in for quite the surprise.

You’ll find three essential tools that are necessary to make tsumekaki hon tsuzure ori/

  • A comb
  • A shuttle
  • Fingernails.

You read that last one right. The technique cannot be completed correctly without modified nails.

This Technique Is Common in Shiga Prefecture

Textile artists that make tsumekaki hon tsuzure ori by hand have grooved fingernails that help guide the threads down the loom. It’s the only way to ensure that the weave’s tightness is correct.

Tsuzure ori means “tapestry weave,” and the current practice in Shiga Prefecture is almost 700 years old. The specific style has over 1,000 years of experience being sold in Japanese marketplaces.

After the artist runs the thread through the weave, they’ll take the perfectly grooved fingernail along the loom to create a compact finish. This process repeats throughout the day, and it is the only way to create the ornate textiles at this quality while still offering a handmade product.

The artist doesn’t need to groove the entire nail to get the necessary results. Most workers will take about half of the fingernail on their preferred digit, work with it until it wears down, and move to the next nail.

Filing the Tiny Grooves Requires Extreme Precision

For the nail-guiding technique to work appropriately, the grooves must line up precisely to the loom strings.

If the measurements are off by even a millimeter, the results would be catastrophic.

Artists say that the technique produces no pain or discomfort, but it cannot feel extra special to always have threads getting guided and tucked by your nails.

Still, those who practice this ancient art say that there isn’t anything they’d rather do.

Several online videos show off this process for anyone interested in learning more about it.

If you’d like to purchase tsumekaki hon tsuzure ori to have at home, most crafting websites have limited supplies available.

You can also import the durable material from Japan directly.

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