Friday, September 26, 2014

Making hemp fibre


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Whereas hemp had and has many uses in ritual and ceremony as well as medicine in traditional Japan, its main use was as fibre, and that was one of the main focuses of the matsuri.

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All morning a very tall steamer had a fire burning under it.

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By lunchtime the stems of the plant were ready and removed and placed in the stream to cool down.

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After a short while everyone collected some stalks and began peeling off the outer skin, something surprisingly easy to do.

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I has presumed that it was the whole stalk of the plant that was used to make fibre, so was surprised to learn that it was just the thin bark. The strips of fibre were then scraped with a bamboo scraper to remove the vestiges of "stickiness", and that about it. We now all had a small amount of one of the best fibres in the world.

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It could be used to weave, or could be used to make a gohei, a purification wand used by Shinto priests, pictured below.

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