This Traditional Japanese Textile Craft Is Made with Grooved Fingernails

This special nail filing method ensures the threads are perfectly lined up.
Fabienne Lang
Textile artist's nail filed into groovesKiyohara Seiji/Twitter

A fascinating traditional method of weaving textiles in Japan involves its artists filing their nails into tiny grooves, if they wish. 

The jagged tips help ensure the thread is going in the exact direction and at the exact distance required when making traditional "tsumekaki hon tsuzure ori" brocades.

These are detailed and long-lasting brocades and the filing nail method has been a part of the traditional Japanese way for at least 1,000 years, per Kiyohara Seiji, a representative of Kiyohara Textile Co. Ltd.


Nail weaving

Tsuzure Ori means "nail weaving" in Japanese, per the Ardent Thread. And some of the weavers who work in this delicate method file their nails into these tiny grooves. 

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【Backstage】Craftsman's nails. 複雑な柄を織っている時は、こうして毎朝ヤスリで爪に刻みを入れてから織機に向かいます。 This is a real Japanese hand-woven fabric. Throughout this long history, we have created a weaving technique called tsumegaki tsuzure—in which weaving artisans file their nails to a jagged shape for picking up threads—based on their ambition and spirit of taking on challenges, namely the desire to create good products at a faster speed and of better quality.Over thousands of years, the craftsmanship of these weaving artisans has been quietly passed down until today. #つづれ織り #綴織 #爪掻き本綴れ #清原織物 #SOHACHI #西陣織 #手仕事 #伝統工芸 #織物 #雑貨 #日本 #着物 #職人技 #Japan #craft #traditional #handmade #textile #kimono #weaving #design #fashion #silk #artisan #art #cool #weavingtapestry #weavingtechnique #japancrate#madeinjapan

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Tsuzure Ori can be as complex or as simple as the weaver desires, and it requires strong visual focus, which means that some of the artists' eyesight can easily deteriorate over time. 

The stunning end pieces made with the Tsuzure Ori method make it seem as though the weaving has, in fact, been painted onto the fabric instead of threaded through.

Unless there is a specific order, the weavers don't make one. So tsuzure could be more valuable than other woven fabrics, as decribed in an excerpt from an interview with Mrs. Fuwa in the Artistic Handloom Weaver, via the Ardent Thread.

Artists use a shuttle and a comb in order to weave in this way, along with their serated nails, if they have them — not everyone who uses the method files their nails.

The ancient method is most common in the Shiga prefecture and has ties to the Muromachi period (between 1336 and 1573), and this particular method has been in use in Japan for around 1,000 years, per Colossal.

You can learn how the method works by watching the video below:

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