See the World Through Great Fabric

comments (0) May 27th, 2008     

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MaryRay Mary Ray, contributor
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Here is a nice sampling of some of the world’s great fabrics: Ikats
from Thailand, Japanese shibori, and Liberty of London Tana Lawn.

Here is a nice sampling of some of the world’s great fabrics: Ikats from Thailand, Japanese shibori, and Liberty of London Tana Lawn.

Photo: Mary Ray

Cloth is such an important part of the history of the world. For example, just think about the impact silk had on Asia and the importance of cotton to the development of the United States. It isn't just about fiber. Methods of weaving and dyeing are closely tied to regions and countries of the world yet today. I think any good fabric stash needs to have examples of some of these fabulous textiles. Fortunately, they’re not hard to find, and there’s something for every taste and style. Most of them are a little pricey, but if you’re using them in quilts, you can mix them with other fabrics to balance out the cost. Or you could just indulge yourself with small pieces to use in smaller projects.

Some of my most favorites are from Japan—both new fabrics and pieces of vintage kimono and obi. The Japanese are experts at finishing many different fibers, especially silk and cotton, but also rayon and polyester. They’re masters at printing, weaving, and a distinct process called shibori—a technique of resist or shape dyeing in which parts of the cloth are covered by tieing, stitching, folding, or wrapping before they’re placed in the dye solution. Designs are formed on the fabric because the dye can’t reach those covered areas.

The most famous weaving method from Japan is kasuri, an ikat technique in which sections of the yarn are dyed before the cloth is woven to form patterns or pictures in the fabric. Kasuri is typically dyed in indigo. A few places to check out Japanese textiles are,, and

Beautiful ikat fabrics are also produced in Guatemala and Thailand. One of my favorite sources for Thai fabrics is Mekong River Textiles. And you can find fabrics from Guatemala and other parts of the world at International Fabric Collection and Bohemian Element.

If you love fine, beautiful cotton, you need to experience luxurious Liberty of London cotton lawns. These delicate prints are the crème de la crème. Check out Waechter’s Silk Shop for some lovely examples.

And if your taste leans toward bold prints with a lot of colorful impact, Marimekko fabric from Finland is for you (I’m half Finnish, and although I’ve always lived in the U.S., I was immersed in the Finnish culture growing up—so I’m very partial to this fabric). Marimekko was a very popular brand back in the '70s—for fabric and clothing and licensed products such as bedding and wallpaper. Today, these modern, graphic designs are making a comeback. Click here to see some beautiful samples, Use them in quilts or just hang a length of one of your favorites on the wall.

posted in: marimekko, liberty of london, shibori, ikat, kasuri, obi, vintage kimono

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