TENUGUI (sounds like TEN-U-GOO-EE) is a practical hardworking cloth from Japan that’s been around for centuries (and I mean centuries before centuries), the designs are quite delightful and have been elevated to frame-able status.
Tenugui, is a piece of unbleached cotton cloth measuring about 34cm by 89 cm unhemmed on both ends, selvedge on the longer sides. It originated as an accessory for Shinto rituals and developed into a useful item for day to day life – wrapping food for carrying, hand towel, serviette, scarf, everyday cleaning cloth. New dye-ing techniques between 19th- early 20h century encouraged more decorative uses for the fabrics – wrapping gifts, gifts in itself (bit like giving someone a beautiful hanky I think). These days the Tenagui has been replaced with lightweight absorbent terry cotton cloths for day to day cleaning, but the patterned designed cotton ones are for gifts or decorative purposes.
We buy from Nugoo in Japan. Started in Kamakura, Nugoo specialise in the traditional hand dye-ing method called “chusen”. Nugoo has several retail shops in Japan, with a smart store in the Kitte building near Tokyo station. It’s a goldmine for the fabric-fascinated like me. One of the other major Tenugui designers is Kamawanu. Equally, they create beautiful designs. Their cute “A rambling talk about Tenugui” lists all the other practical uses and more (scarfs, cleaning your glasses, wrapping a wine bottle). These folk at www.jcrafts.com sell them and can show how to use them to wrap things (check out the tissue box cover idea).
The cloth itself is just the perfect weight and texture work with when making a lampshade – not too light, not too thick. Just right.
As for the designs – they are extensive. From cute colourful and quirky for kids to simple symbol repetition with blacks and neutrals. They really are collectable artworks. Hence using them on lampshades so the designs can be enjoyed every day… instead of cleaning the kitchen. We always add new designs as they are released by Nugoo, but we keep the popular ones too.