Tenugui Towels at Nikkei Place

A few weekends ago, I traveled with some friends to Nikkei Place in Burnaby to see their exhibit of tenugui towels. I’ve seen cheap tenugui in Japanese dollar stores here but it had never occurred to me they were more than mass-produced tea towels. This exhibit was eye-opening.

Tenugui means ‘a hand-wiping cloth’. Since the 17th century, these hand printed cotton cloths have been used widely in Japan. Not only used for cleaning and wiping, tenugui are used for wrapping items, as garments, and as ceremonial cloths.

Tenugui Towels

I was amazed by the vibrancy of the dye saturation on the towels in the exhibit.

Tengui printing process

The exhibit also demonstrated the tools used to print the towels by a technique called ‘chusen’. With chusen, dye is poured on the fabric to settle and the design is created by a cut paper that resists the dye. Not only does this technique result in deeply saturated pattern, but it creates a print that is reversible – the pattern is the same on both sides of the fabric.

The most pleasant surprise of the exhibit was how charming and quirky some of the the designs could be, such as these ramen and udon noodle prints, lobsters, and quirky-looking fish:

Lobster tenugui towelIf you live in the Lower Mainland, you can still catch the tengui towels exhibit at Nekkei Place. The exhibit is on until March 24, 2012. http://www.nikkeiplace.org



  1. RM March 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I recently read an article about your new Hoopla book. I am very glad to hear that someone is finally telling other embroideresses (and those of the future) that kits and the uninspiring white pillowcases available at craft stores are not all embroidery is about. I look forward to eventually finding a copy at a bookstore.

    Again, thank you.

    PS. The contact page does not supply an accurate email for you. It also has alot of blurble at the bottom.

    1. Leanne - Site Author March 31, 2012 at 11:18 am

      Hi, thanks for dropping me a note – glad that you like the ideas behind Hoopla! I think what you are seeing as ‘blurble’ is my e-newsletter sign up form. Can you tell me if you were seeing in on a phone? It sounds like it is not coming through on all browsers.