Tenugui. The tenugui is a traditional Japanese cloth used for over one thousand years as a wash cloth, for drying, worn as a headband or scarf and even used to wrap gifts.
Vintage tenugui's are something that I have been collecting for many years as I see them as a piece of art. In fact, I have a vintage one hanging in the study with the traditional Japanese pattern "Seigaiha" which is used in the Reverse Gem logo.
One day I was given a plain white tenugui. My trusty striped hand towel that I had been using to dry and sort my beach finds was sitting in the laundry basket waiting to be washed. So I grabbed the plain tenugui and used it instead to place my freshly washed beach finds on.
I found the long length was great for spreading out all my different colors of sea glass and other beach finds like sea pottery, shells, agates and eroded metal. Due to it being thin and 100% cotton, it dried fast.
That's when my idea formulated. How about using a traditional Japanese item that is widely praised for its versatility, and use it specifically for drying and sorting beach finds?
From there, the contact was made with a company in Hokkaido. As stated above, I have a collection of vintage tenugui. And they just seemed to be more interesting than the ones being produced now. Through research we found out that most modern tenugui are made by silkscreen or printing machines and depart from the vintage look quite drastically. The key difference is the dyeing technique and the dyes used. We found that the style we were after was the “Chusen” dyeing technique, which dates back to Meiji-era Japan. Dye is poured on the cloth, soaking each strand of cotton all the way through which creates a finish that does not harden. The resulting patterns have (unlike the silkscreen or machine printed) no front or back, making the cloth reversible." Due to the labor intensive methods, most printers have stopped using this process how ever there are only a handle full of factories that still take orders. As such our Hokkaido company sent our orders down to Kyoto to be manufactured into the soft vintage tenugui style that I have been using to sort the beach finds. The final result is exactly as I had expected.
I hope you are as thrilled with it as I am.