Textile Research Institute of Gunma

Silk throwing, thread twisting, or nenshi in Japanese, is the craft of twisting together multiple silk filaments to make thread of a desired thickness. It is a necessary step in turning raw silk into useable silk thread. Kiryu, a historical hub of the silk industry, used to be home to many silk throwing companies, but now none are left. There is no way for the silk industry in Kiryu to survive without preserving the entire supply chain.

In the video, silk twisting footage was taken at the Textile Research Institute of Gunma, located in Kiryu. It is the only institute in Japan devoted specifically to textiles. It works together with companies and other organizations to develop silk products that represent a combination of tradition and innovation. Their silk throwing room includes antique machines with big and small gears that are swapped by hand to control the twist of the thread.


Embroidery manufacturer Kasamori and their popular accessory brand, Triple O, commission thread from the research institute. The secret to drawing out the best in Gunma silk is in the twisting of the thread. Twist too tightly and you’ll end up with hard, stiff material. But twisted too loosely, thread won’t hold up to the embroidery machine and will break.

When Kasamori combined forces with silk thrower artisans to make something new, it resulted in groundbreaking silk sphere accessories. These accessories put the craft of thread twisting in the spotlight, and offer new ideas about how to preserve the silk supply chain. Yoichi Katakura, the manager at Triple O, says, “I aim for a creative process that encourages silk throwers to understand and savor the quality of their work. I also want to convey the excellence of Gunma silk.”

映像制作:岡本 憲昭
インタビュー/解説:岩井 光子