Spotlight On: Habu Textiles
"it was something about the way the threads were connected by hand one by one... it was something about the translucency of where the weft and the warp crossed... it was something about the blue ocean and the wind..." - Takako Ueki, founder of Habu, discussing some of her yarn inspirations.
At some point or another, you have probably noticed our collection of Habu yarns, housed in a quiet corner of our "library". The beautiful cones of tweedy silk all lined up in rainbow order? - and more.
They are often overlooked or misunderstood, so I thought we'd take a moment and dive into this special world.
It is important to know that Habu yarns are boutique yarns. They are not mass-produced. In fact, they are manufactured in very small mills in Japan and throughout Asia. Each yarn is made to order, so the lead time can be longer than other yarns.
Above all, these yarns are known for their unique content, unusual textures (pom poms, paper wrapped in silk) and "soulful, understated" palettes.
Made from everything from silk to steel to paper to pineapple(!) (as well as fine merino, cashmere, linen and cotton), these fibers make exquisite accessories and sophisticated, lovely garments with delicate drape.
Habu was created by Japanese designer, Takako Ueki, in 1999.
In Takako's own words, "Habu 波布 is the name of an indigenous snake from okinawa. the characters signify "wavy fabric" as it moves like a narrow strip of fabric. however i changed one character - my ha 八 is a number 8. this is a number we associate with "sue hirogari" - it will bring you life, which will slowly open up in the end. The name comes from a snake and literally means "wave fabric".
Takako, who grew up in Osaka, Japan, has said that she did not come from a fiber-focused family. However, she learned to knit and crochet when she was just 6 years old. Not long afterwards, she learned to sew and discovered a fascination with threads and yarns. She loved untangling threads with her aunt!
She always felt that she didn't fit in, though, and she retreated inward as a child to the comfort of textures and fabrics. Eventually, she left Japan as a teenager and attended high school in the U.S. where she studied painting and drawing and then added print-making to her passions in college in NY. After college, she was introduced to weaving and that art form truly resonated with her. She decided that textiles were her life's work and thus her entrée into the world of fabric.
With her passion for weaving taking off, Takako soon came to the conclusion that she needed to design her own yarns to fit her creative needs. Ever since she fell in love with sewing threads as a child, Takako harbored an affinity for thin and delicate yarns - of all kinds - but silk especially. Since the US was very wool-focused at the time, she turned back to Japan to source her new silk yarns and she eventually found some wonderful suppliers.
Habu grew from there!
and finally wools and wrapped yarns.
She admits that it took awhile for people to figure out how to use her very fine and unique fibers, but they were persistent and found success.
We are all grateful!
Today, Takako is still a loner and happily so. Stitches West is the only show that she attends (or used to in our pre-pandemic world), and she rarely goes into yarn stores and does not belong to knitting guilds. She is "always looking for new yarns", though, and spends most of her time doing the hands-on work of the company - taking orders, winding yarn (Habu yarns come in very large quantities and must be wound by hand), answering questions. Naturally, she is so busy that she wishes she could spend more time simply knitting or weaving - a common owner's complaint.
And although she bristles at "blindly expanding" her company just to meet industry standards for a brand new line every 6 months, she loves her customers and says that they do "push her forward". People, she says, are the heart of what she does.
There are 293 Habu yarns!
We carry just 6. ;-)
As you can imagine, it was extremely difficult to choose!
It can be slightly overwhelming to decide just what to make from Habu's incredible selection.
Here are some suggestions from Ravelry using a few of the yarns we carry:
Habu also sells quite a few patterns on their website as kits.