During our stay in Japan last fall, we happened upon these kitchen towels called Hana-fukin ('Flower Dishcloth'), manufactured by a company from Nara, Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten. Their beautiful airy & crisp texture is the result of what is described in english as 'marshmallow weave'.
Below is the translation of their description page:
'Hana-fukin is made of 'Kaya' (mosquito net) textile, which used to be one of the principal productions of the Nara prefecture. Since mosquito net wasn't in such high demand any more, the company Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten repurposed the fabric as a beautiful and functional towel for everyday use. The characteristics of Kaya textile are its porosity, water absorbency, and fast drying time, which the company successfully utilized for the new product.'
'Although it is 58x58 cm, which is 4 times larger than normal towels, the double layered coarse Kaya textile is thinner and dries faster than its regular counterparts. If you use it folded, it is more water absorbant, and when opened, dries faster. It shrinks down once you start using it. It will feel stiff at first because of its glue sizing, but the more you use it, the softer and nicer it will be.'
'After it has been used for drying dishes or preparing meals, it can also be used as a wipe or dust cloth. It performs in various ways following the feel of its texture. Hana-fukin is woven and dyed in the Nara Prefecture. It has a soft hand woven by analog shuttle looms, which are less adjustable compared to modern looms. Since the color turns out differently depending on water and temperature, Hana-fukin is dyed with careful adjustments. Its production is supported by the skill and pride of expert artisans.'
Our designer friend Mio Uchida, who kindly translated all quoted text from the Japanese, and is a regular user of Hana-fukin, observed that material-wise, most Kaya textile seems made of either 100% cotton, 100% hemp, or half & half (for instance, a hemp weft on a cotton warp). Some also contains rayon.
Nakagawa Masashichi Shoten is a 300 year old company, striving today to revitalize traditional Japanese crafts, which still need a lot of support amidst the massive flow of mass-produced western goods.
The question of a textile's water absorbancy and lightness is an interesting one. The Kaya mosquito net is another example, alongside the Turkish towel Peshtemal, and honeycomb-woven waffle fabrics, of an alternative to terry cloth which can be line-dried, takes up less space, and by extension maybe less material to produce (?) This needs more research on our end, but the theorization that all bath terry towels could be replaced by fast-drying, super light fabrics such as Kaya is, environmentally, an attractive one.