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Notes From the Fell: Redefining the Paper Towel

Tom takes on the challenge of weaving a paper towel—yes really!

Tom Knisely May 20, 2021 - 9 min read

Notes From the Fell: Redefining the Paper Towel Primary Image

Handspun paper thread. Photo courtesy of Susan J. Byrd

I have been intrigued with shifu for many years. What is shifu, you ask? Well, it’s the Japanese word for paper cloth: shi translates to paper, fu translates to cloth.

I have great admiration for anyone who has the vision to take something common or mundane and turn it into a work of art. Either through frugality or necessity, someone had the foresight to spin thinly cut strips of paper into a thread and then weave them into a durable fabric. This is, in my mind, nothing less than brilliant.

Making something special from very little was a common theme in my home growing up. I was always reminded to be grateful for what we had. My mother lived through war times in London, and rationing was part of her family’s daily life. A pound of sugar and one egg per person, each month, was what they received. My mother’s family would combine their rations for the occasional treat or Christmas cake. It’s hard for me to fathom this today, but it’s not unlike the clever individual who thought to cut a continuous strip of paper and spin it to weave some cloth.

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