KNITSONIK is making washi tape

I have written here before about my deep appreciation for printed washi tape but today I want to say more, and to tell you about the new line of KNITSONIK washi tapes that I am currently producing.

First, a bit about washi tape. The word ‘washi’ comes from wa meaning ‘Japanese’ and shi meaning ‘paper’ so ‘washi tape’ means paper tape of the sort popularised by, and originating from, Japan. Washi tape is low-tack paper tape. It often features incredibly decorative and colourful designs, and is traditionally made using natural fibers from the bark of the gampi tree, a mitsumata shrub, or paper mulberry. It is generally biodegradable and non-toxic, and has a huge variety of applications from decorating objects…

…to enhancing gift-wrapping and correspondence.

However, my favourite uses of washi tape are all bullet journal related. I am an intensely visual and playful person, and I find that theming pages and projects in my bullet journal really helps me to keep track of all the different ideas running in my head at any one time. When I was working on the KNITSONK Stranded Colourwork Playbook, I found it helpful and motivational to use different washi-tapes to theme particular work days. I collected different washi tapes (mostly through Etsy) and used them to mark out different pages and projects.

I fold washi tape over the edge of pages that contain charts; this was invaluable when I needed to produce those charts for the printed books. The pages are indexed but, when I need to find the original idea, it is always quicker to simply flick to the pages edged with pink and white washi tape to locate the roughly drawn pencil charts that are my starting point for all KNITSONIK designs.

Washi tape also features in the layout of pages where particular ideas are taking shape. So when I was thinking about my Tarmac Tuesdays chapter, I used this washi tape…

…and for Polka Dots & Dolls, I used these.

There is a lovely correlation between the richly patterned and highly colourful worlds of KNITSONIK designs and washi tape. Viewed from a distance, stranded colourwork designs have the same tiny and pleasing complexity as washi tape. Thematically, I love how washi tape – like KNITSONIK designs – can be a very small celebration of everyday things.

Like bricks…

…and Tarmac…

…and Dandelions…

…and Polka Dots…

…and Bunting…

…and Cherry Blossom.

I use washi tapes in my bullet journal and around my home to feed and inspire designs, and also to affirm what I am working on. I loved that during a phase when I was designing cherry blossom motifs, I could add bits of this idea to notes sent to friends and to pages where the ideas were developing in my bullet journal. And that when I sent out the copies of the book to Tarmac Tuesdays contributors, I was able to add little bits of tarmac celebration to our correspondence. In these ways, washi tape acts as a sort of conduit or shorthand for ideas I’m working on. It’s a visual note-taking format that’s shareable and playful, and it criss-crosses the surfaces of my home, my work and my bullet journals.

The history of washi tape is one of art and creativity. The Internet legend goes that in 2006, the Japanese company Kamoi Kakoshi – a Japanese manufacturer of adhesive papers – were contacted by 3 women from Tokyo*. These women had been using the factory’s industrially produced tapes to make their own artists’ books, and wanted the company to produce more colourful tapes for them to use. Intrigued by this surprising repurposing of their products, Kamoi Kakoshi invited the women to visit their factory. This creative visit inspired the development of a new and original category of tape: MT brand washi tape: colorful tape that is easy to tear by hand and that can be repositioned on nearly any surface. MT stands for “Masking Tape” and this subdivision of Kamoi Kakoshi is the brand that launched the explosion in tapes of this type. Fast forward to 2018 and washi tape is now produced not only in Japan but throughout Asia, where the raw materials used – and the expertise and infrastructure for processing them – are well established. My washi tape collection was made in Taiwan, in Korea, in China, in Hong Kong, and in Japan.

One of my favourite things about visiting Japan in 2017 was meeting artists – many of whom had their own signature washi tape. We bought several tapes of this sort as special mementos of our trip and, of course, I started to imagine what an amazing extra level of joy it would be to design my own washi tapes and to share my designs, along with tips of how they might be used to organise and manage knitting projects in a bullet journal.

After much searching, I found a company based in Hong Kong who work with artists like me. I’m working with them to bring you KNITSONIK washi tape designs. I have one design in stock (and only a few rolls of it) but there are more designs coming in the next few weeks, and I’m working with the factory to develop a cardboard wrapper rather than having the rolls shipped in shrink-wrapped plastic. The washi tape is made of grain shell and corn bran with a non-toxic adhesive. The first batch is shrink-wrapped in plastic to protect it, but subsequent batches will come in cardboard boxes without plastic wrapping.

As some of you who follow me on instagram will know, I have been working on a polka dot cowl design which uses the dots motif from the large size of my Polka Dots & Dolls design. I used a combination of dot stickers and polka dot washi tapes to manage the pages in my bullet journal where I was working on this design.

I decided to celebrate the original knitted dots from the Playbook in washi tape.

These rolls are currently for sale in the KNITSONIK shop but I’ll be adding more as soon as they arrive! I would love to hear in the comments how you use washi tape. I love the original spirit in which washi tape was originally conceived, and feel as though that spirit lives on in the amazing ways that comrades employ washi tape for creative projects. Please tell me how you like to use washi tape – I’d love to know.

More soon – until now,

*if anyone has any further information on who these women are, or any clues about the original artworks made with Kamoi Kakoshi industrial tape, I would absolutely love to see them! I’ve found several versions of the story of the history of washi tape, but it would be truly wonderful to learn more about the women whose creativity gave rise to this awesome phenomenon!

9 thoughts on “KNITSONIK is making washi tape

  1. I love the washi tape, the story, and your tips for using it. I want to buy some of yours, but I’m waiting for your other designs so I only have to pay for overseas shipping once. Thank you!

  2. You’re most welcome, Felix! So glad to be able to know this wonderful history of washi tape too! I tried Google translate and found they did quite a good job, but if If you have any questions or something you don’t understand, please let me know. I would really love to visit the Kamoi Kakoshi factory and the other related places together with you when you come back to Japan next time!

  3. I’m a washi take addict. I love to layer it up on wax paper, then cut out shapes/letters/numbers for a patchwork-like look. I did this for one of my 30 Days of Lists projects, I created all the numbers using this process. I’m sagerchatter on IG (same on Ravelry), and if you search for the hashtag “30daysofsagerlists” and scroll down a bit, you should find the month I did that. It was a bit laborious, but very fun. It’s a little bit tricky getting it to come off the wax paper. I usually score the back near an edge, with a really sharp blade, trying to cut only the wax paper. I can’t claim this idea as my own. I found it in a washi idea book!

  4. Hello Felix,
    Thank you for the fantastic post full of love for washi tape! (We usually call it “masking tape” or “maste” in short, though)

    After reading this article, I googled about the history of washi tape and the three women who innovated traditional tape for industrial use into such colourful and joyful products. As for the three women, I found a helpful blog post which were written about three years ago.

    Unfortunately they are written in Japanese so if you would like to read, I will translate them. The point is, I could figure out the three women;
    1. Seiko Inomata : now a owner of a book cafe in Yamaguchi
    2. Nami Ogihara : collage artist and variety shop owner
    3. Ayumi Tsujimoto : graphic designer

    And as for the booklets they created, they were handmade, limited numbered booklet. So I’m afraid I can’t get them… But I’m currently confirming that with Kamoi Kakoshi. I’ll let you know when I get further information!

    1. Wow Yumi, you are amazing! Thank you so, so much for tracking down further information about the three women whose innovations have given us washi tape. Hurrah for Seiko Inomata, Nami Ogihara and Ayumi Tsujimoto; I would love to read those blog posts but will see how I get on with Google translate and definitely don’t want to put you to any trouble. How fantastic that you have found out this information – I appreciate it so much as I feel the women whose creativity gave us washi tape really need more celebrating and recognition. Thank you, thank you xxx

  5. Great idea to use washi tape to mark out pages in a journal! Thanks for sharing! I use it to stick postcards, my drawings and dried flowers/leaves to walls and moodboards. I´ve even mended scraps of an old school wall chart (showing a delightful May bug!) with it.

  6. Love how you use washi tape as tabs in your bullet journal. I’ve just added this to mine to make the monthly calendar pages more easy to find. Thanks for the suggestion!

  7. I’m new to the washi tape concept and wondered how people used them. Thank you for this post. I love the look of your knitted washi tape.

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