Hemp waffle fabric made on a towel loom / タオル織機で作るヘンプのワッフル地

Sower introduced black hemp as one of their signature materials in their first collection. Cotton is replaced with hemp and woven on a towel loom to make a waffle fabric with a distinct texture. Although linen type waffle weaves are commonly found fabrics, the special grey cast color of the black hemp, woven on a towel loom presents a unique combination. Soko, the director of Sower, and Watanabe Pile, the manufacturer of the fabric, reveal the story behind its creation.


Soko (S):The history of our signature material black hemp began when we were shown a sample of a linen waffle woven on a towel loom. Waffle towels are usually made with cotton, so the fact that they used linen was unique. I asked them if they would be able to create a custom fabric for us using linen or hemp.

Watanabe Pile (WP):The machine is meant to weave cotton, so it’s not structurally designed to handle hemp yarn. Cotton is elastic, but hemp stays taut, so it is generally not a good match for creating towels or waffle weaves that are plush. I consulted with our factory manager to see how we could realize Soko's idea, and we discovered the ideal result by trial and error. We found the best balance of upper and lower yarns to create a waffle fabric with three-dimensionality, and the level of loosening of the yarns was determined by our craftsmen who had experience working with towel looms for years.



S:Being woven on a towel loom doesn’t automatically make the waffle fabrics airy?

W:The loom produces a certain amount of plush, but hemp is generally a non-stretchable yarn, so we had to make fine adjustments based on experience to achieve the desired fluffiness.

S:As for the black hemp, I fell in love with the grayish color of hemp and used it in its natural color without dyeing it. The unevenness of the waffle fabric made it comfortable to the touch. We randomly placed black silk yarns to express an overall sharper look.




W:Strategically placing the black silk yarns was a challenge. Adding only one yarn of black made it look as if there were black dots on the fabric, so we decided on using three black yarns to make the color pop. In order to achieve a random distribution of the black and to prevent shifting, we inserted the three black yarns by hand as the hemp yarns were simultaneously pulled out, once the hemp was fully woven. This process was particularly challenging.


S:The random placement of the black was essential in creating a fabric with an organic and natural aesthetic, so we asked the manufacturing team to test various methods. In the end, we were able to create a fabric with color, texture, lines, and uniqueness that we would have never been able to find elsewhere. Despite being a hemp waffle, the fabric drapes very well and has a strong presence. That is why we decided to design formal wear such as jackets and pants instead of casual wear.

W:I think we created a completely unique, interesting product. Hemp may appear tough, yet it is a natural material with an unexpected softness that I have never encountered before. It is difficult to weave, but now that it is finished, I can appreciate the beauty of the one-of-a-kind material.