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When I first started paper crafting, one of the papers that mystified me was Japanese Chiyogami paper. How could something with such precise, tiny, multi-colored, delicate patterns possibly be handmade?

The answer is, practice, practice, practice. The Japanese have been making these papers for over 400 years. In the most simple terms, layers of patterns are silkscreened on top of one another. Here’s a schematic showing how a 6-color pattern is built up. (From japanesepaperplace dot com). Talk about precise registration! There is zero room for error in this art. As the colors build up, you can even feel the color layers with your fingers.

Chiyogami papers are made in thousands of different patterns, with new ones always in development. The patterns are a mix of both ancient and modern designs, with symbology that originally related to the patterns on fancy kimonos worn for special occasions. For example, cranes symbolize long life.

Bamboo symbolizes fertility.

Plum blossoms symbolize beauty and longevity. I guess we all want to be beautiful and live forever, because this is one of the most popular motifs.

I like the papers that have insects or other animals on them, like these butterflies.

And the abstract designs are fun, like feathers and umbrellas.

Chiyogami papers are great to use in crafting pencil cups because they can pick up the colors and patterns already in use and provide a crisp counterpoint to softer textures.

One of my favorite sources for buying these papers is Pebble Stone Papery on Etsy. She cuts the sheets down to 8-1/2 by 11 inches and prices them well.

If you’d like to see hundreds of patterns, check out The Japanese Paper Place, the biggest wholesaler in North America. One of the largest distributors of Chiyogami papers is The Paper Place in Toronto. They ship to Canada, USA and the UK and have a huge inventory.

In NYC, I tend to go to New York Central. They have an extremely well stocked paper supply store. The online catalog is a bit tough to navigate; besides, it’s a lot more fun to look at everything in person!