What is Bunka?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

One of the forms of traditional Japanese embroidery, bunka is a method of creating embroidered patterns with the use of a punch needle and synthetic thread that is manufactured for the purpose. Because of the depth and detail that this method of embroidery creates, enthusiasts often refer to bunka as the process of painting with thread.

Woman painting
Woman painting

One of the properties of the thread used to create bunka designs is the flexibility of the fiber. Bunka thread tends to be easily stretched. This characteristic makes it possible to work without having to deal with tangles and knots in the fiber, as well as allowing the pattern to be woven tightly. The nature of the bunka thread helps to give the finished piece a texture that is unique from other embroidery techniques. Typically, bunka thread is available in many different colors, ranging from the vibrant to the subtle. Using a combination of colors, the skilled bunka artist can embroider a design that will provide visual impact on many levels, simply by the creative use of color schemes.

The art of bunka has become popular enough that two different types of kits are routinely offered in craft stores. The numbered bunka kit works in a manner similar to many paint by number watercolor kits. The kit specifies the color of thread to be used for each section of the design. An image of the finished design is also present, which can make it easier to follow along.

Unnumbered bunka kits are more freeform. Typically, kits of this nature will include all the necessary materials, including an image of what the finished piece should look like. The unnumbered kits are more popular with hobbyists who have worked with bunka for some time, and who tend to like to take a mass produced kit and adapt the finished product to their own specifications.

The art of bunka has become so popular that there is a national association of bunka enthusiasts in the United States. The American Bunka Embroidery Association serves as a national connection to a number of state level chapters that connect bunka enthusiasts together. Through the Association, members have the chance to share techniques and designs with one another, and in general promote the art form.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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