The techniques of dyeing and weaving fabric are indispensable to a modern lifestyle. In Japan, they are the distillation of centuries of tradition and fashion aesthetics going back to the court culture of the Heian period (794-1185), samurai culture of the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1574–1600), and merchant culture of the Edo period (1603-1868).
1 Preparing thread
In Japanese dyeing and weaving, there are three basic types: silk thread, ramie thread, and cotton thread.
2-1 The thread is woven into fabric.
2-2 The thread is dyed.
3-1 Designs are dyed onto fabric
White fabric is dyed with designs in various colors.
For yuzen dyeing, a thread-like paste is used to mark off areas and create designs. In katae dyeing, shapes are created with stencils.
3-2 Dyed threads are woven to make fabric
Weaving is the process of interlacing vertical and horizontal threads on a machine called a loom.
A variety of patterns can be made with different thread dyeing and weaving techniques. No matter how complex the pattern may appear, it is always made with an arrangement of vertical and horizontal threads (known as the warp and the weft).
4 The fabric is used to make kimono or kimono sashes.
Dyeing onto fabric
Yuzen-zome is one of Japan's best-known traditional dyeing processes. It involves drawing designs on white fabric with paste and dyeing the fabric multiple colors. After it has been cut into a kimono shape, a rough draft is drawn with an aobana or blue flower liquid dye that washes out without leaving a trace. Thread paste is then applied over the lines of the rough draft, creating masked-off lines that prevent colors from mixing. Then, the areas of color are filled in. Finally, the paste is washed out.
In katae-zome or stencil dyeing, a rough draft is attached to a sturdy piece of traditional Japanese paper that has been tanned in astringent juice. Then the picture is cut out to make a stencil. Resist paste is then applied in cutout parts of the stencil to make a repeating pattern and dye is applied to create the colors of the design.
The technique of Edo komon, which means Edo small patterns, was developed during the Edo period (1603-1868) for dyeing elaborate patterns on garments worn by samurai on formal occasions. Afterward, its use spread to the dyeing of commoners' kimono as well. Historically, a type of stencil known as Ise katagami has been used for Edo komon.
For Edo komon, fine, delicate designs are applied to silk, but the technique of Nagaita chugata involves making larger designs on cotton yukata (informal summer kimono) using a board about 6.5 meters long (about 21.3 feet). The word nagaita means long board, and chugata means medium-sized pattern.
For mokuhan-zome which means mokuhan dyeing, a brush is used to apply dye to wooden blocks with designs carved into them. Blocks are placed on the fabric and pounded with a hammer to transfer the design. Each individual block has a simple design, but they can be arranged in various ways to create larger overall patterns.
Weaving dyed threads
For kasuri-ori or kasuri weaving, specific sections of fabric are securely tied with threads so that only certain portions will be dyed to a desired pattern. Then the fabric that has been left white in some places is woven and aligned to make patterns and create pictures. This technique is also known as ikat.
Pongee (called tsumugi ori in Japanese) is a type of silk fabric woven with spun silk threads. The surface is not as smooth or glossy as that of silk woven with raw silk threads and it has a plainer, more casual look.
This is a woven fabric that has such a long history that the Shosoin Repository, a treasure house that has existed since the eighth-century, possesses manuscripts with its description.
The fabric uses thread made from fibers of a perennial plant called ramie, and is woven on a simple loom. While controlling the tightness of the warp (vertical) threads with a strap around the weaver's back, the weft (horizontal) threads are woven into the warp threads. The woven cloth may then be softened by kneading in hot water or bleached by being laid out on snow on a sunny winter day. The soft fabric is a bright, pure white, and makes high-quality material for summer kimono.
For Saga-nishiki or Saga brocade, dyed silk threads are used for the weft (horizontal threads), while thin thread-like strips of washi or traditional Japanese paper are used for the warp (vertical threads). The paper strips are applied with a bamboo spatula in accordance with the desired pattern. Spaces are left in the thread for the weft threads to pass through. This process is repeated over and over to create beautiful, orderly patterns.
In kumihimo or braid-making, several dozen threads are gathered into bunches, and several bunches are interlaced to make braids. For centuries, they have been used to tie or tighten various things. Today, many different braid patterns are used for the cords tied around kimono sashes.
In Japan, embroidery (called shishuu in Japanese) dates all the way back to the Asuka period (538-710 AD). Dyed threads are handsewn onto fabric with a needle to create designs.
- "What Are Traditional Crafts? -A Guidebook to Seeing, Learning, and Enjoying-" Edited by the Japan Kogei Association Eastern Branch. Published by Unsodo
Nishijin ori is a high quality silk fabric that is woven after the threads are dyed. There is a wide range of luxurious designs and the fabric is tougher and more wrinkle resistant than fabrics that are woven before being dyed.
Yuki tsumugi silk
Yuki tsumugi threads are soft and light as they are extracted from yarn handspun from silk floss. Silk floss are silk filaments made by boiling silk cocoons and gently unwinding the air containing strands which deliver a comfortable and gentle touch.photo: Ibaraki-Prefectural Tourism &
Local Products Association
Kaga yuzen has delicate patterns that are enhanced by the distinctive gradation from the edges to the center of each motif. While often compared with Kyo textiles, this craft features classical deep tones centering on reddish colors and floral print while Kyo textiles has design patterns with gold leaves and embroidery.photo: Ishikawa Prefecture
Kyo yuzen are dyed textiles that are known for their brilliant coloration, graphic flower and bird patterns, and the inclusion of classical designs. While dyeing, artisans put glue around the outlines of the patterns to prevent the color from running and getting mixed up with the other patterns.