Warp and Weft Interwoven with Everyday Life

About Kasuri (ikat)
Kasuri (ikat) is a type of weaving technique where the threads are bound in places before dyeing in order to produce resist-dyed patterns when the threads are woven into cloth. When only the warps are bound, it is called warp kasuri (tategasuri ) and when only the wefts are bound, it is weft kasuri (yokogasuri), if both the warp and weft have kasuri it is called tateyokogasuri. The origin of the word kasuri comes from the Japanese expression for the hazy (kasureta) edges of the kasuri pattern. 
India is considered the birthplace of kasuri, which came to Okinawa in the 14th -15th century as a trade item from Southeast Asia. Under the Ryukyu Kingdom (1479-1879), commoners where restricted to wearing only plain or striped kimonos, but since the Meiji period (1868-1912) commoners are allowed to wear kasuri kimonos. In Haebaru area, textile production flourished in the mid 1920s, and in 1930 a large scale union factory operation led by the Haebaru Weaving Association was founded. Private factories also spang up in the area, and it soon became the largest kasuri production center in the prefecture. 
Like many of the other areas in Okinawa, Haebaru was also devastatingly damaged by the WWII, but made a recovery through the efforts of the local people. The production volume increased after the reversion of Okinawa to Japan in 1972, followed by the establishment of Ryukyu Kasuri Cooperative Association in 1975. The Ryukyu Kasuri Hall opened in 1980 with a mission to gain recognition for the art and to train their successors.
Planning the Design  
Firstly, the process starts with designing the kasuri patterns. The diverse patterns are drawn either from pattern books dating back to the Ryukyu Kingdom period, like the “Mizuecho,” which offers more than 600 traditional patterns, or from original designs of individual workshops and crafts men. One of the characteristics of Ryukyu kasuri lies in its unique patterns based on nature and everyday life such as animals, plants, and work tools.
Kasuri Ruler
These rulers are marked with indications of the sections to be bound, the lines corresponding to the length and spacing of the warp kasuri. All workshops make their own rulers for each design.     
Kasuri-gukuri: Tying the Kasuri
Using cotton threads that are easy to handle and tie, the threads to be woven are tightly wrapped to protect them from the dye penetrating, leaving undyed areas to form the kasuri patterns.   
Senshoku: Dyeing
Plant dyes are used such as, Ryukyu indigo (Ee), garcinia subelliptica (Fukugi), and yeddo hawthorn (Tekachi).
The bark of garcinia subelliptica (Fukugi)
Osa tōshi : Sleying the Reed
A reed (osa) of a loom is a rectangular frame with numerous vertical slits resembling a comb that is used to beat the weft into place while weaving.  Sleying (osa-tōshi) is the term used for drawing the warp threads through the reed. The order of warp threads follows the kasuri pattern.

Osa tōshi : Sleying the Reed

A reed (osa) of a loom is a rectangular frame with numerous vertical slits resembling a comb that is used to beat the weft into place while weaving.

Sleying (osa-tōshi) is the term used for drawing the warp threads through the reed. The order of warp threads follows the kasuri pattern.

Sōkō kake: Threading the Heddles
The heddles (soko) are an integral part of a loom: they raise and lower the warp threads. In Haebaru, the tradition was to use “string heddles (itosoko)” which are tied individually to each warp in a technique unique to the region. 
Orikake Garadashi: Setting the Warp on the Loom
When each of the warps has been strung through the heddles, it is finally time to set the warp on the loom. The warp is wound onto a warp beam taking extra care to precisely align the kasuri patterns. Now the loom is ready for weaving.  
Oru : Weaving
Traditional wooden treadle looms are used to weave Ryukyu kasuri. The weaving progresses at the pace of only one to two meters a day. The rhythmic sounds of swishing and beating remain the same as in past times.   
Old Ryukyu Kasuri
Most of the Ryukyu kasuri we see now is made in silk, however, from the Taisho period to the early Showa period cotton products were more mainstream. Combinations of traditional patterns such as birds (tuiguwa), diagonally displaced crosses (hikisagi), cross-squares representing wells (ka-nu-chika), and diagonal blocks called “fussy eyebrows” (mayubichi) can be seen in old Ryukyu kasuri.
Contemporary Ryukyu Kasuri
This piece was woven in 2012 by Kazuo Oshiro, the owner of the Oshirokoshiro Weaving Workshop. The powerful and modern design suggests the future of the Ryukyu kasuri.
Ryukyu Kasuri Hall 
 At the heart of the Ryukyu kasuri production is the “Ryukyu Kasuri Hall”. Here, the Ryukyu-Kasuri Cooperative Association, offers products such as Ryukyu kasuri and Haebaru-hanaori for purchase alongside training of successors. Visitors can also absorb the production presses and have hands-on experience of the technique by appointment. It is situated on “Kasuri Way,” which is part of the walking tour that visits all the kasuri workshops in the town. 
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Supported by:
Oshiro Koushirou textile studio, Ryukyu Kasuri Hall

Images provided by:
Haebaru Town Museum

Text by:
Shikama Naohito

Photo by
Murabayasi Chikako
Yamada Minoru

English translation by:
Miyo Kurosaki Bethe

English edited by:
Melissa rinne, Kyoto National Museum

Exhibition created by:
Sawai Yuri, Kyoto Women's University
Kubo Kaoru, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directers:
Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.