Beautiful white designs on indigo dyed fabric created by drawing the patterns with paste.

The Origin of Indigo Dyeing in Izumo
Stencil dyeing is said to have been brought to Japan from the Asian continentduring the Nara period (710-794). Although the precise beginnings of hand-drawn paste-resist (tsutsugaki) are unknown, they are thought to have emergedafter the peace brought by the Edo period and the spread of family crestsamong the commoners. Bedding (futon), sleeping itineraries (yagu), andwrapping cloths (furoshiki) being commonly included in the dowries of Izumobrides.
History of the Nagata Dye House
Around Meiji 20 (1887), it seems XXX Nagata came from Tokushima, to sellindigo in Izumo. Around this area of Izumo City they used to have 60 to 70indigo dye houses. Shigenobu Nagata is the fourth generation, the first havingdyed indigo towards the end of his life. After the Meiji period (1868-1912), dueto the introduction of chemical indigo, the dozens of tsutsugaki indigo dyers inIzumo reduced to the single Nagata house. Today there are only two or threetsutsugaki indigo dyers in all of Japan.
The Characteristics of Tsutsugaki 
Furoshiki has been used as a useful tool for centuries. People wrapped their things in furoshiki for transportation, they would holed the part that was bound when carrying, which mad the edges weak and eventually got torn. Led people to cover their furoshiki cloths with running-stitch (sashiko) to strengthen the fabric. In the beginning this was just for reinforcement, but soon they made patterns with their stitchery.    
What is Tsutsugaki? 
 Paste made from steamed glutinous rice is used as a resist paste (bōsen nori). At Nagata’s dye house they use glutinous rice only, and it takes one to two weeks to produce the paste. The paste is then set in a tsutsu funnel that has been treated with fermented persimmon tannin (kakishibu).
Drawing the designs with paste 
The beautiful white resist lines of tsutsugaki are basically determined during the process of applying the paste. However carefully the fabric is dyed, if the paste application is poor, the dye will seep into the resisted area. 
Covering with Bran to Solidify the Paste 
Once the lines are drawn to some extent, before the paste dries, rice bran (nuka) is sprinkled over them to harden them. When the entire design is drawn, then water is applied with a brush from the back. This induces the moisture in the paste to penetrate into the cloth to create crisp, clear outlines.
This is a portal hanging (noren) made by Tsutsugaki. Half the length is two meters, and two lengths combined display a full family crest. Standard sizes for furoshiki wrapping cloths are between 70 and 90 centimeters square, but in Izumo ones as large as 130 centimeters square were used as dowry items. 
Preparation for Dyeing Indigo
Just before dyeing in indigo, the fabric is brushed with lukewarm water to make the fabric absorb the dye more. 
Indigo Dyeing
The indigo vat is fermented for two to three weeks. If the fabric is dipped into the vat quickly, the indigo will not be absorbed, so it is slipped into the vat quite slowly. In the end the fabric is immersed in the bath from 10 to 12 times.
The fabric is immersed in the vat for three minutes. When first taken out of the dye, the cloth is yellowish, but exposure to air soon turns it green. The longer the fabric is immersed in the dye bath, the darker the color, and for articles like two-width noren, both pieces have to be dyed to match. Difference in the shades of the two pieces cannot be fixed later. After dyeing, the fabric is dried in the sun. Then lines are traced, mistakes fixed, and shading added where needed.
A Tsutsugaki Furoshiki 
Next, on a day with good weather the paste is washed out in the Takase River. Finally, the fabric is stretched on a bamboo pole and allowed to dry. It takes about three weeks to complete the furoshiki. 

The photo shows a design of a gift bundle (noshi) of citrus tachibana branches with their fruit. Old pieces had wonderful designs, so they are often re-devised for modern pieces.

The photo shows a design of a gift bundle (noshi) of citrus tachibana branches with their fruit. Old pieces had wonderful designs, so they are often re-devised for modern pieces.

Most of the motifs are felicitous, such as cranes, tortoises, pine-bamboo-plum, and various treasures, incorporating the intentions of people from the past.

Various Products
 In hopes to keep the past traditions of furoshiki intact, they are introduced with suggestions for easy ways to use them. Now also produced are tenugui, table centers, luncheon mats, tea mats, stoles, handkerchiefs, and daily wear items.    
Passing on the Craft 
Left: fifth generation Masao; right: fourth generation Shigenobu. Center, their dog.
Natata Dye Factory
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

Information and images provided by:
Nagata sen kojo

Direction & text by:
Ueno Masato

English translation:
Miyo Kurosaki Bethe

Photo by:
Mori Yoshiyuki

Exhibition created by:
Tamada Minai, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directors:
Dr Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
Dr 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.
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