Honba Oshima Tsumugi Fabric

Thread-dyed silk fabric patterned with resist dyed threads having the oldest history and in Japan.

By Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Kyoto Women's University Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

What is Honba Oshima Tsumugi Fabric

Honba Oshima Tsumugi is a textail that is representative of the traditional crafts of Kagoshima Prefecture which has a long history and tradition.  It likes nearly a year to weave one bolt of fabric.  Starting with the design, the process is roughly divided into 30 steps.  Each of the steps requires highly complexed skilled techniques.

"Making tsumugi fabric with needle", Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Historical Origins

The origins back some 1300 years, making it the oldest textile art with a continuous tradition.  Even before the Nara period (710-794), Kagoshima was active in sericulture, and hand-spun silk thread was used to make tsumugi textiles.  

"Dyeing Oshima tsumugi thread with mud", Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

The dyeing technique is based on methods dating to the year 661, during the time of Emperor Tenji(626-671,r 668-671).

Basic patterns of Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Illustrations of production process of Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Nagae Ieo, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Characteristics

Honba Oshima Tsumugi uses silk threads are resist-dyed (kasuri) in both the warp and weft to create setatiled "splash" patterns when woven.  Up until mid-Meiji period (late 19th century), the kasuri patterns where made using basho thread (Japanese banana plant) to hand-bind the silk threads.  By the Meiji 40's (1907), leo Nagae from Amami-Oshima invented a kasuri technique called Orishime-gasuri using a binding loom (shimebata) which made it possible to create the unique intricate kasuri patterns characteristic to Honba Oshima Tsumugi.  

Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Designing the pattern, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Designing the pattern

The kasuri pattern for each thread is plotted onto paper.  This is work that needs in-depth knowledge of all dyeing, weaving and binding kasuri techniques. The plotted graph serves as  a guide that takes the artisans through the laborious and time consuming production process.

Measuring the warp, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process:   Measuring the wrap

The threads to be resist dyed are prepared by measuring their length and number (using units of 12 to 26 threads).

Applying Starch, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Applying Starch

Starch is applied to the measured kasuri threads and dried till stiff.

Kasuri-jime: Binding the Kasuri Threads, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Kasuri-jime (Binding the Kasuri Threads)

Cotton threads are woven into the starched silk threads covering the spots that should be resisted according to the graph of the kasuri pattern.  This makes what is called a "splash pattern mat" mushiro-gasuri.  The portions of the silk threads covered with the cotton woven over them in will be blocked from the dye during the next process.

Dyeing, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Dyeing

The resist pattern threads that are woven to from the "spash pattern mat" (kasuri-mushiro) and the threads for the ground color are immersed in the dye bath.  Oshima Tsumugi uses various dyeing methods, such as the chic traditional technique of mud dyeing and natural dyes like indigo and yamamomo (Morella rubra), as well as synthetic dyes which offer an array of colors. 

Mud dyeing, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Mud dyeing

Mud dyeing is a traditional technique that requires time and skill.  First, boil the finely chipped yeddo hawthorn bark (techigi) and then dye the threads repeatedly in the extracted liquid.  Next, when dyed with mud, the tannic acid contained in the techigi and the iron rich mud react chemically to dye the tastefully austere black unique to Oshima Tsumugi. 

Taking out the binding threads: Meyaburi, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Meyaburi (Taking out the binding threads) 

The cotton threads that where woven in to protect the resisted portions of the silk threads for the kasuri pattern are removoed using a special tool.

Rubbing dyeing: Irosashi, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Irosashi (Rubbing dyeing)

Based on the plotted sketch, colors are rubbed in to dye on the kasuri.

Freeing all kasuri bindings, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Freeing all kasuri bindings

After coloring all kasuri and the all the cotton threads are taken out, the kasuri threads are finished.

Starch coting, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process:   Starch coting

To preserve the kasuri patten, the warp threads are coated in starch and dried in the sun.

Arranging the Warp, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Arranging the Warp

The kasuri warp is arranged according to the graph sketch.

Winding the Warp on a Board, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Winding the Warp on a Board

The kasuri warp is wound together with the ground-color warp onto a wooden board, aligning them to the width of the loom.

Weaving, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Weaving

When the preparation pf all kasuri and ground wrap and weft threads is completed, the threads are set on the loom.  The weaving-in process involves matching the kasuri patterns on the weft threads by thread with a needle: the work requires patience and skill.

Inspection, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production Process: Inspection

The woven  Oshima Tsumugi is then passed through a strict inspection at the inspection site of the Honba Oshima Tsumugi Orimono Cooperative Society. Pass or fail is quality of the product, which enhances consumers trust.

Trademark of Honba Amami Oshima Tsumugu Fabric, From the collection of: Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
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Trademark of Honba Oshima Tsumugu Fabric, From the collection of: Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Show lessRead more

Dorozome (Mud Dyeing) Oshima Tsumugi, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Drozome (Mud Dyed) Oshima Tsumugi

Dyeing with yeddo hawthorn bark (techigi) and mud is a textile technique unique to Oshima Tsumugi.  The elegance of the lustrous, austere black color and the sturdy, comfortable feel of the fabric has attracted many fans. 

Doroai (Mud and Indigo Dyeing) Oshima Tsumugi, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Doroai (Mud and Indigo Dyed) Oshima Tsumugi

A technique combining mud and indigo dyeing.  The harmony of the indigo-dyed kasuri contrasting with the deep and shimmering black ground has great charm.

Ai Oshima Tshimugi, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Ai Oshima Tsumugi

Oshima Tsumugi dyed in natural indigo such as Ryukyu-ai (Ryukyu indigo) and tadeai (Polygonum tinctoria).  This "Japan Blue" has been popular since oldest times. 

Plant Dyed Oshima Tsumugi, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Plant Dyed Oshima Tsumugi

Oshima Tsumugi Dyed with plants from nature.  The natural dyes gives beautiful color tones that are subtle and soft.

Iro Oshima Tsumugi, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Iro Oshima Tsumugi

A myriad color tones and gradations expand the possibilities of Oshima Tsumugi.  The detailed kasuri patterns and the harmony of the colors show off the skills of Honba Oshima Tsumugi.

Shiro Oshima Tsumugi, Honba Oshima Tsumugi FabricKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Shiro Oshima Tsumugi

Oshima Tsumugi with white or pale color ground have a bright, clean, modern feel.  The clothing scene expands with fashionable taste.

Credits: Story

Information & images provided by:
Honbaoshimatsumugi Orimono Cooperative society

Supported by:
Kagoshima Products Association

Directed and text provided by:
Honbaoshimatsumugi Orimono Cooperative society

English Translation by:
Miyo Kurosaki Bethe

English Edition by:
Melissa M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum

This exhibition is created by:
Mitta Kanako, Kyoto Women's University

Illustrations retouched by:
Aruga Yuu, Kyoto Women's University

Project Directer:
Dr 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.
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