Growing up on a small Japanese island steeped in tradition, it was easy to imagine days gone. Visiting the old houses and shrines sends one's mind on a journey to days past where everything was done by hand. Where wood was chopped for houses, food grown to cook, and thread weaved into clothing. When I was a little girl my imagination was easily captured by these old buildings and the traditional clothing. Oh the kimonos with their rich colors, patterns, and scenes! My adult mind is swept away by the skill and labor put into the making of these things. The growing, spinning, dyeing, weaving, hand painting, cutting, sewing then arduous ceremony of actually putting a kimono on is nothing short of mind-blowing.

As a girl I remember being enraptured when I saw neighbors and strangers dressed in kimono. As magical as I thought it was then, knowing about the process has made it even more so. Traditionally the silk was gathered, spun into thread, dyed, weaved into ornate patterns, hand painted, then cut and sewn making each one an absolute labor of love and work of art. Within the world of silk are many variations: chirimen, kinsha, meisen, omeshi, rinzu, ro, sha, tsumugi, and yuki-tsumugi. All with their technology, patterns, and beauty. And this was just the silk! The variety of fabric is just as varied and beautiful as the landscape of Japan itself.

If you are as enraptured as I am by the silks, I invite you to spend a few minutes watching this  UNESCO video on You Tube to see the craftswomen at work. Fascinating!

One of our most popular fabrics is the shibori. Shibori is immediately striking for its intriguing texture, colors, and patterns. Once you know how they are made though, it really ups the wow factor.  No less than 3 crafts people are required for the process; a stenciler, tier, and dyer. The fabric is stenciled then laid over a tiny dowel and tied off by hand. Every single little dot you see has been tied off by hand! Astounding! Each can take 10-20 days to tie off just one piece! After, it is dyed and dried to reveal the intricate patterns and fascinating color combinations. 

Here is a video about the Arimatsu shibori that is currently featured in our spring collection. It's a little bit long but fascinating and includes a great little history bit.

Here is another that is in Japanese but has some great shots of the tying off process. Plus I love all the grannies in it! Skilled + adorable.

I wonder if you are as taken by these practical arts as I am. If so, join me for the next installation of this 3 part series where we will visit boro and kakishibu.


Traditional Textiles of Japan: Beauty and Skill Part 2 ~ Boro+Kakishibu Don't Get Overwhelmed Buying Sustainable + Ethical

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