Craftsmanship, creativity and pride in a job well done are ideals that have fuelled the Japanese culture since its beginning. Japanese dyeing and weaving techniques handed down from one generation to the next in different parts of the country have created a wide variety of fabrics and made life more convenient, comfortable and enjoyable. Textiles have always played an important role in the Japanese way of life. Japanese weavers and dyers used silk, hemp, ramie, cotton and other fibres, and a range of weaves and decorative treatments, to produce beautiful textiles with distinctive designs. These textiles were used for clothing; for banners, hangings, and other materials produced for use in temples; for theatrical costumes; and for cushion covers, curtains, and other domestic uses.
Shibori-zome dyeing refers to a set of dyeing techniques used to create simpler patterns by binding, stitching or folding the fabric to prevent dye from colouring those areas of the cloth. Although tie-dyeing techniques have evolved in many cultures around the world, Japanese shibori is unique in the wide variety of patterns that have developed. Colourful yuzen-zome dyeing textiles began around the 17th century and is still popular today. This form of resist dyeing, made it possible to create more delicate patterns and threw open the doors to a wealth of pictorial possibilities in kimono design.
The patterns in kasuri fabrics are woven from dyed threads rather than created by dyeing woven cloth. This technique makes it possible to create colourful, intricate designs as well as lattice and other patterns using even the simplest weaving techniques. Kasuri literally translates as grazed, and this style takes its name from the grazed edges of the patterns. Silk gauze is a transparent open weave fabric created from a complicated intertwining of warp thread. There are three basic styles of gauze weave in Japan: ra, sha, and ro. (Known collectively as usumono or thin fabric). Silk gauze is thought to have first been worn in the summer by court nobles, samurai and other members of the upper classes in the early 8th century.
The Wonder of Weaving
Nishiki is woven from colourful thread to create fabric featuring a raised brocade pattern. Reflecting influences from West Asia and China, nishiki techniques have been refined in Japan over centuries and are still used today to make sashes, garments worn by Buddhist priests, and costumes worn in Noh and Kabuki plays.