Written on January 6, 2013
In a past blog I’ve shown a glimpse of this wonderful cloth, but today I decided to talk about it a little bit. It is a length of hand spun, hand woven cotton that has been dyed using the itajime or kyokechi method, a technique where carved boards are employed to resist dye and to imprint designs onto cloth.
Itajime is a complex process because the boards used to dye the cloth are intricately carved–you can see a blog entry where I show the boards here. Essentially, many pairs of boards are carved with designs in mirror image; cloth is fed in between the boards and the result is a stack of carved boards, face-to-face with a bolt of cloth interwoven between them. Pressure is applied to the stack of compressed cloth, the block of boards and cloth are dipped in a dye bath, and where there was pressure on the cloth, no dye can penetrate, the result being a resist dyed image.
Or, the carved blocks can be made in such a way as to both resist AND to let in dye, which yields a “positive” image, such as the crows we see here. The background is resisted according to the first method described, and the pattern of the background is the well-used hemp leaf pattern or asa no ha.