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A Six Panel Itajime Shibori Futonji: Sekka and Kikko

October 27, 2012

Many of you are familiar with sekka itajime shibori, or clamp resist dyed shibori which ends up looking something like a flower, in this case, sekka or a snowflower.  And as this shibori technique was commonly used for diapers, many of you are used to seeing this type of shibori done small, like this.As sekka shibori is a fairly straightforward and relatively easy-to-do shibori technique, it was used a great deal in old Japan, especially in the 20th century.  Here we see it covering a marvelously large area as 6 standard-sized loom widths are machine stitched together to create a futon cover (which is now opened, as shown here).  But sekka shibori was also used for undergarments and yukata.In addition to the snowflower motif, you’ll also see an all-over configuration of hexagons.  This could be read as kikko or tortoiseshell, and, as you can imagine, it is a traditional motif that conveys wishes for a long life.This is a huge piece.  It measures 89″ x 72″ or 226 cm x 183 cm and it’s in quite good condition.  Every so often there’s a match head-sized hole, but the cotton is bright white and the indigo is a rich sapphire blue.  It was probably made in the 1950s or 60s.

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A Vignette from Sri Showroom: Itajime Silk Fragment and Indian Copper Yoni

May 18, 2012

I like this little set-up in a corner of my showroom and I thought I’d share it with you today.   Sitting on a small, Korean soban or dining tray is a copper Hindu yoni–a ritual vessel–and a fragment of chirimen (crepe) silk that is dyed in the itajime or kyoukechi method.The benibana or safflower dyed chirimen fragment sits in an old Korean wooden grain scoop–and for more on itajime dyeing, have a look at this blogpost which shows the type of carved boards which were used to imprint a design onto this silk cloth.

As this little vignette always catches my eye when I walk by it, I thought you may enjoy having a look, too.

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Piece Constructed Textiles: A Botanically Dyed 19th Century Silk Juban and Drawstring Bags

February 8, 2011

In old Japan, hand loomed and hand dyed cloth was constantly re-purposed.  Indigo dyed cotton cloth was often hand woven in the home from yarns which were hand spun by the weaver. The time and labor which went into the creation of cloth gave it great value.  It was not a disposable commodity.  The same is true of silks, which were also re-purposed.  Silks were likely not woven at home, but their intrinsic value was understood.  Today I am showing three piece constructed bags of indigo dyed cotton and I am highlighting a marvelous, 19th century silk yose juban, or an under kimono that is constructed from disparate fragments of botanically dyed silks.What a beautiful attempt at symmetry on the top half of the back of the juban: the many small fragments of safflower (benibana) and gromwell root (shikon) dyed crepe silks are stitched together in such a way as to create an appealing, ordered design.The benibana silks are dyed mainly in the itajime or kyokechi technique, whereby fabric is pressed between hand carved boards before they are dyed, the pressure of  the carvings against each other offering a resist to the dye and creating a white, figured pattern.There are so many hand stitched fragments of chirimen, or crepe silk cloth that the area of stitching is akin to shingling.  The slight variation in tones of safflower-derived orange dye is just lovely to see.Those of you who have seen 19th century Japanese piece constructed undergarments before have noticed that the predominant color palette is based on three basic dyes: shikon (purple), benibana (orange) and variations on ai (indigo).
The front of the juban, seen below, is as lovely as the back.  And what’s wonderful about this particular juban is its very good condition–aside, of course, from its very handsome arrangement of color, pattern, and texture.


Seen by themselves, the sleeves of this garment, one of them below, are just gorgeous.The benibana dyed silk lining, seen below, is a typical feature of these old juban which were often constructed with similarly dyed linings.


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Two Beautiful Itajime Dyed Han Juban: Hemp Leaf and Cherry Blossoms

November 14, 2010

On my previous post, situated just below this one, I showed hand carved wooden boards used in the kyokechi or itajime dyeing process.  Have a quick look at the previous post to learn a bit about this process which uses carving and pressure as an agent for resist in the dyeing process.

The same kind of boards shown below, and the same process described in the previous post, were used to dye these two cotton han juban or half under kimonos which date to the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. The pattern shown above and below may already be familiar to you as it is a very popular, traditional Japanese design motif: it is the asa no ha or hemp leaf pattern.  If you notice the red horizontal lines within the repeat pattern, this will show the limit of width of the single, carved board and this is where the design repeat occurs.

And of course, sakura, or the beloved cherry blossom motif.  Again, notice the bars of red which show the repeat.

Most likely these two han juban are not dyed in botanical dyes.  The cotton is hand woven, and the garment is hand sewn.  Still, I find each of these graphically beautiful and very stimulating to the eye–and terrifically bold examples of kyokechi dyeing.

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A Rare Glimpse at Hand Carved Itajime Dyeing Boards

November 11, 2010

The antique, hand carved boards used in the itajime or kyokechi dyeing process have become increasingly difficult to find, which is why I call this posting a “rare glimpse.”
On this blog, in the past, I’ve shown textiles that have been dyed using these boards, but I’ve not yet had the opportunity to show the boards themselves.Kyokechi or itajime is a laborious and ingenious dyeing process using these hand carved wooden boards: cloth is clamped under great pressure between the boards, so the parts of cloth that are highly pressurized resist dye.   Sometimes boards are carved and fitted with drilled holes which let dye in in very specific areas (the boards shown above), or, in other cases, boards are carved in relief and in sets of mirror-image.  These relief carved boards would be clamped face-to-face and the raised areas would meet when clamped, and would resist dye (the boards shown below).

In these detail photos, above and below, you can see the holes which are intended to allow the flow of dye.  The pattern on the top photo is of wooden box measures, or masu, while below is shown cranes amid wisteria.On the relief block, below, we see roundels of cherry blossoms and masu.Below we see cherry blossoms and maple leaves that are host to hemp leaf and tortoise shell motives.The backs of the boards are shown below.

The network of holes on the back of the two examples of kyokechi boards is very interesting, and to the taste of some, moreso than the carvings on the front.This kind of clamp resist dyeing has a long history, and it was introduced to Japan from China. probably around the early 8th century.

Historical examples of both early Japanese and Tang Dynasty itajime cloth are carefully preserved at Japan’s Shosoin, the treasure house of Nara’s Todai-ji, where some of Japan’s most important cultural property resides.

Each board measures approximately 9″ x 18″ or 23 cm x 45.5 cm and dates from the late nineteenth/early twentieth century.

These boards come from the store house of a family of  itajime dyers in Kyoto.

In my next posting I will be showing two garments dyed using the kyokechi process.  Stay tuned.

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A Rare and Unusual Indigo Dyed Cotton Kyokechi Boro Mat

August 8, 2010

This layered and tattered indigo dyed mat–possibly a sleeping mat for a child–is constructed entirely from a fairly rare and impressive old Japanese cloth.  It is very unusual to find a boro piece made entirely of this cloth, which is clamp resist dyed in a process called itajime or kyokechi.

The cotton used is a kind of twill structure cotton which has been clamp resist dyed.   Rare to find are garments, such as jackets, made of this indigo dyed cloth: this is the first time I’ve seen so much of this type of cotton recycled and used in this fashion.Kyokechi or itajime is a laborious and ingenious dyeing process using hand carved wood boards: cloth is clamped under great pressure between the carved boards, so the parts of cloth that are highly pressurized resist dye.  To achieve the designs shown on the boro piece shown here, an artisan hand carved the surface of a wood block with a particular design.  Then another block, in mirror image to the original had to be carved and they would be set face-to-face.Cloth would be slipped between the two carved blocks, the raised areas of the carving would clamp down on the cloth and would resist dye: a length of cloth would be fed through a  high stack of many identically carved blocks, the entire tower of blocks would be clamped, and this big,  bundle of cloth under pressure from layers of carved blocks would be lowered into a dye vat.  The patterns you see on the cloth on the post here are the result of the cloth being under so much pressure that the dye did not penetrate those clamped portions of cloth.  Of course, before the cloth was clamp dyed, it was first dyed a pale blue, which is the base color of the cloth.The dark, horizontal bands seen on the cloth in the photos posted here represents the area of cloth between two boards which was not under pressure and was fully exposed to the indigo dye bath.This mat is tattered in places, but it is still so amazing in that it is fully made of itajime cloth: even on old, boro futon covers, it’s rare to find even a scrap of this kind of cloth used as a patch: this kind of cotton was not produced in great quantity, so examples of it are not readily available.The cotton of this piece dates to the mid 19th century or so.

This piece measures 42″ x 27″ or 106.5 cm x 68.5 cm

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Edo Period Itajime Silk

September 20, 2008

These images are details from a late Edo Period (1603-1868) aigi or silk under-kimono which is made of fragments of silks dyed in the itajime method.   So much to say about this, but before we get into all of it, just know that these incredibly beautiful textiles–all dyed using botanical dyes–are NOT ‘printed': they are the result of an intensely artistic and somewhat ancient process.

Itajime is a  dyeing process using clamps which exert great pressure on cloth, so the parts of cloth that are highly pressurized resist dye.  To achieve the designs on these textiles, an artisan had to carve a block with the designs shown; then another block, in mirror image to the original had to be carved and they would be set face-to-face.

Cloth would be slipped between the two carved blocks, the raised areas of the carving would clamp down on the cloth and would resist dye: a length of cloth would be fed through a  high stack of many identically carved blocks, the entire tower of blocks would be clamped, and this big,  bundle of cloth under pressure from layers of carved blocks would be lowered into a dye vat.  The white designs were under so much pressure that the dye did not penetrate those clamped portions of cloth.

On the top photo, from left to right, we see dyestuffs of gromwell root (purple), overdyed indigo (green), probably some kind of nut or maybe loquat (brown), and safflower (orange).

Here’s a stack of pieced aigi or juban, in my showroom: they are quite loud with color and pattern; these underkimonos were made from old clothing or borrowed scraps from family members.  In Akita Prefecture, in Nishi Monai, these undergarments are worn by women as kimono (not as under garments) during the late summer ancestor-honoring festival of O-Bon: the ladies of Nishi Monai wear these as ceremonial costumes (called hanui for this purpose) for their festival dancing in which they call upon their forbears.   See a photo here and read more about it here.

Here is another reference to itajime, from the Sri website.

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