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A Shibori Juban: Hand Spun Cotton and Botanical Indigo

May 24, 2011

With the weeks of rain we’ve been experiencing this spring here in New York, I had to show a shibori juban that’s all about rain, birds and a spring-like feeling.
A juban is a garment worn under a kimono; in the past they were often piece-constructed from “flashy” or contrasting textiles, many of which were “recycled.”  The bodice of this juban is of hand spun, hand woven cotton that has been shibori dyed in botanical indigo. The particular passage, shown below, feels like spring: new blossoms, a soaring bird–and  tendrils of what may be weeping cherry branches suggest rain.The indigo color of this juban is beautifully rich and clear–and the toothy, hand spun cotton is the perfect vehicle to accentuate the rich, blue color of the dye.And the rustically rendered umbrella, below, which is set in a gloomy patch of dark indigo, really matches the wet, cold, brooding weather of the east coast.
The sleeves and the eri, or collar, of this juban are made of commercially produced cotton; very often juban were made of a mixture of cloth, and, that said, very often the sleeves and collars of garments in old Japan were repeatedly taken off and replaced due to wear.On the hem of the garment, above, seen on the lower left just next to the umbrella image, you’ll see an image from Genji ko, or an incense naming game that dates back to the 11th century.  Even the partial lining of the juban, seen below, has a wonderful fragment of old shibori.  The bodice of this juban probably dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century–the sleeves and the collar are younger.

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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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A Magnificent 19th Century Pieced Silk Han Juban

August 20, 2009

This is a han juban, or a half length garment which was worn under a kimono.  Its bodice is a dazzling arrangement of recycled silks composed in a regular formation of blocks, some of the blocks are comprised of twenty or more slivers of botanically dyed silk.

In the 19th century wildly colored garments like this were worn under somber colored kimonos as there were governmental edicts outlining the kind of clothing that could be worn by different strata of the population.  By hiding this kind of fanciful undergarment beneath a dark kimono, the 19th century Japanese lady was not “breaking the law.”


Note the profusion of types of silks and the swirling combination of colors, all of which are botanical.  Chief among the dyestuffs are blue (indigo), purple (gromwell root), and orange (safflower).  If you see a lot of juban from this era you will notice that this color scheme is a predominant one, for reasons that these the dyestuffs used for these three colors were easily dyed and widely accessible.





The vertical red piece of cloth, above, is most likely a chemical dye.  In the Meiji Era (1868-1912) German synthetic dyes were introduced to Japan and the red dye was very quickly adopted for everyday use: for centuries the Japanese were not able to achieve this strident red using locally obtainable botanicals, and only those who could afford to buy imported cloth dyed in Indian madder wore a rich, deep, cold red like this one.



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A Beautifully Colored 19th Century Pieced Silk “Yose Juban”

January 3, 2009

In previous postings on this site I have shown examples of yose (pieced) juban (under-kimono) which are hand sewn from pieces of  ‘recycled’ silk cloth, 95% of which are hand dyed using botanical dyes and employing complex  techniques to imprint repeat patterns onto the cloth.  I was looking through my collection of yose juban, and I found this one, which I hadn’t considered for a long time, and I was struck by the dark, rich beauty of its color palette.

On the bodice of this piece, you can see the blue crepe silk (chirimen) which is dyed in indigo; the purple cloth is dyed in gromwell root, called shikon in Japan.  Note the basting stitches on the right of the photo: these stitches are done with hemp thread.

I love the narrow tonal range of the dark purple and brown pieces of striped silk which are hand-stitched to form a subtle collage.

The silk lining is orange, quite typical of this kind of 19th century undergarment, and the dyestuff used to create this pure orange is safflower, called benibana in Japan.  Often these linings, too, are made from rescued pieces of cloth, and if you look closely you can see how this lining is pieced together: you can see an example of a disengaged lining here which is a complex arrangement of hand-stitched pieces—-and which I find really beautiful.

Below is a detail of the fabric used to border the lining (you can see it in the photo above, as well): quite amazing when you think that this cloth was hand dyed using three processes: first was a stencil resist pattern using the katazome techique (to acheive the bamboo leaf pattern) over which was laid vertical, blue stripes, over this was laid horizontal, blue stripes to create the lattice pattern which is super-imposed over the repeated bamboo leaf pattern.

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Pieces, Closures, Stitches: Details from 19th Century Silk Yose Juban or Aigi

November 30, 2008

All of the detail photos shown below are taken from the backs of 19th century piece constructed silk under-kimono, which are called either juban or aigi.

The term yose refers to something being pieced together.   The skill at hand stitching  shown in these photos is extraordinary if you consider how the pieces join in perfectly straight lines and are detailed in very tight angles.  Just look.

Keep in mind that the dyes used to color these silks are botanical: oranges are reds are from safflower or benibana, purples are from gromwell root or shikon, blues and greens are derived from indigo or ai.

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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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