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Two Indigo Dyed Shibori Cotton Yukatas

March 9, 2012

A yukata is an unlined, cotton kimono that is used on casual occasions.  In old Japan they were worn to go to the sento or bath house as well as for evening strolls during the hot summers, when visiting an onsen or hot spring, or, say, to gather together during festival times to watch fireworks.  Yukata are made of light weight cotton, are usually blue and white, and they often are imprinted with “cooling” images like butterflies, streams, gently falling leaves and the like.These two are shibori dyed.  The one shown here, above and below, is a subtle and complex pattern of stacked diamonds.  It seems that the paler, more “spider web” diamonds were tied and then bound with string while the darker diamonds were tied and not bound.  Binding and not binding give two different effects which was used to great artistic advantage here.

And shown below is the clamp dyed or itajime shibori where cloth is folded, clamped tight, and then the edges are dyed.  The result is this kaleidoscopic image, which in fact is the tortoiseshell motif, one that conveys wishes for a long life.In the case of each of the two yukata shown here, the cotton is lightweight and rather gauzy–good for keeping one cool in the hot summers or for absorbing sweat or water should you be visiting an onsen.Each dates to the first half of the 20th century, more or less.  I’ll be offering the beautiful itajime shibori yukata on the webshop soon.

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A Taisho Era Cotton Shibori Yukata

August 12, 2011

For those of you who know, Taisho era (1912-1936)  kimonos have a distinctive look.  Usually large-scale patterns come into play, as do contrasting values and sometimes bright, chemically dyed colors.
Shibori of the type shown here, which is indigo, white and grey, indicates that this yukata, or unlined summer kimono, was most likely dyed in the Taisho era when a grey tone was often added to indigo dyed shibori yukata.The motif which runs in lovely diagonals is fuji or wisteria.  The softness of the shibori dye and the rendering of the fuji is really lovely–and cooling–to the eye. 

The design and execution of this casual kimono is splendid and is evocative of a bygone era.  This yukata has been worn as can be seen by about 4 or 5 small, pale stains.I love this detail, above.  Usually a piece from the end of the bolt was used as a patch on the seat of an unlined kimono: this area of the kimono receives a lot of stress from crouching, sitting, standing, etc., so it is almost always reinforced to keep the yukata’s center seam from splitting.  In this case, the image on the patch, and its orientation against the flow of the design of the yukata, is a lovely, hidden detail.

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A Cooling Shibori Yukata: Two Processes

July 21, 2011

Since it’s high summer and the heat is intense, I thought I’d show something cooling to the eye, a shibori dyed cotton yukata, an unlined, casual kimono.This yukata is dyed using two methods, which is not immediately apparent.  The first is a vertically pleated shibori technique, referred to as suji shibori.If you look at the photograph, below, you’ll see the irregularly spaced suji shibori–and then alongside the shibori you’ll notice regularly spaced vertical lines.  This is done with by applying dye directly to the cloth through a stencil.   This process is called surikomi.The suji shibori and surikomi processes are very apparent in the photos above and below.I love the “point/counterpoint” effect of the pleated, irregularly spaced shibori against the regularly spaced surikomi dyed lines.

This is a man’s yukata, most likely dyed in Arimatsu, Japan, and it dates to the early twentieth century.

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An Indigo Dyed Ramie Kumanozome Yukata

January 5, 2011

Last October, I published a post that showed a three-panel Kumanozome futon cover.  Today, I am showing another Kumanozome textile, this time it is a yukata, or unlined casual kimono, woven from ramie.The trademark feature of a Kumanozome textile is the dizzying optics produced by a technique of dyeing cloth using an overlay of striped stencils to create a moire effect.In the case of the futon cover mentioned above, the stripes are wide and bold; in the case of this yukata, the stripes are very narrow and give a subtle, overall moire pattern, sort of like an undulating mist.  If the moire pattern on this garment were any bolder, it would probably be visually unsettling, both for the wearer and for those around her.I love Kumanozome textiles because they are daring and strange: they’re not beautiful in the conventional sense.  Unlike most Japanese textiles whose patterns evoke the natural world and the changing of the seasons, or are based on a repeat of highly stylized everyday objects, Kumanozome cloth is full-out, untethered visual trickery and does not call up any recognizable reference.The Japanese love their shima, or striped fabrics, and although you could say that Kumanozome textiles riff on stripes, I think that they are really all about optics and don’t have much to do with any conventional textile.  My hunch is that this kind of moire was the result of dyers playing with striped stencils, and discovering this effect as they worked.As I said, my theory about Kumanozome cloth is a hunch; there’s not much written in English about the development and production of this type of cloth. This yukata probably dates to the early twentieth century and is in very good condition.

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