Hon-shiozawa silk Photo:Niigata Prefecture

Hon-shiozawa silk Hon shiozawa

Graceful and distinctively crisp texture
Elegant and serene detailed patterns


What is Hon-shiozawa silk ?

Hon-shiozawa is a textile produced in the former town of Shiozawa (now a part of the city of Minamiuonuma), Niigata prefecture. It is one of the textiles that represent the region, which is famous for linen and silk textile production. This craft used to be called Shiozawa omeshi. Some other well-known textiles produced in this region are Shiozawa tsumugi and Natsu shiozawa. All of these textiles, including Hon-shiozawa, originate from a traditional ramie textile called Echigo jofu that has been in the area since the 8th century.
This craft is known for its distinctively bumpy and crisp texture, which emerges when the textile is kneaded in hot water, and precise patterns, including the juji kasuri (cross pattern) and the kikko kasuri (tortoise shell pattern). The silk threads that are used for this craft have been twisted seven to eight times harder than other threads. After weaving using the hard-twisted (left and right) threads for the weft, the textile is kneaded in lukewarm water to bring out delicate wrinkles and a crisp texture. The warp threads (parallel to the perpendicular weft threads) for Hon-shiozawa are dyed using different techniques such as tie-dyeing, stencil dyeing, or paper stencil dyeing. The textile is woven while being carefully and precisely adjusted according to the design so that the kasuri patterns* are fine and sharp.

*A kasuri pattern, also called ikat, is precise patterning and images that result from a technique of wrapping fibers with thread in order to dye the specific parts of fabric.


The ramie textile that was presented by the Echigo domain (present day Niigata prefecture) to the Imperial Court in the year 731 is still kept in the Shosoin Repository* so it is proven that the production of such textiles had been established in the Echigo region during the Nara period (710-794). This region is covered with deep snow which creates the ideal environment for textiles that are sensitive to dry weather. Echigo jofu is a high quality ramie textile that has been woven in this region for a long time. Hon-shiozawa silk was developed from the techniques that are also used to produce Echigo jofu: kasuri patterns and a bumpy texture from kneading in hot water.
Silk crepe was mentioned in a list of high quality gifts that was written in 1867 so there is proof that the textile was already in production during the Edo period (1603-1868). Masatoshi HORI invented the hard-twist threads between the years 1661 and 1672 and then widely promoted the crisp-textured textile. This is considered the origin of Hon-shiozawa, though it is unclear whether this event actually happened. The difference from Shiozawa tsumugi, which is also made with the techniques of Echigo jofu, is that Shiozawa tsumugi uses the tsumugi threads made with raw silk for the warp and floss silk for the weft. Meanwhile Hon-shiozawa uses raw silk for both the warp and the weft and the wrinkles are created by kneading the woven textile in hot water.

*The Shosoin Repository is a building located in Nara, a former capital of Japan, that has been around since the eighth-century. It not only has a collection of treasures dating back to the Silk Road, it also preserves over ten thousand hand-written documents all dating from the Nara period. Today the repository is under the control of the Imperial Household Agency.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Designing and planning A rough draft or sample is followed to draw a kasuri design plan which shows the locations of the patterns on graph paper. The length of the threads and the position of the kasuri patterns are precisely planned during this step. A ruler is specially made based on this design drawing.
  2. 2. Twisting the threads Hon-shiozawa silk uses raw silk for both the warp and the weft. The raw silk threads are divided into the warp and the weft of the base color threads and the warp and the weft of the kasuri design threads. The divided threads are twisted accordingly. This process is referred to as the primary twist. The thickness and the strength of the threads are made uniform during this step.
  3. 3. Marking and tying The kasuri pattern is called ka gasuri (mosquito pattern) which is made of two main patterns: juji kasuri (cross pattern) and kikko kasuri (tortoise shell pattern). Together these two patterns form very precise combinations which is why it is referred to as a mosquito pattern. First, the weft of the kasuri threads are pulled over a stand and the positions of the patterns are marked with ink using the kasuri ruler. If the patterns are created by a hand-tie dyeing method, the marked places are tied firmly by cotton threads before dyeing so that the tied places remain white. However, if these places are not tied firmly, the dye permeates the threads and damages the patterns.

  4. 4. Stencil dyeing For the hand-stencil dyeing method, the dye is rubbed into the places marked with ink on the threads using a stencil spatula. The threads are placed in 100℃ (212℉) hot steam to settle the color.
  5. 5. Hard-twisting the threads The weft threads of the base threads are dyed after they have been twisted and refined. After being dyed, the threads are starched with starch powder and twisted harder to create the wrinkled texture. The left and right twist are made by twisting the threads very hard (1800 times per meter). The twisting produces a crisp texture when the textile is woven.
  6. 6. Preparation and actual weaving The takahata loom, which has two heddles and one reed, is operated by the weaver's feet with a pedal and has been used since the Edo period (1603-1868). The heddle eye and reed move up and down and the warp threads that are put through the heddle eye and reed are pulled to make space for the weft threads to be put through. Because of the delicacy of the patterns, the weaving process requires the utmost patience.
    The warp threads are carefully and finely adjusted when they are wound around the bobbin so that the base and kasuri threads stay in place. Then the warp threads are put through the heddle eye of the loom one by one and put through the reed in pairs. Approximately 1500 warp threads are used for this process. The weft threads are wound around a tube for weaving after being separated into individual threads. The left-twisted and right-twisted base threads are also wound around the tube separately. After the threads are wound, whether they are left-twisted or right-twisted is marked so that they are not confused. After preparations have finished, the warp and the weft threads are individually sorted, then precise and careful weaving starts.

  7. 7. Finishing The woven textile has to be cleaned and any impurities or starch have to be removed. Then, the textile is kneaded in lukewarm water to create the crisp wrinkled texture which also shrinks the textile by approximately ten percent. The kneaded textile is rolled into the specified width and inspected for any impurities or irregularity in the weaving. Then the Hon-shiozawa silk is complete.

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