Hon-shiozawa silk Photo:Niigata Prefecture

Hon-shiozawa silk Hon shiozawa

The graceful and distinctively crisp texture of the Shibo
The precise Kasuri patterns that have an air of serenity and elegance


What is Hon-shiozawa silk ?

Hon Shiozawa is a textile produced in the region surrounding Minami Uonuma City, Niigata Prefecture. It is one of the textiles that represent the Shiozawa region, which is renowned for the Echigo Jofu (a linen textile produced locally). This textile has always been popular and people fondly call it the Shiozawa Omeshi. The region is famous for linen and silk textile production. The other well-known textiles produced in this region include Shiozawa Tsumugi and Natsu Shiozawa.
The characteristics of Hon Shiozawa are the distinctively crisp texture of the Shibo, which emerge when the textile is kneaded in hot water, and the precise Kasuri patterns, including the Juji Kasuri (cross pattern) and the Kiko Kasuri (tortoise shell pattern). The technique for making linen crepe, for example, Echigo Chijimi, is also used to produce Hon Shiozawa. The Hacho Nenshi, which are silk threads twisted 7 to 8 times harder than other threads, are used for Hon Shiozawa. After weaving using the hard-twisted (left and right) threads for the weft, the textile is kneaded in lukewarm water to bring out the Shibo. For this reason, the Shibo that emerge are very delicate and the finished textile has a crispy texture. The warp threads for Hon Shiozawa are dyed using the techniques including Tekukuri (tie-dyeing), Tesurikomi (stencil dyeing), Itajime (folding the textile and pressing it between the wooden boards to dye it) and the Katagami Nassen (paper stencil dyeing). The textile is woven while being carefully and precisely adjusted according to the design pattern and the Kasuri patterns are fine and sharp. Together with the graceful Shibo, the textile has an air of serenity and elegance.


The linen textile that was presented by the Echigo government to the Imperial Court in AD731 is still kept in the Shosoin Treasure House so it is known that the production of linen textiles already existed in the Echigo region 1200 years ago, during the Nara period (710 – 794). This region is covered with deep snow and that creates the ideal environment for linen textiles that are sensitive to dry-weather. Echigo Jofu is a high quality linen textile woven in this region for a long time and produced in this environment. Hon Shiozawa was developed from the technique of producing Echigo Jofu. The characteristics of Echigo Jofu are the Kasuri pattern created by the Tekukuri method and the Shibo created by the Yumomi (kneading in hot water) method. Hon Shiozawa succeeded the technique of Echigo Jofu for the silk textile production.
The Kinu Chijimi (crinkled silk) was mentioned in the list of the gifts recorded in 1867 so the textile was already in production in the Edo period (1603 – 1868). Jiro Masatoshi Hori invented the hard-twist threads between 1661 and 1672 and that promoted the textile with the Shibo widely. This is considered as the origin of Hon Shiozawa. However, it is not clear whether this event actually happened. The difference from Shiozawa Tsumugi, which is also made with the technique of Echigo Jofu, is that Shiozawa Tsumugi uses the Tsumugi Ito (Tsumugi threads) made with raw silk for the warp and floss silk for the weft while Hon Shiozawa uses raw silk for both the warp and the weft and the Shibo are created by kneading the woven textile in hot water.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Designing and planning The positions of the patterns are decided using graph paper following the original drawing or sample and the Kasuri design plan is made. The length of the threads and the positions of the Kasuri patterns are precisely planned at this stage. The Kasuri ruler is made based on the Kasuri design drawing made in this process.
  2. 2. The Nenshi (twisting the threads) Hon Shiozawa uses raw silk for both the warp and the weft. The raw silk threads are divided into the warp and the weft of the Jiito (foundation threads) and the warp and the weft of the Kasuri threads. The threads are twisted in accordance with the specifications. This process is referred to as the Shita Yori (primary twist) and the thickness and the strength of the threads are made even in this process.
  3. 3. The Tsuke and the Kubiri (marking and tying) The Kasuri patterns of Hon Shiozawa are a combination of Kasuri patterns, including the Juji Kasuri (cross pattern) and the Kikko Kasuri (tortoise shell pattern) with the fine Kasuri pattern, which is referred to as the Ka Kasuri (mosquito pattern). First of all, the weft of the Kasuri threads are pulled over the stand and the positions of the patterns are marked with ink using the Kasuri ruler. If the Kasuri patterns are created by the Tekukuri (hand-tie dyeing) method, the marked places are tied firmly by cotton threads before the threads are dyed. The tied places remain white. However, if these places are not tied firmly, the dye permeates the threads and damages the Kasuri patterns.
  4. 4. The Surikomi (stencil dyeing) With the Tesurikomi (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 hot steam (100℃) to settle the color.
  5. 5. The Kyonenshi (hard-twisting the threads) The weft threads of the Jiito are dyed after the threads have been twisted and refined. After being dyed, the threads are starched with the starch powder and are twisted harder to create the Shibo. The Kyonenshi (left twist and right twist) are made by twisting the threads very hard (1800 times/meter). The Kyonenshi produces the crisp texture when the textile is woven.
  6. 6. Preparation and actual weaving The Takahata loom, which uses two Soko (heddles) and one Osa (reed), is used for weaving. The loom is operated by a pedal, which is controlled by the weaver’s feet. The Sokome (heddle eye) and the reed move up and down and the warp threads that are put through the Sokome and the reed are pulled to make the space for the weft threads to be put through.
    The warp threads are carefully and finely adjusted when they are wound around the Makidama (bobbin) so that the Jiito and the Kasuri threads do not come out of place. The wound warp threads are put through the Sokome of the loom one by one. Then, the warp threads are put through the reed in twos. The standard number of the warp threads used is approximately 1500. The weft threads use three different kinds, the left-twisted and the right-twisted Kyonenshi for Jiito and the Kasuri Threads. The weft Kasuri threads are wound around the Kuda (tube) for weaving after being separated into individual threads (the Kasuri Okoshi processs). The left-twisted and the right-twisted Kyonenshi for the Jiito are also wound around the Kuda separately. When the threads are wound, they are marked as either left-twisted or right-twisted so that they are not confused. After preparations have finished, the warp and the weft threads are sorted carefully one by one, then precise and careful weaving starts.
  7. 7. Finishing The woven textile has to be cleaned and impurities and starch have to be removed. Then, the textile is kneaded in lukewarm water to create the Shibo. The textile shrinks by approximately 10% in this process and the Shibo (wavy emboss) that are distinctive for Hon Shiozawa appear. The kneaded textile is rolled into the specified width and inspected for any irregularity in the weaving or impurities. This is the final process to produce Hon Shiozawa with its distinctive crisp texture.

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