Kyo dyed textiles

Kyo dyed textiles Kyo kanoko shibori

Time and patience make very detailed fabrics
in a rainbow of bright colors


What is Kyo dyed textiles ?

Kyo Kanoko Shibori is a dyed textile produced in Kyoto Prefecture. Shibori is one of the tie-dye techniques that create patterns by tying the textile before dyeing so that the tied parts remain white. This particular Shibori resembles fawn spots and naturally enough it came to be named Kanoko (fawn spots) Shibori.

There are more than 50 different techniques for an artisan to choose to master, including the two mainstream techniques Hitta Shibori and Hitome Shibori. One Shibori craftsman masters a technique and hand ties the knots one by one and dyes the textile in accordance with the method. The characteristic of Kyo Kanoko Shibori is the complicated and delicate Kukuri tsubu (tied knots). The distinctive three-dimensional patterns created by these minutely tied knots are specific only to the Kyo Kanoko Shibori technique. It takes a longer period of time to complete one bolt of Kyo Kanoko Shibori compared to other dyed textiles. Sometimes it takes a year and half to produce a bolt of So Shibori (overall tie-dyed textile) or more than two years to produce a bolt of textile for Furisode (longer-sleeved kimono).

For a long time the skills of Kyo Kanoko Shibori have been passed down from generation to generation as a Japanese clothing fabric for making kimono and obi (belt). Nowadays, the textile is found being used for modern fashion items as well as interior items. The traditional craftsmen who produce Kyo Kanoko Shibori have flexibly switched their way of thinking in step with modern times.


Shibori dying is a popular tie-dye method found all over the world. It is considered that Shibori began in India; the technique was brought to Japan with Buddhism in the 6th century and had spread all over the country by the 7th century.

The oldest record of Shibori dying is found in poems in the Man’yoshu (a collection of poems) edited in the early Heian period (794 – 1185). By the 10th century, Shibori patterns were appearing on court costumes. From the Muromachi period (1338 – 1573) to early Edo period (1603 – 1868), Shibori took the world by storm as Tujigabanasome. The technique was refined in various parts of Japan. In this environment the Kanoko, Kanoko Shibori and Kyo Kanoko Shibori techniques were established in Kyoto. The golden age was at the end of the 17th century. Although Shibori dye fabrics suffered a temporary setback when the sumptuary regulations were enacted and Shibori was classified as one of the luxury goods of the time. Fortunately production started again and the highly skilled techniques have continued to be handed down through the generations until today, where the Kyo Kanoko Shibori industry is facing the challenge of attracting young people to take up the craft. To encourage newcomers a variety of events, workshops and exhibitions are organized to keep alive the traditional techniques of Kyo Kanoko Shibori.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Planning of composition and design An eshi (painter) and a manufacturing wholesaler decide on a design which the eshi sketches out.
  2. 2. Shitae Katahori (carving pattern along the design) The design pattern is made by cutting small circles or thin lines on the pattern in accordance with the design.
  3. 3. Shitae Surikomi (printing the design) The design is printed on the textile using the pattern paper, a brush and ink that can be washed out by hot water, for example, Aobana (spiderwort) ink. It is possible to recognize the exact technique that was used from the cut circles and lines on the pattern paper.
  4. 4. Shibori Kukuri (tying textile for Shibori pattern) Hikita Shibori and Kanoko Shibori are the main Kukuri (tie-dyed textile) techniques using silk threads to tightly tie the fabric in shibori knots to create the patterns. Shibori Kukuri is an important process that decides the final quality of the textile and it requires a high-level of skill and much time.
  5. 5. Bleaching The aobana ink used to print the design is bleached; this also removes any other marks or blemishes on the fabric.
  6. 6. Dyeing in different colors Each color used in Kyoto Kanoko Shibori has to be dyed separately, requiring many immersions of the fabric. Oke Shihbori and Boshi Shibori are methods to prevent the textile being dyed. In Oke Shibori parts to remain undyed are sealed in a wooden tub. In Boshi Shibori the parts to remain undyed are covered with bamboo bark or plastic held firmly in place with threads. These processes are done by craftsmen called Okeya. This is also an important process that greatly influences the final quality of the product.
  7. 7. Dyeing Every color requires a separate dying process. When the Shinsen (dyeing by placing the textile directly in dye) method is used, sections requiring more detailed dying may need to be colored by hand using a brush.
  8. 8. Yunoshi finish (steam ironing to finish) When the threads are removed, the tied parts are white. The fabric is steamed to remove wrinkles and even out the width.

Where to Buy & More Information

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

See more Dyed textiles

See items made in Kyoto