Kyo-komon textiles

Kyo-komon textiles Kyo komon

Luxury and elegance
in fine traditional textiles


What is Kyo-komon textiles ?

Kyo Komon are fine-patterned textiles produced in Kyoto Prefecture. Kyoto, a center of dyed textiles from olden times, is renowned for its superb fabrics resulting from exceptional dyeing and stencil making.
Kyo Komon are characterized by their quietly elegant and beautiful colored patterns which create a soft and feminine atmosphere. The origins are traced back some 1,200 years ago, when stencils were first made. Originally, the term komon referred to the single-color stencil-dyed fine-patterns on kamishimo (samurai ceremonial dress of the Edo-period).
In the Edo period (1603-1868), komon-dyed linen hakama (wide-legged pleated trousers) were typical formal wear for samurai. Among the common people, especially the merchants, a free and very fashionable culture developed and stylish komon kimono were very much in vogue. The original single-colored komon blossomed into multi-colored designs with many variations. Kyoto is known for two distinctive dyeing styles, Kyo Yuzen and Kyo Komon; over the passage of time they have influenced each other, which helped Kyo Komon develop its own unique style. Its design patterns and color combinations are extremely graceful, refined and with a soft quiet feel. In recent years, modern designs have appeared, and small items such as bags are stencil dyed in the traditional way, which contributes to keeping the old production methods alive today.


It is thought that the origins of Kyo Komon date back to the first creation of stencils some 1,200 years ago. Komon originally referred to single-color fine-pattern stencil dyeing for kamishimo worn by samurai.
After the Onin War (1467-1477) during the Muromachi period (1336-1573), a wide variety of silk fabrics were produced. Centering on the Horikawa area in Kyoto, dyers established an artisan town which became the home of the gradually developing Kyo Komon. In the Warring States period (1467-1568), both Tokugawa Ieyasu and Uesugi Kenshin were reputed to wear Kyo Komon. When komon-dyed linen hakama trousers became a standard uniform for samurai in the Edo period, it also became was fashionable for townspeople to wear komon kimono.
Influenced by Kyo Yuzen from the same production center, Kyo Komon developed its unique style, quite different from those in other production areas. Compared to Edo Komon, Kyo Komon have more realistic designs, and are dyed with many vivid colors. The time-honored manufacturing methods are still applied, in which washi or Japanese traditional paper is used to make the stencils, and rice paste is used for resist dyeing.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Pattern Cutting Three or four sheets of Mino Washi (Japanese traditional paper made in the Mino region) are glued together in much the same way as cross grained plywood and persimmon tannin is applied to make katajigami (stencil paper). After drying and maturing, a design is copied onto the katajigami. A range of tiny knives or chisels are used to cut the patterns. There are four main cutting techniques, which are chosen according to the style of design: kiribori (drilling), tsukibori (piercing), dogubori (shaped-blades), and the ever popular shimabori (stripe patterns). Kyo Komon designs often include very fine patterns, requiring great concentration, patience, and skill in their cutting. The cut stencil is lined and reinforced with urushi lacquered silk gauze to prevent the pattern from breaking up.
  2. 2. Color Matching Liquid dye is added to yuzen paste and mixed well with a rod to make a paste of the desired color; thorough mixing is essential to ensure an even and beautiful color. No ready-made paste is ever used, and the artisans blend their own colors; a task requiring much practice and many delicate adjustments.
  3. 3. Stenciling The stencil is laid on plain cloth, and a resistant or color paste is applied to the stencil using a komabera (special square spatula). Stencils are owned by the dyers and can be custom-made originals created in consultation with the stencil maker. The stencil pattern is repeatedly applied to a length of cloth measuring some 12 meters or so. On the finished komon, the color pattern is reversed as the cut areas of the stencil are masked with paste.
  4. 4. Background Dyeing There are two techniques to dye the background color. The first is sigokizome in which a color paste is applied with the komabera spatula and the second is hikizome in which liquid dye is applied by brush.
  5. 5. Steaming and Washing After background dyeing, to fix the color the fabric is steamed in a box for 20 to 60 minutes; the quality of color is very dependent on this stage. After removing from the steamer, the fabric is thoroughly washed in running water to remove all dye and paste residues.
  6. 6. Finishing Finally, the fabric is steamed to remove wrinkles and stretched to its correct width. The final piece is the hand work of many skilled craftsmen and even if the design and colors are the same, because of the nature of the handwork, no two lengths of cloth will ever be identical, which is all part of the charm of Kyo Komon.

Where to Buy & More Information

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

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