Kyo kimono-dyeing

Kyo kimono-dyeing Kyo kuromontsuki zome

Specialty of Kyoto – beautiful, lustrous and graceful black
A black gemstone created by the great skills and patience of the craftsmen


What is Kyo kimono-dyeing ?

Kyo Kuromontsuki Zome is a dyed fabric produced in the areas including Kyoto City and Kameoka City in Kyoto Prefecture.
The characteristic of Kyo Kuromontsuki Zome is the high quality and graceful black color. The kimonos that are worn for funerals and weddings are referred to as the Kurotomesode and Kyo Kuromontsuki Zome is worn for such special occasions. The base fabric is made from silk. Although chemical dyes are used to give extra texture to the dyed fabric, safflower dye or Ai dye (indigo dye) have been used from ancient times and the Kurohikizome method (dyeing the fabric with two dyeing methods: the Sandoguro and the Kurosenryo) or the Kuroshinsen method is used to dye the fabric.
A family crest is created precisely and beautifully using the techniques of the traditional craft. The family crests are placed on the fabric to show the name or the family of the person who is wearing the kimono. There are more than 20,000 family crests. Approximately 4,000 of them that are in the Heian Monkan (a book of the collection of popular family crests in Japan) are generally used and these family crests are drawn by hand or by using the Monsho Uwaezuke technique of using a paper pattern and embossed printing.


The history of Kyo Kuromontsuki Zome goes back to the 10th century and the Kurozome was established around the 17th century. The technique was used to make robes for the priests and the formal wear for the Buke (samurai family). People started wearing Haori and Hakama made with Kyo Kuromontsuki Zome for special occasions including funerals and weddings in the Meiji period (1868 – 1912) so the demand for Kyo Kuromontsuki Zome increased since that time.
The Kurozome industry in Kyoto has kept the top position as a traditional national craft although American and European culture was brought in and spread widely after World War II.
The peak of the Kurozome industry was between 1902 and 1903. Generally, four different dye liquids were used: Fushi (dye extracted from sumac gallnut), Tohi (dye extracted from Myrica bark), Binroji (dye extracted from betel nut) and Ohaguro (dye extracted from iron and used for dyeing teeth). The dyeing process was repeated 18 times or more to dye one roll of fabric.
However, chemical dyes became popular in the Taisho period (1912 – 1926) and the Kurohikizome method came into use but the Kuroshinsen method using chemical dyes became more popular. In the meantime, the Konya (dyers) who were specialized in Aizome (indigo dyeing) also had to change their dyeing method to the Kuroshinsen.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Inspection of fabric The fabric is inspected while it is still white, before being dyed. An inspection is made thoroughly and it is checked carefully for stains and thin spots.
  2. 2. The Sumiuchi (marking) The Sumiuchi (marking) is carried out on the white fabric that passed the inspection in order to decide the position of the family crests on the sleeves and the front body.
  3. 3. The Mon Nori Oki (starching the crest position) The areas where the family crests appear are starched to prevent them from being dyed. Glutinous rice is kneaded into paste and used as starch, the Mon Nori. The Mon Nori is applied to the family crest positions on both sides of the fabric, specifically, on the sleeves, the chest and the back.
    There are various kind of Mon Nori. The size and the form of the family crests also vary depending on the gender of the person who wears the kimono.
  4. 4. The Wakukake The Mon Nori has to be dried before the fabric is hung from the wire frame with appropriate space in between to prevent any irregularities in the color. The fabric should be pulled carefully when hung to avoid creases.
  5. 5. The Shitazome (preliminary dyeing) The fabric is dyed three times using dyes that include safflower dye and indigo dye. This is the Sando Kurohikizome (three times dyeing) and this process makes the black color deeper. This is the preliminary stage in the process to dye the fabric to the graceful Kyo Kuromontsuki Zome.
  6. 6. The Kurozome (black dye) A dye bath, which is made to suit the weight, condition and kind of the fabric, is heated to 95C. The fabric is soaked in the dye bath.
  7. 7. Washing in water, washing the family crest and drying Excess dye has to be washed away and the Mon Nori, which was applied to the family crest positions on both sides of the fabric to prevent them from being dyed, has to be removed. Stains and smears from the dye liquid, which permeated the Mon Nori, are washed away and the fabric is dried.
  8. 8. Sorting Sorting brings out the texture and flexibility of the dyed fabric. A waterproof finish is applied after sorting.
  9. 9. The Yunoshi (smoothing the fabric) The fabric that had creased or shrunk during the dyeing process has to be smoothed out. The fabric is pulled from both sides using needles and steamed while it is being stretched using a roller. This is the process of pinking .
  10. 10. The Mon Uwae (drawing the family crest) The family crest is drawn carefully in the correct positions in ink using a brush and a pair of bamboo compasses.
    The Kurozome uses the Kuroshinsen or the Kurohikizome methods to dye. In Kurohikizome a brush is used to dye the front and back of the fabric, and the process is repeated three times.
    The first time the fabric is dyed, the dye uses logwood dye extracted from wood. The dye is brushed over the fabric using a brush with a width of Gosun (6 inches). The second dye uses the Naphtol Blue Noir solution, which is a mixture of the logwood dye and a mordant. The third dye uses a solution of potassium dichromate that can oxidize the logwood to give a lustrous reddish black finish to the fabric.

Where to Buy & More Information

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

See more Dyed textiles

See items made in Kyoto