Kyo textiles Kyo yuzen
A Medley of Bright Colors
A World of Natural Beauty and the Elegance of Kyoto
Kyo Yuzen are dyed textiles made throughout Kyoto Prefecture and feature a vivid range of colors and pictorial designs of animals, nature and everyday items; they are immensely popular not only in Japan but abroad. The technique is characterized by a unique dyeing method of drawing the outline of a motif with a form of glue, so as to prevent colors from bleeding during dyeing. Since this traditional handwork is very labor intensive and costly, another simplified technique has become popular in modern times.
Besides Kyo Yuzen, another pattern dyeing style called Kaga Yuzen from Ishikawa Prefecture is also well-known for its splendid five color palette known as kaga gosai, but Kaga Yuzen does not indulge itself in the rich embroidery and gold leaf decoration so typical of the brighter colored Kyo Yuzen; a true child of the old, elegant and sumptuous Kyoto.
In the Edo period, a famous fan painter Yuzensai MIYAZAKI created a new style of pattern dyeing, Kyo Yuzen. Scholars believe that he established the Yuzen dyeing technique by translating designs for fans to larger patterns on cloth, especially for kimono. Generally speaking, the history of dyeing dates back to the Nara period, the dawn of Japan’s unique culture. Techniques like batik and resist-dyeing had gradually been developing, and in the early Muromachi period, luxurious and splendid Sarasa printed decoration, embroideries and impressed gold foils flowered, and the fabric dyeing arts of Kyoto began to establish themselves as worthy of note. In the mid-Edo period, brilliantly colorful and pictorial Kimono gained popularity among townspeople, and Yuzen dyeing became a true consumer fashion trend. It is believed that, in those days, the different dyeing methods and skills were gathered together, resulting in the perfecting of the current techniques.
With the introduction of modern dyes in the Meiji period, techniques were adapted to produce color sizing pastes from chemical dyes and glue. The color paste was applied in a Yuzen dyeing process and designs were traced from paper patterns. Jisuke HIROSE was a key innovator of this new technique, and he helped further advance the art of Yuzen dyeing.
General Production Process
- 1. Sketching
The whole Kyo Yuzen production process involves the collaboration of many specialty artisans and requires an impressive array of time consuming and highly-skilled processes. Firstly, a kimono design motif is drawn full scale by sketch designers and then transferred to a roughly tacked kimono known as a karieba; this underdrawing is done in aobana or dayflower juice, which disappears with washing.
- 2. Itome-nori starching
The design outlines are drawn in with itome-nori, a glue used as a mask to prevent the penetration of dyes to be applied in a later process. After starching, the aobana lines are washed out, and from this stage, the cloth is stretched out ready to receive a base coating of gojiru, or soybean broth and is then immediately set to dry before a fire. This process helps to soak the itome-nori into the fabric and ensures the dyes are applied more smoothly in a later stage.
- 3. Coloring
Dyes are applied using a drawing brush or a wide brush on the itome-nori starched cloth, which is warmed with an electric heater or more traditionally a charcoal brazier. The skills needed are akin to painting canvas and it can take years to master the art of blending tones and colors.
- 4. Cover Sizing
In this process, starch or wax is applied to the colored patterns as a highly effective mask in preparation for the ground dyeing process done with a wide brush. There are many techniques such as shading and double-dyeing, and upon completion the fabric is thoroughly washed to remove all starch and wax before steaming to ensure good color penetration. Steaming is followed by more washing and then by stretching and steam ironing; the cloth now becomes smooth with a silky lustrous touch. The final washing became a famous occasion in its own right among townspeople as yuzen nagashi and was carried out in beautiful natural rivers such as the Kamogawa and Horikawa.
- 5. Finishing
As a finishing touch, decorations such as gold and platinum leaf, gold and silver dust, or rich embroidery are applied. Gold embellishing is a technique to place gold leaf and dust on a glued surface. Many other techniques have been developed, such as itome starching, stamp dyeing, and variations of gold and silver embossing like wide-cut, slice, dust, bossing and rubbing. By adding embroidery, an already bright and fine colored Kimono becomes even more gorgeous and splendid. Although works of pattern dyeing and direct printing have extended the market these days, the traditions of delicate Yuzen dyeing are preserved and are still popular especially for formal Kimonos such as furisode (long-sleeved Kimono for girls) and tomesode (short-sleeved Kimono for married women)
Where to Buy & More Information
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts
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