Murayama-oshima tsumugi silk

Murayama-oshima tsumugi silk Murayama oshima tsumugi

Plain folk craft-style texture
created by slightly blurred patterns


What is Murayama-oshima tsumugi silk ?

Murayama Oshima Tsumugi is a textile produced in the region surrounding Musashi Murayama City, Tokyo Prefecture. Murayama Oshima Tsumugi is a silk textile with the Tateyoko Kasuri (Kasuri patterns woven with both the warp and the weft) patterns. It is woven with the hand-spun threads pulled from dupioni silk. Murayama Kon Gasuri, which is a cotton textile featuring Shoai Zome (dyeing by the naturally fermented indigo dye), and the Sunagawa Futo-ori, which is a silk textile, were combined and developed into Murayama Oshima Tsumugi. The textile is similar to Oshima Tsumugi, which takes its name from Amami Oshima where it is produced.
The characteristics of Murayama Oshima Tsumugi are that it uses the Itajime Senshoku method using the Kasuri Ita (wooden boards) and that it has the fine Tateyoko Kasuri patterns. The Itajime Senshoku method is a method of dyeing using the Kasuri Ita that have grooves carved along the design. The threads are set between the Kasuri Ita and fastened with bolts. The dye liquid is poured over the threads between the wooden boards and the dye goes in the grooves that are carved in the boards. The part of the threads in the grooves is dyed while the rest remains white. If multiple colors are used, the Surikomi Nassen (rub and print dye) method is used to layer the colors. The Kasuri threads that are dyed are sorted according to the design layout and are woven. Murayama Oshima Tsumugi is woven with these processes so that it has both the plain folk craft-style Kasuri patterns, which are slightly blurred, and the luster of the silk. The charm of Murayama Oshima Tsumugi is its lightness and the pleasant feel of the textile on the skin when


Murayama Oshima Tsumugi is produced in the mountain region of Sayama Kyuryo Nanroku. It is said that the naturalized Japanese from the continent started the textile production in this region in the Nara period (710 – 794). The cotton textile with the striped pattern has been produced since the latter half of the 1600’s and the cotton textile with the Kasuri pattern was first produced at the beginning of 1800 and was referred to as Murayama Kasuri. Murayam Kasuri was developed more in the Edo period (1603 – 1868). In the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), the silk textile that was referred to as Sunagawa Futo-ori was produced. The Itajime Senshoku using the Kasuri Ita and the Tatemaki techniques were brought back from Isezaki, Gunma Prefecture in 1919. The region surrounding Isezaki was known as the most advanced textile production area at that time. Murayama Oshima Tsumugi was produced using the techniques of the Murayama Kon Gasuri and the Sunagawa Futo-ori. Murayama Oshima Tsumugi became popular as daily wear and there was great demand for the textile during the period of high economic growth. However, production declined after that. Murayama Oshima Tsumugi was designated as one of the Tokyo Metropolitan intangible folk cultural properties in 1967 and was also designated as a traditional craft so the traditional techniques can be handed down to posterity.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Production of the Kasuri Ita (wooden boards) The Itajime Senshoku method is used for Murayama Ohshima Tsumugi. The Kasuri Ita used to dye the threads are required for every Kasuri pattern. Therefore, approximately 150 Kasuri Ita are required for the warp and the weft combined for one pattern. The number of the Kasuri Ita increases as the pattern becomes bigger in size. The carver carves the grooves in the Kasuri Ita along the design. When the Kasuri Ita are layered and fastened, the dye goes in the grooves and the threads are dyed. The Kasuri Ita are made from Mizume Sakura (Betula grossa), Japanese birch trees that are 70 to 100 years old.
  2. 2. Refining and processing The threads are boiled in a pot to remove the impurities, including glue, in order to create the luster of the raw silk and make the texture better. After the threads are boiled and refined, they are washed thoroughly and dried. This process makes the woven textile smooth and shiny.
  3. 3. The Jisome (texture dyeing) The Jiito (foundation threads) are dyed with the dye extracted from a plant, for example, a hematin made from the core of the logwood. The threads have to be soaked in the dye for a long time to make the dye permeate evenly and to make the color deeper. The threads are washed in water after being dyed.
  4. 4. The Seikei (warping) The warp and the weft threads are sorted according to the length and the number of the threads that are required for weaving. The length of the weft threads varies depending on the size of the pattern. Therefore, they have to be prepared according to the pattern. The threads are divided into four different kinds, including the Kasuri threads. The thickness and the hardness of the twist also vary depending on the kind of threads.
  5. 5. The Itamaki and Itazumi (winding the threads around the wooden board and layering the boards) This is a preliminary process for the Itajime Senshoku. The warp threads are wound around each Kasuri Ita. After the threads have been wound around the Kasuri Ita, they are layered with a wooden board in between. The threads have to be wound at an even width and without any gaps or overlapping. The weft threads are lined up flatly by sandwiching them between the boards alternately. This process is important since it determines the level of the quality of the woven textile.
  6. 6. The Itajime Senshoku (dyeing the threads) The Kasuri Ita that are layered with the warp and the weft separately are fastened with bolts at 10~15t/㎡. The fastened boards are placed in the device for Itajime Senshoku. The dye is poured over the Kasuri Ita thoroughly using a ladle to make the dye permeate the threads and to prevent irregular dyeing. This is very difficult work and it requires experience because the size of the Kasuri patterns may become incorrect or the threads may be dyed too deeply if the fastening of the boards has not been done correctly.
  7. 7. The Surikomi Nassen (rubbing and printing) The threads are dyed in one color using the Itajime Senshoku. So, the colors have to be layered if the design requires multiple colors. Firstly, the dyed Kasuri threads are pulled into a bundle, divided into the design parts and tied to prevent the Kasuri patterns appearing in the wrong places. Then, using bamboo or wooden spatulas, which have cotton threads wound around them, the dye liquid is rubbed into the threads. The threads are sandwiched between the two spatulas. After that, the threads are steamed in the Mushibako (a steam box) to settle the colors.
  8. 8. The Hatamaki (winding the threads) The dyed Kasuri Ito are arranged to make the patterns. The warp threads are put through the Osa (a reed) one by one with the Jiito while being adjusted along the patterns of the Kasuri Ito after processes such as Hiroidashi, Kashira Zukuri, Kashira Wake and Mazaki. This process requires great care so that the threads do not come out of position. The patterns lined sideways also have to be positioned precisely.
  9. 9. Weaving The warp and the weft are woven correctly to produce Murayama Oshima Tsumugi with the fine Kasuri patterns. It takes a week to 10 days to weave a textile for a set of kimono by an experienced craftsman. Lastly, the woven textile is inspected to assure its quality.

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