Omi hemp cloth Omi jofu
Fog arising from Lake Biwa and the clear streams keep a 700-year old tradition alive
The refreshing texture of linen and the unique and sophisticated Kasuri patterns
What is Omi hemp cloth ?
Omi Jofu is a textile produced in the region surrounding Aichi Gun in Koto, Shiga Prefecture. The textile is made with the hemp threads from the Choma (ramie). The threads are shredded and joined by hand. This process is referred to as the Teumi.
The characteristics of Omi Jofu are the refreshing texture of the textile woven with the fine linen threads and the chic Kasuri patterns. The Kibira, which is woven with the unbleached linen, is also produced and the hemp threads, shredded and joined by hand, are used for the weft. The linen fiber has to be shredded and joined to make one thread so the Teumi process is a painstaking process. The Kasuri patterns of Omi Jofu include the Tateito Gasuri, the Yokoito Gasuri and the Tateyoko Heiyo Gasuri. The Tateito Gasuri uses the Katagami Nassen technique (the threads are dyed using the paper pattern). The Tateyoko Heiyo Gasuri uses the Kushioshi Nassen technique, which uses a tool with a curve similar to the back of a comb to rub the dye into the threads. Omi Jofu is woven while the warp and the weft are carefully adjusted. The woven textile is known as a fabric of the highest quality and its cool and refreshing texture make it suitable for the summer Kimono.
The Koto region, in the east side of Lake Biwa, is a basin with high humidity due to the fog arising from Lake Biwa and the streams from the Aichi River and Noto River. This environment is suitable for cultivating linen and the cultivation of hemp has been thriving for a long time. The linen textile has been produced since the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333) using the technique passed down from the craftsmen who moved from Kyoto. The linen textile produced in this region became well-known nation-wide due to the activities of the Omi Shonin (businessmen from the Omi region). In the Edo period (1603 – 1868) the production of the linen textile developed furthermore and became a successful local industry under the protection of the Hikone domain, which ruled the east side of Lake Biwa. In the meantime, the Choma (ramie), which the Omi Shonin brought back from the Tohoku region, greatly influenced the development of Omi Jofu. The dyeing technique also progressed around the same time. The Itajime method (making patterns by pressing and dyeing cloth and threads between carved boards) and the Kushioshi Nassen method were developed in the latter half of the 18th century. The spun ramie threads were introduced at the end of the Meiji period (1868 – 1912) and the new techniques including the Kamigata Nassen were developed at the beginning of the Showa period (1926 – 1989). The Itajime method, which was in use until the Taisho period (1912 – 1926), disappeared. Omi Jofu has been has been passed down to the present day as a 700-year old traditional textile.
General Production Process
- 1. Designing
The design of the textile has to be decided first. The threads are sorted according to the paper pattern and dyed by the Katagami Nassen method. This method requires the paper pattern for each color so the number of paper patterns matches the number of the colors used. The design has to be decided ensuring that the parts where the paper patterns join are seamless. The Kushioshi Nassen method uses the warp and the weft threads to make the Kasuri patterns. The positions and width of the parts that have to be dyed are decided in alignment with the patterns for the warp threads and the weft threads, respectively. The Hane Jogi (a ruler), which is made from cardboard with marks on it, has to be made. This process requires precision.
- 2. Dyeing
In Katagami Nassen a process referred to as the Hanemaki is carried out before dyeing the threads. The weft threads are wound around the metal frame and the paper pattern is laid over the threads. The dye is applied to the threads using the Komabera (a spatula). The threads are dyed carefully so that there are no seams between the paper patterns and the threads are put in a steamer for approximately 10 minutes to settle the color. After that, the threads are washed in water and put out to dry. Normally, the Yoko Gasuri method, which dyes only the weft threads to make the Kasuri patterns, is used. The other dyeing methods include the Kukuri Zome (tie-dye) and the Kushioshi Nassen.
The Kushioshi Nassen is a technique to weave the Kasuri patterns using both the warp and the weft threads. Each skein of threads is hung from the Sao Waku (a frame pole) and they are marked with ink based on the ruler, which was made according to the pattern. Then, the threads are dyed using a tool with a comb shape. The tool, the Kushi, is made with various materials including brass and cypress wood. The lines of threads are dyed evenly using the curved side of the Kushi. The positions and the width of the parts that have to be dyed vary depending on the pattern but Kushi in different sizes are used accordingly and the threads are dyed, just like a stamp has been pressed on the threads, to make the various Kasuri threads. In this way the vivid Kasuri patterns specific to Omi Jofu are created. This method does not require tying; therefore the strain on the threads is less and the results of dyeing are clear Kasuri. The color tends to become blurred on the hemp threads so the kind of glue that is mixed in the dye should also be carefully adjusted.
- 3. The Kasuri Wake (sorting the Kasuri threads)
The weft threads, which were wound in the Hanemaki process, are sorted one by one and wound again along the pattern into a skein. The skein of threads is wound around the reel, then, wound again around the Kokuda (a small tube). Preparation before weaving is completed here. The warp threads are divided into the Jiito (foundation threads) and the Kasuri Ito (the Kasuri threads) and laid on the Seikei Stand to adjust the patterns roughly. Then, the threads are adjusted yet again on the Warikomi Stand so that they are ready for being put through the Osa (reed).
- 4. The Seikei (warping)
The warp threads are sorted into the required number and length for weaving. The sorted warp threads are put through the Osa using the Osa Doshi (a wooden hooking stick) and spread to the required width of the textile. The warp threads are put through the Soko no Me (the eye of heddle) next. This process makes the Hi Michi (the shuttle path) for the weft threads during weaving.
- 5. Hand weaving
When all the preparations are done, the weaver starts weaving. The Takahata loom is used for weaving Omi Jofu. The hemp threads tend to be cut more easily than the silk threads so it requires the utmost attention to weave without cutting the threads. The weaver also has to adjust the Kasuri patterns carefully so it takes a long time to weave. If the Chijimi is preferred, the Chijimi process in which the woven textile is kneaded to create the Shibo, is required. The production of Omi Jofu with its texture that is soft and dry to the skin is now completed.
Where to Buy & More Information
Omijofu Dento Sangyo Kaikan
ClosedMonday, Public holidays, Year end and new year holidays, Summer holidays
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