Shiozawa tsumugi silk Photo:Niigata Prefecture

Shiozawa tsumugi silk Shiozawa tsumugi

Serene kasuri patterns, a traditional craft technique
Hand-woven silk threads bring out the most elegant radiance and texture

Description

Shiozawa Tsumugi refers to a silk textile produced around Uonuma City, Niigata Prefecture. Uonuma is an area known for its heavy snowfall and the wet winter climate is ideal for weaving. Echigo Jyofu, a linen fabric, has been produced in this area since the Nara period (710-794AD). Shiozawa Tsumugi was first made in the mid-Edo period (17th century) using the centuries old Echigo Jyofu techniques. Shiozawa Tsumugi uses raw silk or dupioni raw silk as the warp and hand-spun floss silk yarn as the weft.

The main characteristics of Shiozawa Tsumugi are the patterns created by gathering the warps; these patterns include kagasuri (an extremely fine pattern), cross kasuri and turtle kasuri. The fabric is single tone in cool shades, mostly navy blue or black with white, white and navy blue or black kasuri patterns, which create a quiet and dignified impression. It simultaneously has the softness and brilliance of dupioni raw silk with the rough texture of pongee (Tsumugi). Shiozawa Tsumugi feels lighter and smoother than other kinds of pongee.
Other fabrics are woven with the same Echigo Jyofu techniques including Hon-Shiozawa with Shibo and Natsu-Shiozawa which is ideal for summer.

History

The production of linen fabrics has long been a successful industry in the Shiozawa area, and it is particularly known for the fabric called Echigo Jyofu. Shiozawa Tsumugi, a silk fabric produced using the technique of Echigo Jyofu, was born in the mid-Edo period. Shiozawa Tsumugi is known as one of the Three Tsumugi in Japan and UNESCO designated Shiozawa Tsumugi as an intangible cultural heritage in 2009. The very fine kasuri pattern is the main attractive feature of Shiozawa Tsumugi and it holds a dominant 60% share of all Shiozawa fabrics currently produced. In its golden age, there were many manufacturers but numbers have decreased in modern times, giving Shiozawa Tsumugi a very high scarcity value.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Designing and Planning First of all, the pattern drawing is made. Patterns are positioned by referring to the original drawing and/or a sample and the position of each pattern is marked on graph paper. The length of the threads and the positions of the kasuri patterns have to be planned before preparing the kasuri threads to weave. As the fabric is woven based on this pattern drawing it is an essential stage in the making of Shiozawa Tsumugi.
  2. 2. Ito-tsukuri, Nenshi (Making threads) Shiozawa Tsumugi uses raw silk, dupioni raw silk and hand-spun yarn made from floss silk. Silkworm cocoons are boiled in water for a few hours before strands are one by one teased out by hand and layered to make silk floss. Floss silk has to be opened with one hand while the other carefully draws out each strand for winding to ensure an even thread thickness. Thread thickness is decided by the strength of the hand pulling out the strands. These threads are called hand-spun floss silk yarn.
    Dupioni raw silk is a thread reeled from tamamayu, a cocoon with more than one silk moth pupa inside. As threads become entangled and knotted because there is more than one pupa in the cocoon it is also called fushi-ito, a knotted thread. Several dupioni threads are spun into one and thickness and strength are evened out by twisting the threads. Raw silk that is used in the warp is sorted by usage and twisted to make a uniform thickness and strength.
  3. 3. Sumitsuke, Kubiri (Marking and fastening the threads) The characteristic of Shiozawa Tsumugi is the fine patterns woven with the pre-dyed kasuri threads. For this purpose, threads have to be marked first. Positions of the patterns have to be marked in ink on weft threads stretched on the holding base using a prepared kasuri ruler. Marked places are tightly fastened with cotton thread so that they are left undyed. It is important to tie the threads firmly to prevent the dye penetrating, failure to do so would spoil the pattern.
  4. 4. Surikomi (Dyeing threads) The colored ink marks on the weft threads are rubbed with a bamboo spatula made especially for this purpose. When coloring is done, the threads are steamed to fix the color and left to dry.
  5. 5. Preparing for weaving When the threads are ready, preparation for weaving starts. The warp threads have to be carefully and firmly wound onto a paper roll in accordance with the design drawing so that the kasuri patterns are positioned correctly. Each warp thread passes through the heddle eye of the loom and two threads pass through the reed. The heddle eye and the reed move up and down so the threads are also pulled up and down. A boat-shaped weft shuttle upon which the weft thread is wound is passed back and forth. The average number of the warp threads for Shiozawa Tsumugi is approximately 1,260.
    In the meantime, the weft thread is wound on to a tube used for spinning after sorting the threads (kasuri okoshi). Base threads (ji-ito) are divided into right-twist and left-twist and each of them is wound on to a different tube.
  6. 6. Weaving Weaving is done carefully on a takahata loom, so that kasuri patterns made by the warp and weft threads are exactly at the correct position; because of its mainly fine and delicate patterns it requires the utmost patience to weave Shiozawa Tsumugi.
  7. 7. Finishing process and inspection When the bolt of cloth is finished, the fabric is washed to remove any dirt and starch before an inspection for cleanliness and any irregular weaving. After passing the inspection the fabric is ready for sale.
  8. 7. Seam-cutting After each piece of paper is pasted on the lantern, the remaining part other than the tab for glue should be cut off cautiously with a razor. If the overlapping seams between each piece of paper are too thick, the light from the lantern will become uneven so the overlapping seams should be kept as narrow as possible, preferably around 1mm.
  9. 8. Removing the lantern from the Harikata When the Hibukuro is dried, the Harikata is removed from inside the lantern. Folds are carefully made in the Hibukuro with a spatula and it is folded with great caution.
  10. 9. Drawing and finishing This is different from the technique of stenciling. It is a method in which the lantern is made without a stenciled design and the design is drawn by hand on the Hibukuro after it is made. It requires the technique of Japanese-style painting. It is difficult work to adjust the color that will change when the light shines through from the inside. Also, it requires a high level of skill and experience to draw the same design on multiple lanterns. A Chochin is finished when accessories including Kuchiwa, Teita and tassels are attached.

Where to Buy & More Information

SHIOZAWA TSUMUGI PAVILION