Tama brocade

Tama brocade Tama ori

Woven fabrics that remains unchanged
A touch of Heian sensibility in modern times


What is Tama brocade ?

Tama brocade (called Tama ori in Japanese) is a woven silk fabric produced around Hachioji, Tokyo. Since ancient times, Tama ori has been well-known under the name of Hachioji woven fabric. The following five different types of woven fabric are called Tama ori collectively, and have been designated as traditional crafts by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. Tama yuuki, which is famous for its fine shibo wrinkle patterns on the surface, futsu-ori, a type of double-woven fabric with distinctive reversible patterns, tsumugi-ori, a unique texture defined by subtle bumpy patterns, mojiri-ori, a fabric with a lace-like structure, and kawaritsuzure-ori with patterns created from multi-colored weft threads. Tama ori is made of raw silk, dupioni silk, or floss silk spun into thread and is prized for its wrinkle-resistance and lightness. To produce a single Tama ori textile, the tasks are divided among craftsmen specialized in each step. This method ensures that highly skilled craftsmanship continues the elegant simplicity of Tama ori to the present day. Although machine weaving is increasingly common, the fabric is woven on a handloom when uneven threads are used. With the modernization of Japan, many western clothing accessories such as neckties and scarves have been produced in addition to kimono fabric.


The existence of woven silk fabrics can be confirmed in written documents that date back to the end of the Heian period (794-1192). During the latter half of the Muromachi period (1336-1573), the Hojo clan (feudal military government) financially supported weaving production near the Tama River and helped create a thriving silk fabric industry. In the Edo period (1603-1868), a silk market was held on the fourth and eighth of every month to sell locally produced raw silk and textiles from the Hachioji area which is why the fabric produced in this area was called Hachioji woven fabric. By the end of the Edo period, the production process was divided into sericultural industry, silk reeling industry, and textile manufacturing. Brokers coordinating all three industries emerged and accelerated the development of Hachioji woven fabric. In 1887, the Hachioji Textile Dyeing Training Institute was established, which became the Tokyo Textile Dyeing School (presently Hachioji Technical High School) in 1899, further boosting the thriving Tama ori industry. With modernization, production techniques changed from hand weaving to machine weaving, and the business flow switched from selling at local markets to direct transactions with stores. Since more people were wearing Western clothing, the first neckties were produced during the end of the Taisho period (1912-1926). In the early Showa period (1926-1989), the production process was further segmented, and a woven fabric called Tama yuki was produced. The technique used is the oldest Tama ori weaving method which has been produced for a long time for the mass market. In 1980, Tama ori fabric was designated as a traditional craft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Degumming Raw silk is placed in a bag and boiled in wood or straw lye to remove the sericin which is a protein present on the surface of raw silk, leaving only the fibroin protein, which gives sheen and softness to the silk. The raw silk is then washed in water and dried. Other than the degummed silk thread made through this process, silk thread made from dupion silk reeled from double cocoons and floss silk made by loosening damaged cocoons are also used to produce Tama ori.
  2. 2. Drawing designs A draft for the woven fabric complete with color scheme and the layout of the warp (parallel threads) and weft (perpendicular threads) is drawn on a textile design sheet. Today, computers are also used to create the design.
  3. 3. Dyeing Tama brocade is made from silk threads that have already been dyed. First, degummed silk threads are suspended on a rod, soaked, and simmered in a pot filled with dye. The dye must never boil and threads are watched carefully to ensure even dyeing. This process is repeated several times. Then, the dyed silk is washed in water to remove scum and impurities, wrung out, and left to dry. The dyed silk threads are then starched evenly. A starch made from non-glutinous rice that has been left for three years while changing the water every day is rubbed into the dyed silk yarns as well as camellia oil to smooth the threads and bracken starch to prevent grease stains. The starching process significantly affects the quality of the final piece, so the threads are hung on a rod and firmly tightened to help the starch permeate. Particularly for omeshi-ori, where the weft is twisted, the starch needs to be thoroughly rubbed into the yarns.
  4. 4. Reeling to machine-spinning To make omeshi-ori, which is a basic type of this fabric, yarns are set on the skein reel of a filature and continuously pulled while being wound. There is right-handed and left-handed twisting and yarns are classified into either category. Then, the yarns are put through a traditional silk thread winding machine to make twisted threads. The level of humidity is maintained while the right- and left-handed threads are simultaneously twisted three thousand times per meter. Warping is a process to adjust the warp or parallel threads. The number of threads, length, and width necessary for the work is decided and the warp threads are wound around the drum. Even a slight looseness of threads is liable to affect the subsequent steps, so careful work is required. The warp is wound onto a rod, while using a special tool that keeps the warp in place.
  5. 5. Weaving The warp threads are passed through the heddles of a loom. While opening the heddles, the weft is passed though, and the warp and weft are alternately woven (in the order of left and right), using a large comb-like reed. The density of the warp is at least a hundred threads per centimeter.
  6. 6. Finishing The woven textile is soaked in hot water and washed of any remaining glue or impurities. After drying, the textile is steamed and smoothed by hand to straighten the shrunken fabric. Then the fabric is inspected for any scratches, fray or irregularity in the design, and the Tama brocade is complete.

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