Tama brocade Tama ori
Woven fabrics from golden times
A touch of Heian sensibility in modern times
Tama Ori are woven silk fabrics produced in the Hachioji City area of Tokyo. They are made of raw silk, dupion silk or floss silk spun into thread, and are prized for their wrinkle-resistance and gossamer lightness.
From old times, Tama Ori has been well-known under the name of Hachioji woven fabric. Five particular fabrics and their weaving techniques were designated as Tama Ori Japanese traditional crafts by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; they are omeshi-ori with fine shibo wrinkle patterns on its surface; fuutsu-ori, a type of double-woven fabric with distinctive reversible patterns; tsumugi-ori, a unique texture defined by subtle convex-concave patterns; mojiri-ori, a fabric with a lace-like structure; and kawaritsuzure-ori with patterns created from multicolored weft threads.
Tama Ori includes many basic striped patterns suitable for men and every-day wear; along with the adoption of Western clothing by the Japanese, other woven items such as neckties and scarves were also produced and found a ready market. Nowadays, machine weaving is increasingly common, but when uneven threads are used, fabric is still woven on a handloom. Another feature of Tama Ori is the division of production tasks; the making of one item is divided among craftsmen specialized in one process, and this time-honored way and highly skilled craftsmanship ensures the continuation of the elegant simplicity of Tama Ori into the present day.
Documentary records mention the existence of woven silk fabrics around the end of the Heian period (794-1192), and in the latter stage of the Muromachi period (1336-1573), the Hojo clan, by encouraging weaving production in the Tama River area, helped create a thriving silk fabric industry. In the Edo period (1603-1868), on the 4th and 8th days of every month, a silk market was held to sell locally produced raw silk and textiles from the Hachioji area; this gave rise to the name Hachioji woven fabric.
Around the end of the Edo period, the production process was divided into three: the sericultural industry, silk reeling industry, and textile manufacturing, and the emergence of brokers dealing in the three fields accelerated the development of Hachioji woven fabrics. In 1887, the Hachioji Textile Dyeing Training Institute was established, which in 1899 became the Tokyo Textile Dyeing School (present Hachioji Technical High School); this initiative further boosted the thriving Tama Ori industry. Along with increasing modernization, production techniques changed from hand to machine weaving, and sales channels also moved from local markets to direct transactions with stores. Since more people were wearing Western fashions, the end of the Taisho period (1912-1926) saw the production of the first neckties.
In the early Showa period (1926-1989), the production process was further segmented, and a woven fabric known as Tama Yuki was first produced; the technique used was actually the oldest Tama Ori weaving method and the new fabric was aimed at women and the mass market. In 1980, Tama Ori fabrics were designated as Japanese traditional crafts by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; it is certain that the industry and its techniques will continue developing and thriving.
General Production Process
- 1. Degumming
Raw silk is put in a bag and boiled in wood or straw lye to remove the colloidal sericin, a protein present on the surface of raw silk; the process does not remove the fibroin protein, which gives sheen and softness to silk. The silk is then washed in water and dried to obtain degummed silk yarn. Dupion silk reeled from double cocoons, and floss silk made by loosening damaged cocoons are also used for Tama Ori.
- 2. Drawing Designs
A design for the woven fabric complete with color scheme and the layout of the warp and weft is drawn on a textile design sheet (a type of graph paper). Recently, a computer may be used to create the design.
- 3. Dyeing
The Tama Ori fabrics are made from dyed-yarn. In the first stage, degummed silk yarns are suspended on a rod, soaked, and simmered in a dye-bath pot. The dye must never boil and the yarns are watched carefully to ensure even dyeing; this dyeing process is repeated several times. The dyed silk is washed in water to remove scum and impurities, and wrung out and left to dry.
Over a period of 3 years, non-glutinous rice starch in water is set aside to make a rice paste; the water is changed every day to ensure no molds form. This paste is rubbed into the dyed silk yarns, along with camellia oil to smooth them and bracken paste to prevent grease stains. The pasting process significantly affects the quality of the final piece; therefore, yarns are hung on a rod and firmly tightened to help the paste permeate. Particularly in omeshi-ori, as the weft is twisted, the paste needs to be thoroughly rubbed into the yarns.
- 4. From Reeling to Machine-Spinning
The following describes the process for omeshi-ori, the basic Tama Ori fabric.
(1) Omeshi-yori (Reeling and Twisting)
Yarns are set on the skein reel of a filature, and firmly and constantly pulled while being wound onto a reel. There are two ways of twisting, right-handed and left-handed, and yarns are classified into either category. Then, the yarns are put through a haccho nenshiki (traditional silk thread twisting machine) to make strong twisted threads. Under a fixed level of humidity, right- and left-handed threads are simultaneously and strongly twisted at 3,000 times/m.
Warping is a process to adjust the warp. The number of threads, length, and width necessary for the work are determined, and the warp threads are wound around a warper drum. Even a slight looseness of the threads is liable to affect the subsequent steps; therefore, careful work is required.
Attention is paid to keep the threads ordered, and using a hatagusa tool, the warp is wound onto an omaki rod.
- 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-twisted and right-twisted), using a large comb-like reed. The density of the warp is 100 or more per 1 cm.
Where to Buy & More Information
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