Yuki tsumugi silk Yuki tsumugi
Woven silk cherished and loved since the Nara period
Luxurious textile woven with the highest quality threads
What is Yuki tsumugi silk ?
Yuki tsumugi silk is produced principally in the reaches of the Kinu River that straddles the Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures. The Japanese name Yuki tsumugi was derived from a feudal lord named Yuki during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Although it is considered a luxury fabric today, Yuki tsumugi silk originally started as a sideline of sericulture in the region.
Yuki tsumugi silk kimonos are characterized by their lightness, softness and excellent heat retaining-properties with quality threads extracted from yarn spun from silk floss by hand. Silk floss are silk filaments made by boiling cocoons and gently unwinding the strands that contain air, which delivers a comfortable and gentle touch.
Threads maintain their high quality without impairing virtues of the fabric over the ages and they even enrich the appealing texture and deliver a comfortable fit. Therefore, Yuki tsumugi silk textile is one of the most outstanding Japanese silk fabrics that has been passed down for generations.
The history of Yuki tsumugi silk harks back to the Nara period (710-794), when the Ibaraki prefecture was called Hitachi province. This exquisite textile is believed to have been presented to the Imperial Court as a tribute.
Known as Ashiki silk at the time, the forerunner of Yuki tsumugi silk was a silk textile woven with thick threads spun by hand. Since the textile was renamed Yuki tsumugi during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), which greatly participated in its nationwide recognition.
During the Edo period (1603-1868), Tadatsugu INABIZENNOKAMI, a local governor of the shogunate was very active in promoting and improving Yuki tsumugi silk while a new dyeing technique was developed. The technique of tate yoko kasuri was invented in the late Taisho period (1912-1926) and yielded a significant quality improvement. An ordinary kasuri technique includes binding up warp or weft threads before weaving, but tate yoko kasuri technique allows a combination of the two. Weaving with thousands of threads requires subtle craftsmanship. A postwar technological reform has realized elaborate kasuri patterns with fine threads which reinforced the lightness of fabric.
General Production Process
- 1. Silk floss production
Producing silk floss (mawata kake in Japanese) is a difficult technique to master and it is said that it takes "8 years for spreading out silk floss, 3 years for spinning threads".
Cocoons are boiled in sodium bicarbonate water for two hours, then the boiled soften cocoons are gently spread out and laid in ordinary temperature water. Five to six sheets overlap each other to make a sheet of floss. With 50 sheets of floss for a hakari, a bolt of Yuki tsumugi silk fabric requires about seven hakari.
- 2. Spining into yarn
Spining into yarn is called ito tsumugi in Japanese. It is a process of spreading out silk floss and winding it around a bamboo tube with corn pith.
The wound floss is spun while the strands is pulled out by one hand and collected by the other. This technique requires many years of practice.
The spun thread is led into a special tub called oboke. With a hakari that equates to a bocchi, it takes 7 to 10 days to collect a single bocchi of threads.
- 3. Reeling
This consists in spooling the threads collected in oboke around a wooden tube.
Although this may seem like a simple task, it demands a lot of experience to be able to find the right speed.
- 4. Hanking up
This process helps handling the threads in the next step by winding them around the skein spinner.
- 5. Rolling mill
This step uniforms the length, winds the threads around the platform and cuts them to the length of a bolt or several bolts.
- 6. Tracing design
For Yuki tsumugi silk, a design pattern is traced on special plotting paper.
Design patterns have changed with times, and pictorial and complex, detailed patterns including splash patterns were added to the original plain, simple patterns after the Taisho period (1912-1926)
- 7. Kasuri lumping
Kasuri lumping, (kasuri kukuri in Japanese) is a process of binding parts together manually with cotton threads to not to dye them.
It is completed according to the traced designs to create complicated, delicate patterns on the fabric. A bolt has enough width to arrange tortoise shell grids (hexagonal patterns), from 80 to 200. For 80 tortoise shell grid patterns in one width, the threads are bound at 160 places. As the number of grids becomes larger, this process becomes more complex and extremely time consuming. Kasuri lumping itself requires three months.
- 8. Dyeing
Yuki tsumugi silk uses the tataki zome technique which consists in dyeing the threads by beating them against a board to let the dye soak in.
The artisan needs to be careful because the threads are dyed too much if beaten too hard. This process requires concentration to produce evenness in dyeing.
- 9. Sizing
Sizing plays a role in strengthening the threads and preventing them from fluffing.
The concentration of the sizing liquid varies with artisans because the density of the liquid affects the weaving.
- 10. Reed drawing Reed drawing is a process of threading the warps through a comb shaped reed with a spatula to set the threads in the loom.
- 11. Combing and threading Combing and threading the warps through an omaki, and then placing the omaki in the loom to weave the wefts.
- 12. Weaving
A strap around the weaver's waist adjusts the tension of the warp threads on the loom, while the weft threads are woven in with the reed and shuttle.
This is the longest step of the weaving process, requiring from a month up to a year.
- 13. Inspection and dealing A wholesale dealer called shimaya is in charge of transactions of the woven fabric after the quality check.
- 14. Desizing
This very last process will be carried out before the tailoring.
Yuki tumugi silk will be soaked in lukewarm warter and completing desizing with leaving a bit of starch in the threads core.
Where to Buy & More Information
Saga Prefectural Kyushu Toji Bunka Kaikan
ClosedMondays, December 29 to January 3, August 13 to 16
Business HoursMarch to October 9am to 5pm November to February 9am to 4pm
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