Yuki tsumugi silk Yuki tsumugi
Woven silk cherished and loved since the Nara Period
Luxurious textile woven with highest-quality threads
Yuki Tsumugi refers to a silk textile produced principally in the reaches of the Kinu River that straddles Ibaraki and Tochigi Prefectures. The name of Yuki Tsumugi was derived from Feudal Lord Yuki during the Kamakura Period. Noted for a luxury fabric today, Yuki Tsumugi originally started as a sideline of sericulture in the region. With quality threads extracted from yarn spun from silk floss by hand, Yuki Tsumugi kimonos are characterized by its lightness, softness and excellent heat retaining-properties. Silk floss is silk filaments made by boiling cocoons and gently unwinding the strands with containing air, delivering comfortable, gentle touch. Threads maintain their high quality without impairing virtues of the material. Texture created across the ages enhances its appeal, bringing Yuki Tsumugi to one of the most outstanding Japanese silk fabrics that will be passed down for generations.
History of Yuki Tsumugi harks back to the Nara Period, when Ibaraki Prefecture was called Hitachi Province, and the exquisite textile is believed to have been presented to the Imperial Court as a tribute. Known as Ashiginu (Ashiki silk) at the time, forerunner of Yuki Tsumugi was a silk textile woven with thick threads spun by hand. The textile was renamed to Yuki Tsumugi in the Kamakura Period, increasing name recognition nationwide. In the Edo Period, Inabizennokami Tadatsugu, daikan (local governor) of the Bakufu, was very active in promoting and improving Yuki Tsumugi, while a new dyeing technique was developed. The technique of Tate-yoko Kasuri invented in the late Taisho Period yielded a significant quality improvement. An ordinary kasuri technique includes binding up warp or weft threads before weaving, but the Tate-yoko Kasuri technique allows a combination of the two. Weaving with thousands of threads requires subtle craftsmanship. Postwar technological reforms has realized elaborated kasuri patterns with fine threads and offered lightness.
General Production Process
- 1. Mawata-kake Mawata-kake is a difficult technique to master that is denoted as “8 years for spreading out silk floss, 3 years for spinning threads.” Cocoons are boiled in sodium bicarbonate water for two hours, and soft, boiled cocoons are gently spread out and laid in ordinary temperature water to have five or six sheets overlap each other to make a sheet of floss. With 50 sheets of floss for a hakari, a bolt of Yuki Tsumugi fabric requires about seven hakari.
- 2. Ito-tsumugi Ito-tsumugi is a process of spreading out silk floss and winding it around tsukushi which is a bamboo tube with corn pith. The wound floss is spun while a strand 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. Kudamaki Kudamaki is a process of spooling the threads collected in oboke around the wooden tube. The sense of appropriate speed of reeling up the threads, not too fast but not too slow, though it is considered a simple task.
- 4. Kaseage The Kaseage process helps easy handling of the threads in the further process by winding them around the skein spinner.
- 5. Hatanobe Hatanobe is making all uniform length, winding the threads around the platform and cutting them to the length of a bolt or several bolts.
- 6. Design For Yuki Tsumugi, 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.
- 7. Kasuri kukuri Kasuri kukuri, also known as kasuri kubiri, is a process of binding parts not to be dyed together manually with cotton threads according to the design to create complicated, delicate patterns on the fabric. A bolt has an 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 kukuri itself requires three months.
- 8. Dyeing Yuki Tsumugi employs the Tataki-zome technique which is dyeing the threads by beating them against a board to let a dye soak in. Careful attention is needed because the threads are dyed too much if beaten too hard. This process requires concentration to produce evenness in dyeing.
- 9. Sizing Sizing plays roles in strengthening the threads and preventing them from fluffing. The concentration of a sizing liquid varies with artisans because the density of the liquid affects weaving.
- 10. Osatoshi Osatoshi is a process of threading the warps through a comb-shaped reed (osa) with a spatula to set the threads in the loom.
- 11. Hatamaki Hatamaki is 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 a month up to a year.
- 13. Shimaya A wholesale dealer called Shimaya is in charge of transactions of the woven fabric after quality check.
Where to Buy & More Information
Saga Prefectural Kyushu Toji Bunka Kaikan
Business Hours[March to October] 9:00a.m.-5:00p.m., [November to February] 9:00a.m.-4:00p.m.