It has been a while since I have posted on this blog. I have been busy sourcing antique and vintage fabrics and dyeing katazome textiles. I have also been working on a new website and blog. Please visit our new website for blog posts on antique Japanese textiles and my new indigo dye projects. We also have a shop where you can purchase fabrics and an experiences page where you can learn about upcoming classes and textile tours. Visit the new website at: www.nsomerstextiles.com
This Katazome fabric is light and soft and I think the background decorations must have been inspired by the embroidered designs from Ainu robes.
The two pieces of mid 19th century hand spun and hand woven cotton shown above are dyed using benibana or safflower. This flower in the thistle family is used to dye cotton and silk a range of colors from light pink to deep red. As benibana dyed fabrics age they begin to turn a more brown or rust color like the pieces in this post.
both of the fabrics shown here has been pattered using a katagami, or paper stencil used to apply rice paste to the fabric as a resist before dying. These stencil dyed fabrics are known as katazome.
Katazome is a type of fabric that is decorated through the use of paste resist stencil designs. The technique has been used in China and Japan for hundreds of years. I wanted to try the technique, but felt overwhelmed by the large number of supplies needed. This was my short cut experiment in katazome. I began by cutting out a stencil from some small squares of kakishibu treated paper. Kakishibu is a dye made from the fermented juice of green astringent persimmons. It is often used to dye fabric or to waterproof paper. I copied the chrysanthemum and sea holly patterns from some antique fabrics, and I made a simple rice paste glue by cooking glutinous rice flour in hot water for a few minutes. I left the paste to thicken up and cool down in the refrigerator.
The base fabric was dampened with a spray bottle and the stencil was also moistened so that it would lay flat on the damp fabric. I used a small spatula to push the paste through the stencil before removing the stencil and allowing the paste to dry in the sun for about an hour.
After the paste was no longer tacky I dyed some of the fabric pieces with indigo and the rest using kakishibu. The kakishibu dyed fabrics need to be exposed to strong sunlight in order to deepen the color of the dyed fabric. I am pleased with the simplified katazome fabrics that this experiment produced. I wrapped the fabrics up as gifts with some antique Japanese paper from old daifukucho.
This antique katazome of overlapping squares has been hand dyed with indigo on beautiful well worn machine woven cotton. I love the bold design of this fabric and I think there is something really modern about the design. The fabric was more than likely created for a nuptial futonji given to a bride and groom on their wedding.
I like this early Meiji katazome for its bold design of chrysanthemum flowers and its beautiful hand spun texture. I also think its really amazing how strong the indigo remains after over 120 years. This design tells a lot about how katazome designs were created. You can clearly see the small connecting lines in the design that were made by small pieces of the original paper stencil. These small connecting lines helped hold the stencil together when an artisan was pushing rice paste through the stencil to deposit the resist. This second photo also shows the spot where the stencil was overlapped to create one continuous design.
At first glance these patches seem ordinary. The first is a patch of small sashiko stitches and the second a normal enough blue patch with haphazard stitching holding the two pieces of fabric together. When you turn the piece over it reveals two beautiful patches made from beautiful Edo period katazome.
The next patch has a beautiful double design of black leaves and branches on an indigo ground, as well as, resist dyed cherry or plum trees with stylized blossoms. I can’t even begin to understand the process of dying something like this.
I think these patches elevate this beautiful Edo period katazome, and I am in complete reverence of the masterful hands that created these fabrics so many years ago.