A Fantastic Kasuri Fabric

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shoji-yamamura-tying-threadsWhile in Kyushu Island south of the main island of Japan near the town of Karume is a distinguished master craftsman kasuri dyer. Kasuri is a form of ikat and can be warp-wise or weft-wise. The threads are dyed in a pattern then put on the loom and woven. Here is a photo of Shoji Yamamura tying threads to make a pattern. Then the threads are dyed with indigo for the traditional blue and white kasuri fabrics we know. We bought one of his gorgeous pieces–a length of cloth for a kimono with the idea of splitting up the piece when we got home. 



On a Saturday afternoon the three of us met to divide the fabric–over 15 yards.

Here one third has been cut off and we are about to cut off the second piece.


This is my piece and I love it more each day as it hangs on my wall.













This is the end piece– it’s the signature of the weaver and is woven at the beginning of the length of cloth. Note that the unwoven area shows the ikat pattern that was tied in the threads.  Also notable is the dyeing of the warp stripes–a specialty of this artist.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 21

Day 21. Our last day. The town of Miyazu is known for this natural sight.

We took a cable car up a mountain to get the famous view of the spit of land. Besides that view the town of Miyazu is known for its winner of the Ig Nobel Prize where it was studied to see if things looked different if you bend over and look between your legs. There were several locations provided for viewing and it was a hoot to see people bent over like this. When our Japanese friends tried to tell me about it ahead of time I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about! But this was the thing to do in Miyazu for sure.

This person had to hang on!

Lots of people took this in whether or not they did the bending thing.

We didn’t bend over but we were very amused…and it was cold up on the mountain.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 20

Day 20 a visit to the village Kami-Seya outside of the town of Miyazu outside of Kyoto. Kami mean upper and we were at the top of these steps at a former school where people came for a workshop to learn to weave with wisteria.

This is what the wild wisteria vines look like. I had no idea they are so thick. Of course certain vines are better suited for the fibers and a certain part of the vine is used. The preparation is hugely time consuming.

The first step in preparation for the thin threads used for weaving. Each step results in finer and softer threads.

One of the steps is to smooth and separate the fibers in running water. A lot of time was taken for this step I thought.

Here the students were learning how to knot the fibers to make a continuous thread.

Here is a spool of thread. I’m not sure if it is for the warp or weft. From the look of the woven cloth both warp and weft threads may be prepared in the same way. These students have been coming to learn once a month to learn all the stages. The first one was In the spring to cut the vines when they are soft. It was a wonderful experience for our next to the last day in Japan.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 19

Day 19. I found the little bags for the tea in the tea ceremony at a very special beta shop with tea bowls and other supplies. I am thrilled to have 3. It is interesting to me how they are made. I also learned how to tie the cord.

The tea shop. It is well known and does web orders. The name is Sazen.

We went to the Dazaifu temple where the children of certain ages were honored or prayed for. Lots of kids getting there outfits put together by parents.

A glimpse of the crowds at the temple.

A huge chrysanthemum exhibit at the shrine. Types I’ve never seen. A good day.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 18 – Part 2

Day 18 Part Two. Here is weft ikat being woven on a power loom. I was intrigued with the stick shuttles used in the fly shuttles See more photos of the shuttles that follow.

The stick shuttles wound with the tie dyed threads waiting to be put into a fly shuttle on a power loom. We saw them being wound –many at once maybe 10 at a time and all alike.

The stick shuttle with the weft thread in the fly shuttle being woven on the loom. I couldn’t imagine how the thread came off the shuttle so fast. When the looms were turned on the shuttles zoomed across the warp threads as they were being woven. Maybe this photo is a repeat but you can tell I was intrigued .

Here are 20 stick shuttles on the machine that wound them. A woman set up the shuttles and turned the crank.

Here is a hand tied and hand woven kasuri or ikat fabric by Mr Shoji Yamamura the distinguished kasuri master near Karume. See the next photos to see the dyed threads. In this cloth both the warp threads and the weft threads are tie dyed then matched perfectly when woven. This takes a lot of planning and skill. The light patterns are where only the weft threads were tie dyed.

Threads that were tied dyed. That means where the threads were tied together they resisted the indigo dye and remained white. That is what we call ikat. The Japanese indigo and white fabrics we call kasuri.

The threads for a warp dyed by the master, Shoji Yamamura.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 18

Day 18. A day around Karume a town famous for blue and white kasuri dyeing. We were greeted by Shoji Yamamura the distinguished master craftsman. He showed us his beautiful kimonos and workshop.

He showed us how the pattern is made for tie dyeing the weft on this special board.

This is a pattern he would use to mark the design on one long weft thread. Then that pattern thread would be used to tie all the wefts.

This is another pattern and the woven cloth on the loom.

Here we are very happy after a wonderful morning.

We visited a factory using old looms to weave weft ikat or kasuri. Mr. Shigehori Maruyama showed us around. The name of the company is Marugame. Seeing kasuri machine woven and machine tied—and machine untied was interesting.

The tie dyed weft threads are wound on special stick shuttles that can be woven by a fly shuttle. This was amazing to see. I’m not sure just how the stick shuttles unwound so fast with the fly shuttle.

This is a close look at part of the machine that does the tying for the tie dyed weft threads. 12 bundles of weft threads are being tied at once. The spools spin around the threads. Then stop and the machine advances the threads then the next sections are tied. It is very fast.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 17

Day 17. We visited a factory where they weave a special type of obi outside of Fukuoka. We were served tea first and saw lovely pieces. They are known as Hakata obis. Hakata is a part of the city of Fukuoka.

Here the president of the Hakata Ori factory, Mr Kazuyuki Kuroki was showing his special obi with areas you could see through. I have a macro lense I can attach to my iPhone so we all could see that those areas were a gauze weave we call Leno.

This is a traditional obi. The designs in the stripes have significant meanings. This pattern is about a child being loved by parents. This is a typical Hakata obi.

Making a warp. The fabric is all warp face. That means only the warp shows.

A cloth bring woven on one of the many old power looms. The sound of all the looms weaving was wonderful.

This loom was special for weaving the wavy lines. It has a special fan reed that is moved up and down. These have interested me for a long time so it was fantastic to see one in use.



My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 16

Day 16. A Day in Okawachiyama. Another town known for porcelain. Long ago the feudal lord Nabeshima took the best potters from Arita village to the valley where he lived to make porcelain for him and to send to the Shogun as his tax payment rather than sending rice. Now we know it as Nabeshima ware. Notable is the painting done on the ceramics and also for celadon porcelain. From my vantage point I could see 4 chimneys for kilns. If you zoom in you can see two. The valley with its surrounding mountains was picture-perfect.

Walking in Okawachiyama. This narrow street was lined with pottery shops. This is a taste of the mountain scenery from the valley with the town.

A studio where they were painting on the pottery.

A display of the hairs used in the brushes for painting the pottery. Some of the examples here were eye brows from horses, goats, pigs, and raccoons. An especially spikey one is from the belly of a deer. One of the bushy ones is from the tail of a chipmunk. Our guide told us that somewhere in Japan there is a shrine or monument honoring all the animals sacrificed for all the artists’ brushes.

At a modern pottery the manager opened the door of the huge kiln.

The inside of the kiln. Note the tracks in the floor.

This would be loaded with pottery to be fired then rolled into the big kiln. A very modern operation we thought.

Types of celadon glaze. The special blue color was prized and a specialty here. The different colors seemed to be due to different firing techniques. A piece of the rock for this glaze is shown here.


My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 15 Part 2

Day 15 Part Two. A few examples of Amari ware. I was too occupied to remember to show what Amari ware looks like so this is a tiny example I found in a photograph.

An old climbing or step kiln. The segments go up a hill. The fires are stoked at the bottom and through the holes on the side. A more modern one is in the next photo.

A climbing or step kiln. It was interesting to learn some of the techniques involved. For example the different temperatures as you go higher in the kiln and where they would put pieces in to be fired again.

We had a good dinner of Ramon at the train station. The cooks were happy and the food was good.

These kids were out celebrating Halloween at the Ramon shop.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 15 Part 1

Day 15. A Day in Arita to see Imari porcelains. This museum has a lot of the history of making Imari ware and very old pieces.

The white area is the clay for porcelain.

Another photo inside the mine.

A shrine to honor the Korean potters who started making porcelain in the town of Arita.

At the shrine commemorating the Korean potters who founded Imari ware as in every shrine there is a cord attached to a bell above. People come and make a wish and shake the cord to wake up the gods to grant their wishes.

I’m making my wish at the shrine for the Korean founding potters.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 14

Day 14. Pottery in Karatsu. We saw contemporary and traditional pottery by some well known masters. The artist is 14th generation master: Tarouemon Nakazato.

This tiny pot is a container for special tea for the tea ceremony. Its little bag is made of antique fabric. Each bag is made to order to go with the pot it will hold. I hope to go to a tea ceremony supplies shop and find out more about the little bags and maybe learn how to tie the cord. The artist is the one who made the big black pot: 14th generation Tarouemon Nakazato.

Aya Nakazato is a well known master potter we met at her gallery. She is a wife in the family of famous potters.

This is Takashi Nakazato. We took a taxi to his lovely compound in the country. He showed us the kiln he built and explained a lot about how a step kiln functions. He goes to Aspen twice a year to teach.

Here the master potter is looking to the kiln to show us if there are any pots loaded inside. There weren’t any in this section.

Looking inside the kiln to see the pots loaded inside. Traditionally the kiln was fired for 8 days. This newer kiln only takes 5 days of firing.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 13

Day 13. Visiting Karatsu, a town known for making pottery. My hotel room. Everyone had individual rooms. I’m glad I didn’t have my big suitcase with me. We will see pottery tomorrow.

The tiny bathroom in our hotel. Japanese toilets are really complicated and accommodating. The lid flips up automatically when you approach and we are surprised when the seat isn’t heated. Sound effects come on sometimes when you sit down. I haven’t tried any of the other treatments available. But it is awfully nice to be able to sit down and always find toilet paper when traveling in Japan.

After a soba dinner we came across a group playing flute and drum music. They were practicing for a festival parade coming up in a few days.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 12

Day 12. A Day in the City of Hakata/Fukuoka. It was nice to see a craftsman’s shop: a lantern painter. It was in an arcade with lots of small shops.

I liked this building because of the simple front and the extremely tall doorway with its noran (curtain for doorway).

A huge float carried in festival parades. It was in shadow but if you zoom in maybe you can see all the wild components. We may go to the Float Museum in the next town we visit (Karatsu).

Finally. A Loom! And what a wonderful one. If you zoom in on the blue spot you can see the weaver. This is a jacquard loom– the jacquard mechanism is up above. There is a ladder going up to it. That is the part that makes the intricate patterns for the well known Hakata obi. In a few days we’ll go back to this town and visit a factory weaving Hakata obi.

A traditional Hakata obi design. We have seen many innovative designs being made for today’s fashions. There is a school where the students are encouraged to be creative. This is keeping this old tradition alive. We’ve seen many of the traditional obi worn on this trip however.

The “brake” that keeps the warp tension tight is this box of heavy stuff. Pretty primitive considering the complicated jacquard mechanism.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 11

Day 11. Morning walk in lovely Kurashiki.

So many lovely doorways. Hard to choose which photos to send. It was Wednesday and a few tourists but mainly just Cathy and I and the locals were out.

This shop/gallery owner wrapped our purchases in the old traditional way. The Japanese are known for using the smallest possible piece of paper to wrap things. These days they mostly put our purchases in nice bags that one is loathe to throw away.

Here is the supply of papers of different sizes for wrapping purchases. I always wondered how they always had the right size sheet of paper at their fingertips. I used to be impatient waiting for things to be wrapped. By now I understand that’s a part of the shopping process– even at a flea market.

We took a bullet train to Hakata Station in the city of Fukuoka which is on the island of Kyushu south of the main island.

We have two nights in a small Japanese inn. Our room is measured by the number of tatami mats. We have 4. The toilet is down the hall and the Japanese bath is down a flight. The dinners are delicious and the location is good. No complaints.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 9

Day 9. Another walk in the Gion District. I love walking around this area because there is so much beauty. This was our last day in Kyoto and so nice to go to places we liked a second time.

A lovely place in the Gion District.

Walking along Teramachi Street again.

We visited Aoni Textiles shop this morning. They specialize in bast fibers: linen, hemp, and ramie but here are examples of wild silk from India. Look for the stem in the photo where the silk worm attaches the cocoon to a branch. Those stems are what the skein of yarn is made of. The loose fibers come from the outside of the cocoon–not the good silk from unwinding the cocoon. We were told nothing is wasted: neither the stems or rough stuff on the outside of the cocoon; it all goes into making carpets. The cocoons were bigger than I’ve ever seen, maybe 1 1/2 inches long ( and beautiful).

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 8

Day 8. Walking in the Teramachi District. We walked in a large arcade area with a fish market, places to eat and many shops. This shop really made me know we were in Japan.

I thought these were soft ice cream cones until I noticed the flavors! We passed them by.

There are several quite inventive designer shops named Sou Sou– pronounced so-so. All with nice textile things. Things to wear and for the home. The separate shops are all very close to each other. You don’t want to miss any of them. I got a nice jacket.

We went walking in the Gion district. The old buildings are beautiful and it was nice to see women strolling wearing kimonos.

Lots of strollers were out.

We saw an exhibition of red kimonos that are worn under kimonos. They were collected by Glen Kaufman at flea markets. Here he is at the show. Gallery Gallery is the name of the gallery. It’s in an old building with many artists. It’s always stimulating to visit here but it always seems to be the end of the afternoon when I’m nearly worn out. Then it gives me a second wind because of all the art textiles to be seen.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 7

Day 7 A Glorious Park in Nara: Isuien Garden.
We took a train to Nara to see an exit of old hemp and ramie textiles in the Neireku Museum which is in a most beautiful park composed of Japanese gardens. It is more beautiful than the famous gardens in Kyoto and there weren’t the crowds. It was a real contemplative place. The textiles were so fine they spoke to my heart but the gardens spoke to my heart and soul.

A tea house in Isuien Garden in Nara.

More of the garden.

We practically had the whole place to ourselves. Just like it was meant to be.

Back in Kyoto we went to a shop that sold all kinds of dye supplies: Tanakanao Senryoten. There were hundreds of brushes, chemicals, and textiles for dyeing.

There were hundreds of rolls of fabrics to dye. I bought some silks, linens, ramie and cottons. It was great to be able to buy just a tenth of a meter: 10″ of a lot of different fabrics. It was almost overwhelming.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 6

Day 6. To-ji Shrine Flea Market. Here is my loot after 5 hours of serious shopping. We arrived at 7:30 and left at 12:30.

There were lots and lots of textile vendors. By noon this one was a mob scene. We were glad we went early.


This couple sold things dyed with green persimmons. I wore a scarf I dyed with green persimmon dye from Japan so we had a little conversation.


Another couple with green persimmon dyed things. I bought a hat that will keep off sun and rain.

Yet another persimmon dyer. It was really fun to find these dyers. Some also sold the dye. I liked seeing the variety of colors you can get. Kakishibu is the word for persimmon and I pronounced it so I was understood so we could connect right away.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 5

Day 5. Shopping in Kyoto. We had the afternoon and went first thing to Gallery Kei on Teramachi Street near City Hall. She specializes in old textiles made of bast fibers. My loot was from there and another old textiles shop on the street, Tadashi-ya.

This is Gallery Kei which is a first destination in Kyoto for antique textiles.

A closer look at Gallery Kei.

It was dark by the time we left the shop called Tadashi-ya. It’s small but the textiles are piled high. The light blue piece in my photo came from there. It is gorgeous close-up. The weft threads are made of paper.

Here we are after finished shopping.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 4

Day 4. Arakei Textile (who we visited in Chichibu) had an exhibition at Mitsukoshi, a prestigious department store. We exchanged websites–they had put our visit on their site and I put them on mine! It was a grand display.

Another display at Mitsukoshi department store. We will be going to Hakata to see a weaving place. Traditionally they weave obi like the ones sumo wrestlers wear. I wonder what we’ll see when we get there. Here they are promoting their non traditional textiles.

Another department store, Matsuya, had a boutique of textiles from Nuno. Their textiles are ones we watch for because they are so innovative. I learned to make this exact textile in a workshop with Yoshiko Wada!

An exhibit of indigo Japanese work clothes was at International Christian University. They have a big collection of textiles and many exhibits. This is a place to keep watching for future shows.

Also at International Christian University. Japanese folk art. These are all wonderful devices to hang a tea pot over the hibachi. I have one that I treasure.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 3

14711959_292358091162814_5099983779477323776_nDay 3. Tokyo Favorite Places Today!
First stop: Issey Miyake. This was the first of several of his shops on the street.

Second stop: another Issey Miyake shop.

One of the many designer shops we passed by on the way to a favorite lunch place. We didn’t stop in. I thought the long black sleeves added something.

yatescountyhome commented. “I like the ‘ selfie ‘ in the window.”

City Shop is the name of a very popular place for lunch. The four of us were the only people over 30 but no one seemed to mind and it’s a very different kind of restaurant with great food. We had to wait to get a table.

Fourth stop: Morita the antique textile dealer. Lovely things to touch and see. Cathy Cerny and I always find some treasures when we go there. I found an old weaver’s sample book and some gorgeous white silk crepe kimono fabric this time.

Last stop for tea and dessert in a lovely flower shop. This is the tea shop Cathy and I discovered a couple of trips back. We look forward to it every time after a day in this area. The subway stop is: Omoto-Sando. My iPhone says the location is: Minato-minamiaoyama.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 2

Day 2 a day with two textile experts. We visited Haruko Watanabe who has a large collection of textiles made in the Meisen technique. In fact she is going to give a lecture and show her amazing kimonos in New York soon. The designs and colors were bold to say the least for the period that is her specialty.

Haruko Watanabe bending over the boxes full of kimonos. She maybe showed us at least 30 smashing pieces–all in perfect condition.

The huge pile of kimonos she showed us. We offered to help put the back into their boxes but she said no.

Then we visited with Keiko Kobayashi an accomplished weaver and artist. She wrote this comprehensive book about textile constructions. Her drawings are so clear, never mind that the book is in Japanese. There are some captions in English.

Keiko Kobayashi is also a scholar. This is her article in the Textile Museum Journal. The next photo shows the cover for information.

This is the volume of the Textile museum Journal that includes keiko Kobayashi’s article.

My Japan Weaving Tour – Day 1 / Part 2

Day 1 / Part 2 – More About Meisen Weaving in Chichibu. This is the front of a brochure from the studio we visited: Arakei Textile. An image is printed on a warp.

First temporary wefts are woven very far apart in a warp of white threads. Then the extremely loosely woven cloth is taken to the printing table. Here you can barely see one weft on a diagonal. See the next photo.

Here you can see that temporary weft in this photo of the printed warp. I brought home a piece of the printed warp. The warp threads are barely held in place by the temporary weft–just enough so the warp can be put into the loom. If I disturb these printed threads they will separate some so they must stay put or all the threads could get out of line.

Here you can see on the loom where the cloth has been woven and also the printed warp threads not yet woven.

These young women were wearing lovely kimonos of Meisen fabric while shopping in the showroom on the day we were there. I am not on a tour for this trip but am traveling with my travel partner on many previous tours. Dear friends drove us to Chichibu which is three hours from Tokyo.