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100 Steps to Make a Kimono

Kyo-yuzen

Not many people outside of Japan know that the process of making gorgeous kimonos might include over 100 steps! The process starts from weaving a bolt of narrow strip of fabric, called tan, that is only 12 m long and used entirely for one single unique kimono. Then the fabric is brought to the artists studio to be transformed into stunning works of wearable art. There´s a great number of various technique that might be used separately or more often combined to achieve the desirable and carefully planned design, which always carries a very specific meaning and purpose for the future wearer.

The design, colors, pattern and cut of the kimono indicate where, when, how and by whom it should be worn... 

Among the oldest techniques are katazome and yūzen, which are both resist dyeing methods used for creation of elaborate beautiful patterns of scenery, motifs and colorful details. Katazome involves the use of various stencils, through which a mixture of rice and soy paste is applied in order to preserve particular areas from coloring (as on the first picture above). When yūzen technique requires free-hand application of the similar starch paste to create the usually quite complicated design. There are various sub-categories of the yūzen technique that determine not only purpose of the future kimono, but even season and place where it should be worn, as well as social status of the wearer.

Yuzen process

Only after the rice paste is dry, the coloring process may be started involving painstakingly meticulous application of a variety of colors onto the free areas between the starch lines. Delicate shaded effects and intricate lines can be created this way, as the rice paste prevents the color seeping into the surrounding area. When the color is dry, the rice paste is washed off and then freshly applied again to outline next layer of the design for the next color application.

These steps might be repeated for over 100 times, often combined with other techniques like surihaku  (gold or silver foil application) and embroidery, in order to create the final design...

After all the colors are applied and are dry, the residues of the rice paste are washed off, traditionally by fixing the stretched fabric in the gentle stream of a river for several hours. Such process, called arai-hari, traditionally can also be used by wearer to wash the precious garment. Finally, the freshly washed fabric is carefully stretched and hung to dry mid-air using special equipment - harite and shinshi (stretchers).

Kimono fabrics drying after dyeing


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