June 22, 2012

How hand-dyed tenugui is made

Hello and Welcome to www.nipponcraft.com,

I would like to show you how the hand-dyed tenugui (and also your original ones if you wish to) are produced by the artisans at "Miya-zome" tenugui production facility.

"Miya-zome" factory is the Nipponcraft's business partner with skilled artisans who produces beautiful hand-made tenugui.

Miya-zome tenugui

Miya-zome factory entrance
"Miya-zome" is the tenugui and yukata wear cloths hand-dyeing technique that is inherited in Utsunomiya city, Tochigi Prefecture in Japan. Utsunomiya is a major city in the northern part of Greater Tokyo and the city's population is 51,800 as of 2015. The city is a gateway to the world heritage of Nikko shrines.

There is a small and clean river called "Tagawa" running through Utsunomiya city and some dyeing factories used to operate along the river, because lots of fresh water is necessary for washing dyed cotton cloth. Now, only one factory remains. This factory was established in 1905 by the Nakagawa family.

Award certificates are displayed on the wall
This Miya-zome factory was awarded with many prizes for making good hand-dyed tenugui and yukata wear.

KATAGAMI and Tenugui

To make up a tenugui, the first step is the production of a paper-made stencil (called "KATAGAMI") for the design. An artisan hand-cuts the design carefully by using carving knives based on the design pattern.
(These stencils are made of washi papers dipped in persimmon tannin. The hand-cutting workmanship needs lots of concentration and patience. This traditional technique dated back approximately one thousand years ago in Japan.) 

Secondly, an artisan produces colors for tenugui fabric. The color production is also a hand-work (or eyes-work)!  An artisan reproduces colors directed by a designer by mixing several base dyeing materials. The designer often directs colors to the artisan through color swatch set  (called DIC in Japan, Pantone could be understandable case by case). Some designers send printed design and color on a piece of paper to tell what color they want on tenugui fabric. The artisans have skills of color reproduction and can handle hundreds of colors through their eyes. They work on the color mix by spending several days to achieve close colors. These mixed color materials will be dyed on white tenugui fabric.

Making pastes-banks on KATAGAMI
The third step is hand-dyeing called “Chu-sen”.  The dye artisans place "KATAGAMI" on the tenugui fabric and create banks with pastes to divide each color sections. 

"Chu-sen" History: This multi-color dye method was first originated in Osaka to pursue an economical Kimono or Yukata wear. Before the "Chu-sen" invention, silkscreens were necessary for the number of colors on a design, and as a result the production cost became very high. Silkscreen creation cost a lot. Or, for a very expensive Kimono, artisans hand-paint complex design on Kimono with the traditional "Yu-zen" method in Kyoto. So, some of dye artisans in Osaka came up with this idea of dyeing multi-colors with less number of silkscreens and getting rid of hand-painting work.

Paste materials are made of seaweed and mud.

Pouring dyeing materials on tenugui fabric.
Artisans pour dye materials that are created in the former step on the tenugui fabric, and then pump the material with a vacuum from underneath. The left photograph shows that the artisan is ensuring the correct color material to be poured by watching the final result in front of him.
Approximately 20 pieces of tenugui fabric are overlapped and are dyed at the same time.

Washing tenugui from river water
Finally, tenugui are washed and cleaned up.

Dried in sunshine

Tenugui are dried under sunshine naturally not to be shrunk.

Yukata fabric dried under sunshine

We hope this article has provided you with good information of the hand-made tenugui.

Thank you for visiting our blog!