Kyoto Shibori Museum

We arrived at the Kyoto Shibori Museum on a rainy afternoon. The first thing the master did when we opened up the door was to hand us all towels to dry off. It was a sign of good things to come!

We had booked ahead for our shibori experience. There were two choices. A scarf would require folding and clamping techniques while a furoshiki (wrapping cloth) would require winding and knotting. We all chose the furoshiki class. We were led into the classroom and to our pleasant surprise, the teacher offered to do the whole class in English!

We had twelve designs to choose from. Each one already had the stitching in place.

If you look carefully, you can see the threads already stitched into the furoshiki.

If you look carefully, you can see the threads already stitched into the furoshiki.

Six would be completely our work, and six had hari-hitta shibori knots pre-tied in them.  We all chose designs that included hari-hitta shibori.

My furoshiki came pre-tied with hari hitta knots.

My furoshiki came pre-tied with hari hitta knots.

The hari-hitta shibori knots pre-tied in my furoshiki.

A close up view of the hari-hitta shibori knots pre-tied in my furoshiki.

We also had to choose the colour of dye we wanted, red, blue, or purple. Our guide mentioned that all the shibori dyeing done in Kyoto was done with silk fabric. Cotton dyed with shibori (including yukata) was always produced in Arimatsu. Finally, we started. Everything was already stitched into the fabric. We had to pull, wrap, and tie off the threads. We were taught how to do two different techniques.

Hira Nuishime Shibori

This technique involves stitching along a line and then pulling the thread tight.

that type of shibori

Hira nuishime shibori pre-dyed and post-dyed.

My final hira huishime shibori knots.

My final hira huishime shibori knots.

Kasamaki Shibori

This technique involves stitching around the shape you want to create, pulling the thread tight, and then wrapping the threads around the cone of fabric several times.

Kasamaki shibori

Kasamaki shibori pre-dyed and post-dyed.

My completed kasamaki shibori.

My completed kasamaki shibori.

We got to use a shibori stand when we did our work. It’s basically a base with an arm holding a piece of metal that has been bent in on itself. The space is large enough to let untied thread through but it will stop a knot from passing through. We used it for all of our shibori tying. I had heard that a lot of shibori is done by machine now, and when I asked about it, our guide explained that yes, it is done by machine, and the shibori stand is the machine. Without it, a person can tie 300 dots per day. With the “machine” a person can tie 3000 dots per day. Mind blown.

All three of us working with our shibori "machines"

All three of us working with our shibori “machines”

Once the tying was done, it was on to dyeing. We had each chosen a different colour, so when we got downstairs, there were there vats of dye bubbling away merrily on the stoves. We were given GIANT chopsticks and told the keep the cloth moving until the timer went off.

Me and my giant chopsticks!

Me and my giant chopsticks!

Double, double, toil and trouble!  Fire burn and cauldron bubble!

Double, double, toil and trouble! Fire burn and cauldron bubble!

Rinsing off the excess dye.

Rinsing off the excess dye.

After rinsing, we passed off our furioshiki to be dried and went on a tour of the museum.

hon-hitta shibori knots, the ultimate level of shibori tying.  Using a stand, an artist can tie 3000 knots in a day.

hon-hitta shibori knots, the ultimate level of shibori tying. Using a stand, an artist can tie 3000 knots in a day.

We got to experiment with taking out the shibori stitching after the dyeing is complete and we got to see several different examples of different techniques.

Practicing pulling apart the knotted threads.

Practicing pulling apart the knotted threads.

We also got to try on full shibori furisode. All three of us have experience putting on kimono and were able to do it ourselves. Our guide commented that it was the first time that he had never had to help a visitor get dressed. I think he was quite amused.

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The wall hanging behind us is completely done in shibori.

The final step was to take out the knots and reveal the patterns. Our guide told us to cut off the knots, but not to pull on any of the threads yet. Once all the knots were cut off, magic happened!

I think the Kyoto Shibori Mueseum was one of my favourite activities from my weekend in Kyoto. It gave me a whole new appreciation for shibori products and I’m very temped to go back and do it again. I’d love to learn more and try to do shibori on my own. The English language support was an unexpected and priceless bonus. I also have to thank our guide for taking so many great pictures of our experience.

Their website is here and they recommend that you call ahead to make a reservation, especially if you would like the class taught in English.  Their website also has an incredible amount of information on different types of shibori. The scholar in me was drooling over it.  Rest assured, this will not be my last post on shibori!  I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of it yet!

 

 

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Aizome (藍染) Indigo Dyeing Part Three

Welcome to the third and last post in this series on aizome (indigo dyeing).

For the first post in this series, on the process of creating the dye, check here.

For the second post in this series, on the aizome museum near my home, check here.

The entrance to Ai No Yakata.

The entrance to Ai No Yakata.

When you first enter the museum Ai No Yakata (藍の館), you have the option of buying something to dye. They have a range of products starting from handkerchiefs at 500 yen to scarves at 3000 yen. After that, you enter the museum and find the building that houses the dyeing facilities. If you’re not sure which building it is, just follow your nose. Aizome dye has a distinct, fermented odor that is very, very, strong.

When you go in, you put on an apron and gloves, choose your design, and away you go!

There are eight different designs that you can choose from.  The staff will help you to create your design.  I choose number five.

There are eight different designs that you can choose from. The staff will help you to create your design. I choose number five.

Here's my handkerchief being prepared for the dyeing.  I had to wrap it around a stick and secure it with a rubber band.

Here’s my handkerchief being prepared for the dyeing. I had to wrap it around a stick and secure it with a rubber band.

All ready to go!

All ready to go!

The first dip.  each dip took one minute.

The first dip. each dip took one minute.

My handkerchief just after the first dip.  It looks green right now, but it eventually turns blue when it gets oxidized in the air.  I had to squeeze out all the extra liquid and wait for one minute before dipping it back in.

My handkerchief just after the first dip. It looks green right now, but it will eventually turn blue when it gets oxidized in the air. I had to squeeze out all the extra liquid and wait for one minute before dipping it back in.

This is after the third and final dip in the dye.  It's a lot darker than it started and definitely looks more blue than green.

This is after the third and final dip in the dye. It’s a lot darker than it started and definitely looks more blue than green.

The next step is to rinse the handkerchief under running water to get rid of the extra dye.  When the water runs clear, you know you're finished.

The next step is to rinse the handkerchief under running water to get rid of the extra dye. When the water runs clear, you know you’re finished.

A little modern technology here in the form of a spin dryer to help get all the extra water out.

A little modern technology here in the form of a spin dryer to help get all the extra water out.

While my handkerchief was spinning, I spotted this picture of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako doing their own aizome.

While my handkerchief was spinning, I spotted this picture of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako doing their own aizome.

The final step is ironing.

The final step is ironing.

The final product!

The final product!

Textiles that have been dyed with aizome have a lot of characteristics attributed to them. At the moment, I have no idea which ones have been proven scientifically and which ones are just folk knowledge. According to Mark Wisniewski in his book Dyeing To Dance, the benefits of aizome include…

  • Aizome can prevent skin irritations, athlete’s foot, and infertility (I’m pretty sure that last one is an old wives tale).
  • Aizome can protect against insect infestations and the bite of a mamushi (a poisonous snake).
  • Aizome has antiseptic and disinfectant properties that make it good for preventing colds (just the seeds), treating poisoning by blow-fish, or using indigo dyed cloth as a run of the mill bandage. It’s also effective in the treatment of insect bites.
  • Aizome can act as a sedative so it is a popular dye for futon and bedding material.

I’d be really intrigued to see how much truth there is in each of these claims.

 

 

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