Kawabaori (leather haori)
Stenciled, smoked

Kawabaori were worn by members of the samurai class. Examples of dyed and patterned leather can be found as early as the Nara period in Japan, but this piece is from the Edo period. Most of the outer is dyed in a latticework design, but care was taken to insert a contrasting crest, and partially incorporate the latticework into the crest.

The reverse side was dyed in a completely different pattern. The basic design is of stripes, but there is a slight twist to the stripes, and slight but deliberate smudging at intervals on a diagonal.

Below is a close-up of the stitchwork on one of the seams.

Below, a page from an old collection of swatches recopied from Senshoku no Bi #24, published by Kyoto Shoin, showing only some of the great variety of patterns available.

This kawabaori was dyed with the smoke of pine needles. Again from Senshoku no Bi #24, this drawing from a book of the period shows an oven in which pine needles are burned. The brown smoke that rises out of the oven will color the leather placed on the roller above the oven. The chains allow the roller to be rotated easily so the color will be uniform. If any of the leather is resisted – with strings, folding or other means – a pattern will form.