Silk crepe (chijimi)

This fairly contemporary kimono appears to have been hand dyed.

The repeat is approximately 31″ long. The three photos below are three different versions of the same repeat. Note the varying strengths of the dye from one version to another.

The photo below shows the face of the material on the left and the reverse on the right.

The waves in the material are the result of the highly twisted yarns.


Buddhist Altar Cloth (uchishiki)
Tsutsugaki (rice paste resist), handpainting

In Japan there is a tradition of donating textiles, including clothing, to temples. The material is often converted to altar cloths or stoles (kesa) for the monks, and as a result many textiles that under ordinary circumstances would have been lost to time have been preserved, if not necessarily in their original form.

Based on its color and designs, this altar cloth looks like it might originally have been a boy’s festival kimono, possibly for new year’s.

The altar cloth is backed with a plain white cotton lining, on which are ink drawings, inscriptions and names. The lining appears to be newer than the blue face, which is made of homespun cotton.

The most lovingly drawn image on the altar cloth is of a monkey, dressed to do the traditional Sanbaso new year’s dance, and a horse in festival trappings. The lining unfortunately covers part of the design. The other large design is of a pair of tortoises.

There are several white resisted circles in which the artist inked in an interesting assortment of designs. Among them are Genjiko (incense game) symbols, the yin-yang symbol, some ancient Chinese characters, the traditional rabbit in the moon (below) pounding rice to make rice cakes,

the crescent moon and the Seven Sisters (or Subaru) constellation,

and a depiction of the expression “hyotan kara koma” – horses from gourds – which means more or less ‘wonders never cease’.

Synthetic (?)
Stenciled wefts, hand tie-dyed wefts, supplementary metallic wefts

Japanese textiles of the early 20th century began to draw inspiration from many sources, as seen in other examples shown here. This kimono seems to be based on the arts and crafts period textiles made popular by such names as William Morris and Liberty of London. The flower shown here appears to be a tulip, and it is interesting to compare this design to Iznik tiles of Turkey, where the tulip originated.

Several examples of supplementary metallic threads have been shown here in past entries. On this kimono, one metallic thread marks the beginning, and another the end of each set of hand tie-dyed weft threads.

William Morris’s Garden Tulip.

Morris’s Snakehead.

Iznik tiles.

Draft for a Boys’ Day Banner
Hand painted

This draft for a Boys’ Day banner is so long it had to be divided into two photographs. Made of several layers and lengths of paper delicately glued together to appear seamless, it depicts legendary hero Susanoo no Mikoto preparing to slay Yamata no Orochi, the eight-headed dragon who has come to devour Kushi-inada-hime, the last of eight daughters, seven of whom were already devoured by the dragon. Susanoo no Mikoto defeats the dragon by offering it eight vessels of sake. When Yamata no Orochi falls asleep drunk, Susanoo no Mikoto kills it, and wins the daughter for his wife. (For the full story of Susanoo no Mikoto and Yamata no Orochi, as translated from the seventh century Kojiki, see the Wikipedia entry.)

The challenge of making effective banners lies in distilling the highlights of the story and cramming them into a very unnaturally sized canvas. The story of the eight-headed dragon really demands a panorama (see the triptych woodblock print by Chikanobu, below), yet the artist who drafted this banner has managed to bring the story to life in a very narrow frame. The viewer does not need to see all eight heads or all eight vessels of sake to recognize the story or to know what is about to happen. This draft scene would eventually be handpainted on a cotton banner, and displayed outside the family home in commemoration of Boys’ Day.

Even though this is a draft, the artist seems to have filled in every detail, going so far as to paint in individual hairs on Susanoo no Mikoto’s head, eyebrows and beard. He wears freeflowing clothes, a necklace and a bracelet, he is bearded and his hair is undressed, all clues that the artist is referring to the Japan of ancient times.

Note how pale Kushi-inada-hime is in comparison to her champion, emphasizing her delicacy and high status. Below, the Chikanobu triptych of the same legend.

Silk, cotton (lining)
Stenciled warps, wefts

Daily Japanese Textile for Tuesday, March 18 featured a child’s kimono that seemed to take its inspiration from Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, but punctuated with toy animals. Today’s textile is closer to the original Broadway Boogie Woogie, and the size and design indicate it was tailored for an adult.

The white background has been maintained, but the design has been simplified, and the polychrome squares now lie on discontinuous black lines rather than a grid of yellow lines. Possibly the discontinuous lines were thought better suited to kimono construction, since there would be no need to match up lines along the center back seam.

Mondrian’s original painting:

Silk, cotton (lining)
Stenciled warps and wefts (meisen)


Girl’s padded kimono
Silk pongee (tsumugi), waste silk padding, cotton lining, synthetic ties
Shibori (bound resist)

This tiny safflower-dyed kimono has a diamond-shaped semamori (back talisman) just below the nape of the neck, which has gone a little askew, probably as a result of washing and uneven shrinkage. Both the exterior and the lining of this piece were hand spun and hand woven. The large weft threads give the material a slightly puffy look, and a cottonball-soft texture.

Tapestry weave (computerized?)

This obi depicts an old traditional farm house and farm land. The stark and slightly chunky lines echo twentieth century Japanese woodblock prints, which celebrated the wood as an integral part of the design, in contrast with the 18th century woodblock prints of such masters as Utamaro, which defied the nature of the wood and strove for a painterly result.

Most of the obi consists of a red ground with black stripes at varying intervals, and the reverse is solid red. The two complex designs, above, coincide with the two focal points of the tied obi, and are woven lenghwise or widthwise to reflect the way the obi will be tied to seen by the viewer at the correct angle.

Silk, silk padding
Resisted, hand painted with sumi ink

This kimono was designed to be worn for omiyamairi, the ceremony marking an infant’s first presentation to the shrine. The child does not actually wear the kimono, although it is a completely tailored garment. Rather it is draped over the child and the ties are tied around the person holding the child for the ceremony.

The seven treasures are a form of prayer for the child’s good fortune in life. There are several variations on the constituent treasures, and on this kimono there are more than seven. Among them are the hat and cape of invisibility, a money purse, the flaming jewels, merchants’ weights, cloves, the key to the treasure house, Buddhist scriptures, a referee’s fan, and a bale of rice. The very detailed and realistic drawing with sumi ink is characteristic of the Meiji period.

The designs stitched on the two ties are pine needles, symbols of good fortune. In this design, as in many pine needle designs, one side of the needle has been snapped, but this only a design conceit, with no special significance.

Stenciled warps and wefts (meisen)

This haori has an unusual combination of graphic components, and none of the quadrants has a right angle.

The lining is also unusual, and seems to be made with a voiding technique. Any suggestions about this material welcome.