Our main business line is the Masuyagihei brand of kimono cloth. It goes without saying that our designs are distinctive, and Masuyagihei brand cloth has a beautiful sheen and the characteristic smooth texture of silk; either side of the cloth can be used, and its extreme lightness is another factor in its popularity.
To produce these special qualities, most of our kimono cloth is degummed and thread dyed plain woven silk (= sericin is removed from the silk thread, and the thread is woven using a plain weave after dyeing).
Among our products are textiles produced using the finest techniques in Japan in order to express extremely elaborate and complicated patterns. The cloth we make which is created by several expert weavers and which takes almost a year to reach completion is called Oshima pongee. Oshima pongee is a widely recognized type of silk cloth in Japan and is also made by other producers.
Oshima pongee techniques use a surprising method for expressing a pattern. Even when creating an extremely complicated pattern, as a general rule the cloth is neither dyed after it has been woven, nor is the weave structure used to express a pattern. The process we use is thread dyeing with plain weaving. We dye the thread and plan forward so that a pattern will emerge when the cloth is woven.
This requires a high level of skill and an extremely long time must be devoted to the creative process.
Due to the complicated weaving process used in the creation of the cloth, the standard size for all Masuyagihei kimono cloth is usually 37 cm in width and 12.5 m in length (approx.), which is the same as most other manufacturers.
- A) Design, planning, thread calculation
- A design is sketched and then a blueprint is made.
At the planning stage a weave diagram is prepared on graph paper to match with the consistency and structure of the thread. One square on the graph paper can represent several threads, and in addition to showing the type of thread, its location, how the thread should be dyed, and what the arrangement of colors will be, the blueprint is used to work out data such as the volume of thread which will be required.
- B) "Shimebata"
- Plain weave is comprised of multiple warp and weft threads which cross over and under each other at regular right angles. As stated earlier, in the case of Oshima pongee, a pattern is not drawn onto a plain white woven cloth. Just like in a pointillist painting the pattern in Oshima pongee is formed in the woven cloth from the coming together of non-dyed dots which have been arranged on the thread in advance.
The non-dyed dots are produced by a resist dyeing technique called "shimebata" and emerge after the other areas of the thread have been dyed.
In the "shimebata" process the location of the countless dots which will form the pattern are arranged on a hand loom called a "shimebata" by tying cotton thread around the silk thread. It is a process which requires extreme precision because any misalignment in the placement of the cotton thread will result in a misalignment in the final woven cloth. This is why a hand loom is used, and it takes several months for the locations for all the dots which will form the pattern to be carefully tied with cotton thread.
This process is one of the secrets of bringing out beauty in exquisitely woven cloth.
- C) Dyeing
- The silk thread is dyed after it has been prepared with cotton thread for resist dyeing. Because the resist dyeing produces extremely delicate non-dyed areas, it is necessary to take care that the dye gets fully into the spaces between the non-dyed areas.
Most Masuyagihei Oshima pongee is dyed using the "dorozome" mud-dyeing technique. This involves dyeing the thread using a dye extracted from a plant called the yeddo hawthorn (Rhaphiolepsis umbellata), and afterwards, the dye is rubbed into the thread in mud.
In the first stage of the process chips of yeddo hawthorn wood are boiled, and the thread is then rubbed in the liquid produced. This dyes the thread a reddish brown. This process is repeated as often as 20 times until the thread has taken a suitable amount of dye.
In the second stage of the process, the thread is rubbed in the mud of a paddy field. This causes a reaction between the tannins in the yeddo hawthorn dye, from the first stage of dyeing, and iron from the paddy field mud, to dye the thread black. By repeatedly performing the first and second stages of the process the blackness deepens to become a beautiful jet-black.
"Dorozome" mud-dyeing is one of the main dyeing methods used for Oshima pongee, and the characteristic jet-black color which is produced is popular in Japan.
- D) "Surikomi"
- "Shimebata" and the dyeing process produce two colors in the thread; dyed areas and non-dyed areas. A technique called "surikomi" is therefore used for patterns composed of many colors. "Surikomi" is a method for the individual dyeing of the non-dyed areas produced after the shimebata and dyeing processes. The cotton thread is removed from the area that requires dyeing and a needle, like the needle used in a hypodermic syringe, is used to dye the non-dyed spots one by one.
- E) Weaving
- When all the dyeing process have been completed, the cotton thread used during the resist dyeing is completely removed, and the spots on the warps and the wefts are arranged in accordance with the blueprint. Plain weaving is then used to weave the thread into cloth. This is the process in which the warp and the weft finally come together, and weaving is done in small sections, before one thread at a time is pulled into place. As the weaving progresses, any slight misalignment of spots is adjusted by hand, and a piece of Oshima pongee is finally completed.
We then use this cloth to make products; not only Oshima pongee, but also obi and other kimono-related goods.
Launched in January 2011, this is our development brand of clothes tailored from our Masuyagihei cloth (mostly from the Oshima pongee mentioned above).
It would be no exaggeration to say that Masuyagihei cloth, which is produced as a cloth for making kimono, has until now only been used for making kimono as befits its specifications. However, we wanted this traditional Japanese cloth which requires advanced techniques for production to be known by more people than simply those people who wear kimono. We started a brand for everyday clothing based on the theme of "Towards a new form", and these clothes are produced in Japan.
However, one of the characteristics of Oshima pongee is its low elasticity, and this requires high level skills for cutting out and sewing. The sewing is therefore done by hand, by highly skilled needleworkers in Japan, and the cloth is made into products.
*See above for details about Masuyagihei cloth.