Making of a Pongee
There are 2 traditional processes to make a Pongee.
Technique 1: Yonezawa Tsumugi Kusakizome (natural plant dyeing method)
Safflowers are picked between the beginning to mid July when the flowers are red. It is usually done in the morning, when the dew has softened the plant’s thorns. The safflower is then kneaded in water to dissolve the water soluble yellow pigments. This process changes the color of the petal from yellow to orange. Red pigments remain in the petal because they are less water soluble. The petals are then dried and fermented to increase the intensity of the red by 10 times. The petals are then crushed with a mortar and pestle to intensify it even more. These are then pounded into safflower flat cakes, which are then dried for ease of transporting. The safflower cakes are later soaked in lye to dissolve the pigment. Threads are then dyed orange which then transforms to red upon addition of acid. The process is then repeated until the desired shade is attained.
Technique 2: Itajime kogasuri (Wooden board resist dyeing method)
Warp and weft (perpendicular and parallel threads) are prepared by teasing out the boiled cocoon fibers and hand winding🧵 for that natural texture. These threads are then wound carefully with equal tension around the fine grooves of special Kasuri patterned boards. Ten boards wounded with threads are then stacked on top of one another, tightened from top to bottom. Then, hot water is poured on top to fuse the threads to the board before the dye is poured. Once the boards are removed, the dyed thread will reveal the same Kasuri pattern as the grooves on the board. The dyed threads are then left to dry and the threads adjusted, to ensure that the weft and warp are in their proper positions. This meticulous process is so tedious that a skilled weaver can only complete 30cm a day. The process is repeated until the delicate pattern of itajime kasuri is achieved.
The beauty of traditional Japanese crafts lies in the beholder’s ability to appreciate the process, effort, skill and dedication involved in creating only the best in every piece, no matter how long it takes. And that is what we strive to do too. We bring you the stories of creation, the love and pride behind the process that only time and a lifetime of dedication can perfect it.
Stay tuned to our next post as we zoom out and we take a bird’s eye view of Yamagata Prefecture and what it has to offer. This could be your next travel destination when borders reopen!
📸 Credits to AB-Tex, PR Newswire & Kogei Japan (traditional crafts of Japan)