This week, we explore Yamagata Prefecture 🥳 where our next craft #Oitama #tsumugi (#Pongee) was designated as a traditional craft on 26 Feb 1976. Pongee is a silk fabric woven from the floss remaining in the silkworm cocoon after the full threads have been removed.
Oitama tsumugi is a #silk #fabric produced in 3 areas in the southern parts of the Yamagata Prefecture namely, #Yonezawa, #Hakutaka and #Nagai regions. Oitama tsumugi is the generic name given to six individual cloths; yoneryu itajime kogasuri, shirataka itajime kogasuri, yokosogasuri, heiyougasuri, kusakizome tsumugi, and benibana tsumugi.
Interestingly, Yamagata did not establish itself as a silk production hub until the 17th century when the fief Lord, Uesugi Keisho encouraged its weaving. And it started off exporting ramie fabric (which we covered in our previous 3 posts) but ramie was later on replaced by mulberry silk and later on the region shifted to silk fabric production.🧵🧵
The techniques and methods of Oitama tsumugi vary according to the 3 regions. Tsumugi in Yonezawa are known to use natural dyes such as indigo, silvergrass and safflower (the prefectural flower of Yamagata). Hakutaka area uses itajime or a wooden board resist drying method.
The minor differences allow different characteristic kasuri to emerge.
Kasuri refers to the fabrics that have been woven with fibers dyed specifically to create different patterns, motifs or images on the fabric. Kasuri patterns on the other hand are precise patterning and images that are created as a result of the technique of wrapping fibers around the thread in order to dye specific threads of fabric. These patterns are strongly influenced by fabrics produced in Okinawa.
What makes it so unique😍 then, to be able to be designated the honorary title of Japanese traditional craft? It is because the same labor intensive techniques of dyeing are being employed across many artisans before weaving and plain weaving to create these fabric which in turn are transformed into your traditional ikat (the beautiful waist cloth that goes across a kimono).👘
Eager to know more? stay tuned as we explain the traditional technique employed in the making, in our next post !