Shibori is the process of tie-dyeing that arrived in Japan about 1300 ago from China. It was used for making kimono as well as common clothes.
Arimatsu in Nagoya is the most famous place for Shibori dyeing since 1608 at the time of the great Tokaido route. Basically used for expensive silk kimonos, the Arimatsu Shibori process had to cope with the diminution of the demand for kimonos and the emergence of industrial process using artificial fabrics and machines.
Thus after adapting its production to produce cheaper Yukatas, the Arimatsu Shibori craftsmen eventually went back to their original high-quality, hand-made technique.
In Arimatsu, most of the artisans are producing their craft in their own houses that have been standing for 400 years making of this place one of Japan's architectural treasure.
The basic technique of Arimatsu Shibori is to draw a design on a piece of fabric (usually silk or cotton) then to tie very tight knots and dye the fabric. The dye doesn't penetrate the knots giving beautiful patterns once untied. By repeating this process many times, various colored patterns are produced, even though the classical Arimatsu Shibori is a one color, Indigo blue pattern. Being fully handmade, the process of Arimatsu Shibori is complicated. To complete the fundamental training, it takes around three years of practice. Even for one same pattern, the degree of ability of the craftsman combine with the subtlety of the dyeing process reduces the differences.
Moreover, each artisan is specialized in one type of knots producing one specific pattern so when different patterns are required, different artisans will be working on the same cloth. The material is dyed, dried and then carefully untied. The untying is one of the most important part of the process. It is vital not to distort the material otherwise months of work will go to waste. Finally, the material is steamed and stretched to remove creases.
The technique of Arimatsu tie dyeing first started with Shokuro Takeda. He noticed that workers from southern Japan employed for the construction of Nagoya castle used tenugui cloth with unusual patterns. This inspired him to develop his own patterns using tie dyeing techniques. Takeda later moved to the city of Arimatsu, which then gave the name to this craft.
In 1872, Takeda Kahei decided to keep on the family tradition and opened the Takeda Kahei Shouten shop. Nowadays, the shop is still owned by the Takeda family and keeps on using the same hand-made traditional techniques to create many products from Yukata to purses
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