Ojiya tsumugi | Making the most of benefits of Cotton


Light and warm traditional crafts utilizing cotton: Ojiya Tsumugi (pongee)

Ojiya Tsumugi is a silk fabric woven in Ojiya City, Niigata Prefecture. Various patterns are woven using a weft yarn called yokoso kasuri, which is woven using kasuri yarn for the weft threads, or striped patterns, plain or white patterns, etc. Ojiya tsumugi, woven from hand-spun yarn, is a fabric with the unique luster and feel of silk, as well as a simple taste that is in perfect harmony.

Niigata also has a textile industry called Shiozawa Tsumugi. As explained in detail on the previous page, Niigata’s climate and local characteristics, such as heavy snowfall and clean water, have nurtured the textile industry in various parts of the prefecture.

Kimono with Ojiya pongee
Source: Kimono Aoki

History of Ojiya Tsumugi 

In the Ojiya region, the production of hemp fabric, known as Echigo-jofu, has flourished since ancient times. During the Kanbun period (1661-1672), Masatoshi Horijiro, a warrior of the Akashi Harimaro clan, stayed in the area and improved the fabric to make it suitable for summer wear, giving birth to Ojiya Shrink, a wavy fabric. He also developed a technique for weaving patterns such as stripes, which led to the production of cloth other than the white cloth that had been woven until then. The Ojiya-shuku technique thus developed spread mainly in Ojiya, and the textile industry developed in the region.

Ojiya pongee was woven with silk threads in the middle of the Edo period, incorporating the Ojiya shuku technique. At first, the silk was spun from waste cocoons and made for private use. When ramie, the raw material for hemp yarn, became scarce due to famine from the end of the Edo period to the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912), many producers shifted from shrinking to sericulture. The number of people engaged in silk weaving increased, and it became widely known as a craft of the Ojiya region. It developed as an industry in this region because sericulture had been widespread since ancient times, the techniques used to make Echigo Kamifu, and the humid winter air was suitable for weaving.

Process -Traditional Process of Ojiya pongee


1. Design (Kasuri pattern making and ruler making)

In order to create a kasuri or kasuri pattern on a thread, it is necessary to first make a ruler that matches the pattern. The rulers used for making kasuri started to be used in the 1680s. They are made based on the original pattern.

2. Thread making

Ojiya silk is made from hand-spun ball and cotton threads. Momen is made by stretching cocoons into a cotton-like material. Cocoons are boiled for several hours, then scoured, and then stretched one by one and layered. The cocoons are then carefully drawn out with fingertips to a uniform thickness and wound into a thin strand of yarn to produce hand-spun yarn.

Tamayo (thread), also called “knotty thread” because of the presence of knots, is made from “tama-moon” cocoons, which contain two or more pupae in one cocoon. The unique taste of the tama-yarn gives the cloth a pongee-like texture. The threads are twisted together for each warp thread of the ground and each weft thread of the kasuri pattern, and then refined in boiling water to remove any dirt. The yarns are then wound onto gourds, and the required number of gourds are laid out and their lengths adjusted according to the design specifications.

3. Marking and stitching

Weft yarns are stretched on the stretcher and marked one by one with black ink using a kasuri ruler so that a kasuri pattern will appear when the fabric is woven. After marking, the kubiri kasuri is tied tightly with old ramie to prevent the pattern from being dyed. This is also called tekkuri. As more complex patterns using many colors are produced, the “Surikomikasuri” technique is now used.

4. Surikomi 

Surikomikasuri” and “Kubirikasuri” are the techniques used to produce the weft thread patterns that are characteristic of Ojiya silk. In “Surikomiko-gasuri”, dye is applied to the threads using a surikomi-bera so that the dye penetrates deep into the threads. In kubiri kasuri, the yarn is twisted into a kusuri shape and then rubbed with the fingertips in the dye along with the base yarn. The dye does not penetrate easily into the area where the threads are tied together, so it is done with great care.

Natural dyes and chemical dyes are used for dyeing. Natural dyes, such as indigo and herb dyes, require repeated dyeing over time to produce a deep color. Dyed yarns are steamed at 100°C to allow the dye to penetrate the fabric, and then glued to make the weaving process easier.

5. Preparation for weaving, weaving

The dyed yarns are tightly wound up according to the pattern, adjusting the position of the warp and weft yarns. The weft yarns are then removed from the warp, the kasuri is unraveled, and the weft is wound onto a tekuri frame. The warp threads are then rolled up into a weft frame and placed on a kokokoshi-dai (a small table for spinning the warp threads), which is used for the final spinning. The warp threads are threaded through the heddles, one by one, and then two by two into each reed. Once the threads have been threaded, the pattern is placed on the bottom and the kasuri threads are wound into the machine shaft together with the base threads, matching the pattern.

Once the weaving is ready, the weft is woven, matching each weft thread to the mark made during the kasuri making process. This method of weaving various patterns has remained unchanged since the Edo period.

6. Finishing

Excess paste is removed from the fabric in lukewarm water. After drying, the cloth is then Kinuta-uchi (beating), which brings out the original texture of the cotton. Finally, the fabric is inspected for any stains or unevenness in the weave.

Kimono with Ojiya pongee
Source: https://tsurublog.exblog.jp/30080267/
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