Kurume Kasuri is unique with its fine indigo color


Kurume Kasuri,  simplicity and  beauty for everyday wear

Kurume Kasuri is a cotton fabric from the Chikugo region. The durable cotton fabric was ideal for work clothes and was hand-woven by each family in the past. About 200 years ago, plain fabrics were the norm for practical, everyday wear. It was created by the accidental discovery of a farmer’s daughter. This is a technique to make a pattern with a gentle texture appear on a textile. The technique is to dye the cotton yarns first and then weave them, rather than weaving the fabric first and then printing.

This technique also produces a unique blurred pattern. This is the main characteristic and appeal of Kurume Kasuri. Today, Kurume Kasuri is produced not only in traditional geometric patterns and indigo-dyed patterns, but also in modern patterns and pop colors. Each traditional Japanese Kasuri often has own unique dyeing technic; for instance, Isesaki Kasuri has totally different types of technics from what Kurume Kasuri adopts.

Kurume kasuri is divided into weaving styles such as “warp kasuri,” “weft kasuri,” and “longitude and latitude kasuri,” depending on whether the kumikuri threads are used for the warp or the weft. By combining small, medium, and large patterns, Kurume-gasuri can produce a wide variety of detailed patterns unique to Kurume-gasuri.

source: kogei-Expo

Typical weaving methods

  • warp weaving: Weaving a pattern using only the vertical threads.
  • weft weaving: Patterns are woven using yarns that are twisted into the yoko-yokuri threads.
  • warp and weft: A weaving technique in which the pattern is woven using both the warp and the weft threads. It is difficult to match the pattern and requires a high level of skill.

Kurume kasuri is also attractive for its vividness and depth of color. The fine indigo color attracts many people. The standard for color in production is to use natural, genuine indigo. The traditional dyeing method of fermenting natural indigo is still firmly in place today and expresses a unique and dignified beauty.

The durable Kurume Kasuri is often used for everyday wear, not only for Kimono, and is always comfortable in any season. Its good air permeability keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter. The texture changes with age and becomes more tasteful, making it a favorite of many people for a long time.

Kurume Kasuri


The History of Kurume Kasuri

It is said that Kurume kasuri originated around 1800 with the idea of a girl named Inoue Den (1788-1869), who was 12 or 3 years old at the time. Noticing the white speckled pattern on faded old clothes, Den unraveled the cloth and searched for the secret of the pattern. As a result, he invented the technique of bundling threads, dyeing them with indigo, and weaving them together to create the pattern. Throughout his life, Den passed on this technique to many people and contributed to the spread of Kurume kasuri.

Curious and ambitious, one day she noticed white spots on her clothing. He suddenly had the idea of unraveling the threads, thought about it, and created a method of binding the thread bundles to prevent dyeing. This is a technique called “kakuri,” an important process that remains to this day. When the resulting threads were used to weave the fabric, the surface of the fabric was covered with white dots that looked like falling snow. This was the first pattern of Kurume Kasuri and the first step in its long history that continues to this day. It is said that Inoue Den created Kurume Kasuri around 1799, and that he had as many as 1,000 apprentices, 400 of whom scattered around the country and started their own weaving business.

Manufacturing Method & Process

Strictly speaking, Kurume kasuri is made into fabric through more than 30 processes. Each process takes two to three months, and each process makes use of the skilled techniques that have been cultivated over the years. Here are some of the typical steps in the production process.

1. Creating the pattern

A kasuri pattern is drawn up on a computer or by hand. The design is a blueprint of the pattern and requires skilled techniques to take into account the pattern of each individual warp and weft thread and the shrinkage of the threads.

2. warping

The length and number of yarns needed to fold the pattern are wound onto a large frame according to the pattern, and then the yarns are distributed to the dyeing and kukuri processes.

3. knitting

In order to dye the threads according to the pattern, glued threads are wrapped around the part that will become the pattern and tied together. When the threads are dyed, dye does not go into the binding area, so the pattern is created by unraveling the binding threads before weaving. This is one of the most characteristic processes of Kurume Kasuri, which is a yarn-dyed fabric, unlike Yuzen and Shibori, where the pattern is dyed after the fabric is first woven.

4. dyeing

Indigo Dyeing: In Kurume Kasuri, indigo dyeing is performed by many hand weavers. During the indigo fermentation process, called aitate, skilled craftsmen can tell the degree of fermentation by licking the surface of the dye solution with their tongues. In the indigo dyeing process, the threads are tapped and exposed to air to produce a beautiful indigo color. This process is repeated more than 30 times to produce a deep indigo color.

*In Japan, there are a number of traditional crafts that make use of the color indigo. For example, from pottery like Otani-ware or Seto pottery to fabric products such as Omi jofu or Nishijin Embroidery.

In modern times, the use of chemical dyes of various colors has helped to fix and stabilize the colors, and Kurume kasuri is now made in a variety of shades other than the originally standard dark ones. Using plenty of water, impurities and excess dye adhering to the yarn are removed to achieve beautiful colors. One of the reasons Kurume kasuri has taken root in the region may be due to the abundance of underground water resources in the area.

5. gluing and drying

Warp threads are glued and dried in order to prevent fluffing and to maintain uniform tension (elasticity).

6. reeding

The warp threads are laid out in the same order as the pattern and the base threads (the untied threads) are passed through the reed from one end to the other.

7. warp and weft winding

The warp threads are divided into the ground and the kasuri, and then wound onto a reel. The weft is wound onto a special flat board. Expert skill is required to ensure that the weft is wound with the same tension so that there is no misalignment of the pattern.

Kurume Kasuri

8. Weaving

Weaving can be done by hand or by power weaving, both of which require experience and skill as the warp and weft yarns are adjusted to match the pattern of the kasuri. In the power loom workshops, power looms that are more than 100 years old are still in use.

9. weaving through hot water and preparing
the fabric

The woven kasuri is then soaked in lukewarm water to remove the glue, washed in cold water, and dried in the sun.

Kimono with Kurume Kasuri
source: SOU・SOU

Key point

Kurume Kasuri has the advantages of cotton. It is cool in summer and warm in winter, which is very important for daily wear. It is also very comfortable to wear, and its high functionality is one of the reasons why it is gaining a renewed reputation. Although the evolution of machines has reduced the workload, there is not a single process that does not require human handwork. Even with machine weaving, it is extremely difficult to match the warp and weft thread patterns, and requires a high level of skill on the part of the craftsman. Originally popular as kimonos, these days the mainstream item is one that can be casually incorporated into modern life.


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