Monday, 4 February 2013

Japan for quilters

Japan is a country with so much to offer not only quilters but anyone interested in textiles.  Off course, any of the ones listed below are not only interesting for quilters or those interested in textiles, but anyone interested in Japanese culture would find them fascinating:

Kyoto Shibori Kogeigan 


The Kyoto Shibori Craft Centre consists of an art museum featuring traditional industrial arts of Japan and Kyokanoko Shibori, and an industrial arts hall where people can try their hand at shibori, the Japanese art of tie-dying.  Works of shibori art, including frames and screens are displayed in the museum.  The basic idea behind shibori dyeing is to bind part of the fabric so that the dye does not reach it during the staining process.  Although this process sounds simple, the technique requires tremendous skill and careful consideration and cannot be performed using machines.  There are said to be over 100 Japanese tie-dyeing techniques.

We were booked in to do a hands on tie-dying exercise on a white silk scarf. After a demonstration of different techniques, we could choose which pattern we wanted to try, using the clamping method and then choose which colours we wanted to use out of red, blue and yellow.  We were able to mix the colours with some guidance.  After dipping our scarves into the dye and removing the clamps (the method chosen for us to fit within our timescale) our scarves were taken away to dry off while we went to the second floor for a demonstration and video of  how shibori dyeing is done on silk.

Fold and clamp
Dip into  dye

Unclamp, then unfold

My lovely silk scarf

A sample of silk with the little ties and plastic caps in place was sent round to feel before a volunteer was asked to hold on tight to one side while the guide then pulled the other side of the fabric to untie the ties.  We were not allowed to take photos in this room, there are priceless hangings depicting scenes of the 4 seasons here, but we could buy postcards of these and there was a gift shop where we could buy items made using the shibori tie-dying technique and other silk items, hats, scarves, handbags, pictures, etc as well as a showroom full of the most beautiful kimonos made using this process.  The kimonos were for sale, but out of our price range.


Kimono made using shibori dyed silk

Kimono made from silk

How a kimono is worn

Beautiful kimonos for sale

Nishijin Textile Centre

Demonstration and exhibits are held here on the theme of the traditional Nishijin textile industry.  In addition to a kimono show, there are hand-weaving demonstrations (we took part in a hands-on workshop and could take our little woven mats away with us) and a display of historical materials. There were demonstrations of workmen making the paintbrushes used for painting on silk as well as a man painting a fabric panel to be made into a wedding kimono.  There is a huge shop floor filled with kimonos, purses, bags, calligraphy items, souveniers of all types and specialities of Kyoto, including teas and all manner of woven items.  You can dress up as a maiko, geiko or watch a demonstration of how to dress up as a maiko, but reservations need to be made in advance. We have only had 2 hours here and it was nowhere near long enough, I would suggest that you need at least a whole morning or whole afternoon here, especially if you want to have the hands-on experience or dressing up in a kimono or watching this demonstration.

Silk painting on wedding kimono panel

Hands-on weaving experience
Kimono show

Kimonos on display

Orinasuken Handmade Fabrics Museum
Although this is a museum, it is also a fully functioning workroom.  It is set within an old traditional Kyoto house, still with the original well inside the hallway, which used to be the kitchen.  There is a traditional tea room and a lovely garden.  Upstairs is the workroom, where the master weaver did a demonstration of how fabrics are woven with silk threads.  He talked a little about special threads that are used and showed us examples of his work, some of which are used for the production of the elaborate costumes used in the Noh plays. There is very little space to walk around amongst the huge weaving machines and we were asked not to talk to the other weavers as they were working and disturbing them could mean making mistakes in their weaving.

Mater weaver explains how this was woven

Demonstration of weaving technique 

We were then shown to a 'showroom' where the most exquisite obi's where on display.  These obi's (the ties used around the women's waist to hold the kimono in place) take sometimes months and some even years to complete as the patterns are so intricate, they are all made in silk and then displayed here for buyers to look at and order.  There is a waiting list of 2 years at present if you would like to order an obi to a specific design. Again, all were out of our price range, selling between Yen1 500 000 and Yen2 000 000 but beautiful to see and free to photograph.

Obi's on display

More obi's on display

Kimono on display in the museum

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

Itchiku Kubota, a dyeing artist built this museum in 1994, which now exhibits his Tsujigahana works.  The building itself is worth seeing with the most wonderful gardens, a tea room overlooking the garden, the New wing where all the walls are made of coral reef fossils. There is also an Art Gallery, where you can buy glass beads, jewellery, gifts and silk items.  In the main building, which is a pyramid shaped structure supported by beams more than a 1000 years old, Mr Kubota's lifeworks are on display, including his unfinished "Symphony of light" series of kimonos (a huge piece of work comprised of 80 kimono that together form a picture of Mount Fuji.

Entrance to Itchiku Kubota Museum

Garden at Itchicku Kubota Museum
Garden at Itchiku Kubota Museum
Garden at Itchiku Kubota Museum
Tea Room at Itchiku Kubota Museum 

Coral Reef Fossil Wall 

Yosegi-zaiku craft workshop
Be prepared to be amazed!  Mr Yoshihiro Ishiwaka gave us a demonstration and explanation on the three methods of creating the wonderful marquetry boxes and pictures and dishes, after which we could look and buy some of the items in the shop.  There were puzzle boxes, key cabinets, tissue boxes, trays, storage boxes, pictures, purses, handbags etc and our group probably spent enough money here to pay the wages of the staff for at least a month!

Our demonstration 
Woods used for the marquetry

Creating the patterns

Paper thin sheet 

Picture created with marquetry

Amuse Museum
In the Asakusa district of Tokyo, a museum about the origins and history of sashiko.  A highlight of the trip for many in our group.  There is also a giftshop where sashiko items and folding cloths (known as Furoshiki) amongst other gift items can be bought.

Example of work in Amuse Museum

Yuzawaya (Kamata)
Very large craft department store set over several floors, with patchwork fabrics on ground floor, all manor of haberdashery on all the other floors.  This store accept debit and credit card payments.
There is another Yuzawaya just accross the road from the main one, which sells dress fabrics and another one further down the same block, which sells more theatrical type fabrics, also curtain fabrics. There is a lovely section with pre printed sashiko panels and kits.

Nippori Fabric Town
If you are looking for a bargain, then this is a must. Lots of fabric and haberdashery style shops everywhere here, it's like an Alladin's cave.  We were given a map of Nippori Town, available from most hotels, which listed 64 shops, all selling fabric related, some dressmaking, others soft furnishings, some tailoring, some just lace, others theatrical, others actual clothes, wedding fabrics, sewing machines, etc.  There are several called 'Tomato', worth a look in the 'Main' one, for patchwork fabrics, some are normal prices, but most are cheaper than anywhere else.  Having been to the Quilt show, I know that their haberdashery items, like handbag handles for example are a lot cheaper than those on offer at the show.  The shops in this area only accept CASH payments.

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