Sunday, October 11, 2009

Textile O Rama -- Japanese Ikat (Kasuri)

I recently unearthed some fabrics I bought from the now-defunct Kasuri Dyeworks in Berkeley maybe 13 or 14 years ago. This was during my obsessive quilting phase and I am so glad I made the pilgrimage to Kasuri Dyeworks before it closed.

The fabrics I unearthed were mostly Japanese ikats, or kasuri. There was one piece, in particular, that I paid a goodly sum for. These fabrics are typically 14-inches wide (suitable for kimono).

First, take a look at this particular fabric that I bought:

and here is a closeup:

What is amazing about this fabric, is that the indigo dye is applied to the thread before the fabric has been woven. Imagine the accuracy that must go into this process! Now, there are other cultures, such as several in South America, that also use this ikat process, but the resulting woven fabric, while beautiful, does not have the same impressive accuracy of high quality kasuri. And if the technical difficulty wasn't high enough, the traditional kasuri changes the design every several inches, as you can clearly see on my length of fabric.

Gorgeous. I originally bought this fabric thinking I might use it in a quilt, but it was pricey. I recall that this piece (which included one repeat of each of the designs) cost me over $100. Yes, expensive, but certainly worth it for the craftsmanship. However, I chickened out, I guess, because the fabric was lovingly put away and never used.

Now that I have brought it out again, I know I can never cut it. It's too amazing, too precious. So, I may hem the ends and turn it into a table runner. I think the fabric might enjoy that, so long as I keep drippy candles away from it. :)

I recently bought a Japanese fabric that very much reminded me of the traditional kasuri. In this case, every several inches it changes the weave to produce a different pattern. It is a stretch woven fabric, containing a fairly high percentage of lycra.

This fabric is actually black, though it appears to be charcoal in this photo. And, unlike the kasuri, this fabric has been cut and is being sewn up into a top. I'll be posting it once it's finished and I can corral a child into photographing it. :)


  1. That indigo piece is one of the most exquisite pieces I have seen in a long long while, and worth every penny you paid. (I'd be inclined to hang it on the wall as art, if it lived here at Acorn Cottage)Thank you for sharing a picture of it.

  2. Gorgeous fabric. Several years ago, my husband was in Japan, and bought quite a bit of Yukata for me. It's still in a box, because I never knew what to do with it.

  3. Thanks, Alison and Gwen. Alison, that is an idea I hadn't even considered. My house does not have a lot of wall space, but I will prowl around looking for a possible place where I could showcase this textile.

    Gwen, I have some yukata fabrics, which are stenciled, but nothing that is art worthy. I completely understand. :)

  4. That is a very beautiful piece of fabric. Yea, you just couldn't have cut it up to make a quilt out of it. Some fabric pieces that you buy are just to beautiful and are really works of arts.

  5. Yeah, I suspect that I justified buying it at the time by telling myself I'd feature it in a quilt. But, really, that's just wrong. ;)

  6. I miss Kasuri too.

    The piece you have looks like a display sample bolt, where they reset the loom every so often to showcase all the various patterns, for the shopkeep to show prospective buyers.

    I would say your piece is worth close to a thousand now. don't cut it!!

    These display bolts are quite rare. Here's one I saw in the window of a kimono shop in Sendai:

    -Tracey, Berkeley