【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】～Yuki Tsumugi (Ibaraki Prefecture)～
2022.12.19 About Japan's Traditional Crafts
【Production area of Yuki Tsumugi】
Areas around the Kinugawa River, such as Yuki City in Ibaraki Prefecture and Oyama City in Tochigi Prefecture
【What is Yuki Tsumugi?】
From the Nara period to the present, silk fabrics produced in Yuki City, Ibaraki Prefecture and Oyama City, Tochigi Prefecture, which are located along the Kinugawa River.
It is called “Yuki Tsumugi”, named after the Yuki clan who ruled the Shimousa region during the Kamakura period.
Originally, it was produced as a side business in areas where the sericulture industry flourished.
The material is “floss silk”, which is made by boiling silkworm cocoons and then spreading them out.
By going through this process, it contains plenty of air and feels very gentle to the touch.
Yuki Tsumugi is made using the highest quality silk thread.
Many people are fascinated by the texture that changes with the passage of time, and it is a silk fabric that has been passed down for generations.
In March 1977, it was designated as a traditional craft.
【Features of Yuki Tsumugi】
The main features are “light”, “soft” and “high heat retention”.
Yuki Tsumugi is made using high-quality threads that are carefully spun one by one by craftsmen from floss, which is the material.
Spun yarn contains a lot of air, so it is light and warm.
In addition, there are more than 30 processes when subdivided, but they are all done by hand.
【History of Yuki Tsumugi】
It is said that Yuki Tsumugi was already presented as a tribute to the Imperial Court in the Nara period.
At that time, it was called “Ashiginu”, and it was hand-spun thick silk fabric (=Ashiki silk).
Ashiki silk is said to be the prototype of various tsumugi textiles, and it remains in various parts of Japan even today.
When it came to be called “Yuki Tsumugi” in the Kamakura period, the name became known throughout Japan.
In the Edo period, Tadatsugu Ina, who was the governor of the shogunate and governor of Bizen, worked hard to develop Yuki Tsumugi and created a new dyeing method.
At the end of the Taisho period, a technique called “tateyoko-kasuri” (weaving with warps and wefts tied together for dyeing separately) was born.
Until then, it was common to weave either vertically or horizontally.
The craftsmen’s high skills are required to bind and weave both vertically and horizontally, and to combine thousands of threads.
The quality of Yuki Tsumugi improved at once with this “tateyoko-kasuri”.
Various technological innovations progressed after the war, and Kasuri became more detailed.
As a result, finer threads were used, which contributed to further weight reduction of textiles.
【Production process of Yuki Tsumugi】
The procedure is as follows.
・Boil the cocoons in hot water with baking soda for about 2 hours.
・When the cocoons become soft, return the water to room temperature.
・By carefully unfolding and stacking 5 to 6 layers, you can make a single floss silk.
It sounds simple, but it is a difficult technique to master.
You can see how difficult it is from the saying, “8 years for cotton, 3 years for spinning”.
Approximately 350 pieces of floss silk are required to make one roll of Yuki Tsumugi (approximately 1,000 square meters).
The procedure is as follows.
・After spreading the floss, wrap it around “Tsukushi”.
・Pull out the thread with one hand and spin the floss silk together with the other hand.
・Put the spun yarn in a bucket called “oboke”.
Yarn spinning is also a work that requires advanced technology.
About 94g of spun yarn is called 1 bocchi, which is equivalent to about 50 pieces of floss silk.
It takes about 7 batches to make one roll of Yuki Tsumugi.
It takes about 7 to 10 days to accumulate 1 botch, so it takes a long time of 2 to 3 months to spin a tan of yarn.
A spinning wheel is used to wind the thread accumulated in the oboke around the tube.
Although it is a simple task, it is necessary to maintain a moderate winding speed.
Because too fast and the thread will get tangled and too slow and it will sag.
The thread is wound using a skein machine.
By doing this, the thread will be easier to handle in the subsequent processes.
The process of aligning the length of the thread is called “Hatanobe”.
After winding the thread on the rolling table, it is arranged to a length of 1 to several quarters.
This is the process of drawing a design on paper.
In the past, most of the patterns were very simple, but after the Taisho period, there was a big change.
Painting patterns such as flowers and birds have been used more and more, and craft kasuri such as crosses and tortoise shells were also born.
Some parts of the design will not be dyed.
In this process, the kasuri threads are tied with cotton threads to create areas that will not be dyed, and the patterns are beautifully added.
In general, one roll of cloth contains at least 80, and sometimes as many as 200 tortoise shells.
One tortoise shell requires two bindings, so if there are 200 tortoise shells, the craftsman will have to spend a lot of time and effort.
It is not uncommon for it to take as long as three months.
At Yuki Tsumugi, it is dyed using “tataki dyeing”.
This is a method in which the dye is soaked in while the thread is slammed against the table.
If the force of beating is too strong, the color will soak in too much, so the craftsman needs a delicate amount of force and concentration to avoid uneven dyeing.
There are two main reasons for gluing.
・Strengthen the thread
If the glue is too thick, it will be difficult to weave.
It is a process of inserting thread into a comb-shaped reed using a spatula.
Reed threading is performed to put the spun yarn on the loom.
The warp threads passed through the reed are wound around the omaki.
Once the omaki is installed on the loom, the weft threads are woven.
Yuki Tsumugi is woven using a loom called a “jibata”.
It can take as little as a month, or as long as a year, and is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process.
In addition, “jibata” is said to be “Japan’s oldest weaving machine”.
The horizontal warp threads are tied to the waist and woven.
On the other hand, the weft threads are driven by the reed and then further driven by the shuttle.
Through this process, the unique texture of Yuki Tsumugi is created.
Once the tsumugi is woven and passes inspection, it is traded at a wholesaler, Shimaya.
The reason why it is called “Shimaya” is because the old Yuki Tsumugi was overwhelmingly “striped”.
The last thing to do before making it into a kimono is removing glue.
Pass it through hot water and leave a little glue on the core of the thread.
This process brings out the unique softness and texture of Yuki Tsumugi.