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What is Arimatsu Shibori?

History of Arimatsu Shibori

The constant pursuit of something new has marked the 400-year history of this traditional craft.

Tie-dyeing in Japan dates back to the Nara period (8th century), when kanoko techniques to create dappled patterns, like those found on young deer, reached Japan across the Silk Road from central Asia. Arimatsu tie-dyeing started about 400 years ago. The tradition began when Takeda Shōkurō tie-dyed long Japanese hand towels made from Mikawa Momen cotton. He started his new business and attracted customers who were traveling the Tōkaidō feudal highway, which passed through Arimatsu. As business flourished, so too grew the town of Arimatsu. In the mid-19th century, with the coming of the modern age, the highway trade fell off. Adopting some mechanical techniques to increase production, the local crafters increased the range of design possibilities by developing a number of innovations, including Arashi Shibori, which involved binding cloth wrapped around poles. Through cycles of growth and decline, the craft of Arimatsu Shibori has been marked by the constant pursuit of something new.

Features of Arimatsu Shibori

Beautiful patterns and forms worked by human hands

Variety of design is the outstanding feature of Arimatsu Shibori. As well as a legacy of tied motifs such as tegumo hand spiders, history has endowed the craft with sewn designs including mokume woodgrain, karamatsu larch, and orinui fold and sew patterns. In the whole world, only Arimatsu has such a rich legacy of more than 100 traditional designs. Tying, sewing, folding... the crafters create an astounding variety of designs which, because they are hand-made, possess the beauty of the human touch. Overall, the designs project a subtle dimensional effect. Their warm and inviting look, along with the fit and feel of the cloth, makes them suitable for yukata and other clothing worn next to the skin.

What’s this bundle?

This picture shows tightly bound spires of cloth before the dyeing process. The pattern is revealed afterwards, when the threads are removed. During Arimatsu Shibori, cloth is usually dyed in the stages listed below. In a finely separated division of labor, through to completion, the hands of a number of crafters work on each product. Because the vegetable dye and natural fabric subtly vary the coloration, and because the artisans do not consistently apply precisely the same force during operations, the finished designs may vary greatly. It does not matter how seasoned the artisans are – it is extremely difficult to reproduce exactly the same pattern on different pieces of cloth.

Arimatsu Shibori production process

Establishing the pattern(design)
Styled by seasoned designers with deep knowledge of the tie-dye traditions and techniques of Arimatsu.

Katabori stencil punching
The design is laid out on paper and a stencil is formed using a punch.

Ezuri pattern printing
The stencil is placed over white cloth and the pattern is transferred using aobana ink made from iodine and starch.

Kukuri tying
This process sets up the cloth for resist dyeing. Depending on the techniques used, the processes and apparatus vary. Commonly used jigs include the karasuguchi-dai split-top pole, and simpler pole jigs such as kanoko-dai and makiage-dai.
・The photo shows the process for tegumo shibori.

Dyeing is carried out by specialist dyers. Immersion dyeing is the normal tie-dyeing process, but other special methods may also be used.

To ensure resist dyeing, fabric for tie-dyeing is very tightly bound by threads. After dyeing, taking great care not to damage the cloth, skilled hands quickly remove the threads.

Steam finishing
In the final process, steam is applied and the width of the fabric is adjusted by hand.