The extraordinary art of kimono dyeing

24 Jan 2018 in So Design

Discover the secret to creating sumptuous kimono designs: the intricate art of Kyo-yuzen!

japanese-kimono

Some are plain black, others feature modest stripes – but the most elaborate Japanese kimonos are objects of absolute beauty, hand-painted and dyed using a centuries-old technique known as Kyo-yuzen.

Japanese geisha in kimono

So, how does a designer go about creating a Kyo-yuzen kimono? By investing lots of time! The method involves multiple steps, but the key to the process is a rice-paste coating known as itomenori that gives Kyo-yuzen designs their characteristic white outline.

Japanese style landscape

The first step is to draw the design on the fabric in a washable ink called aobana-eki. Next, fine lines of itomenori paste are applied to the outline of the design.

Once the paste has dried, coloured dyes can be painted onto the design, with the itomenori acting as a barrier to maintain each dye in its place and prevent colours from mixing.

Finally, the cloth is steamed to fix the colour and then rinsed. It’s during this step that the itomenori washes away, leaving striking white outlines where it once stood.

Kimono ceremony

Given the painstaking method, it’s no surprise that Kyo-yuzen designers are highly-respected artists and their hand-designed kimonos can fetch thousands of dollars.

Kimono in Kyoto

Like to see kimono artisans at work?

Head to Kyoto, where the method originated, and visit a Kyo-yuzen workshop.

Kimono design

You’ll be able to dye your own handkerchief or furoshiki. And if you stay at HOSHINOYA Kyoto, you can even rent a kimono and visit the city dressed in sumptuous Japanese style!

Wear a kimono in Japan


Photo credits:

fjt0318 / CC BY-ND

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