Kasuri is a term from the Japanese word kasureru meaning “to blur”. It is a Japanese form of Ikat weaving, whereby patterns are created by resist dying the thread before weaving using several different methods. The warp, the weft or both warp and weft (double ikat) can be dyed to form many intricate patterns.
Ikat weaving techniques were first seen in the region that is modern day Okinawa. By the 14th century it was being produced for export and the technique spread north right up to Nara in Honshu. As cotton manufacture and production became more widespread so to did kasuri weaving. As farmers produced the cotton, so too did they dye and weave the fabric for personal use and to sell. By 1850 the Kurume area of Kyushu had become the largest of four main kasuri regional centres, a weaving tradition that has survived and is continued by families of artisans to this day. In 1957, Kurume kasuri was registered as intangible cultural heritage with UNESCO.
Traditionally, organic indigo was used to dye the thread, producing a blue and white design, however over time, red dye and other colours were occasionally introduced. Patterns began with geometric dots, cross hatching and simple repeating designs but as the tradition gained popularity during the 19th century more intricate motifs called e gasuri were introduced. Geometric patterns were commonly used for farm clothing, yukata, kimono and bedding with the e gasuri picture panels reserved for bridal futon covers, cushions and noren curtains.
During the 1930’s with Japanese military expansion, cotton production shifted from the domestic Japanese market to Korea and China and the labour intensive kasuri weaving production declined in Japan. Nowadays, there remain around 20 artisan production houses in Kurume with the folk art kasuri weaving gaining a second wave of popularity.
See our range of vintage Kasuri.