One hot Tuesday morning Beth, Natalie and I cycled to the edge of Kyoto to do a stencil dying workshop in a factory and school that makes handmade kimono. On arrival we had a fascinating tour and got to see the traditional and highly skilled process from start to finish.
I will attempt to describe the process to you but it may not be very technically correct! Beth did a fine job of translating but there was an awful lot to take in so forgive me if it's slightly vague!
First we saw examples of the hand cut stencils.
Look how intricate they are.
The stencil is then pinned out onto the fabric and a thick blue masking ink is applied with a squeegee.
When the fabric is painted the dye will not reach the blue masked off areas.
Patterns are built up this way.
Huge lengths of fabric are stretched out held taught by strips of bamboo.
When it is ready to be painted the fabric is attached to these large rollers so it can be stretched right out across the room and the painter can simply pull on the loop to work across different bits of the design. It's very clever. You can see it here on this video (enjoy the funny music).
The dye is applied with short stubby brushes which are pushed into the fabric. It's a wonder that such intricate work can be done.
These long strips form the panels of the kimono. You can buy a kimono here from about £8000. Phew! Look at some of the finished ones made for 'Coming of Age' ceremonies. Makes the suit I bought Euan yesterday for his end of school prom seem much less expensive!
We had a go ourselves.
With rich coloured dyes and stubby brushes.
We brought home our small samples to remember the day.