Kasuri ito (thread) is made through a tight weaving technique, which gives the woven cotton a rustic and warm texture.
The playfulness of the fabric patterns (kasuri), along with the beauty of the indigo dye is known nationwide.
It is a cotton fabric known nationwide, that was made around the Chikugo River basin area as a farmer's side job in the past.
Currently, there are not only indigo dyes, but plant dyes, and chemical dyes that can produce a variety of colors. In addition to hand weaving, there are also machine woven Kurume Kasuri and a variety of others being produced. It is known nationwide for the rustic, warm textures of the cotton, the playfulness of the fabric patterns, and the beauty of the indigo dye.
A variety of products use Kurume fabric. As the times have changed it is not only the kimono, but other products, such as sundries, interior products, clothing, bags, and hats, etc. that are also being made.
Kurume Kasuri is a cotton fabric made in the Chikugo region, and woven using Kurume fabric thread (kasuri ito).
Currently it is produced mainly in Chikugo City and the town of Hirokawa. It was a special product made by the Kurume clan (Arima clan) who governed the Chikugo area and distributed Kurume Kasuri. Kurume Kasuri was invented in the Edo Period (1603-1868) by a woman named Inoue Den. Since then innovation has continued over the years by incorporating new techniques of the times and applying them to the production process.
Kasuri is produced all over the world, and the Malay word for “to be bound” (kukuru) or “to bind” (shibaru) is Icat.
With the introduction of new technology, production efficiency has also improved. A wide variety of kasuri, such as a bold pattern unique to Kurume Kasuri patterns and a precise smaller pattern were born. There are a total of 31 production facilities, including 14 in Chikugo City, 13 in the town of Hirokawa, 2 in Kurume City, 1 in Yame City and 1 in Okawa City making Kurume fabrics. (As of 2010)
Originally born in Kurume City in the Fukuoka prefecture, Inoue wove cotton from the ages of 7 or 8 years old to help her household out. It was around the age of 12 or 13 that she became a craftsman with the same level of dexterity that some adults would never master.
One day she noticed white spots left in the faded areas of the worn down woven cotton. Becoming interested in that, she immediately unwound the fabric.
Using the unwound fabric as a reference, she tried to make similar patterns to the white spots. She wove by using different threads to wrap one thread with another, dyed the enclosed thread with indigo and unwound it. When woven by machine, the white spotted pattern appeared on one side of the weaved fabric.
This is the origin of Kurume Kasuri. It started in the year 1800 and has continued for over 200 years to this day. Inoue Den named the fabric "加寿利(Kasuri)". It is known popularly as a snowfall or hail pattern. There are many followers around Den. Pouring her efforts into teaching, Kurume Kasuri spread to the extent, that there is no place around Kurume where you can not hear the sound of weavers working.
The Chikugo area, where Kurume Kasuri is made, covers a wide area. The characteristic of the patterns change depending on the area where the fabric is made.
The large pattern, medium pattern, and the picture patterns were created in the Mizuma Area. This is related to the fact that Otsuka Taizo, who invented the picture painting technique, was born in Mizuma County. A large-sized, medium pattern, and futon pattern was made around Chikugo City area.
Meanwhile, petite sizes were being made in the hills of Yame City. This seems to be related to the fact that the origin of the Kunitake kasuri, whose petite patterns were a feature, started in Yame.
At the time, large patterns (kasuri) were used by women, while smaller patterns were used in men’s kimonos. Small fabric pattern (kasuri) were also worn by a large number of male students, known as a literary, a student, or a man’s fabric pattern.
Kurume kasuri is a textile fabric style that uses kasuri thread. The stitching is done along the drawing so that the lines will appear seamlessly, without any irregularities. Craftsmen are encouraged to avoid shifting the pattern so that the thread gets tangled as little as possible. Even still, irregularities do occur. These unique irregularities create an almost blurry effect, and has become a significant part of Kurume Kasuri. The origins of the word kasuri comes from “zure”, which means to shift.
There is a vertical kasuri yarn, in which only the warp is dyed, called tate-gasuri. The horizontal kasuri yarn, in which only the weft is dyed, is called yoko-gasuri. When both vertical and horizontal styles are used, it is called tate-yoko gasuri. While tate-gasuri follows the vertical design and yoko-gasuri follows the horizontal designs, it becomes very difficult to match the two when the vertical and horizontal designs are combined. Depending on how much power is applied to the pedal, the vertical thread opens or closes, while the force of the pull on the reed will determine if the space between the vertical and horizontal threads are tightly woven together or have a looser weave. The white part of the kasuri design can be expressed by overlapping the vertical threads with the horizontal threads to weave them just right. It takes a craftsman with a great deal of experience and expertise.
Kurume kasuri was originally only dyed with indigo, but by incorporating plant based dyes and chemical dyes, a variety of colors can now be created. Indigo dye changes color with the passing of time. At first, the color of the dye is an indigo color. Through repeated washings, the lye is washed out. The white part of the fabric will become whiter and changes will start to be seen in the color of the original indigo dye. Chemical dye was imported from Germany and became widely used around the 40th year of the Meiji Period (1907). Initially, naphthol dyes were primarily used, but now reactive dyeing is becoming mainstream. There is a reduced loss of color using reactive dyeing techniques, making washing easier. Chemical dyes make it possible to produce colorful shades, while keeping prices low since the fabrics don’t have to be dyed as often.
Kurume kasuri makes use of hand weaving and machine weaving. In the hand-woven types, the thread delivery changes according to the force of the weaver, and the adjustment of the warp thread (tate-ito) delivery changes depending on the power applied to the loom pedals. Too strong or too weak, and there will be a problem matching the pattern, so it takes many years of experience to master. The weaving rhythm is what produces the durable and supple texture. Mechanical weaving, on the other hand, can be mass-produced due to uniform weaving, which reduces costs. Unlike hand-woven stitches, machine-woven stitches are wound with threads, using tongs that are matched to the width of the fabric in advance. Machines weave over and over from right to left, as attendants accompany the busily moving machine, adjusting thread tension.