Tsumugi are silk textiles woven by hand using thread collected from the floss of the cocoons.
The floss is made from debris of the cocoons and spun by hand into thread. Because the thread is called “tetsumugi ito” or “ tsumugi ito”, the textile made from the thread became to be known as tsumugi.
Tsumugi is characterized by its unique texture and dull gloss coming from subtle variations of the tetsumugi threads. It is extremely durable and has been used for everyday clothes and working clothes since ancient times.
Thus, tsumugi, although it is silk, was not used for formal wear. However, during Edo period, many stylish, fashionable people liked tsumugi’s color palate and texture with its muted gloss despite it being silk. They found it expressed an austere elegance and considered it a stylish fabric that expressed their good taste nonchalantly. They generally wore it as outer clothing and dressing up in tsumugi became popular.
Though tsumugi is durable, because the newly woven cloth is hard and quite uncomfortable to wear, it is said that wealthy merchants had their clerks wear them first to break them in.
It could be fun to try a newly woven hard tsumugi and act cool like a rakugo comedian.
Ushikubi-tsumugi is a silk fabric made in the Ushikubi area of Shiramine in Hakusan city, Ishikawa prefecture. Ushikubi-tsumugi uses only pure river-bed water from the Tetori River and rare silkworm cocoons called “Tama-Mayu” in its process. The silkworm cocoons are first boiled down, spun by hand, and then elaborately weaved. All aspects of the process are done by hand and the fabric is famous for its strength among other silks. The origins of Ushikubi-tsumugidate back to the Heian period when the technique was first introduced to the locals by the wife of a Minamoto clan warrior named Oobatake. Oobatake became a fugitive after the Minamoto clan were defeated during Heiji no ran, or the Heiji Rebellion. Ushikubi-tsumugi was highly regarded for its durability and much sought after during the Edo period. From the middle of the Meiji period to the beginning of the Showa period, silk production steadily increased, however with Japan facing economic depression and eventually war, production soon rapidly declined and the authentic silk industry disappeared all together for a time. After the war, silkworm breeding was resumed and the craft of Ushikubi-tsumugi was successfully revived. Today, Ushikubi-tsumugi is appreciated as one of the highest quality silk fabrics in the world.
Fukumi Shimura was born in Omihachirin, Shiga Prefecture, in 1924. In 1990, she was designated as a Living National Treasure for her work in Tsumugi-fabric.
When she was 17, she started learning weaving from her mother. When she was 30, she decided to work independently as a Tsumugi-fabric craftsman and divorced her husband. She learned plant-dyeing on her own and made lively works one after another.
Her work's charm is in its harmony of rich colors, carefully extracted from nature's plants. She integrated traditional patterns, like stripes, with plant-dyed silk and developed Tsumugi-woven kimonos into art. Her efforts and accomplishment have been highly valued.
Shimura has made many works on the theme of historical stories; she chose 'The Tale of Genji' in particular as her lifetime work. Her gracefully woven tsumugi with plant-dyed silk presents heartfelt images from these stories .
Kumejima tsumugi is a form of traditional weaving on Kumejima island, which is where it is said to have originated. Legend has it that it was introduced by the mythical figure 'Douno-Hiya', who had learned sericulture in China in the late 15th century.
The development of this technique began on the island, and was later introduced to the main islands of Japan, where it was transmitted as Oshima tsumugi, Kurume tsumugi and Yuuki tsumugi.
Tsumugi is a strong silk fabric, woven from silk. Kumejima tsumugi is made using silk floss from the cocoon of a silkworm, which is then spun into threads. The threads are dyed with natural plant and earth dyes and carefully woven by hand.
One particular characteristic of this cloth is that the whole process is carried out by one person.
It was designated as a traditional craft in 1975, and an intangible asset of Okinawa Prefecture in 1977.
Murayama Oshima-Tsumugi is a tough and high-quality fabric woven in Musashi-Murayama City, Tokyo, and has been designated as an Intangible Cultural Asset of Tokyo.
It is said that this fabric was first woven in the mid-Edo period. It is made by combining the cotton Murayama-kongasuri and the silk Sunagawa-futo-ori techniques. In the 1920s, this was further adapted with the addition of crisscross splashed cotton threads and became one of the main products of Oshima-tsumugi.
Murayama Oshima-tsumugi has been woven using the original Murayama and Sunagawa village looms since the mid-Taisho period. The warp and weft threads are dyed separately, and there is no difference between the front and back sides of the cloth.
Over the years, the relentless efforts of the pioneering craftspeople eventually paid off, as testified in the high quality and toughness of this fabric.
In 1975, this fabric was designated by the Minister of International Trade and Industry as a Traditional Handicraft.
Tama woven fabric is a practical textile woven in Hachioji or Akiruno in the Tokyo area.
Tama woven fabric is the general term for five fabrics: tama-yuijo, tsumugiori, futsuori, kawari-tsuduri and sujiriori. Tama woven fabric is the epitome of the history of fabric making in Hachioji.
Already by the late Heian period, silk fabrics such as Takiyama or Yokoyama-tsumugi were being made in Hachioji. In the late Muromachi period, the craftsman Hokujo came to Tama and encouraged people to produce fabrics; this made Tama a major textile-production area. After the Meiji period, Westernization led to a rapid development in cloth-weaving and a new technique was invented, which became the basis of Tama woven fabric.
Traditionally, Tama woven fabric was both tasteful and practical, but today, new sophisticated designs, feelings and skills mean that unique and excellent works are being produced by traditional handiwork. In 1980, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry designated Tama woven fabric as a Traditional Handicraft.
Yuki-tsumugi manufactured in and around Yuki City, Ibaragi Pref. is the oldest and most expensive tsumugi (the high-class silk fabrics) in Japan. It was designated as the important intangible cultural heritage in 1956. Its history dates back to the Nara period (710−794). In the Kamakura period it was called Hitachi-tsumugi but it changed the name when the craft received the patronage of the local lord of Yuki. The name of Yuki tsumugi became very popular all through the country when the warriors in the Edo period favored its fine-striped tsumugi. The craft was developed in the modern era and the highest quality of tsumugi was possible due to the progress in **. Yuki tsumugi is light and warm. As you wear it longer, it will more rightly fit in your body. The making of it is divided into many procedures but from its simple appearance we can’t imagine that ingenious master skills are hidden behind it.