Ikeda Kasuri Kobo specialises in making Kurume Kasuri, a cotton ikat textile with distinctively blurred patterns, native to the Chikugo region of Fukuoka Prefecture. The textiles are made with the ikat technique, which originates from India.
In this remarkable process, patterns are made by tying and dying yarn before the weaving takes place. The process begins with creating a pattern sheet of the fabric’s final design. After tying parts of the yarn according to the blueprint, the pattern is dyed into the individual threads. When the threads have dried, they are untied and then woven into the final fabric; craftspeople carefully select and align the threads to weave them into the most intricate designs. The finished fabric is extremely soft — a reflection of the love and care that goes into each piece of fabric.
Japan is one of the largest kasuri producers in the world. But the industry is in decline due to globalisation and modernisation. The production process is very labour intensive, the use of indigo is expensive and kimonos are being worn less frequently. As kimonos used to be worn daily, they were usually made with cotton. But nowadays, as kimonos are usually saved only for special occasions, they are mostly made of silk.
The use of indigo is also becoming rare. Making indigo is a tricky process that requires deep knowledge and extensive experience. Typical Japanese indigo is made by a fermentation process where the indigo plant is turned into a dry leaf-like substance and then is dissolved in vats. Alcohol, wood ash and sugar are then added. After all, the fermented substance is a living organism that needs to be cared for under a precise set of conditions. Ikeda Kasuri Kobo uses 20 different vats of natural indigo dye to create a variety of dyed fabrics.
The finished fabric is extremely soft — a reflection of the love and care that goes into each piece of fabric
The weaving of Kasuri was traditionally done by elderly women, mostly farmers who have free time on their hands during the offseason. Along with changing lifestyles, ways of working and demographics, weavers are now hard to come by.
Several years ago, the workshop also opened an in-house hand-weaving studio in response to the decline in Kurume Kasuri weavers. Ikeda Kasuri Kobo operates under a flexible structure where workers can drop by at their own pace. This allows a diverse group of people to get involved with kasuri production, from busy mothers to young weavers looking to gain experience working alongside experienced artisans.