Hagiwara Ichizo of Saratetsu, the last yuzen dye studio of wrapping cloth (or furoshiki) in Tokyo, is an expert at dyeing a variety of natural fabrics, so Studio Kotokoto asked him to print a pattern from their collection of old paper stencils onto Japanese linen.
We chose Japanese linen because it becomes more beautiful with time and use. Moreover, this fabric has deep roots in Japanese history. It was among the most popular fabrics used in the country until a century ago but was pushed aside by cheaper imports. It has been making a slow comeback in the past few years.
However, linen is also notorious for its resistance to dye transfer, and today’s dyed linens are mostly piece or yarn dyed. Despite these production challenges, Hagiwara-san not only took on the task but said that he could also dye a different color on the back. This is a truly amazing feat and he is probably the only dyer in Japan or elsewhere who can make this happen!
The factors that control colors are the mixing of dyes and the duration of steaming to fix the dye. Hagiwara-san tests each color and combination and carefully records the results in a logbook.
After the dye is applied, the fabric is steamed to bring out and fix the color. Hagiwara-san gave a demonstration to show how the duration of steaming can change the hues of the same color.
When a fabric is dyed on both sides, the color on one side adds to the hue on the other. So Hagiwara-san and his colleagues undertake constant experimentation and testing to achieve the intended effects.
Controlling the dye and preventing seepage into the back is a special skill that has taken several generations for Saratetsu to perfect.
In the next blog post we will share some of Saratetsu’s collection of old paper stencil patterns and decide which of these styles to apply to our linen.