About Edo Komon

~Techniques of Edo Komon Craftsmen & Techniques of Ise Katagami Craftsmen~

Here we introduce dyeing processes of the Edo komon, preparation of pattern papers, history of the Edo komon, etc.

1. Coordination of colored starch

01.jpgThe colored starch has a significant role that affects the execution of dyeing. There are two types of colors: base color and pattern color. First, mix rice cake powder and rice bran, and steam them. After kneading, add dye compounds. With several dyeing tests, the colored starch is carefully coordinated.

2. Stenciling

02.jpgStretch a white texture on a long board, locate a pattern and put starch using a spatula. Only the engraved designs on the pattern are stenciled on the texture. This is the most important process of dyeing.

3. Dyeing base color "Shigokizome"

03.jpgPeel off the texture from the board once the starch is dry. With a large spatula, dye the entire texture with the base color by evenly applying the starch with base-color dye compounds. This process is called “shigoki.”

4. Steaming

04.jpgBefore base-color starch gets dry, locate the texture in the steamer and steam for 30 minutes at 90 to 100 degrees Celsius. The purpose of this process is to settle the dye compounds in starch on the texture, and controlling the steaming process requires high skills.

5. Washing with water

05.jpgThe steamed texture is washed well with water to wash off the starch and extra color compounds.

6. Drying

06.jpgDry the washed texture and straighten the width of the texture by the yunoshi (steam pressing) process.

7. Retouching

07.jpgWhen the yunoshi process is completed, perform the texture inspection. Retouch seam joints or uneven spots caused by the spatula using a brush and color compounds.


08.jpgTsukibori: One of the oldest techniques of the Ise katagami, as well as kiribori. Tsukibori uses a stack six pieces of base paper, which the four sides is bound with a twisted paper string. It also uses a paulownia-made bottom board with holes to carve with thrusting motions by holding a knife with its blade edge forward and supporting it with the left thumb. Tsukibori is often utilized to make paper patterns of pictorial designs, such as nagaita chugata and yuzen, because it is capable to make curved lines and sharply-angled carvings. The lines carved with tsukibori technique, by pushing the blade forward, express delicate swings, which cannot be seen by the machine-made ones.


09.jpgKiribori: As tsukibori, kiribori is one of the oldest techniques for paper patterns. It carves small holes by holding a needle-like, small semicircule blade perpendicularly to a paper pattern and rotating the blade with left hand fingertips. Samekomon, gyogikomon and toshikomon are called “komon sanyaku.” Their patterns are seemingly simple. However, they require the most skilled techniques and trainings because the unevenness of carving is highly visible. In kiribori technique, detailed works as well as evenly carved grains (kaimoku) are vital. “Shirome,” which looks whitish with packed grains, is considered to be the dignified and sophisticated pattern.


10.jpgDogubori: Dogubori is also called “gottori.” It is one of the techniques actively used in the late Edo period. It carves patterns by punching or stubbing with a tool perpendicularly to a paper pattern. The tool has variety of blades such as a shape of cherry-blossom, plum, circle, triangle, lozenge and others. By mixing different kinds of tools in one piece of paper pattern, it creates orderly patterns. In most cases, carvers make their own tools for dogubori. Or they are often handed down tools by their parents or masters. Small pieces carved out of the base paper (mekuso) are pushed out from the blade edge through the tubular inner part. So the blade has to have ingenuities in inner part in addition to its sharpness.


11.jpgShimabori: Unlike tsukibori, shimabori carves patterns by pulling the blade. So it is also called “hikibori.” To insert threads in the later process, shikibori uses unsized paper. Peel off one piece into 2 pieces, and stack 12 pieces (6 sets) of papers. Bind the four sides with a twisted paper string, and carve patterns using one piece of magnolia-made bottom board (hooita) under the paper pattern. In advance, prepare mark allocations for carving the strips on the top paper. Place a dot using a “hoshimetsuki” (a tool with a lightly crushed blade), and lay a thin steel ruler with a curvy semicircular cross-section along the hoshimetsuki. Then, carve the pattern from the right side in one stroke. Once started, carvers cannot leave for a few hours until he finishes. It takes at lease 10 years to be a full-fledged craftsman.


12.jpgItoire: The origin is unknown, but it has been performed in the Bunka-Bunsei period. Itoire is the reinforcement method of paper patterns that are carved extra-fine stripes or large designs on white textures. It has been done by women. First, peeled off one piece of pattern paper into two pieces (top and bottom paper). Tuck raw silk stretched vertically, horizontally and diagonally between the two pieces. Repaste them quickly using persimmon tannin, and strongly blow off extra tannin. All materials are well-examined: nijuichinaka (thin spring cotton crops) for raw silk, and persimmon tannin after 5-year dry and with five degrees in density. Because itoire uses extremely thin raw silk, it does not like winds. Also because persimmon tannin, as adhesive agent, is very reactive to temperature and humidity changes, the appropriate season and time for this process is very limited. Once started, carvers cannot leave for a few hours. After “shabari” technique was introduced around 1921 (Taisho 10), itoire is used for special carving patterns, such as extremely-fine shimabori, etc.

History of Edo Komon

13.jpgThe origin of the Edo komon goes back to the Muromachi period. Originally, the Edo komon was used for leather parts or kamons on armors. It is estimated that it was in the late Muromachi period when the Edo komon was started to be used for dyeing clothes including ordinary armors. The Edo komon was developed and widely spread in the early Edo period, when dyeing kamishimo (formal cloth of samurai) started. As the development of merchants’ culture in the mid Edo period, the komon has become widely accepted by general public beyond rank and time barriers up to the present day. The Edo komon has been handed down to generations by successors who have highly developed senses and techniques cultivated in a long tradition.

Edo komon ryomenzome

14.jpgRyomenzome (two-sided dyeing) is originated from summer kimono called “ro.”
It started with dyeing each side of one piece texture with different pattern and color.
Because the “r” texture is thin and sheer, it requires high skills.
Ryomenzome became possible by “shigokizome,” one of the unique dyeing techniques of the Edo komon.

Shigokizome, a technique that dyes with “starch,” dyes and dries only the surface of the texture.
By dyeing the back side of the texture after the surface is completely dry, shigokizome can avoid dye compounds penetrating to the other side of the texture.
This can be said as one of the unique technique of hand dyeing.