Japanese Embroidery (Nihon Shishû)
By Arjen de Winter : Excerpt from Daruma 46
A Japanese kimono is one of the most highly valued types of traditional dress in the world. It is not only appreciated because of the actual cost, but more because of the design elements used to create high quality kimono.
The shape and cut of a kimono is basically the same for all styles, but the uniqueness of each comes from the differing materials, colours, designs and techniques used to decorate it.
The three main techniques defining the value of a kimono are: embroidery, shibori (tie-dyeing) and yûzen dyeing. If all three are found (and it has a good pattern), a kimono is considered to be of high quality.
Focusing on one design element in this article—embroidery—we will look at the technical side and a bit of history and general appreciation. As well as traditional embroidery we also find sashiko, which is stitching rather than embroidery. Sashiko is found on more day-to-day textiles. To round out the embroidery picture, a short paragraph on sashiko is appended.
Traditional Japanese embroidery has many followers, in- and outside Japan. Nihon Shishû, the name for traditional Japanese embroidery, is studied and valued all over the world. Nihon Shishû is used on kimono and on all kinds of other textile-based articles used in daily life, from bags to fukusa (presentation wrappers) (see fig. 1), and wall decorations to bedspreads. To understand the intricacy of Japanese embroidery we look at the actual technique as studied in the worldwide organization Kurenai-kai.
The author is a kimono enthusiast and owner of a small kimono shop in Madrid, Spain
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