Date of this Version
Textiles as Cultural Expressions: Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–27, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii
This paper explores the elegant indirectness that certain e-gasuri patterns exhibit while using traditional symbols to express familiar Japanese sayings and concepts. E-gasuri is the Japanese word for fabrics patterned with pictures created with the ikat resist dying technique. Kasuri essentially means ikat. Kasuri becomes gasuri in the compound word e-gasuri. E means picture. The ikat technique of dying threads before they are woven produces images with blurred outlines. This blurred appearance is a treasured aspect of the e-gasuri aesthetic. E-gasuri is usually (but not exclusively) associated today with indigo resist dyed blue and white cotton and bast fabrics. The following three paragraphs describe the techniques that were most often used to create the majority of the Japanese picture ikat textiles that survive today.
By the early 19th century Japanese weavers were creating e-gasuri using yet unwoven warp threads, weft threads or both which were tightly wrapped by hand at predetermined intervals with a material that protected the wrapped areas of thread from absorbing dye when submerged in dye vats, usually filled with indigo. When woven with painstaking care the precisely calculated predetermined white resist segments produced pictures in the finished cloth. By the 1830’s e-gasuri warp or weft threads were being patterned, again before being woven, with pairs of wooden boards carved with mirror images of a design that created a resist when clamped together over the threads. The clamped blocks could be submerged in dye vats. Often, holes were drilled into the blocks to allow dye into selected areas. Sometimes dyes were poured directly into the holes. Wax could also be poured into the holes to create a resist for subsequent dye baths. These textiles are called itajime-gasuri but they often include hand tied resist design elements as well.