Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at “Textiles and Settlement: From Plains Space to Cyber Space,” Textile Society of America 12th Biennial Symposium, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 6-9, 2010. Copyright 2010 Textile Society of America.


Kurume is a city on Kyushu Island in Japan known for producing dramatic hand-woven e-gasuri (picture ikat) futon-ji (bedding covers). The most famous have a single picture which runs across four or five panels. Both the warp and weft threads were resist dyed using indigo before being woven into a single long and narrow length of fabric. This cloth was then cut into the panel sections and sewn together. Extraordinary skill was required to both accurately tie the areas of thread to be resisted and to maintain a consistent tension when weaving the fabric. This precision produced complex designs with bands of resist that met exactly at the seams, usually consisting of many lines that traveled across multiple seams. A Kurume e-gasuri futon-ji was a prized inclusion in a wedding trousseau.

Most existing Kurume futon-ji date from the late 19th century, when Japan abandoned the policy of isolation from outside contact, to the early period of the Pacific War. During this time Japan made a concentrated effort to modernize and industrialize. Existing Kurume futon-ji from this time feature not only traditional auspicious images but also images of modern subjects like steamships and airplanes. This paper will examine the seeming dichotomy of a labor intensive weaving technique being chosen to portray images of industrialization.