Shibori mokume – examples from Japan

September 28, 2009

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Fragment of silk kimono; white silk woven with a striped diamond lozenge pattern. A single diamond appears to have been folded in half and seven stitches, a half-inch apart matching the woven stripes has been stitched mokume-style; overdyed orange. The white outline and russet leaves are a result of over-dyeing later by hand. The diamond lozenge is six inches across.

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Fragment of a silk kimono, obviously a women’s kimono from the colour. Light neutral pink/orange silk has been overdyed orange. Six inches up from the bottom hem is a 6″-wide slowly undulating wave of mokume, with stitches a centimetre apart. I can’t tell if extra pressure was put in the middle of the mokume wave to create the ungen/ombre effect of light-to-dark. The silk was originally patterned with clouds and very dense geometric cross-hatched lines reminiscent of rain; the texture of the pattern is obviously whitened in the mokume area.

Mokume seems to be synonymous with men’s kimono undergarments, the long slip-like juban of very thin silk. Osaka-based antique textiles dealer, Ichiroya (www.ichiroya.com) has examples, as does eBay seller Ryujapan. The technique is not in evidence quite as far back in time as the 8th century in the Shosoin Treasury collection in Nara, but the books by Wada make mention of Muroyama and Momoyama Period examples and from later times.

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