Last weekend I went back to Fujino to work simultaneously on a couple of Shibori projects and to learn about  Katazome – stencil dyeing. But before I start and to give you a closer idea of how it all went, just imagine a Neil Young record playing in the background of a countryside house in the Japanese mountains. Just nice.

We began making the resist dye paste which is made out of rice flour (Mochi), rice bran (Nuka), alkaline solution (hot water and lime powder) and red pigment. The red just makes it easy to see when applied onto the fabric and the photo below shows the texture you’d want to get: elastic and strong to be spread out without breaking or bleeding underneath the stencil.


Then we stretched out the fabric onto a slightly sticky and moistured wooden board. Once dry, we placed the wet stencil on top of the fabric with the strengthening net facing up.

The stencils are  made out of mulberry paper with a persimmon tannin and curated with smoke. The persimmon tannin makes the paper waterproof and similar to a soft leather when wet.  They also have a deep ochre colour, and a pleasant smoked smell. I once asked a Japanese man how long did these stencils last and he just said “forever”, and yes they could last for years if  they are properly taken care of.




The stencils we used were cut by someone else, we didn’t have time to design and cut our own this time but in a future post I’ll show you when I did. We did had the chance to see a good bunch of real stencils and so many ideas came to me, the possibilities are endless.

The rice paste is applied on top of the stencil and spread with a spatula. The trick lands in spreading it evenly without going over it too many times, specially if the pattern is small and detailed like mine. I wanted mine to be perfect, I over did and learnt the hard way.






The stencil is placed several times to make a continuous pattern. If the fabric will be dipped too many times in the indigo vat, it is a good idea to add some sawdust on top of the paste and let it dry to make it stronger. Once the fabric has been dyed, the paste and sawdust come off easily with water. The photo above shows Ted, a very nice guy from Sand Diego adding some sawdust to his fabric.


This is my very first piece of Katazome, not perfect but not bad to be my first attempt. I’m lucky to have such an great teacher (Bryan Whitehead).

After a long day I got the last train to Tokyo and was really tired but feeling full of enthusiasm. How simple and satisfying is to have an interest and just  follow it? Recently one interest has been taking me to another and suddenly I’m standing in front of a sea of research. Will I dive in? Of course I will. I might already have, my hands (and some toes?) are stained with indigo dye already and the thing doesn’t come off that easily.


6 responses to “Katazome

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  4. I need to also find out where to buy the mulberry paper and the Red rock that goes in the nuka. Bryan gave me some Red rock when I left Japan but I am close to being out.
    I just finished building a 16 foot light table so that I can print both sides of the fabric and in the morning I will try this out for the first time. I will post pics that night.
    I wish I could find an old master set of punches…I have a set of hole punches from Tanks…but dream of having a set pasted down to me.

  5. Thanks for posting this. Many years ago I bought a number of Katazome stencils and have yet to use them properly. So I’m interested in the rice paste recipe. Would you be able to advise me please? Thanks Dru

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