EDO KOMON: A 600 year old dyeing technique

We went to Edo Komon Daimatsu, a family run business that opened their doors to teach us a bit about this technique. We did a 3 hour workshop and then chatted with the Edo komon master and president of the company, Nakajo-san.

Edo Komon is another traditional Japanese dyeing technique, believed to go back to the Muromachi period (1392-1573). It is made with hand-cut stencis (Katagami), made from curated persimmon paper (Shibugami); like the one pictured below. I’ve written a bit more about this paper in one of my previous posts: Katazome.

The great thing about these stencils is that they can be used to apply a resist paste to dye over it afterwards – as seen in Katazome technique – or to apply a dye directly – as we did this time or as seen in Edo Sarasa technique.



We started off by getting used to the stencils. Helped by Nakajo-san (son), we spread a rice resist dye paste on top of the stencil with a spatula. We repeated the process several times onto white cotton, to understand how to make a continuous pattern using just one stencil. You can see my finger below, pointing at one of the little dot marks we used as position references.



Then we washed the stencils and moved on to make our final pieces. Each of us made a place mat with gold dye paste onto dark brown fabric, the process of applying the base colour through the stencil is called Shigoki. It is important to apply the paste evenly and match the stencil position accurately. This proves to be very tricky. Anyhow, I think in Edo Komon the stencil is the one who really steals the show.




Normally at this point, sawdust would be applied on top of the paste and let to dry. Then, the fabric would be steamed for approximately 30 minutes at 90° to 100°C  to fix the dye. Finally, the paste would be washed out with water. But in our case, due to time limitations, we used a dye that gets fixed without the extra endeavour.


Here is Nakajo-san, talking about the technique and showing us his Katagami collection; he had so many, some over 200 years old. I loved how he showed us the difference between Edo period Katagami from newer ones, sometimes is really hard to tell how much of an antique a stencil is, so this will come handy in a future visit to the antique market!

And a random photo of the Nakajo-san doll that really made me laugh out loud 🙂


6 responses to “EDO KOMON: A 600 year old dyeing technique

  1. Pingback: Kakishibu | T E Z U K U R I·

  2. I have been wanting to try this out with adding a fiber reactive dye to the nuka paste to make a design like I have on the summer yukata cotton. Do you think I should use the sawdust also? Do you think it should be rolled up in paper so that the dyed paste doesnt touch the white fabric when dyeing a large piece of fabric?

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