Ushikubi Tsumugi is named after a village called Ushikubi, which lies at the foot of Mount Hakuzan, where this fabric is produced. This village is now called Shiramineson and is in present-day Ishikawa Prefecture.
Ohata, a fugitive from Minamoto's defeated armies at the battle of Heiji in 1159, fled with his wife to Ushikubi where they hid themselves. The women with him were skilled weavers and taught pongee weaving techniques to the womenfolk of the village. First mention of the cloth is found in Kebukigusa, a travel chronicle published around 1643. It is said that by the end of the Edo period (1600-1868), it was widely sold throughout the country reaching peak production around 1935.
The special feature of this cloth is the fact that it is woven with slubbed silk thread reeled from dupion cocoons, each created by two silk worms. Its distinctive luster and slubbed thread give it a simply, folk-cloth feel combined with a natural robustness and sense of quality that only really becomes evident when the cloth is dyed. The cloth is used to make such things as kimono accessories, kimono and obi as well as a range of other traditional items.
The main characteristic of this cloth is that it is woven using thick silk threads obtained from double cocoons formed by two silkworms together. The unique knots and shine in the silk threads develops a rustic beauty and simple folk art mood through dyeing the fabric rather than leaving it natural white.
How to make
Silk cocoons are selected, then made into threads, spun, refined, dyed, and woven. There are fourteen major process categories, and it is all done by hand in a continuous operation, which uses many traditional techniques. The forming of the threads is a particularly important step which determines the quality of the finished product.