Fostered by the well-known entrepreneurial spirit of Omi tradesmen, the hot local climate and a plentiful supply of water from the Aichi River, production of woven ramie cloth developed in this area from the Kamakura period (1185-1333).
The craft flourished during the Edo period (1600-1868) with encouragement from the Hikone clan, which ruled the area around Hikone on the southern shores of Lake Biwa, and it became a well established local industry as a result. From that time on, great improvements were made in dyeing techniques giving rise to the superb ikat patterns characteristic of Omi Jofu.
The ikat is either in the weft alone or in both the warp and weft. Weft threads are mainly bound before being dyed using a stencil for the weft ikat cloths. In the case of the warp and weft ikats, both sets of threads are dyed by applying the dyestuff to the bound threads. The positions of the warp and weft threads are then adjusted as the cloth is woven to produce what is one of the craft's top cloths. Ramie is a very comfortable cloth to wear as it is cool and absorbs moisture. These days, cloth is usually made for traditional garments but is also used for coats.
Omi-jofu fabrics can be divided into “yokoito-gasuri” and “tateyoko heiyo-gasuri.” In yokoito-gasuri, the cross thread is feather-winded and “paper stencil-printed (katagami nassen)." Intateyoko heiyo-gasuri "comb pressing (kushi oshi nassen)” is performed on both yarns and garments are woven while aligning warp and weft which allows to produce premium quality items. Hemp, thanks to its moisture-absorbing properties, feels cool, refreshing and comfortable when worn.
How to make
Resisted yarn dyeing is performed on yarn that has been spun very thin. The two main dyeing techniques used are "comb pressing (kushi oshi nassen)" and "paper stencilling (katagami nassen)." The woven fabric is then subjected to a unique Omi shrinkage process called "graining" and given a careful finishing.