The name Nishijin was given to these textiles because weavers settled in the area which had been the headquarters of the west camp or Nishijin at the time of the Onin War. Lasting eleven years, these hostilities took place during the Muromachi period (1392-1573) from 1467 to 1477, when lords from many provinces divided into east and west factions.
The history of Nishijin Ori themselves, however, can be traced back to weaving techniques fostered by the Hata family before the Heian period (794-1185), and this accumulation of skills developed as a weaving art centered on the culture of the imperial court in Kyoto.
Nishijin Ori are yarn dyed figured cloths made in relatively small amounts but have the distinction of being able to offer a wide variety of different products, including a tightly woven tapestry cloth, damask, brocade, ikat, and pongee. The multicolored figured cloths in particular boast a rich and dazzling use of fine yarns to produce equally rich patterns. Many of these are made into kimono or obi, and tapestry.
The main characteristic of Nishijin ori is the principle of “as many different kinds of yarn-dyed figured fabrics as possible made one piece at a time." The types of silk fabrics made range from tapestries to brocades, satin damasks, satin with raised figures, splashed patterns, pongee (unevenly spun silk) etc. Figured fabrics made with multicolored yarn boast particularly gorgeous and elaborated yarn patterns.
How to make
These fabrics are yarn-dyed figured fabrics sporting woven patterns made with dyed yarn. A large number of steps are required in order to produce the finished products. The manufacturing process is based on the division of roles so that each step is manually performed by professionals. The whole process can be divided into the following stages: planning, pattern making, preparation of raw materials, preparation of looms, weaving and finishing.