Originating in India, this method of weaving was introduced into Japan around the 14th century along eastern trade routes.
It is also said that Kumejima Tsumugi started when someone taught the islanders how to weave after studying sericulture techniques in China. Kumejima is therefore considered to be the birthplace of Japanese pongee. From the beginning of the Edo period (1600-1868) until the second half of the Meiji era (1868-1912), pongee was collected in lieu of taxes.
As the color of the cloth is subdued, a kimono can be worn for two or three generations, regardless of the age of its wearer, if a different obi is worn. A light, summer-weight cloth is now also being produced. The very dark shade of brown is obtained by using plant dyestuffs and mud. This makes the skin of the wearer appear paler and the reeled yarn contributes significantly to giving this cloth a suppleness that so gracefully wraps the body of its wearer. The traditions of this cloth, which is still being made for kimono and obi as well as for tablecloths, curtains and other household accessories.
The soft coloring of Kumejima Tsumugi makes it tasteful for a long time, even for two or three generations merely by changing sash. Natsu Kumejima ori (summer clothing) is also becoming popular product. The color tone of the fabric itself and the dark brown dye make its wearer appear with more slender with brighter impression of their skin.
How to make
Silks taken from silkworm are dyed by native plants such as Rhaphiolepis umbellata, Diospyros japonica etc. They are all hand made in every process. Since the fabric is woven by hand shuttle, each has own unique ikat patterns created from delicate combination of threads by treading.