Kijoka Banana Fiber Cloth
It seems that banana fiber cloth was already being made around the 13th century but it was much later that it became popular. In the old days banana trees were planted in gardens and fields, and the womenfolk of a family wove it into fabric for home use. Silk and cotton became much more readily available during the 19th century but people still enjoyed wearing banana fiber cloth. Kijoka no Bashofu, which carries on these traditions, was designated as a cultural property by the Prefecture in 1972 and two years later in 1974 it was made an important intangible cultural property by the nation.
Woven from fibers taken from the banana tree, banana fiber cloth is highly representative of the weaving of Okinawa. It was very popular for making a piece of summer-weight formal dress called kamishimo in the Edo period (1600-1868) and being light and comfortable to wear, it is still a great favorite with many people today for kimono in the height of summer. But kimono are not its only use. Some is made into obi, while other pieces make fine cushion covers. Ties, bags and table centers are also made of this engaging cloth, which also makes fine split curtains or noren.
Bashofu is a typical clothings of Okinawa made from fibers stripped from Itobasho (musa liukiuensis). It was popular as summer clothings during Edo period. It is still popular as summertime kimono as they are light and smooth touched.
How to make
Stems of three year old Itobasho are split into four parts, boiled and removed any impurities before fibers are taken out. The fibers are tied with a weaver’s knot to make them longer as each fiber is less than 1 meter long. The threads are twisted and ikat dyed with natural dyes. After it is hand woven, they are refined by wood ash, washed by rice vinegar and finished by stretching using hand. It takes a long time from the cultivation of Itobasho to completion of fabrics.