Tokyo Fine-Pattern Dyeing

Although the history of this craft can be traced back to the Muromachi period (1392-1573), it was not until the Edo period (1600-1868) that cloth of this type was produced in any quantity. Stencil-dyed cloths were especially used for the kamishimo, a piece of formal dress worn by the Daimyo. These regional feudal lords were required to reside in Edo for long periods and the resulting increase in demand for this cloth made Edo the center of its production. Originally, it was only the Daimyo and samurai classes who wore garments of this cloth.
By the middle of the 18th century, however, the merchant classes were coming into their own and developed a desire to dress finely. Gradually even the ordinary person was attracted to the delicate patterns and the craft developed immensely. Throughout the Edo period both men and women wore kimono of these delicately patterned stencil-dyed cloths but during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), they became used exclusively for women's kimonos.

The techniques of this craft were fostered over many generations and resulted in the creation of a stylish, tasteful cloth of extremely fine patterns with small repeats and with very simple coloring. The designs are cut by an experienced person with a sharp knife or special tools.


The Ise-katagami stencil used for fine-patterned dying is hand-carved by a master craftsman. Tokyo Some-komon, born of Japan’s long textile traditions, is unique for its intricate geometric patterns, and creating a refined, sophisticated impression despite using only a single color.

How to make

High quality hand-made washi is layered and hardened with persimmon tannin, and then cut into a “ji-gami” (base paper). A small knife is then used to cut out a pattern and create the stencil. A white base cloth is then stretched upon a long board, over which the stencil is laid, which is then covered in a dye resistant starch. The cloth is then peeled from the board, and a large spatula is used to spread colored paste onto the stencil, and dye the cloth. To ensure the dye is absorbed, the cloth is steamed before the dye is allowed to dry. Finally, to remove any excess starch or dye, the cloth is carefully hand-washed in cold water.