Silk fabrics dyed with mud is called "Kurohachijyo"
Kurohachijo is a type of woven silk product that used to be popular in the Itsukaichi area where Mr. Mori was born and raised from the late Edo Period through the Meiji Period (Late 18th to early 19th century), so Kurohachijo is also called “ITSUKAICHI”.
The materials need to be dyed with iron-rich mud and seeds of YASHABUSHI (species of alder tree) before weaving.
It varies in color from light to dark brown that looks almost black. The color made depends on how many times silk is dyed with mud.
These products were well-known across Japan in the old days, but their popularity has decreased over time because of their time-consuming process and productivity.
He revived the color of Kurohachijo and the dying method to promote the fabric
Mr. Mori is the 3rd generation of a silk mill called "Itokobo Mori" located in Akiruno-city (Former Itsukaichi-town).
About 30 years ago when he just took over his father's business, he found the description "Kurohachijo" in a history book of Itsukaichi-town by chance.
He realized that the history was related to his family business of silk yarn production and then started reviving the dying method through many trials and faults from no clues since the color and the dyeing method were lost by the time in the locals.
Using mud contains
a lot of iron for mordanting
Silk needs to be first soaked in "YASHABUSHI" liquid - an extract from the cone of Alnus firma - to dye and then mordanted with mud to get the color. As we mentioned early, the color made depends on how many times silk is dyed with mud, so the process should be repeated more than 20 times to get the frosted black color.
Since silk yarn is so sensitive to take care of, he had a hard time handling the silk yarn in the process. - He says that "dyeing yarn many times is liable to get entangled so that the productivity wasn't increased for many years, but now improved the productivity also work efficiency so that
we are able to produce more products of Kurohachijo like Obi*, scarf and, bags by now."
*Obi… the Japanese sash for Kimono.
”Kurohachijo is the pride of Itsukaichi”
Kurohachijo was once lost because of a lack of productivity. However, nowadays the local people realize the black color that Mr. Mori made and know "Kurohachijo" as a mud dyeing.
He says "Kurohachijo is the pride of Itsukaichi. We should continue the tradition to generation so I hope I can create a new Kurohachijo to fit in the trends with any possible ideas to take over to the next generation."
He is now the only person with the dyeing technique in the area and is titled one of 5 artisans.