Katazome (型染め) is a Japanese method of dyeing fabrics using a resist paste applied through a stencil. With this kind of resist dyeing, a rice flour mixture is applied using a brush or a tool such as a palette knife. Pigment is added by hand-painting, immersion or both. Where the paste mixture covers and permeates the cloth, dye applied later will not penetrate.

Katazome on thin fabrics shows a pattern through to the back; on thicker or more tightly woven fabrics, the reverse side is a solid color, usually indigo blue for cotton fabrics. Futon covers made from multiple panels of fabric, if the stencils are properly placed and the panels joined carefully, exhibit a pleasing over-all pattern in addition to the elements cut into the stencil.

One attraction of katazome was that it provided an inexpensive way for over-all patterns similar to expensive woven brocades to be achieved on cotton. As with many everyday crafts of Japan it developed into a respected art form of its own.

Besides cotton, katazome has been used to decorate linen, silk and fabrics that are all or partially synthetic.


Katagami (型紙) or Ise-katagami is the Japanese art of making paper stencils for kimono printing. The art is traditionally centred around the city of Ise in Mie Prefecture. Multiple layers of thin washi paper are bonded with a glue extracted from persimmon, which makes a strong flexible brown coloured paper. The paper is cut with a combination of knives and punches. Four principal cutting techniques are used.

  1. Pulling the knife towards the artist, which results in long straight cuts.
  2. Carving patterns, which allows for figurative designs.
  3. Cutting circular holes, often in fan-like designs
  4. Using shaped punches.

The designs can be extremely intricate, and consequently fragile. Nowadays the stencils are sometimes sold as artworks, attached to hand fans, or used to decorate screens and doors in Japanese rooms. For kimono printing the stencils are stabilized by attaching them to a fine silk net. In past times, human hair was used instead of silk, but silk is less likely to warp and can be finer.

The printing is done with a resist dyeing technique. Rice paste is passed through the stencil onto silk. When dyed, the colour does not adhere to the areas with rice paste. By multiple alignments of the stencil, large areas can be patterned. This technique was developed in France as Silk screen printing. The stencil is not generally used for more than one kimono, though multiple stencils can be cut at the same time.

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