Katazome is a Japanese stencil dyeing technique. It uses a paste-resist process and is used to dye both cloth and paper. Katazome incorporates elements of printmaking and painting, and relies on simple natural materials - paper, rice paste and soymilk.
To create a katazome print, the design is cut into a piece of hand-made mulberry paper called shibugami. The paper is soaked with persimmon tannin to make it waterproof.
Rice paste is pushed through the cut areas of the shibugami. This paste makes these areas of the design resist dye, and is flexible so does not crack on the fabric. After the fabric is submerged in the dye bath and dried, the rice paste is washed away, revealing the bold design. Katazome is essentially an early prototype for what we know today as screen printing.
Traditional katazome designs often feature natural motifs, including flowers and birds. Katazome means "repeat dying", repeat referring to the repetitive pattern made possible by the stencils. Since the stencil only had to be made once, this made it easier to apply patterns to large amounts of fabric. The detailed designs were popular in both casual and formal wear, and was accessible for all classes of people.
The rice paste could also be hand-applied for larger designs, which would be delicate as a paper stencil, or designs that would only be done once. Applying the rice paste directly to the fabric is a technique called Tsutsugaki.
The following images are vintage Katazome fabrics and stencils from our collection.
Karakusa (arabesque) motif, a symbol for eternity or a family legacy
Kiku (Chrysanthemum), The national flower of Japan, and a symbol for the imperial family
Plovers, a small bird symbolizing strength and determination
The Tortoise and pine trees are both symbols for longevity (Tsutsugaki)
Vintage Katazome Stencil with Matsuba (pine needle) motif
Vintage Katazome Stencil with multipattern geometric florals
Vintage Katazome stencil with mock kasuri design
Vintage Katazome stencil with Asanoha motif
We've taken these original stencils from our collection and adapted them for modern printing techniques like letterpress and screenprinting. Bringing you a piece of history and helping the amazing art of Katazome live on.
See some of our Katazome related products.