Katazome Defined

Katazome is a traditional Japanese method of using Katagame with rice paste on hemp or cotton fabric to make textile items such as scarves, hand towels, kimono cloth, bed linens and can also be used on Washi to make cards, calendars and other stationery.

What is the difference between Katagame, Katazome and Kata-e some?
• Katagame is literally translated to “a stencil to dye”: kata means stencil + the root word to gami is gome which means dye.
• Katazome translated to English means dying with one colour, usually Indigo or a red colour.
•K ata-e some is “to stencil colorful art”: kata means colourful and the letter e by itself means art. This is a newer a method based on traditional Katazome and uses a variety of colours rather than only one. Although most Japanese who make Kata-e some stick to using a few colours, Okinawa residents are the exception and use many colours. If I lived in Japan I would probably belong to Okinawa as I love lots of colour.

Professor Masayoshi Ohashi is showing the class examples of Katazome patterns used in bed linens that he brought from Japan.2014_09 ProfOhashiBedLinens2014_09 ReikoTranslatingPS

Reiko Sudo is translating to English for us.2014_09 KatazomeBedLinensCloseUp





The second pattern is shown with a corresponding Katagame stencil.2014_09 KatazomeStencil1PS2014_09 KatazomeBedLinens2PS2014_09 RelatingPieceStencil











Samurai are not allowed to wear cloth with colours so they have a special stencil with extremely tiny little holes. 2014_09 KatazomeStencilSamurai2014_09 KatazomeStencil


Other stencils as the sample to the right are used to make Yukata (kimonos), Furoshiki (wrapping cloth), and Tenugui. Tenugui are traditionally used as hand towels which are left with two raw edges so they make a 5-10 mm fringe at each end as they are used. Tenugui can also be used as handkerchiefs, for head scarves or wrapping cloths.

Traditional Katagame stencils are made from mulberry bark left to soak in the juice of ripened persimmons which strengthens the bark to make strong paper which is resistant to water and dyes. The chosen design is cut into the mulberry paper creating a stencil. Extremely fine Kinyu Shaba Silk is adhered to the stencil to strengthen the stencil for multiple uses. Rice paste is used as a resist and a well cared for stencil can give up to 1,000 prints.

Stencils are traditionally made by master stencil cutters who have trained for many years, especially the smaller patterns, as all stencils have to be cut by hand. In some cases, where stencil patterns are repeatedly used, patterns have been made into punches. Komo means tiny pattern. Only stencil cutters who have been designated as national living treasures are allowed to cut the tiny stencil patterns for Samurai.

Traditional Yukata (kimono) fabrics are handspun and handwoven cottons 36cm or 45cm wide and 12 meters long. Traditional Katagame stencils are small in size to fit the fabric widths and one stencil is used repeatedly to print all 12 meters of fabric. Fabric widths for Yukata (kimonos) is based on the human shoulder size/width of men and women. Nowadays women are also using Yukata for men as women through the ages are getting larger. Traditional handkerchiefs or hand towels measure 38cm by 1 meter.

However due to the cost of making supplies for use in traditional stencils, such as Kinyu Shaba Silk which is not made anymore, and the rising demand for Japanese textile and paper goods, commercial entities are moving to more Yō (western) types of supplies that are sturdier and less expensive for mass production, such as plastic stencil materials, nylon for stencil strength and new Yō paper supplies. And with a more modern printing method called Chusen, many textiles can be mass produced, from fabric preparation and dyeing to cutting and packaging for sale, all in one day.

It is to our benefit that the Japanese government acknowledges the importance of traditional methods as forms of art and keeps ancient methods alive at great costs by supporting the national living treasures to continue their work and teaching others.

Professor Ohashi also showed us a stencil he had made so that he could make calendar pages on Washi as part of his training curriculum. 2014_09 KatazomeStencilCalendar

2014_09 Kata-e someCalendarPagesPS

2014_09 KatazomeCalendarThe calendar pages above were based on older calendar designs made by his sensei (I believe the one on the left) and are also more colourful to fit in with the new Kata-e some style.2014_09 KatazomePaintedPaper Below fans …






Washi is a term used to describe paper made in the traditional manner, most commonly in Echizen part of the Fukui region of Japan’s west coast. Wa means Japanese and shi means paper. Washi for this course was specifically ordered and hand made in Takehu, also part of Echizen as far as I could tell on Japan’s map.

A full tutorial on Washi can be found here:

I also found this information on paper stencil printing as I was researching Washi: “The paper most widely used in Japan for stencil printing is called shibugami, made from several layers of kozô paper laminated with persimmon tannin. The sheets are dried and smoke-cured to strengthen them and make them flexible and waterproof. Once the artist makes a drawing, it is fixed to the shibugami with a thin adhesive. The basic pattern is then carved into a “key impression” stencil (the equivalent to the keyblock in woodblock printing) called the omogata. If colors will also be used for the final design, separate stencils are sometimes cut for each color. If the stencil pattern has thin lines they can be reinforced with silk gauze, which still allow for uniform printing of colors.”  on this site http://viewingjapaneseprints.net/texts/topictexts/artist_varia_topics/stencil3.html)

Washi is traditionally painted with Japanese pigments made from minerals.

Chie Takai and Takeshi Matsunaga, who have studied under Professor Masayoshi Ohashi and who came to help with teaching of the Katazome class, were most delightful and engaging. Together they own kata kata Dye Works, a company using traditional methods in designing Katagame for textiles (mainly cotton Tenugui hand towels) and post cards being printed in Katazome and Chusen methods in a Kata-s some style.

I managed to pick up a few pieces of kata kata work at the “Silk Weaving Studio” on Granville Island while they were visiting here from Japan. Shown below are a Tenugui (cotton hand cloth towel) printed in Chusen with Kata-e some design and two post cards in Kata-e some design, printing method unknown:kata kata04 Handclothkata_kata04 PC LeavesBugskata kata04 PC BirdFlowers

Check out the many other designs available at kata kata linked below:


I also found a great Katazome link:


and two links for Chusen processes:



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