My name is Miyoko Ide and I like knitting, quilting and sewing. I especially have an interest in weaving Yuuki Tsumugi (Yuuki is a place name, tsumugi is a type of weaving) and I spent some time learning to weave. I spent about 10 years weaving kimono cloth in my own home everyday.
Yuuki Tsumugi is a kind of kimono cloth. It has been specified by the Japanese government as a Japanese Cultural Asset and the cloth measures 39 cm. by 1300 cms. It is completely made by hand. The weaving pattern is made up of tiny hexagon shapes (we say tortoise shell shapes) and to be officially called Yuuki Tsumugi, the fabric must be fine enough for 80 to 120 tiny tortoise shell patterns to fit across the width of the fabric.
Yuuki fabric is made by a collaboration of craftsmen. A spinner will make the thread taking it off the silk cocoons. Depending on the design, the next craftsman will measure and separate the thread into bundles and then bind the bundles tightly, millimeter by millimeter. The thread is then dyed by a dye worker. Next the warp threads are set on a loom with each point of the dyed pattern set perfectly aligned. Finally the cloth is woven by the weaver.
Weaving a roll of kimono fabric is very complicated and involves a lot of time and concentration. Just as the warp threads are aligned to create a pattern, the woof threads must be perfectly aligned also or else the tortoise shell pattern won't show. The weavers must have very good eyes and they work each thread into the pattern with a fine needle as well as with their fingers.
I spent about 6 months learning how to weave Yuuki cloth. The first three months I learned how to work a loom and made a roll of plain kimono cloth. Next, my teacher showed me how to arrange the woof threads so that the pattern would appear and after three months of studying with her, she felt I was ready to weave alone. I arranged to have a loom set up in my house and I worked on a patterned kimono for the next six months.
Some very fast weavers can weave a roll of kimono cloth in about three months, but it usually took me from six months to a year. You can see why Yuuki cloth can be so expensive. One roll will cost more than $1000 and some very intricate designs can run $3000 or $4000! Nowadays there aren't many people who can weave Yuuki cloth and the dyeing is only a skill that is passed on from father to son.
Even though Yuuki is very expensive it is not considered formal wear. Women will wear a kimono of Yuuki cloth when they go to a tea ceremony lesson or to Japanese dance lessons and even when they go out during the day, but we wouldn't wear a Yuuki kimono to a wedding or a child's entrance ceremony to school etc. More elaborate and finer kimonos are worn on those special days.