Yuki area is between Tochigi prefecture and Ibaraki Prefecture, along the Kinugawa River which the sound “kinu” is said to represent “silk”. Since Nara period (710-784), high quality silk and other thread including cotton and linen have been produced in this area.
Silk fabric here also has a long history. When Yuki clan dominated this area in Kamakura period (1185-1333), they encouraged sericulture and weaving. Yuki Tsumugi was named after their family name.
And in Edo era (1603-1867), Ina Tadatsugu, the first local magistrate of this area introduced weaving and dyeing techniques from Kyoto and Nagano to improve the production. It made Yuki Tsumugi more high-class fabric.
In 1865, kasuri (ikat) technique was adapted into Yuki Tsumugi. The goodness of Yuki Tsumugi became known to the world when exhibited in Expo 1873 in Vienna.
The tradition of Yuki Tsumugi is spinning thread by hand and its less twisted thread realizes its smoothness and lightness. Hand-spinning is actually one of the condition required for traditional Yuki Tsumugi.
Another reason of the smoothness is the quality of silk. Artisans and producers have used qualified silk produced in Fukushima prefecture, and also have tried to breed special silkworm for Yuki Tsumugi.
Nowadays, Yuki Tsumugi is known as choicest kimono with 1mm-elaborate kasuri or stripe patterns. They are still woven by hand, with a 600g shuttle and 30 thousand of the weft. About 30km silk thread is required for weaving, and short thread are tied to the thread for kasuri pattern. Both spinning and tying are also done completely by artisans’ hands.
Yuki Tsumugi was designated as Traditional Craft by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) in 1977.