Wagara & Wagara Kasuri Pattern Fabric Collection on A Threaded Needle

By Susan Fletcher
Japanese wagara  cotton fabric
I've been buying these wagara fabrics for A Threaded Needle from Olympus Manufacturing in Japan for a few years, and I am adding a few new ones to the website today.  It seemed like a good time to tell you more about them. 
wagara fabric Kasuri and bunnies

So first, what does wagara mean?

A wagara fabric is a printed fabric. Usually the printed designs are small, repeated, and often geometric.  A Traditional wagara fabric would be a fabric printed with traditional Japanese designs, for example small repeats of family crests, or flowers. The colour of the fabric doesn't need to need to be indigo blue or navy, but because of the prevalence of indigo as a dye in early Japanese fabrics, these dark blues colours feel most traditional. 

wagara family crest navy fabric

     In the case of the traditional navy wagara fabrics I bring from Olympus in Japan, they have also manufactured a line of high quality wagara fabrics featuring Kasuri fabric designs.  

     Kasuri designs are made by a very skilled weaving process in which areas of the prepared yarns (threads) are tied tightly in specific areas so they will not take up dye colour. After dying these threads, they are untied and put on the loom for weaving.  As the weaving of the fabric progresses the designs emerge through the weft (the horizontal) threads. You may know this technique for making patterns on fabric as Ikat if you are familiar with Indian or African textiles. I imagine many countries have skilled weavers who do it.

Below is an example of a fabric showing several kasuri designs.

Because this fabric is  wagara (printed) with the Kasuri (tied) designs it is possible for several kasuri designs to be printed onto the same bolt as they are on this one. (Nice for those of us using it for boro stitching :-)

Wagara kasuri cotton fabric

Below is an example of a single kasuri design on a fabric.

This fabric could have been made by the tie-dye-weave process but it is a wagara (printed) fabric. It would be hard to tell the difference, except that the original kasuri process would show the design on both sides of the fabric. You can see from the flipped back corner of the fabric in the photo that the design is only on the top (hence, printed on, not woven into, the fabric)

What Olympus has done very well in making these fabrics, is maintain excellent quality in the designs and the materials. They are more expensive that some other printed versions of these designs because they have cared to keep the original feel and look of the traditional takumi (artisan made) fabrics while making them colourfast, non-shrink and machine washable.

wagara kasuri cotton fabric

      Like many of you I value handmade takumi (skilled artisan) made fabrics and respectfully treasure the pieces I own.  But I could never buy enough of them to use for my own projects, so I am happy that Olympus has cared to produce several of the traditional Japanese Takumi (skilled artisan) made fabrics in high quality cottons, with colourfast dyes, preshrunk and machine washable, yet maintaining the look and feel of the original techniques. 

wagara  kasuri Japanese fabric

 If you could walk into a store and feel these fabrics I wouldn't need to tell you all this, you'd be able to see and feel it. 😀 

What else do you want to know, I wonder?

How they feel & wash:

These fabrics are not smooth like American quilting fabrics, you can feel the woven texture, which adds to their appeal. They have the drape of lighter cotton fabrics, a nice shirt weight. Washing and drying will soften the fabric in a good way :-) and the cloth won't bleed colour, fade, or shrink.

How are they to hand stitch:

They are a perfect weave for hand stitching, and Olympus has manufactured a sashiko stitching fabric that pairs well with them although it is a bit darker in colour and slightly firmer.  I'm showing it in the photo below along with one of the Olympus sashiko Asa-no-ha (flax leaf) preprinted ready for stitching fabrics so you can compare the colours. 

wagara, kasuri and sashiko fabrics

I think you will not regret using these fabrics :-D

Happy sewing and stitching in 2021,