The method used to make kimonos is unique. A piece of fabric 12 to 13 meters (39 to 43 feet) long and 36 to 40 centimeters (14 to 15 inches) wide is cut into eight pieces. These pieces are then sewn back together to create the basic form of the kimono. All of the fabric is used; none is thrown away. Most often, the fabric used is silk, but yukata (informal summer kimonos) are often made of cotton. The use of eight separate panels makes it easy to take the kimono apart in order to replace or repair old, faded, or damaged panels of fabric.
Kimonos get their colors in one of two ways: The fabric is woven from different colored threads; or the woven fabric is dyed. One example of kimono fabric with the color woven in is oshima-tsumugi, a fabric made on the island of Amami-Oshima south of Kyushu. This fabric is strong and has a gloss to it. Another example is yuki-tsumugi, made in the city of Yuki, Ibaraki Prefecture; this fabric is said to be so sturdy it lasts 300 years.
Dyed kimonos start with white woven fabric, which then has a design drawn or embroidered onto it. This technique produces vividly colored fabrics. One example of dyed fabric is kyo-yuzen, which is made in Kyoto and is characterized by elaborate, lavishly colored designs. Another example is kaga-yuzen, produced in the city of Kanazawa. kaga-yuzen is characterized by realistic images from nature. (The word yuzen is the name for the stencil resist dyeing technique and the fabric it is used to create.)
The advantage of fabric with color woven in is that the color goes all the way through, so if the front of the fabric fades, you can flip it over and use the other side. The advantage of dyed fabric is that if the color fades, it is easy to apply new color.
Photos (from top) : This tsumugi kimono is made with woven color; a dyed kimono known as iromuji. (© Yoshiaki Yamamoto/SEKAIBUNKA PUBLISHING Inc,.)