Friends have come to me with treasures in hand–beautiful tsujigahana kimono they have purchased in the hopes it is real.

What is real?
true brushwork 2.jpg
hand painted details, brushed background dyes (no shibori)
Their hope, of course, is that they have stumbled upon a piece created by someone as famous as Itchiku Kubota, or at least one that has been stitch-dyed by hand, with hand-drawn detailing. And I would hope that will be a reality for all of us –even if unlikely.

However, unlikely does not mean impossible. So let’s take a look at how to judge what you have.
needle holes 1.jpg
notice the needle holes left behind in this hand-painted, nui-shibori piece–also notice how the holes correspond to
the variations in the dye caused by pleating when the string is pulled tight (collection of the author)
stitched after 1.png
There are many, many ways to
create the same general look.
Stitched shibori will leave
behind telltale evidence of
having been sewn in the form
of tiny needle holes, see above.
However, when the fabric is
stitched and untied several
times during the dye process
these tiny holes may disappear
through handling.
the holes are easy to spot in this example, but notice how they correspond to the wrinkled pleats we can see, but not to the dyed pleats
(collection of the author)
Often in this case, once the entire piece has been dyed and the details painted in, the artist will go back and give one final stitching to the whole piece to add back in the holes and creases that have flattened out during the process to give it back that distinctive shibori look. Perhaps you can see in the example below, the holes left behind don ’t really correspond to the pleated variations of the actual dyework.
With this look in mind, some artists skip using stitch-dye techniques altogether by printing, screening, or painting the design. If this is followed up with a final stitching and setting of the creases as mentioned above, the final look will be much the same a glance with a lot less effort expended.

The printed versions don’t have the soft blurring of the edges seen in the stitch-dyed work. Often tiny dots are simply printed in to give the look of string-resisted areas.
printed tsuji 1.png
printed flowers with rice-paste overlay to
protect as the background dye are painted–
notice the lack of blurring around the edges
of the flowers and the simple round dots of
the stems
(collection of the author)
notice how small dots have been printed to mimic the holes left by the needles employed in nui-shibori (collection of the author)
printed holes tsuji.png
copyright John Marshall, 2017
Next, let’s look at the painted details.

Outlines painted by hand tend to have variations in thickness and darkness. They may appear a bit broken up or made up of small bits of what seem to be dots and dashes. Look closely and you will see that it is the brush skipping along the surface of the weave that causes this look. Shading done by hand should be true shading, not pixilated shading as you might see in an enlarged version of a photo from a newspaper, made up of spaced dots. Keep in mind,
however, that true shading may be a bit uneven if it is affected by the bumpy surface of the weave.
hand-painted lines and shading–notice how the brush has skipped a bit along the surface of the weave
(collection of the author)
lower-quality printed shadings can have a pixilated look, which at a casual glance can be deceiving
(collection of the author)
printed shading 1.png
To t he right and below are a few more examples of true brushwork.
very simple stitched outline, minimal hand drawing, brushed-in colors on flower
(collection of the author)
purple flower tsuji.JPG
true brush work-1.jpg
hand-stitched and hand-painted details on figured silk chirimen (collection of the author)
hand-stitched and hand-painted details, hand-painted color brightens the flowers
(collection of the author)
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brown plum.png
simple flower tsuji.JPG