Hinagata Clothing 雛形裁縫

In preparation for marriage, most young Japanese girls were trained in traditional sewing techniques. It was taught in high school to those fortunate enough to be able to attend, as well as in private sewing schools.

Akita Prefectural Noshirokita High School sewing class (1916).

Most girls were first taught to sew in miniature, creating hinagata clothing. This allowed the girls to create highly complicated designs using a minimal amount of precious supplies. Their creations were expected to be authentic in every detail and they were graded accordingly. Today the hinagata sewn in these classes are very highly sought after collectibles.

Hinagata hakama with student and school information.

A sampling of hinagata michiyuki collar studies.

Hinagata can also include full size detail studies. Above are three project samples of a lesson covering all major styles of collar shapes and finishing techniques used with michiyuki.

Project five – “Regular Chiyoda Collar”.

Each project has the name of the style represented stitched to it.

Notes by the student on construction details.

And each project includes detailed notes by the student to make the work easier the next time around.

Two hinagata kaimaki (yogi) to show scale relative to a full-size striped kaimaki (kimono shaped quilt for night wear).

Most hinagata garments tend to run around 1/4 scale, but this can vary quite a bit as seen above.

In 2010, an exhibition was mounted by Tokyo Kasei University featuring works from the Watanabe Gakuen Saihou Hinagata Collection.

Poster advertising the Watanabe Gakuen Saihou Hinagata Collection exhibition.

Hinagata on display.

As you can see from the poster above, hinagata includes all types of clothing–Western as well as Japanese.



What Does Hinagata Mean?

Hinagata basically means a (miniature) model of something. For our purposes hina (雛) means small and kata (型 or 形) means form or design.

Wikipedia Japan defines it as follows:
美術関係を含む模型や造型と工業製品などのデザイン造型試作品の原型。The basic prototype, shape, form or mold for industrial goods, including art-related items.

In the fiber world it is commonly used to mean scale versions of clothing designs or the cartoons from which fabric designs are dyed or woven. Read on for examples of each.

Hinagata Cartoons 雛形下絵

As a textile designer in the West, you may likely prepare a portfolio of drawings, called cartoons, to take to regional or international trade fairs and try to market your skills to a large company, such as Burlington Industries. Or perhaps you already work for an established firm and spend your time generating new patterns, weave structures, and color ways in anticipation of coming trends.

Commercial bedding produced from an artist’s cartoon, available at Ikea.

This is much how the dyeing and weaving industry has worked in Japan for hundreds of years. It is the artist’s job to prepare these cartoons, called hinagata. The purchased designs are then owned by the dye house or weaving firm. Companies horded and treasured these designs as very important assets, reissuing favorites from time to time over many decades and centuries.

The images below are taken from an on-line video covering the yuuzen dye process. Click on any of the images to view the full version of the movie on line.

The artist begins his hinagata sketch on a sheet pre-printed with the outline of a kimono and all seams.

The artist has finished his initial sketch and is now painting in the basic colors, in this case gold paint which will later be rendered in real gold leaf and couched threads. Notice the hinagatabon (hinagata book) at the edge of his desk from which he is interpreting the imagery.

Once the artist’s prototype is rendered, it is enlarged to full scale and the design transferred to the silk with a fugitive dye called aobana. From here it will go off to a range of experts in resist application, dyeing, gold leafing, and embroidery.

The finished furisode.

In modern times, as many of the long established traditional businesses have gone under, these treasured libraries of designs have become available to our larger community of creative people – allowing common people, such as you and I, access to them.

Let’s take a closer look at one of the kimono hinagata from my collection.

Hinagata sheet with kimono outlined penciled in.

The artist has penciled in the basic outline of the kimono, along with all seams. Next he drew in the foundation design of swirls which sets the tempo for the imagery that follows. Additional details have been sketched in to further define the concept.

Collar detail showing how the imagery will carry over the seams.

The detail above shows why it is important to know exactly where the seams will hit. The dyer will need an accurate drawing if the image is to maintain its graceful flow across the back seam and up into the collar.

Detail of painted front panel with okumi.

The artist has further defined the hinagata by meticulously painting in every minute detail of line and color to ensure the proper execution of his concept. In the image above I’ve added the bright blue lines to help you spot the seams between the okumi (left), the front body panel (center), and the back body panel (right). As the imagery is transferred to the silk using aobana, some overlap of the pattern is included to allow for seam allowances.

Memo sheet to keep track of notes and changes as they arise through discussions.

As the initial artist’s rendering moves along in committee discussions, notes are added to the drawing for clarification, and as in the sheet shown above, snippets of fabric are also included as precise colors are decided upon. The color swatches are often taken from books of color samples released by the dye houses.

Color sample book.

Each book has its own theme, perhaps predicting upcoming color trends, or documenting popular colors from the past, as shown here. Notice how several of the samples in the book have snippets removed, or in a couple of instances the whole sample piece has been used up.

We’ve taken a look at hinagata for kimono above. However these cartoons are produced for just about any and every kind of textile work. Below are two designs for obi.

Hinagata design for a Nishijin (jacquard loom) fukuro-obi.

The hinagata above was designed to be a fukuro-obi, to be woven with exquisite silk threads shot with gold. The artist has painted in only enough area to set the color scheme and highlight the repeat in the pattern.

Min-tsudure hinagata for Nagoya-obi.

This sample is clearly intended to be woven into a min-tsudure Nagoya-obi. The flat planes of color imitate the distinct islands of color found in tapestry weaving.  (Min-tsudure is a type of tapestry weaving, somewhat light-weight, and not to be confused with the heavier tsudure-ori weavings of Kyoto.)



Hinagata Maiwai 雛形万祝–Start to Finish

By now you should know what a hinagata is, but what’s a maiwai? Maiwai is written 万祝 and means ten thousand blessings. It is the name for a style of robe worn by fishermen in northern Japan to celebrate a successful catch. Below is a block print from a hinagatabon showing fishermen donning maiwai.

Fisherman wearing maiwai after a successful fishing expedition.

A traditional set of stencils showing a diver with his crew in the background – used to apply a paste resist in preparation for dyeing a maiwai. Each stencil is carved to the width of traditional fabric.

The themes depicted are often celebratory or felicitous; often scenes of the ocean, big catches, or legends of the sea. I’ve elected to illustrate the story of Urashima Tarou – a young man who saved a sea tortoise and for his reward was taken to the Dragon King’s Palace at the bottom of the ocean.

I’m made my sketches and carved my stencil. Traditional full size stencils are normally cut to fit the width of traditional fabric, about 14″ in width.

Urashima Tarou stencil for my hinagata maiwai.

However, I may want to use my stencil design for other things, such as a wall hanging or baby quilt, so I’ve carved only one contiguous stencil and will have to deal with the problem this introduces with multiple seams later on.

Detail of stencil – Urashima Tarou on the back of the sea tortoise he saved.

I’ve decided to work in half scale, so first I will take my measurements, divide them in half, and draw out my maiwai sewing pattern on a piece of butcher paper, adding in seam allowances as I plot.

Sewing pattern pieces with image (stencil) placement inked in.

Knowing my seam allowances permits me to plan in overlaps in the design. This gives me a little leeway when sizing the garment, and allows for any stretching or shrinking that may occur while dyeing, making it easier to construct the robe.

Detail showing the sewing line (in blue) and how the pattern is duplicated a bit within the sewing allowance.

I’ve used my one stencil to plot how the pattern, plus the overlap in the seam allowance, will fall on my fabric. I brushed red ink through the stencil to create my hinagata pattern. I will use this hinagata design as a guide when it comes time to apply my paste to the silk.

Fast forward – I’m all through with the pasting and dyeing process and have washed out my cloth – it’s time to see if everything matches as planned!

Matched seams in my karinui (roughly basted) maiwai.

How’s this?

Detail of stitched back seam.

And the final piece!

Completed half-scale Hinagata Maiwai, by John Marshall 2014, 30″ tall.

This hinagata-size maiwai was dyed on silk. It has a traditional dark blue cotton lining. All dyes are natural pigments. The dye process is rice paste resist and katazome.