Kibiso - reviving Yamagata’s silk production through creative new uses
Kibiso is the outermost protective layer of the cocoon secreted by silkworms, which is typically discarded during the production of silk as it is too tough and crooked to be drawn out into a thread. It makes up about 3% of the output of a silk mill.
Sudō Reiko and her team at the innovative textile design firm Nuno came across this discarded material when visiting silk workshops in Tsuruoka City in northern Yamagata Prefecture, Japan’s second biggest centre for silk production. Together with the Tsuruoka Textile Makers Cooperative, Nuno launched a collaborative project to help develop creative uses for kibiso and revive the local silk industry, which has been in decline since the mid-20th century.
In order to extract silk threads from the cocoons, they are first boiled until soft. The outer surface of the softened cocoon is then brushed away to locate the beginning of the silk thread. It is this outer layer that is called kibiso. About 1,200 meters of raw silk thread can be obtained from one cocoon. It takes 2700 to 2800 cocoons to produce one roll of kimono fabric.
Initially, kibiso’s 5000 denier thickness proved too tough for high-speed automated looms; however, with a Japanese government grant, the project developed a machine for converting kibiso into finer 500 denier yarn, leading to exciting new developments.
Today, Nuno uses kibiso textile in the manufacture of scarves, bags and noren (fabric curtains).
About Sudō Reiko
Sudō Reiko is one of Japan’s most influential contemporary textile designers, renowned for creating innovative textiles, championing new sustainable manufacturing methods and working to highlight Japanese textile heritage. She is the Design Director of leading textile design firm Nuno, which was founded in 1984. Known for pushing the boundaries of textile production, Sudō and her team integrate Japanese dyeing and weaving traditions with cutting-edge technology and experimental finishing methods, whilst combining diverse materials such as cotton, silk, metal and paper.