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The vast majority of obi produced in Japan today comes from a district in Kyoto known as Nishijin. Nishijin has been the centre of the Japanese textile industry since the 15th century. Nishijin is renowned for its brocade, twill and gauze production. In the late 1800's, jacquard loom was introduced to replace draw loom.

The high quality brocade produced by the Nishijin artisans is known as 'nishiki', which literally means 'beautiful colour combination'. Nishiki is characterised by the lavish use of gold and silver threads to make patterns of flowers, birds and traditional geometric designs. Another style of obi produced in Nishijin is 'tsuzure' or tapestry. Both brocade and tapestry obis are the most ornate and expensive of all obis.

Lightweight obi is made using an open weave technique. The resulting a gauze-like material, commonly referred as 'karami ori', is worn in warm weather or with a casual kimono. Another distinctive silk weave popular in the summer is the Hakata obi, which is named after the area in Kyushu where it originated. Hakata obi is characterised by a series of woven stripes.

An unlined obi or kimono is termed 'hitoe', meaning 'single layer'. A double layer obi or kimono, on the other hand, is known as 'hara-awase'. Any design or weave, which reflects a Chinese influence, is called 'kara ori'.

In addition to weaving, other techniques may be employed to enhance the design of an obi or a kimono. These include stencilling and hand painting, gold and silver leaf imprints, and embroidery.

Japanese embroidery consists of several different stitches, primarily satin, split and couching stitches. Couching stitch is much longer than the other two stiches. Cotton thread used in couching may be covered in gold or silver foil to create a luxurious design. A variation on the French knot may also be used to add depth and colour to an obi or a kimono.

Some obi may have embroidered kanji characters on one end. These kanji characters may represent the signature of the shop or the obi designer. Sometimes, the family crest of the shop owner may also be embroidered along with the shop name.

History of the Obi
Obi Weaves, Dyes & Stitches
Types of Obi
Modern uses for kimono Obi

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