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During Japan’s vibrant and affluent Edo Period (early 1600’s – mid 1800’s) fine silks were a major export and a symbol of wealth, worn exclusively by the Samurai Class and elite.
Commoners were prohibited from wearing fine silks. The only silk fabric they were permitted to wear was a cloth made by spinning silk floss in the same manner as cotton or wool. The threads of fine silk, on the other hand, are not spun but rather pulled out and reeled from a silkworm cocoon. The inferior
fabric woven from the spun silk has a slub which superficially resembled the cotton fabrics worn by commoners. Such fabric is known as tsumugi (“pongee” in English). In an ironic twist, today tsumugi is among the most sought after and treasured silk fabrics.
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