Dyeing for Some Sugar Cane

As the world goes for healthier eating habits of multi-grains, low carb/high fat ketogenic diets, or juicing regimens, so is fashion:  It’s moving towards a vegan diet.  Fabrics from pineapple leaves, leather from rotting fruit and dyes from discarded plant material are up-cycled into usable products.

The land of the centenarians, Okinawa Prefecture, is also known for their traditional, heirloom green dyes.  Not only is its color refreshingly verdant but it is also green in the environmental sense.  Surprisingly, an essential part of the Okinawan diet is artisanal brown sugar.  Fields of Sugar Cane occupy much of Okinawa’s scenery and history since its introduction in 1374.  Although production has decreased in the 1990’s until present but Sugar Cane is still one of their main agricultural products.

To boost the Sugar Cane’s growth, older leaves of the cane would be cut.  Not to be left to rot, the leaves would be dried and then finely chopped and transported to vats of boiling water and left to simmer for 2-3 hours.  This process is followed by what is called Uji dyeing.  Uji  is Okinawan for Sugar Cane.  After the leaves were removed from the bath, the dye bath can now either be brushed directly onto the textile in 8 layers or threads can be soaked in the dye liquor before it is woven.

The dyes are one of a kind because the color changes with the seasons.  Leaves that are of the summer harvest correspond to a summery chartreuse dye while winter leaves give out a darker green to brownish green shades.  The older the leaves the more intense the color.  The resulting fabric gives a cool, calming and thirst-quenching vibe. One Japanese author describes it as “the color of gentle peace.”

Sugar Cane holds much promise.  It not only sweetens the taste buds but also helps save the environment, and refreshes the soul.

http://www.u-jizome.jp/?page_id=74 (Article translated by Paolo Tutor)https://ryukyuheritagetextiles.com/2011/05/02/sugar-cane-dye/


  1. Hello, I am a 4th generation Ryukyu textile artist from Okinawa, Japan. I see that you’ve posted several of my photos here from my website http:\\RyukyuHeritageTextiles.com. Since you have done so, I would appreciate your including my website under your list of sources as a professional courtesy. Thank you, Scharine Kirchoff


    1. Good day, Scharine Kirchoff, we appreciate your comment! And yes, we acknowledged your website as one of the sources of our article and photos. We are very interested in spreading eco friendly and sustainable ideas. We apologize if we made you uncomfortable.


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