just dreaming…of indigo and Japan

Recent ribbon dyeing has kept me away from the indigo (but also keeping the bills paid-thank you!) but while I have been wrapping and dyeing, the indigo has been growing! It’s about a foot tall now.

Which leads me to wondering..as usual.  What if I harvested this indigo and set about composting it?  How will I compost it?  Apparently, it takes 100 days according to Rowland Ricketts.  He has completed construction of a composting shed (so cool!) but I have no such shed at my disposal nor will there be one.  But in usual Shibori Girl form, I will figure something out.  Perhaps in  a sort of Heath Robinson sort of way…

I understand that the floor of the shed is made of sand, rice hulls, and clay in order to draw moisture away from the composting indigo.  I imagine the shed maintains an even temperature and humidity and the floor draws a stable temp from the ground.  The shed provides protection from sunlight, rain, and wind- not to mention bugs and such things…I will learn more of what is required.

Now how to create such an environment here in the yard… I am wondering.

Also wondering- what if I were to dry the indigo leaves and just dump them into a fermentation vat?  I wonder where (not if!) this has been done before.

As always,  I may need to return to my source- Japan.  And it just so happens I am leaving on Monday for just such a trip.  To finalize details and make a few visits, see a few folks, and have a few meetings for the 2013 Silk Study Tour.  I have a lot on my plate!  Fortunately, I will see Sato-san as she is having an exhibition in Tokyo while I am there.  Before she started dyeing indigo she worked up north for several years for an indigo farmer.  I think she will have some answers to some of my questions and it will be so very good to see her again!  I will also meet a new sericulture farmer, a new natural dye master, test out a new ryokan, visit the Yokohama Silk Museum and meet with it’s former Director.  In Tokyo, I will be hosted by Makoto san who’s wife is a long time friend from Austin who always has a fantastic collection of Japanese and vintage fabrics at the Houston Quilt Festival each year.  I will also meet up with Masae whose family specialized in kanoko shibori for 4 generations out of Narumi, as well as with her friend Watanabe san and hope to hear more about the artist shop we visited last time.

A day at a temple sale, just to browse and do some wandering- good for the soul.  And back just in time to post the Indigo Mandala class!

Also looking to collect a few artifacts to be loaned for the upcoming Silk Exhibit at Quilt Festival this year-Experience Silk, Then and Now.  Did I mention this before?

The exhibit will include exceptional silk works from teachers, artists and authors prominent in the textile/quilt  world.  It is also out our aim to show silk “from moth to cloth”, featuring historical silk pieces, as well as educational displays of silk production.  The exhibit is in conjunction with the Silk Experience festival classes/lectures, sponsored by Quilts, Inc., and the Special Exhibits coordinators. The prime organizers of the exhibit include Maggie Backman, Glennis Dolce and Katrina Walker and a host of other Silk Experience volunteers.

In many ways we intend this silk exhibit to be a collaboration and partnership in the continuing goal of education, creativity, and commerce.

And, the silkworms are getting crazy-big-fat and healthy!! Have lined up my silkworm sitters who are excited to have them again.  They might even be starting to spin when I return! Did I mention Mawata Madness here already?  Come and work with some of my very own cocoons- from my very own 2nd generation! It’s the weird things that excite me…

Gotta go-out of fresh mulberry and the cats need feeding…

mata ne!


18 thoughts on “just dreaming…of indigo and Japan

  1. Chimo

    Your indigo plants look so strong and vibrant. Mine are still in their struggling seedling phase. Living along 49 degrees N, our temps are just beginning to warm.
    The main reason I am trying to grow these plants is to test out if the leaves can be used “India Flint style” – rolled tightly in silk, then carefully steamed in water, with perhaps a pinch of alum, and allowed to cool and steep for a few days … I wonder if the natural indigo leaf would impart its pattern and blue to cloth? You may want to give that a try? Let us know if it works out … I doubt my plants will be large enough until September.


    1. shiborigirl Post author

      i was thinking of testing out that idea too. from what i understand, you need to wait and pick after the crop has been subjected to at least a week or so of decent hot weather in order to get the most color out of the plants. i also want to try and see how the dried leaves react if rolled into some silk and “fermented” for a bit. i’m not betting on the leaves giving up color as easily by simple steaming since the indigo needs to be reduced in order to attach to the fiber. i’m thinking it will need to be subjected to some high ph and bacteria- so maybe some cotton or linen might be in order. it’s fun to wonder about though…


  2. Michelle in NYC

    I’m still watching from a distance and with love in my heart for the Indigo plants, the healthy spinners, and you Shibori Girl, and did you know there will be a partial eclipse on May 20th? I’ll post it on my site with pictures, but here is a preview: If you’re at just the right place in the United States, you can watch an annular eclipse of the sun in the afternoon hours on Sunday, May 20, 2012.

    Those living along a narrow track from northern California to the Texas panhandle this Sunday (May 20, 2012) will have a chance to witness a special kind of eclipse of the sun. The sky won’t turn dark, and stars won’t pop into view, because this eclipse is essentially partial. At no time will the moon cover the sun completely, and thus you will need to use special filters, or an indirect viewing system, to see it. At mid-eclipse, though, if you’re equipped to observe, you’ll see an awesome sight. The outer rim of the sun’s body will appear as a brilliant ring completely encircling the black moon silhouette. Hence the name annular eclipse, from the Latin word annulus meaning ring.


  3. velma

    glennis, busy and full of excitement…i have a bunch of dried leaves (last summer’s) so maybe i’ll pull them out to experiment. my indigo seedlings are aobut 3 inches tall! you sound just wonderful, and, as barry would say, travel well.



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