wondering in white

White.  Is it a color? If black is the absence of color (darkness) then is white (light)  the combination of all colors in the visible spectrum? As a dyer, this is interesting to me.  White is often my canvas when dyeing and dyeing something black takes a whole lot of colors mixed together.  Strange.

As a dyer with an eye towards using what is around and available I have collected lots of old cloth that can be dyed. But are they white?  Many are what I would call a natural white. They are what they are-ivory, cream, white, eggshell,off-white, antique white, snow white, pearl white, bleached white etc…

detail white

Many of you who have taken indigo classes from me recently have received materials kits containing a whole variety of great old fabrics-all natural and of course dyeable in indigo. It’s informative to look at the structure of old fabrics. This cloth that was formally the fabric of people’s  lives. Literally- laces, tablecloths, clothing, bed coverings, kitchen towels, even mosquito netting and more. Each type of cloth reveals more about itself when dyed in the vat-it’s thickness, weave, age, and even stains that dye differently from the whole cloth.  Next to each other, they can form an amazing array of beautiful blues or whites.

But what if they were left as they are?  Left to use in other ways, to stitch together new dreams and aspirations? That is what I see going on in Jude’s new class What If Diaries. Definitely not a craftsy class where everything is laid out for you to make or do according to the plan, but a way to explore much deeper. The class is now sold out but she has others of a similar nature to explore. I like that the cloth is explored more deeply- that students not only connect themselves to the fabrics, the stitches, but that there is always a stream of consciousness floating in the background as a jumping off point to some new or even old idea. It’s kind of like what I imagine the beginning of the universe to be-  sort of like a primordial soup of creation.

battenburgold battenburg lace- in process

And speaking of creation- last weekend at the JANM (Japanese American National Museum) we had a really grand time. I took a whole silk display and we even reeled silk on the old zakuri. The students were in awe as most had never seen this before. The ingeniousness of the device AND that of the silkworm and it’s cocoon. I don’t think they’ll ever take silk for granted again!

reeling silkstudent reeling silk on the old zakuri

And of course we dyed silk- new and old. Itajime was the focus and this was a quick pic of their first pieces of the day.  After this, I got too busy to take photos-as usual. Many left class and went straight out to the front desk to sign up for the Aug 31-Sept 1 class.  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

12:00 PM—4:30 PM

Indigo and Shibori Techniques with Shibori Girl

events/shibori2.jpegIn this 2-day workshop we will focus our intentions on practicing itajime (fold and clamp) shibori on recycled kimono lining silks. Once considered as precious as gold, old silks are being discarded at an alarming rate! Let’s breathe new life into them and improve our understanding of both silk and itajime shibori. Indigo and colorhue dyes will be used in this workshop. Both days: $70 members; $90 non-members, an additional $45 materials fee (cash only) will be collected at the beginning of class, admission is included. RSVP early, 20 students max.
So, if you are in the mood for some cloth that really moves you-cloth containing texture as a main component, fragments like scattered thoughts across time and place, imperfection seen as perfection, then click on over to the shop and see what’s old.
And if you think you want to join the JANM workshop in Aug. you might want to sign up early.


4 thoughts on “wondering in white

  1. Olivia Batchelder

    Hi Shibori Girl, Great post on white, and a good question! I have had these thoughts as well.

    On a recent visit to the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, I saw Dutch paintings from the 17th century showing country life at a time of artistic and economic vibrancy in Holland. One painting depicted a rural farm with many buildings and activities going on. Painted in summertime, very long lengths of hand-woven linen were shown stretched out on the ground directly behind the house. There were 6 or 8 lengths, each one looked about 50 meters long. This was curious to me until I read the curator’s notes. Freshly woven lengths of linen were laid out here to be bleached in the sunlight, and would typically be left outdoors all summer long! The natural color of linen is light brown, but the people of the time preferred white linen. (This was before Clorex.) White (or rather, off-white) linen was used for bed sheets, curtains, table coverings, and clothing at that time. I found this a wonderful statement about the power of the sun as well as the preferences of the people. And another chapter of *What is White? *The central painter of this exhibition was Vermeer, who is famous for the way he could capture light, and his whites are always sparkling! I’m not sure how white linen could be bleached by the sun in those times, but Vermeer’s whites are grand! * * Best wishes, Olivia Batchelder *www.oliviabatchelder.com * On Thu, Apr 11, 2013 at 10:08 AM, Shibori Girl


    1. shiborigirl Post author

      hi Olivia- glennis here. aka shiborigirl. it has been a while. enjoyed your memories of linen bleaching in the sun and Vermeer. perhaps the whites in his paintings inspired whiter whites on linen-who knows? next time i am near your sunny beachside locale perhaps we can meet for tea or coffee.


  2. velma

    lovely, glennis, to see what you’re thinking about. fine whites. once, in my quest for old whites, i had a HUGE discovery: three pieces of hand spun and woven linen in birdseye twill… just beautiful. i got the whole stack of funky cottons, etc, with this treasure stuck in the pile for something like $12.00. and wonder of wonders, it had the weaver’s name pinned to it!



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