Author Archives: shiborigirl

About shiborigirl

moon maker, time keeper~I enjoy creating things that make people wonder. not an artist...but arts apprentice. ~wonderer in charge at Shibori Girl Studios

Kokoro- with heart…

This begins a series of posts that will highlight additions to my online shop. Since none of us are doing in person shows or events these days I opted to join the Japanese American National Museum in their Kokoro Craft Boutique 2020 which benefits the museum’s education programs. Ten percent (10%) of all sales goes to the museum. There are many vendors participating including my own that offer fine handmade items for you to browse.
You can see a video featuring some of the vendors here. Please note KOKORO2020 in the discount code section when you check out so I can credit JANM with the sale.

The first item I will highlight is a subscription to the Daily Dyer 2020-2021. Here is a sample video, the write-up and shop link.

reviving the indigo fermentation vat

November is a time of transitions. More than usual this year it seems…

Among the many transitions being made around here is the transition to more virtual teaching. With that in mind, I have been thinking about how I can best do that. I’ve always done some of both. I really do enjoy teaching workshops and I realize not everyone can join a class in person. Teaching something hands-on allows an exchange of our human essence, it allows me to show you details that are difficult to relay virtually. It allows me to get to know you better.

But until that can happen again, I have decided to revisit my previous concept- The Daily Dyer.

What is the Daily Dyer?

It’s a subscription blog for daily snippets of my dyeing and making things for a living. Even I don’t know what each day will offer- that is part of the lesson! It’s about the workspace, the materials, the process and making a living- bound to be more difficult in the coming year! But come along and get a glimpse. It’s also a place to ask me to show you how I did something and for me to respond-usually via video- a two-way street. It’s meant to teach and learn in a different way. There will also be a monthly Zoom event to check in live if you are available. I’ll also do some livestreaming. You can request a certain topic be covered and if it’s something I can adequately cover, I’ll do it. 

I will give you a part of me and my work that you don’t usually see. It will give you another way to learn. $75 for 6 months. You can break it up into two parts by re-subscribing at the end of 6 months, or you can jump in for the full year for $140. The blog will be active beginning December 1, 2020 and complete November 30, 2021. It will be deleted January 1, 2022. You don’t have to be a dyer, a quilter, a shibori practitioner, or an indigo enthusiast, you don’t even have to love silkworms! You can simply just be interested and want to support the JANM, Shiborigirl and keep craft going in 2021.

I am putting this in the shop November 14 at the start of the Japanese American National Museum’s Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique. Ten percent of all sales from my online shop November 14- November 30 will go toward museum programs. This been one of their largest annual fundraisers and of course the challenge of COVID this year makes its success even more important.  
The original Daily Dyer began in 2013 and lasted for a year with a little over 200 posts. That’s 3-4 posts a week. Each post will probably be a 5 minute viewing on your part. You can view them one at  time, or catch up once a week- whatever suits your schedule.

And I think we all know that there are many ways of teaching and that people learn in different ways. Along the way. So much gets learned in the “in-betweens”. I hope you’ll join us!
I’ll end this post here while I go and add some new items to the shop which I will highlight in the next post- maybe even later today! Mata ne!

dear friendlies…final

It was only one month ago I wrote part two of this series thinking it to be the last. I mark this one final -a somewhat hopeful plea for 2020.

Today, I got a call from my sister who had been contacted by the care center where our mother resides telling us that she had passed away this morning. The duty nurse last saw her at 3 am when she popped her head out of her doorway and into the hall. The nurse says she told her that it wasn’t yet time to get up and mom dutifully went back to bed, where she was found having passed away in her sleep later in the morning. I can just picture her popping her head out-Hey I’m here! Perhaps she just wanted to say a final goodbye.

My mother’s story is a long and complicated one. Her life was made more arduous by a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia as a young woman in the early 60’s. I have written variously of it over the years and some of you have corresponded privately with me on the ravages that mental illness has taken in your own families. I always say that we were fairly spared the worst that it can be. She was taken in and committed to a mental institution around 1960. I can remember the day, though I was only 4 at the time. Sister was only 2, her memories of mom less clear. An ambulance arrived, mommy was escorted to the car. We were crying-we didn’t really know what it meant except that we were told she was not well. There had been instances that even as a 4 year old, I was able to discern as signs that things were not normal in our house. Apparently, it came to a point where my dad was forced to have her committed for everyone’s safety, including her own. Fortunately, in those days, there was a place for those suffering from mental illness to be housed, to get treatment, and to be safe. We were able to visit occasionally on weekends when “she was doing ok”. I recall there was a lovely garden that we would walk in during our visits. She was there for 10 years. Mental institutions at that time were known for their experimental and sometimes abusive treatment of patients. Not everyone came out the other side, she was fortunate. We never knew what she may have endured nor did she ever want to speak about her experience there.
In the intererum, my dad remarried, we gained 4 siblings, a stepmother and moved to Japan in 1965.
Upon her release into a halfway house, we had returned for a visit to the US and had a short supervised visit with her. Details I can clearly remember from that day were that she made us round ice cubes and put them in our milk. Other things from that visit blur. She had written to us at least weekly since 1965. So here she was, the woman behind the letters (always signed, “Your Very Own Loving Mother, Sharon L Carter”) in the flesh! I somewhat viewed her as a curiosity during this visit. She was not “cured” of course, just transitioning. Later during that same US visit at a friend’s house, we watched the first moon landing on TV. It was 1969. And, I was 11.
Then, back to Japan we went!

Upon returning from Japan in 1972, we passed through California and had a short visit with her in the main public square in Chico ,where she had moved to live with her mother, our Nana. Again, after reams of letters since the last meet-up, here she was again, in the park, in the flesh. Our mom, doing ok, having transitioned into small town life with her mother to look over her. She had made it through the institutional system with her health intact, her mental well being improved and a growing ability to operate within society given her subdued mental illness. I was 14 and wasn’t quite sure what to think. Mind you, we were just returning to the US after having lived in Japan since 1965. Everything was unusual to us at the time. After about an hour or two visit- we were off again-this time to Virginia!
After a stint in Virginia, it was 1975 and back to California where I stayed, ending up at UC Davis which was close enough to Chico to afford myself weekend visits to see both my Nana and mother. By this time I had read a number of books on mental illness (favorite was The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut), I’d seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and had volunteered to work with UCD students who had mental illness, lived on campus and were attending college. I was a bit more aware of what she had gone through this time around. I was 17. Yet still, she was a stranger to me really and over the next 50 years of long distance communications and more frequent visits I got to know her a bit. As those who have paranoid schizophrenics in their lives know, they never really trust which proved very difficult as she aged, needed help, and couldn’t accept it.
She was able to live on her own after her mother passed away. She worked in a warehouse, cleaned houses for extra pocket money, acted as a personal aid to an elderly woman and long time friend of her mother’s, volunteered as a Foster Grandparent for the Chico schools, and went every year to Bidwell Park with her binoculars to participate in Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count. She had a BA in Education from Chico State and taught elementary school for a brief time before she married and had children. The Foster Grandparent program was really a pleasure for her. Plus she enjoyed the free lunches!
Over time however, as is often the case with schizophrenia, hoarding becomes an issue. Such was the case for Sharon and especially so once Nana was no longer there to keep a lid on it. My sister and I dealt with it numerous times, clearing out her house completely after having it declared uninhabitable. Eventually it became clear that she was unable to continue living on her own and we found a path forward to having her conserved and placed in a locked care unit. She was safe, cared for, and still loved from afar. Every phone conversation I had with her over the past several years since she was moved, ended with her telling me that she was “getting out of here tomorrow”. She told me she had a new cat and even a dog! (she thought) waiting for her, not sure where she gotten it from though. Ha!
She would have been 90 in January- well past the expected lifespan of those diagnosed with schizophrenia early on in their lives. She was remarkably persistent, smart, independent and she was,
-our very own loving mother.
Sharon L. Carter
passed in peace November 9, 2020


past entries… there are probably more

https://shiborigirl.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/the-moms-in-our-lives/

https://shiborigirl.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/moonwalking-read-at-your-own-risk/

https://shiborigirl.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/and-so-it-goes/

https://shiborigirl.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/feeling-the-warmth/

dear friendlies…part 2

She was a dóttir, a systir, a móðir, a frænka, a tengdamóðir, an amma, and most recently a langamma. She passed away peacefully in hospice this past week attended to lovingly by the caretakers at her board and care and regular visits by us, her closest family, and hospice services. She was my mother in law.
To say it has been difficult to have an elderly loved one in a care facility during COVID is to say very little. There is a LOT to say. But most of that I won’t say here-out of respect for family, my own sanity, and even of you, dear reader. She had been dealing with progressive COPD for several years now and had been on oxygen-first, as needed, but increasingly full time over the past year. We had finally gotten her to move from a difficult second floor apartment into a Senior Living apartment which was really nice and once there she enjoyed it. Unfortunately upon moving there, her disease advanced quite a bit, but it was much more comfortable for her there-yet still too far from us here in Long Beach. In February of this year she had an exacerbation of her COPD which required hospitalization and upon release it was decided she could no longer live on her own. (I had already been made her POA for both medical and financial affairs as her daughter lives in New Zealand, one son had passed away due to AIDS and the other one… well… she was more comfortable with me doing it. The rest of the family lives in Iceland.) Not living on her own was a great disappointment to this fiercely independent woman of 84 years. We had to rush to find a place for her and aside from the obvious requirements, it needed to be much closer to us than Burbank and the “dreaded drive” from Long Beach.
We settled on a place- all of them seemed imperfect to us but we went with intuition, picked one, and got lucky! The caregivers there were wonderful. We set up her room with some of her favorite things-mostly family photos and personal items and a giant map of Iceland.

Why Iceland, you may wonder. Well imagine a young girl of 18 or 19 in a small town outside of Reykjavik wondering about the world at large. Imagine a village of fishermen and their wives and families. Imagine Iceland in the 1940’s. Then move on to the 1950’s.
Sometime in the mid 1950’s young Iceland girls were meeting young US servicemen and many became brides and moved to the US. Such was the story of Jane (pronounced yawn-ee) Elvina and her sister Disa. They both had families and divorced with small children to care and provide for. They took this seriously and worked hard to do so. There were hardships, regrets, and other travails, but they carried on. The rest of the brothers (3) remained in Iceland, married, had children and were steadfast Icelanders. Elvina (as she preferred to be called as Americans just did not get the Icelandic pronunciation of Jane) enjoyed many visits to her homeland and regular visits from her Icelandic relatives and friends. I married and divorced (over 20 yrs ago) one of her sons and I always said that I gained a great MIL in the settlement. She loved her grandsons dearly and spent a lot of time with us creating beloved memories. Each of my sons traveled to Iceland with her to see her homeland and loved the experience. She also traveled to New Zealand many times to enjoy visits with her daughter, son in law, and her only granddaughter.
She loved to read, watch classic movies on TV, going to the movies, live music and theater, watching the Grammy’s, big band music, the crooners, decorating her Christmas tree, among many other things and of course, her family. She never drove- somewhat of a miracle for anyone having lived in the LA area for as long as she did. I always marveled at that! She worked for decades in a publication distribution center where she was a devoted employee and lived in the same upstairs apartment for over 50 years where she had raised her three kids as a single parent. She loved to cook (especially Italian food), travel with her brother Boi to Las vegas on his annual visits where they would dine finely and see live shows. For as long as I can remember, we always had hangikjöt (Icelandic smoked lamb) with boiled potatoes, peas and white sauce for Christmas Eve as was her tradition. Her Icelandic niece and sister-in-law were both flight attendants and made sure that she always received a special delivery via carry on in time for holiday celebrations.
We called her Amma-Icelandic for grandmother.


Having to move her to her board and care in early March was difficult enough. We had a couple of weeks where we were able to visit her and get her settled into her new surroundings. Then COVID happened. All visitation ground to a halt and we joined tens of thousands of families who could no longer see their loved ones in person. It was very concerning and stressful as in addition to her being a COPD hospice patient , she had developed severe aphasia and the only way we could communicate with her was through her iPad and occasional texting, a communication card and even that was beginning to fail us. It was extremely difficult for her and her caregivers as she knew what she wanted to communicate but it was so very difficult if not just impossible for her to do so. By late June we were able to resume visits following social distancing guidelines, but that didn’t last for long.

In July she had a fall and had to be moved to a rehab center for a few weeks where they had a massive outbreak of COVID due to the fact that weekly COVID test results of staff and patients were taking 10 days to come back (*%^&#@*%?) and by then the place had become a hotspot. I was getting auto calls telling me of the number of cases daily. Horrific! Fortunately she did not ever test positive for COVID. Itself a small miracle!

By the end of July we were able to get her moved back to the B&C but she was on a steady decline at this point. Since she was a hospice patient we were able to have more visitation and we did whatever we could to help her and the caregivers make her transition peaceful. Due to COVID however, her daughter and granddaughter in NZ and her Icelandic family could not travel to see her which was so very difficult for them. It was my job to keep everyone up to date with things, to follow her wishes regarding medical care, and keep her financial affairs in order. We will all need this help at some point and it’s an honor to have the complete trust of someone who needs this help. Everyone here pitched in to support this effort. and I am grateful.

The final weeks involved many hours of simple visits and just being present. Stitching became my passtime during these visits and most of the pieces I worked on were shibori pieces for my ongoing zoom workshop at the time. It was a peaceful and reflective time.
Her family looks forward to being able to travel once again and get together in person to celebrate her life. Takk og ást.
Blessaður Amma Elvina Jane, July 23,1936…September 28,2020

dearest friendlies…(part 1)

It’s been a rough week, month, year! So many ups and downs. I been telling myself I would write a blogpost almost every single day these past two weeks but…well I just couldn’t didn’t. I read your blogs, FB pages, twitter and a few books, and took lots of stitches.
First off, my dear friendlies, one of my favorite FB friends/writers/ NYC poet of life, Michelle Slater passed away. I never met her in person but here, through the blog when she began commenting many years ago. I think she came here via Spiritcloth as many of you have for so long (and even for some, more recently). We had so many wonderful exchanges over the years, through social media as well as the mail. She lived alone in a rent controlled apartment in Manhattan and gave us the gift of so many views of the city she had lived in for over 60 years. She also wrote a blog (actually several) filled with observations of life, photos, and poetry. Just reading the sidebar of her blog could change your life and worldview.
She commented on my blog many times over more than a decade and I will treasure each comment once more whenever I come back to one. In the years prior to our friendliness on FB, she gave me glimpses into her world as they related to mine in her comments but it was only 4 years ago she left me the following comment that told me even more about herself than i had known:

I’ve never made a living at what I’ve loved to do, neither in twenty years of Theater, another ten or fifteen in Film, video and photography, nor as a writer, nor painter, and I only dabbled in cloth. I could blame this on the fact that I somehow managed to eek out a living on the fringes doing this and that, or that I always worked for unpopular causes (feminism, peace, justice etc.), but the truth is I was simply never ambitious enough to pursue money, nor did I have the stick-to-it that’s needed, and now, at seventy three, I’m quite poor in the pocket book. Sometimes friends send gifts, my Social security and small pension from one 11 year position just manage to keep me in internet, phone, electric, and rent (blessedly low after many Landlord battles) and I even get some food aid from a Senior nutrition program. I’m able to go to doctors thanks to medicare basic, but not dentists. I had help to pay for two cataract operations from several generous friends as I live without credit cards. But my admiration for craft and those, like you who manage to somehow make it work is unbounded. The way the 21st Century is leaning into the automated and the digital, outsourcing and growth does look bleak…not to mention the awful political wrangling and the shameful wars…still, I believe that though the artists are as endangered as the polar bear and Minki whale, we persist in another dimension, and that’s as real as the space probes and the industrial glut. Love fuels the enterprise and it’s the best fuel ever to emerge from this earth enterprise.

Michelle in NYC

She was found in her apartment, apparently in her usual chair, when friends noticed she hadn’t posted for several days and wasn’t answering the phone. In my mind I imagine her setting up a new post with a fabulous link or video or simply typing “Goodnight dear friendlies” with a photo view out her apartment window as she did so often.
So here’s to you Michelle… Goodnight with gratitude my friend!
Link to the last video she posted…here.
And my original post (2016) where Michelle left the above comment.

other parts (2 and maybe 3 to follow). comment link is at the top of post.

It’s all about Shibori Ribbon today

In the third quarter of last year there started to be an issue with ordering silk satin yardage. Suppliers did not have it in stock. Some suppliers said that government tariffs with China were an issue. Later we found that in addition, mills were not weaving it. Then I was told that the usual sources would not accept the wholesaler’s orders as it did now not meet minimum yardage for a run (minimum was HUGE-even for a large distributor).

What I do know about silk satin is that it was not a fabric that was widely available wholesale even when I first started dyeing the ribbon. Seems that there are either limited textile mills in China that produce it, that it may be done on specific looms that are not in good repair. The main use for this fabric is fine lingerie and bridal. With fine lingerie and bridal mfgs/retailers not ordering as much as before, perhaps the yardage needed to do a run just was no longer there. I’m not sure.
Seems that anyone I contacted overseas said yes they had it, only to find out what they really wanted to sell me was charmuese. I have tried this for the ribbon with less than desired results.

So, I set out to find another type/weave/weight of silk that could produce the results I wanted. After test dyeing many, many silks I have finally settled on one. I have sent samples to beaders and folks who use the ribbon who report they like it just as well. In fact, for some users it seems to be preferred for its ability to take the pleating well.
I have spent the past months working on this and learning to dye the new ribbon to my liking. Each silk weave and weight has its own characteristics and challenges when it comes to dyeing, discharging, and pleating. I’m still getting used to it.

In some ways, it got me thinking about back when I started to learn about shibori and the dyeing of silk. I’ve done a LOT of experimenting and learning along the way. It’s been quite an adventure!

I’m glad to say that I am finally ready to add some to the shop today. I am adding two different selections. The first are sets of three assorted colors (one yard each and one set only) and the other is three colors by the yard (ten yards per color available right now). In the shop now. Here is how they look:

The second addition is yardage- three colors are available in the shop by the yard as usual. There are a couple rolls of the original SATIN ribbon there too. I’ll be adding more as they are dyed.

In addition to what I have in my own shop, Michelle just received a set of colors for her shop Fundametals Annex. Michelle has been the most consistent and devoted reseller of my shibori ribbon since the beginning-supplying creative folks with a wide array of well sourced craft supplies. Not being able to stock the ribbon has been hard on both of us! Both her and her husband are self-employed and with three young teens at home they also have the added job of overseeing their online schooling during these corona days. Through it all, Michelle continues to do what she does best-run her home and family as well as supply creative folks with beautiful craft supplies for inspired handwork, while providing great customer service (despite the added difficulty of shipping issues with USPS!). These past six months have been hard on small businesses and I’m glad to be able to fill her orders once again.
As I look back over the arc of making and selling my silk shibori ribbon, in addition to those who find joy and creative expression in using the ribbon themselves, it makes me content in knowing that the ribbon has helped many sustain themselves by providing an income- whether by reselling the ribbon or by buying and using it to hand make items they sell to supplement their own income. I have received many lovely emails from people all over the world about this much to my surprise. This is almost without exception being done by women. It is a small thing but it feeds my soul to participate in the circle.
Even those who copied the ribbon to make and sell in competition have a place in this circle.


addendum in the light of day
On a perfect note after writing this post last night, I received a spam comment this morning on an old post about the ribbon from 5 years ago. I deleted the spam comment and went and re-read the original post along with all the comments. Writing this blog over the past 14 years surely has been a journey… I appreciate all those who cheered and even jeered along the way. thank you.

And even more perfectly, a friend sent me this Buddhist prayer this morning. Perhaps you might also enjoy it as I did. (thank you Michelle!)
“A balm to turn me inward where all that ever was, or ever will commence, arrives in perfect, present tense.”

landmarks and roadmaps

It seems as though my ability to clearly recognize the usual landmarks marking the way has greatly diminished and, in some cases, completely disappeared. It’s OK to be a bit lost at times, and especially so right now (in America). It moves us in different directions, and asks us to consider more. More of what we wonder? More possibilities, more directions, more ideas. This is the kind of MORE that I appreciate. MORE can be more, and MORE can be less! I’m considering this (more and more).

As I travel down this increasingly altered road, abandoning the usual familiar roadmaps, thoughts of how and what if are my constant companions. I reach out to cherished and long time friends (how are you?), checking in with them to assure myself they are OK and are still there- realizing that perhaps PEOPLE are my new landmarks. This feels reasonable, if not truer, than some things I considered as landmarks previously. How are you?

Navigating the daily milieu these days takes a lot of energy. Remaining creative in the midst is a challenge. I find I must focus on balance of body, mind, and soul. Here, in my small world I seek the lessons of the garden, nature and handwork. The garden is feeding us well this summer and a steady stream of seedlings feeds the raised beds as plants are rotated through. The worm bin is very alive and well- I am experimenting with compost worm tubes in a couple of the raised beds- so far so good. Just trying to keep the soil alive and healthy. We have a bunch of praying mantis right now and I’m hoping they mate and make some more egg cases for us.

Silk shibori ribbon will be back in the shop soon! After at least a 6 month hiatus, I am making ribbon again. The silk satin I had been using became unavailable and I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting and considering other silks in various momme weights and weaves. I finally have settled on one that meets my qualifications. Pictures later this week.
I am leading a free zoom workshop just for the regular shibori students from the Japanese American National Museum. It’s a group effort in many ways. It’s great to stay connected to them all while we can’t meet in person. The cool thing is that they all have made their own indigo vats at home! So over this 9 week course, they get to maintain their vat and really get to learn how it works over time. Several have even started fermentation vats! We have weekly zoom check-ins to see how the vats are doing, discuss and share the weekly techniques and patterns everyone is working on. It’s great that we can meet up this way and make sure everyone is ok. We are using Jane Callender’s book as a reference and inspiration. It really is the best one out there on stitched shibori.

It’s really been hot here-too hot. We have resorted to AC set at 78˚ when in the 90’s now and grateful to have it. Evenings are tolerable but still in the upper 70’s which is hotter than normal for us along the coast. Fires are ravaging the state, brought on by unusual weather and more than 300 lightning strikes. Over 500 fires are currently burning in CA. Such a devastating and environmental tragedy for so many. Currently the Santa Cruz area is suffering greatly along with Big Basin and Big Sur parks. California fires.

I will be updating the shop next week with more indigo (hopefully with some ribbon too-depending on the heat!). I will have packages of indigo cloth in various shades as well as some finished wall pieces. Indigo moons are ongoing as well as the cloth mooncards. I’ll also recommend the new USPS stamp celebrating the work of Ruth Asawa. The stamps are truly beautiful.

Considering new landmarks, tossing aside familiar roadmaps, we embark on new journeys together. May we choose Peace, Love, Health and Sanity when we come to a fork in the road. Together, we must.

moon and stars

The moon takes no sides
holds no grievances
nor abides our anger

lighting a path
with its reflected light
day and night
should we choose to look

silken stars
perform a dance
swirling in the inky black

independent, yet connected
to our time and place
ancestors, wisdom seekers

old and young
find answers
in the full wondering.

July 4th, 2020 the moon is full. look up!

little dreams

dreaming big inside
my small silk cocoon today
i wonder what if

big dreams small spaces
when will i emerge again
to fly free once more

I like haiku because it distils a thought…

Update:
The silkworms are mostly finishing cocooning with a few stragglers that hatched late. I lost surprisingly few. The two batches at neighboring homes fared less well. One lost all of them (20) and the other lost 16 of their 20 but have 4 that cocooned. I have around 200. At least 50 of the eggs did not hatch at the beginning but when I ordered 200 I was sent 300 (ish). I prepared a cocooning tray for the girls next door who lost all theirs which looked like this:


It’s kind of hard to tell here, but silkworms have a yellowish almost transparent cast to them when they are ready to cocoon. They are filled with sericin to spin their cocoons. Left to free range, they would find a couple of branches or a dried curled up mulberry leaf in which to spin a hammock , and finally a cocoon. I made this with both plus a few TP rolls cut in half so they can see what the cats prefer. Of course letting them cocoon in dried leaf makes for messier collecting of cocoons and renders the kibisu (outer silk) fibers inexorably mixed with leaf detritus. The Japanese have a cool machine for removing the cocoons from the frames and also for rolling the cocoons to remove the outer kibisu-all clear of any leaf material and usable for other purposes without too much effort. It will be 2-3 weeks before moths emerge. Many of mine will be dried, killing the pupae inside and the cocoons stored in the freezer for later reeling.

And if silkworms didn’t have enough to do, you can read about their contribution in developing a vaccine for COVID-19! From The Mainichi and Kyushu University.

I made a little discovery this past week in regards to the native narrow leaf milkweed. I have wondered since last year why the monarch caterpillars don’t seem to utilize it as opposed to the tropical milkweed which keeps popping up in the yard here and there. They also like the balloon plant (milkweed) very much. They LOVE the small broad leaf native milkweed that they eat down to nubs every chance they get- so much so that it never seems to get a good start here. Fortunately, it spreads from underground and keeps popping back up.
Back to the narrow leaf milkweed… I kept seeing the monarchs laying eggs recently on the flowers (it’s flowering now). The flowers are small clusters of tiny florets at the tip of the stems. I realized they probably don’t use the leaves as the leaves are so narrow and unstable they can’t really land on them to deposit their eggs on the underside of the leaf, but the flowers are broad and stable. I started noticing tiny spiders and even some of the tiny praying mantis on the flowers and I thought they would devour and eat the eggs or any larva that hatched-bummer. Then I started noticing that the flower heads are all wilting and dyeing! I thought- oh well….
then this!

I actually started to cut off some of the dead flowers thinking the spider infestation might spread. So now I have a little box of monarch caterpillars to watch over until they get big enough to transfer back to the plant!

We took a trip out on Monday to get away from our cocoon and to visit MIL in hers at the nursing/board and care facility. Since she is in hospice they allow restricted visits- PPE in place. We visit outside mostly. She fell Sunday and thankfully did not break anything but has some pretty colorful facial bruises from bonking her nose. She is doing ok all things considered and always welcomes the visit. It is very difficult communicating since she also has advanced aphasia. We do our best.
Afterward, we went to the new Mitsua market and got Japanese bento for a picnic at the South Coast Botanic Gardens. They really have done a good job reopening there. Online time spaced ticketing, contactless entry, masks required, distance marked cueing (when needed), wide open outdoor spaces. They allow picnics in the meadows and there were actually very few people. Cost is $15 per person and you can stay as long as you like. A family annual membership is $65 for unlimited access for 2 for the year. We did that. They also have special dog walking tickets twice a month in the evenings (they are open 8 am- 8 pm). Eighty seven acres of gardens and trails. Sculpture too!
A great place all around! Highly recommended for corona daytripping.

the bees were going crazy on this flowering thyme border… the sound doesn’t really translate here.
I had heard of this but never seen it in person- I asked Phil to stop so we could watch for a bit. Goats clearing the hillsides…
Goats Rock!

and in the garden… tomatoes are rising! Milo ventures outdoors and approves!

Stitching stars

I rewarded myself for getting my taxes 90% complete today by stitching stars into the indigo universe.

I just wanted to mention a couple of things about this wonderful silk floss I’m using. It’s about 100 years old and just divine!

Richardson’s silk floss has some interesting history and I came across this print ad.

The silkworms are cocooning quietly in the background and I’m thinking about indigo dyeing their silk as an embroidery floss of some type. It’s a big dream.

But hey, a girl can dream.

Cats, feline and bombyx mori…

Many thing going on here…I guess I’ll start with sericulture and the silkworms. My friend Nobue Higashi and her husband have just finished their spring crop of silk cocoons. It’s pretty impressive. You can see her blog here (just click your translate button to read in English as I do- it’s too complicated for my poor Japanese even if the google translate sucks-you’ll get the jist of it). My current dream is to take more workshops at Ton-Cara. Somehow…

My small batch of silkworms (quantity unknown) are doing very well. Eating every mulberry leaf in sight. I’m expecting them to slow down any day and vomit up their guts (nice visual huh?). Then they will rest a bit and start to swing their cute little heads around while in the “praying” position. I have prepared the cocooning frames and straw bedding. I have my mini sericulturists making their own cocoon forms from TP tubes cut in half an glued together. On a sad note, one set of the silkworms suffered from grasserie and a garden burial was prepared. We are not sure of the cause but two things are possible contenders- tainted mulberry leaves from a street tree in the city or just from not enough aeration due to laying leaves without branches. I think tainted leaves might be it. In any case, so goes sericulture. The other neighborhood family’s silkworms are fine and have been eating the same leaves as mine. I will send a new batch over to them later today so they can watch the cocooning.

i love seeing the way they methodically eat the leaves.
a pile of silkworms during tray cleaning

I have been dyeing a bit also, indigo and otherwise. I collected the seed pods from the feathery senna that last year I discovered gives a nice rich gold. I also collected and tested the knife edge wattle and discovered that those pods gave a nice rich brown. All this was done on silk with alum. A lovely green was was the result of over dyeing the senna dyed silk with indigo from the fermentation vat.

I had a chance to speak on the phone with Karren Brito in Oaxaca today where we are still hopeful of her receiving the zakuri I sent her way. It’s not easy dealing with bureaucracy there. But I was really interested in her conversation about sericulture in Mexico and the history of it there. I actually did do some online searching and couldn’t find much but she had a lot to share about it. Maybe one day…

This was my Solstice project, more or less. Still not done but who’s rushing these days? It has a great feel in my hand while stitching on it. The back is an old linen tablecloth with great weight and drape. The front is a variety of cotton, silk, and linen scraps that were used to test dye the new indigo fermentation vat. The silk embroidery thread was gifted from Katrina quite some time ago. It’s from a stash her mother’s friend discovered when clearing out a house. It’s about 100 years old. I thought I had blogged about it but can’t find the post to link here. It’s great to stitch with. Amazing really. I’m not used to such luxurious embroidery thread!

And in moon news…just a few to add today.

And the old cat Milo has decided to join life downstairs after secluding himself upstairs for the past 8 years. We don’t know why, but we are enjoying his company in the garden, the studio and the rest of the downstairs. The dogs give him space for the most part.