Category Archives: experimenting

the wayback machine…

Just wanted to make sure this recently surfaced image makes it into the Wayback Machine (here ).

Even longer than I remembered, the moon has figured into my work. I was reminded by this photograph. As I recall, I was sitting outside the local community pool, likely babysitting. I did a lot of that in HS.  I used most of the $ to buy art supplies, fabric to sew clothes, and parts to upgrade my 10 speed.  I’m not sure why my pieces were hanging on the fence here. Maybe some sort of “show”? The piece on the left was my first try at batik.  The one on the right was a hooked wool rug from a design I did on paper. Even back then I was fiddling with color and fiber. I was in the 10th grade, so about 16 years young.

about 44 years ago in Burke, Virginia

My sister just digitized a trove of old photos (almost 800). There are some classics there.  I pulled a few more to post on FB for the Yokohama Girls. (I’ll tag you there once I get them posted.)

And a special thanks to our dad Cale, who was a photographer his whole life. His collection of slides was immense, many since discarded unfortunately. I wish I had them now- especially the 1000’s from Japan in the 60’s. Would be fascinating to see some of them now.

And into the New Year we continue to travel. I plan on making a giant pot of Pho tomorrow to start the year off.

Travel well my friends. Continue to be courageous, kind, and creative into 2018.

And in the end…

Heading into the the end of another year I’m still wondering. Wondering what this new year will bring and ready to accept and embrace all that it will be.
What will be needed most in 2018?  I think perhaps courage will be a most important ingredient. Also faith- in ourselves and in each other. In our small ways we can do much. There are so many changes occurring at such a pace that I want to remember to often find that space where I can slow down and sort things out.

I will continue my shibori dyeing, silk and indigo work as well as teaching workshops here and there. I will try again to post here more than I did this past year-perhaps rebuild my following for the blog- but more than that for myself, as a documentation of what I do. I thank everyone who participates in this journey with me in all ways- as a customer, as a student, as a blog reader, FB follower, commentator, emailer, Instagram poster, fellow blogger and all the rest. I am sustained and inspired by you all and am thankful.

As a service to my local community, I am helping a candidate for city council with her social media. I feel it’s the least I can do. It’s not something everyone does well or even understands how to do (it’s a constant moving target actually) and I have a little experience (and I learn more every day!) that I think might be helpful. So it’s my small contribution to help raise awareness and change the dynamics of our local city government. I urge more of us to look into what is happening at our local government level and do what we can to keep things from slipping away and out of our control. Money is corrupting everything it seems and transparency is weak. More and more here in my city, council members are not representing the residents adequately. Many local politicians see these positions as a ladder to higher office, paid commissions, & government pensions where monied interests are answered over the needs and desires of those represented. We know this of course, but what are we doing about it? Are we running for office, attending council or town hall meetings,helping good people who have the courage to do so, voting? I think we’ve had a wake up call in 2017…

So…courage.  People like to pick a word they can focus on over the course of a year. Something to remind them of their resolve or direction. Perhaps courage will work for me.  I see lots of potential for courage in 2018-both small and large. I will start small. I actually looked up the word courage in the thesaurus to see if there was a word I liked better.  There wasn’t. Not one that embodied what I want to think about. But what I did see that I thought was important, were its antonyms- cowardice, fear, irresolution, meekness, timidity, & weakness. Maybe 2018 can be the season of courage? Continued courage in our own lives, courage to help others live through difficult times and moments, courage to step up and make a change, to become change.
There is a Season, turn, turn, turn…2018.

So, as the pages turn and the New Year approaches I will add a few more posts, looking back over 2017. Come back and visit sometime- I’ll be here…
And in the end,

heart of blue

This is a thought I’ve had on my mind for oh-so-long.  Sort of a marriage of the past with the present.
the past…

the present…
Watermarked Photo 1 (2016-08-11-1632) Watermarked Photo 2 (2016-08-11-1632)I was playing around with some sample making for my upcoming shibori ribbon brooch class in Houston and started on this.  It answered some questions but once I got started I realized it is a little too complicated for the class project which must be completed in large part in the 3 hour time frame with most students being fairly novice to bead embroidery.  So I must simplify.  I realized it fairly early on so I decided to just let this one take me away.  I’ll be making a few more for the class, smaller and simpler but with enough technique that one can carry on and wonder after the first class piece. Sometimes these classes are a real challenge.

So in the meantime, since I still have to pay for the last half of my booth by Monday I am listing a few things in the shop.  So far, I have the booth deposit paid, the airfare for 2, and the AirBnb apartment (more economical than a hotel) for 10 days paid for.  Phew!  Now just the second half of the booth and any electricity, lights, pipes, and freight.  These show costs are a killer.  And not to mention I have to have all the inventory made and paid for up front. The money from all this doesn’t arrive until mid to late November.  It’s a long game.

On the other side of life, the night blooming cereus cactus is putting on its evening show with at least 12-18 flowers open every night (for over a week now and on into one or two more from the looks of it). The bees hang out until almost dark in anticipation,  buzzing from 15 feet up and drawing your attention as you pass by.  Once the dark has settled in, the flowers glow their fluorescent yellow under the moonlight. In the early morning the bees are back at it, eager for every last bit of pollen they can collect until the sun signals the flowers to close, once and for all, before dropping to the ground below and perhaps leaving behind the prospect of a delicious jewel.

Juicy like a watermelon, crunchy black seeds and just sweet enough with a flowery mouth perfume finish!

There are some things which are truly a gift.


orinui shibori and indigo おりぬい絞りと藍

After a very productive and busy weekend at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo (Los Angeles) I had a little idea in my head I needed to get out.

A few more photos might be helpful.

Dyed in the fermentation vat.

At the museum we worked with a wide range of fabrics- many recycled. Fabrics included silks, cottons, hemp, linen, & bamboo in many weights and weaves.  Much was learned about fabrics, shibori techniques and how to dye with the indigo.  Next workshops at the museum are scheduled for Oct. 8-9 and Dec. 10-11.  The new twist will be that we will also work with a fermentation vat and learn how to make a small one you can take home with you.  Contact JANM to sign up.

And just a reminder- My three classes at the upcoming International Quilt Festival in Houston are taking registrations at the Quilts Inc. site. You can see the individual events on my FB events page or go to the registration site and see all the classes there.

waiting for the thread to dry…

…is kind of like watching paint dry. Having finished off some orders in this heat I am able to get back to the vat today.  Dyeing a bit of this and that as needed.  As for the vat- it’s a happy vat at the moment.  My little experiment of sewing a big cotton scrim bag to put down into it (keeping any organic materials out of my more open weave cloth as I dye) has been successful.  I placed a few round stones in the bottom to keep it anchored below (somewhat). I also found I could move it over to my smaller light vat as well when needed.  It is not forming much hana (flower) but has a nice coppery sheen on top and is a deep green and dyeing well.
indigo vatAs a reminder- one needs to continue to stir the vat each day, especially when not using it.  This action reintegrates the organic materials and any undissolved indigo in the vat.  There are various theories on whether or not you want to get some oxygen into the vat while stirring (especially if the vat is in disuse).  My particular theory is that since the bacteria consume oxygen they need at least a little bit ongoing to keep up the good work.  That hana you see on your vat is a sign of good fermentation and the result of oxygen bubbling to the top and meeting with the air.

I am anxious to get on with it while I am in the mood but the thread I am dying to use is still wet.  I am working on a show piece for Houston (as in “show”, I mean a piece for the wall of my booth) and it seemed to me that I needed to set it aside and work on a smaller, simpler piece to solve some puzzles and answer some questions I was running into on the larger one.  I also depend on wondering here to catch a few thoughts.

Let’s just get clear on one thing. I am not a quilter.  This may not even be a quilt. It is something.

So that being stated, I have lots to wonder about as I go down the path with this one.  I will say that if you define a quilt as:

“layers of cloth held together with threads drawn through with a needle”

-then this is (a version of) a quilt. But maybe it is something else. Maybe it is a dyers cloth (run through with a needle)? Ahh…to define something. To categorize. To make it black or white. How can it be one thing and still be another? Two things at the same time? Or none at all.  Maybe it is its own thing. That might ring true sometimes. Maybe for today. For now, it is a beginning. It is blue. Many blues. And it has moons. Many moons.


I think the thread may be dry now.

I also get emails…

I like letters better. Sometimes, emails get weird.

It all started with an email. Well, actually it started with a $30 donation. Followed by an email.

“Hi I am interested in learning the folding technique of the feather arashi scarf. Anne Selby uses this technique. Do you know how its done.”

Hmmm… my reply:

Thank you for contacting me.  I see you already do quite a bit of shibori on silk.  I have never seen Anne Selby’s work in person but online it looks very beautiful.  I have been a fan of Karren Brito’s work for some time and I think she did this folded technique first.  I have done something similar in the past but never did it on a large scale, however did discover how it was done.
I try to make my work unique through experimentation as I often find that this process takes me down my own path- one I would not have gone down by being told the exact process by someone who discovered it in their own way.  Since it is a signature styling of Anne Selby- have you asked her?  Perhaps she is not wanting to share that.  It’s not that it’s a “secret” but I’m sure she went through many trials and errors in order to create it.  Honestly, I wouldn’t feel very good about explaining how someone else goes about creating their signature look.  I am very sure you could figure this out on your own if you worked at it through trial and error. In that process, you would likely discover something very new and interesting yourself! Try it!
Yes, there are shortcuts in life- but it is not unlike driving through the countryside at 100 MPH versus riding along that same country road on a bicycle…you see and learn so much more along the way.
I see you just sent a donation through my blog.  I thank you.  I hope you find the blog of use.  If you feel that you want a refund of this donation based on this reply, let me know.    Your work is lovely as well.  Best regards.”

Then a reply:

“Thank you for replying so quickly.  I gave you Anne Selby as an example to give you an idea as to what I was talking about.  Anne Selby does not own the technique, yes I did see it in Karren Brito’s book. I guess there is not a copyright on the  Feather Boa technique.  Shibori is an ancient art form that goes back hundreds of years not only in Japan but in many other countries in the world.  Yoshiko Wade has been working very hard to preserve the techniques of Shibori.  She has been doing it by sharing, because she knows that is the only way to keep Shibori alive.  Anne Selby did not invent this technique.  She did invent the Arashi wrapping machine.  Anna Lisa Hedstrom has put out 3 DVD’s, she has held nothing back.
Thank you for your words of wisdom.  I am happy Yoshiko Wada and Anna Lisa Hedstrom do not think as you do.  Shibori would be dead.”

Ok… “shibori would be dead?”  my reply:

No, there is no copyright on any shibori technique.  I am still curious as to why you asked me about the technique Ann Selby specializes in.  Why not ask her?  Perhaps you have and she has not seen fit to share it with you.  I don’t know.  I am sure you have seen my work and that I don’t show this type of pleating online.  Respectfully, I think this is a question for Anne Selby.
I find it interesting that you choose to characterize me as someone who doesn’t share what I know.  As you know, I have free online shibori classes, I have been teaching shibori at museums, private workshops and international conventions for over 10 years now. I have literally taught 1000’s of people directly and in person not to mention the over 10 years of blogging on the subject.
I think that shibori is more widespread as a result of my work-not less. Saying that shibori would be dead as a result of my attitude is complete nonsense. Saying such things says more about you than it does about me.
Please consider what you say before you say it.  I am returning your donation.

Thankfully, today is a new day. And I know what my own intention is-regardless of how it is viewed from the outside.

Oh yeah, I made these. Just experimenting with silk shibori felt and vintage silk. Wondering.

update…after seeing some other issues like this online (where someone was being derided for not “sharing” their signature technique) I am prompted to add that there are good reasons to doing something the hard way. The struggle, while temporarily uncomfortable, allows you to experience and overcome uncertainty and anxiety. As you increase your skills through trial and error you will be able to experience exuberant surges of your own creativity that you simply will not achieve through following step by step instructions.




shibori ribbon tailings

It has been a while now since I created the silk shibori ribbon.  Ten years to be exact.

When I first created it there was no such thing on the market.  Now it is everywhere.  There are a lot of stories to tell (and I have told some of them here on the blog over the years) and this post will add one more.

In the beginning when I made the ribbon, I wasn’t sure what it would be used for.  I just was sure that it would be (used).  And back in the day, I sent some around, made some things myself and went around showing it at trade shows.  I started people wondering.  A  special friend (jude), in her special way, said something about it that really resonated with me.

“every inch is an adventure” 

And it was. No two inches alike, the beauty was in part, in its imperfection.  And I loved that about it.  Of course this sort of thing creates certain challenges.  As in how to communicate this aspect to the end user (relatively easy) and later on to the retailer (much more of a challenge!). As more people wondered, created with and enjoyed the shibori ribbon, I spent less time using it myself and more time just making it.

Over time some of the designers took to making fabulous things with it.  So much more wonderous than I had ever imagined and this was really fun.  I looked at what was being made with the ribbon and took cues from those who were using it by dyeing colorways I hadn’t yet made.  Some designers love the freeform possibilities while other designers love the perfection of the pleating.   Did I say perfection?  OOPS.  It is not perfect. But I try to make it the best I can.  More recently, as jewelry designs pop up that feature perfectly pleated sections of the ribbon, retailers and some customers want only perfectly pleated ribbon.  They didn’t want the interesting beginning or ends of the rolls, so I began cutting them off and saving them.

I thought they were delicious. So delicious that I refrained from putting them in scrap bags- to use them myself at some future magical place and time (when I had more time-ha!). Plus I didn’t want to hear back from folks who thought they were getting reject ribbon bits in scrap bags.  Then over time, since I was cutting off the ends anyway, I thought- why not just go crazy with the ends of the rolls.  So I did.  And now I have a nice little collection of  these weird scrappy “tailings”, as I call them.

~always an adventure

~always an adventure

They really are fun! More than an adventure…a happening perhaps.  Each piece so unique and weird that it makes it great fun to create something with them.  You can let go and really let the shibori ribbon lead the way.  Really see something in a new way. What am I doing with this growing collection?  I’ll be teaching a shibori ribbon bead embroidery class using my “tailings” in Houston in the fall.  I think we are going to have a really good time!

letting the ribbon lead the way

letting the ribbon lead the way

And don’t forget- the upcoming workshop at the Japanese American National Museum is April 23 & 24.  Sign up at the museum website.

Hope Spring has made its way to wherever you are. It sure looks great here.

trevor surfs

trevor surfs