Category Archives: fashion

New Beginnings

Life is full of new beginnings. Every ending has a beginning, every beginning an ending. This is not a new thought, it’s one as old as time.
Beginnings are always interesting. There can be hope, joy, anticipation, unknowingness and even a bit of anxiety about it all, endings can likewise feel the same way! My first introduction to this sort of thinking came when I was in high school and a family whom I babysat for gave me the book, “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass as a gift. The title itself was an intrigue. She also gave me the book, “Notes to Myself” by Hugh Prather. I loved the short moment by moment thoughts in that book. Both books were a revelation to my 15 year old mind. At the same time, I was reading my way through all the Vonnegut and Kesey books…haha. Well, it WAS the 70’s.
I still have “Notes to Myself” but somewhere along the way, “Be Here Now” found its way elsewhere. Maybe that gives you a little insight on how I became me.
We are each the finder, maker, and follower of our own path.
It’s April now. Another beginning. Today it’s cloudy outside on the way to sunny but the garden is alive and well, bursting with new hope. Inside however, the fabric sorting continues…

I was going through my collection of kimono two weeks ago to separate out the various ones I use as workshop samples (mostly shibori and indigo) and other ones I have acquired over time. The “other ones” are  mostly kasuri and silk, but after having them for some time sitting in bins…well, hmmm.

still my favorite shibori and indigo workshop sample kimono

What to do?

Several of the kimono I really love for the unique kasuri weaving, the Meisen sensibilities of color and pattern, but all are regular long kimono and just not practical for wearing here. I do have several of the haori (shorter jacket type) that I do wear and really wanted to see what could be done with these stored kimono to get them out of a bin and make use of them. I hate to think of them just sitting in a bin getting no love…they’re too good for that.

On a trip many years ago I found a silk shibori piece in Kamakura that was more like a duster/vest sort of garment. It was a kimono remake. I can still remember the layout of the shop and the woman who sold it to me. She had taken a temporary pop-up shop along komachi-dori for a week and had a small place where she did sewing work about 30 minutes outside of Kamakura.
I purchased it thinking that aside from the great shibori and the wearability of it, it would make a great piece to take a pattern from and make more of these. So, when I was looking at the stack of kimono I wanted to transform (and there are only 5 or so-I rarely buy full kimono when I go to Japan) I thought of this piece.

I started disassembling one of the kimono and putting it back together as the silk shibori duster/vest version I have. What I realized was that I know there are some of you out there in the same situation with kimono that you have collected, and you may want to explore the possibility of transforming them into something currently useful and wonderful!
Hence, the birth of a new workshop-a new beginning! Supplies are simple-seam ripper, thread, needle and scissors. You will need the spirit of adventure, a willingness to dive into the unknown, and the patience to do a little hand sewing. Oh, and a kimono.

Three completely different pieces. All silk. Different periods spanning the last 120 years or so…

The one on the left is silk sha (unlined) with an interesting combination of techniques, the center is silk shibori (lined) probably ’50s-’60’s is my guess, and the one on the right is a very fine silk kimono for a young boy perhaps 1900-1920 ish. They all wear great over something (either sleeved or sleeveless) and are light and a nice statement sort of wearable.

A few more pics:

In addition, you will end up with the extra fabric that can be used for something else! There is plenty for a scarf. I’ll have a sample on hand of that for you to consider as well.

Check out the workshop listing for details!

There are two dates for this workshop-one more immediately, and the other about 3-4 weeks later. This will allow those who may not have a few kimono laying around to acquire one. I am working with a friend in Japan on having him send me a set that you can choose from if you want to buy from us. Of course you can search other vendors as well, but we are curating a set that has already been predetermined to work for this project.  

Captain, the neighbor cat, helps curate the kimono selection.


In the background of all this, April moons have begun. They are going to be a little different this month… Last night’s moon was a beautiful crescent-did you see it? I hope April is treating you well so far, that Spring is warming and greening you up, and that many of the seeds you plant sprout into seedlings!

and speaking of time…

When in mid August I saw pumpkins stacked outside the grocery store here and orange frosted cupcakes and pumpkin cookies encased in plastic containers upon entering the store I wondered if perhaps I had somehow missed a month or two.   But no, it was still August. Really- Halloween already? Won’t those  pumpkins be rotten and the cupcakes stale by then?  One does wonder.

arashi shibori now

But now here I am not exactly marking time but struggling to organize it.  Realizing that reminding you to think ahead if you desire to order a large scarf for yourself or as a gift for the holidays would actually be a good idea.  This way, I can get a handle on how to better organize my time and material purchases in addition to not taking on more work than I can actually create. I really do hate to disappoint and don’t like to do “rush” orders.  So I was thinking, how best to accomplish that…

And here is what I came up with.
(a reservation system of sorts…)

 You can order your own custom colorway of course by emailing me an image or two that include the colors you like or, if you have had your colors “done” send me an image of the set of swatches from that. Here are a few recent pieces to give you an idea…

I will be taking reserves for no more than 25 between now and Nov. 25th.
Let’s see how this works.

arashi shibori now…

just a quick post to show you a couple of new pieces.  when i began them i had in my mind’s eye what i wanted-almost.  lots of what i do is like that.  i have it about 80% worked out in my head.  the last 20% comes as i am working on it. i learned a lot making them.

i’m looking forward to making more of these in other colors.  that will have to wait for mid november though.  i’m adding these to the shop  as shown and you can order the make me one option and we can talk about colors.

this is arashi shibori now.

making and wondering…

I had a bit of time recently to just do some wondering and dyeing-and even some stitching. I wondered about collars as opposed to necklaces.

silk shibori collar

-and I played around with some more needlefelting in combination with the ribbon and pleated silk gauze.

a glimpse of the detail-kind of otherworldly, coral-like, or like some form of underwater life

It’s been a crazy day, but it ended with a sweet email from Sofia who was thanking me for well wishes in her new endeavors when she wrote:

“I read your blog updates all the time, and sometimes i find myself spouting facts about indigo and silk cocoons to my own amazement….last time my mother gave such a strange look -where did you learn all this information? i was struck dumb for a moment and said, the shibori girl told me!”

thank you, for all the learning and the beauty”

So perfect-kind of a “back-to-school” message.  I was reminded that the best learning is sometimes the learning that takes place when you’re not even aware that it’s going on.  This is the sort of thing that I aspire to when I write on this blog.  A balance of information and beauty while at the same time entertaining, teaching and working. So thanks Sofia, for the sweet reminder!

bespoke…she says

My online friend Scott– artist, map maker, beader and blogger (here and here) recently moved and was destashing some things he had collected along he way. One of which happened to be this vintage tux jacket in a size that was perfect for my son Trevor, who just happened to need a *new* tux jacket.

first, in photos-

bespoke 1918 tux jacket in wool and silk

it had a hole in it. a moth lunched here perhaps…

it had a makers tag

So Scott sent it directly to Trevor who tried it on and was a very happy percussionist indeed!  He brought it with him for mending to the cabin in the woods and lacking the ability to reweave the spot and mend it flawlessly, I opted to open the lining on one of the sleeves and remove a small patch of wool with which to mend the spot.  This is where the fun began! What a marvel of tailoring! This bespoke tux jacket from the early 1900’s is made of wool, lined with silk, faced with various fabrics to shape the garment, with hand carved and dyed vegetable ivory buttons, and mostly hand sewn. The makers name as well as the customers and date the garment’s finishing date(December 5th,1918) was noted on a silk label sewn into an interior pocket. It is a marvel of attention to detail, of craft, of fine materials. It was wonderful to look at the interior of the garment and see the fine hand stitching, the various layer of interfacings and linings used-each chosen to produce a certain effect and with a purpose. And then I discovered the label. I imagined a man being measured and fitted, a tailor doing his best work with fine materials, and in the end a well dressed fellow attending an event with fine and elegant women, removing his top hat, helping her into a carriage…I can get carried away in the moment!

I goggled the names on the label and came up with a few things. J.A. Silverman from Rumania was naturalized in Kansas City in 1898. The tailor AJ Lofgren is listed in old Minneapolis city directories in the early 1900’s.  It seems that tailors moved around from shop to shop and were in demand- usually able to get work when they needed it.

Then today I saw this article on NPR and was reminded that I hadn’t finished this post. It is a graphic on the difference between a $99 suit and a $5000 suit. The comments are quite entertaining.  I especially liked Steve Carr’s comedic and clever reply and rewrite of my comment.  Also, someone has already spoken up to be next on the list should it ever need a new home again.

But of course this all comes down to my ongoing obsession with mending, and belief in using up what we have. Throwing away less, buying less but buying the most quality that we can afford and keeping it longer.  This tux is almost 100 years old and now cleaned and mended, perhaps it will go another 100!

My shibori contribution to well dressed men are my shibori pocket squares-for now, I’ll leave the tailoring to the experts!

i’ve been mending lately

The great abundance of things at our fingertips temps us to forget the value of caring for the things that we do have and the way we can make more of that which we already have in our possession.

mending

Mending can come in many forms. I always admire the ways that jude mends. I’ve spent some time too, really looking at the examples of boro fabrics I have.  Recently, I’ve been mending jeans that my son and I wear. Putting  lots of different thoughts I have been having into action.  And of course I have plenty of my own indigo dyed fabrics and threads which to utilize.  And then there is the utility of it all. It seems I just can’t give that up.  I want things to be useful. And beautiful. Maybe not universally beautiful, but at least in the eye of the beholder.

jeans mending kit

We all know that fashion, industry, and media push us towards wanting new and more. But what if we collectively began to desire less and old (used,worn,repaired) and saw the beauty in that? The folks of the Tohoku region in Japan created their boro textiles out of necessity but today we can appreciate and take meaning from this unintended artform and apply it to the new necessity that we have to conserve our modern resources using and reusing that which we already possess.

modern boro mending

I also recently listened to an interview with the author of the book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth Cline. It seems that there are more and more people beginning to consider this. Her blog “The Good Closet” gives practical tips on how to reduce, reuse, and resist the urges to fill our closets with, well, crap.

What if it simplified our lives, mended our ways, and just used less. Would we be better or worse because of it? Jeans seem a good place to begin.  We all wear them. They last. They are very mend-worthy.  So with that in mind I offer this:

Ready-To-Wear Again Mending Service

Now of course, you don’t need someone else to do your mending, but but if you would like me to do it for you I will.  I’m just putting out the thought…the idea…and wondering.

More or less, less can become more.

pocket candy

yes, silk shibori pocket squares. i don’t talk about them too often but like the ribbon, they are something that goes on in the background of making here.

17 x 17 silk pocket square in orange/red orange

they are kind of self explanatory and you can see the the full details on my page devoted to them here on the blog.

what i really want to write about today are the customers who purchase my shibori pocket squares. such an interesting group of men!
yes, men like shibori too-and why not?
here are the two best reasons why (taken from my PSQ page):

Perhaps the most important one- women love them! Why? It indicates that you are interested in standing out and care about your appearance. Also, most women LOVE textiles. I have been told by men that the women can’t keep their hands off of these silk shibori pocket squares. They are intriguing (and a good conversation starter). They are fun to play with. I dare you to hold one in your hand and NOT be mesmerized by the colorful play of pattern and texture as you open and release the pleated silk. The sheer feel of the heavy silk charmeuse is luxurious.

Another virtue of wearing one of my Silk Shibori Pocket Squares is that no two are ever alike! It’s an acknowledgement and appreciation for things still hand made and one of a kind. In this world of mass production, fast tracking, mega malls, and super stores there still is room for some things to remain small and slow and made by hand one at a time. Remember that, each time you tuck one of my shibori pocket squares into your suit pocket.

the top 3-red/blue/gold based squares also come as a set of three

so who are these guys? some of them are entertainers, pianists, economists, ARS furniture appraisers, CNN newsmen, grooms and their groomsmen, fathers of the bride, boyfriends, photographers, architects, stylists, designers, dads and grads, guys in suits from all walks who want to have a dash of flash.

most recently, a reorder came from a fellow who is ordering a couple of pocket squares for his dad’s upcoming 85th birthday. apparently, dad borrowed one of his some time ago and refuses to give it back- gotta love that! so now, dad will have his very own set at 85!

i really do enjoy making pocket squares for these guys. they seem to enjoy emailing me stories and color requests to match particular things in their closet. sometimes they just send me an order for 4-6 of them and say-“just surprise me!”.

i have had some problems with making them however. this has caused me to reconsider how i am approaching their making. first off, i’ve been trying to make them as the orders come in and that usually means a few at a time. which also means that i don’t get the advantage of perfecting them over a larger batch of producing them. i was just getting too many sub-par squares (according to my standards). making them in between scarves and ribbon and indigo just doesn’t get me the quality i am looking to achieve.
while some people despise making something over and over, i see it as an opportunity to perfect a technique (thinking of those gals in Arimatsu) and i’ve always enjoyed that challenge in making.

double arashi indigo detail


so this weekend, i devoted myself to pocket squares and the stack of orders for them that have accumulated. one issue has been that since these are done on charmuese the fabric behaves a little differently than on the lighter silks i regularly pleat and dye.
some of the pleating has been kind of hit and miss and i am stuck with a box of less than perfectly pleated squares (i aim for the Mary Poppins “practically perfect”). they will be chopped up and put into scrap bags for houston. secondly, i wasn’t happy with the discharge and dye penetration on some and the resulting overall dye pattern on others. more for the scrap bag. other little problems are the ever increasing price of silk and as prices for the blanks rise, they decided to decrease the size! so now the 11×11 squares are 10×10. 11×11 is better to me but OK. so i experimented with the 17×17 version that dharma carries. it’s ok but a lighter weight and while the discharge and dye process is fine it’s just difficult to get the pleating perfect on them. (or as perfect as i’d like). more scrap.

overall this weekend i solved the two major issues that have been haunting me simply through practice and focus. and i’ve come to a couple of conclusions about restructuring the sales of these items. i’m going to work up an inventory of 30-40 pieces to keep on hand each month and devote a couple of days to restocking and custom orders. no more fitting them in here and there. pieces in regular inventory will remain the same price ($24.95) but pieces that are custom ordered will cost a bit more. and i’m going to also add them to my big cartel shop-soon (in the next day or so).

in the end, devoting a larger block of time to them is really the way to go and this will allow me to keep the price the same AND allow me to ship them quicker (win for the customer!). custom orders will still be available at an upcharge and will be produced during “pocket candy days”.
i was happy with all of the last batch (finally!) and they are still made one at a time by hand- just all day long! i have had a pocket square facebook page for over a year or so but just never did anything with it…going to start updating that too. i see a number of my friends adding themselves on there to get updates as they occur. now to get busy and get the inventory made and photographed….

pocket squares for sale in the shop now

there’s more than indigo…there’s delectably diaphanous

lest you think i’ve forgotten how to dye in any other color than indigo blue, here’s a new piece for the new year.

i’ve recently been faced with the fact that some of the scarf blanks i regularly use are no longer available and as a result i’ve started hemming my own yardage. along the way i wondered and decided to try something new. stitched some silk satin bias to some 3momme gauze and this was the result. i’m liking it pretty well. it wears beautifully. drapey, stylish, and of course one of a kind. and you can only get it here.

i like the transparent nature of silk gauze. we need more transparency in 2011 i think.

i’ll be posting them one at a time as i make them for the shop. (they may or may not make it to a show.)
(gotta find me some model-y types around here….ones that can’t grow beards-all men in this house…)

will be posting the new boro packs by morning…
i’ve also been playing around with a new idea…did you see the “just in a minute productions” on my FB page? still trying to figure out how to get them quickly uploaded here via my phone. give me a day or two on that…now off to work for me!

what’s in bloom?

the past couple of days have been devoted to flower making and here are a couple of the new blooms-

(to see full image sizes and comments, click on the thumbnail pics)

other things in the making too but no time to preview now- come on by the booth in Long Beach and check it out-#1150