Category Archives: indigo

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!

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.

Remembering Carola…

First of all, I want to say a little something here about my friend who passed away last week from breast cancer. Some of you who attend the Houston Quilt Festival or Roundtop/Marbuger know her. I’ve mentioned her here on various occasions as hers was always my favorite booth at the Houston Quilt Festival. Not only was she brilliant, she was a lover of good cloth, cloth with a history. Carola Pfau and I became friends over ten years ago after meeting at the show. Her booth, Textile Treasures, was always just that- a treasure trove of interesting and instructive textiles she had collected from around the world, most predominately from Japan and Germany. Over the years we bonded over that cloth, shared vendor frustrations and joys (we shared many of the same wonderful customers at the show), helped each other out, and had more than a few delicious after show dinners.
I have lots of stories I could tell about my times with Carola but the best thing I can share about her is her will to live, to live life her way, and to leave this earthly realm a better place for her having been here. She spent the last number of years enjoying traveling in her RV with her beloved cats making new friends, visiting old ones, and sharing her adventures and tribulations with all of us online. Her recent favorite saying was FUCK CANCER! I will miss her…
A couple of stories… One year I eyed a particularly nice piece of hand spun and handwoven european linen in her booth and just knew it was worthy of some indigo dyeing. I bought the piece, $100 for a 2 yard cut (special vendor discount applied) and returned from the show with it. It was about 20″ wide, had lots of character, texture, and potential. I was actually a bit intimidated by it. I didn’t want to ruin it! I hung it on the back of a door near my flower making table and just looked at it for a year. Finally, I made the attempt. I sketched out a plan and set up to dye the piece. I opted for simplicity, applying some itajime techniques I learned from Satoh san. Satisfied with the result, it must have been two shows after making the purchase, I took it back to the Houston show, hung it on the edge of the booth, and put a price on it. Carola wandered by the booth and admired it and asked the price. I asked if she remembered this cloth. She laughed when she realized I had bought it from her. She ended up taking it back to her booth. We had a good laugh about that. I was so pleased she liked it enough to buy it back (vendor discount applied).
Carola had spent a lot of time and had lived in Japan with her husband Makoto. One year, when I was going to Japan, she insisted I stay in her room at their apartment in Tokyo. She was in Austin but Makoto was fine with it she said. It was a great visit. Makoto loved to haunt the temple sales and flea markets which was exactly what I wanted to do. We spent a couple of days having the best time shopping for textiles, some for me and others for Carola that I knew would sell at the shows Carola was doing at the time. It was that trip that I found the used zakuri (silk reeling device) that I brought back with me (more on the zakuri later in the post). Makoto had a nice collection of porcelain sake cups he was adding to. He also took me to see the Mingei Museum for the first time. (old blog post on this here)
Treasured memories AND textiles!
Right around the time I met her, I remember her telling about her attempt to get her license renewed at the DMV. She sent me this link. It is classic Carola! I went back and watched it. It also reminded me of how she took no prisoners with the medical and insurance companies during her fight to get the healthcare she needed and wanted after her breast cancer diagnosis. She visited me in her travel van early on in order to get access to cannabis edibles that were available here in CA but not in TX. They helped her sleep when difficult treatments and medications did not.
Her sister wrote a blog post in memoriam to Carola.
Ahhh Carola…you will be missed, remembered dearly and hilariously!
Sayonara Carola- mata ne!

Continuing along about the zakuri I purchased in Japan, I recently received a note from my favorite shibori expert Karren Brito. She was interested in procuring a zakuri that she could pass along to friends in Oaxacca that are raising silkworms there. Since workshops here are not happening for a while, I thought that that the zakuri I purchased in Japan with Makoto would be doing more service there than here. I have the other one I am using and I loved the idea of sending it to Karren and the silk workers down there. She tells me that they have been raising silkworms in Mexico for 500 years! I did not know this. She also tells me that in order to get silkworm eggs from the government for commercial rearing, you must have 200 mulberry trees. Interesting! Boxed up and sent via DHL, the zakuri is now stuck in customs in Mexico City…we await clearance. Apparently, being made of wood, there is a concern. Wish us luck!

In silkworm news here, the “tiny masters” have entered the 3rd instar (stage). It’s much easier to clean the trays now they are larger. I have a couple of neighborhood kids raising 20 each. It’s a good project for kids. Two are elementary schoolers and the other is a HS student. I sent them all several interesting links to study. They asked me if they could let them emerge, mate, and lay eggs. Yes!

As for the numbers…we reached 100 deaths this past weekend and are now up to 108 as of today. I need to rip more strips of indigo fabric… 😦

It’s been hot here lately-mid to upper 90’s even here at the beach. Thankfully, today started a cooling trend. The garden is coming along nicely-lots of vegetables!

Milo the cat has resumed coming downstairs! He hasn’t been downstairs in years! Maybe it’s the silkworms…
This is actual speed video. The others I have posted were time lapsed. Here they look like they are living in slo-mo.

And, finally, I was putting together various test scraps from the fermentation vat for a base when I heard about Carola. It prompted me to dig into some of the linen I still had from her, cut a strip and dye a moon. This is now morphing into something else entirely.

73, 75, 81…

I was thinking that this post would be about looking back to various Silk Study Tours to Japan and when I started to go through photos of trips going back to 2009, I became overwhelmed. So many photos, so many memories…I think this weekend I will add some new photos to this page. There is also the small blog I did in 2011 on the tour. Perhaps this will do for now.

So, I went and fed the silkworms instead. Then I pulled some cocoons out of the freezer and reeled about 60 or so. Not too many, just 60. I want to get better at this so…practice!

I also want to get to the point where I am adept at twisting them to create something akin to 8ply. That would be about 240 individual strands of silk as I reel about 22-25 cocoons at a time.Perhaps I will dye them in the ferm vat and embroider or sew with them. perhaps I will save up for my desire to actually weave a bit of cloth from cocoons I raised, reeled, and dyed. The reeling went well after initially working out a couple of bugs. Then I realized I need to get a few more itomaki (bobbins) in order to really do this. I found that one of my antique ones actually works with my newer zakuri, so that’s a start. I will go forward with these two just to get a sense of going and a direction. Doing this while raising a small batch of silkworms seems appropriate and even more interesting to me.
I had my friend Nobue Higashi on my mind the entire time as she is such an expert at both sericulture and silk reeling. She is now feeding their first set of silkworms of the season. They have reached their 4th instar now. See her latest blog post here.
I don’t post much to IG these days but a recent post of a time lapse of the silkworms eating brought the attention of someone I was not familiar with and found very interesting. Lisa Onaga has some very interesting writings and research on her blog. It’s more for the “silk nerd” but I know there are some of you out there because some of you have gone on the silk tour-and some more than once!
I’ve been reaching out to some of the past participants to check in with them and touch base- very nice to connect! It’s a long list so won’t get to everyone but feel free to reach out in this direction as well.


The other day I was working on the new indigo vat (update- it’s doing great!) and realized I was really upset about something I had read on twitter earlier. I read the words “human capital stock“. It stuck in my head as I worked and I started to wonder …
This can be viewed as political if you wish, but referring to people as “human capital stock” leaves me nauseated. Regardless of who is doing it. I was in the middle of dyeing some indigo cloth for something I am working on (a background piece for something Spirit Cloth -ish). I was ripping some edges which I was piling up and using in the garden to tie up the tomato vines. I then heard the current reported COVID death stats for my city (Long Beach,CA) which was 73. I kept on ripping. It was strangely satisfying. I even did a short video of it. The sound, mesmerizing…

Then I started counting the strips, as I approached 73 I started wondering…then I started tying them to the bushes in the front yard. I added 2 more the next day-75. Now, I must go out and add 6 more-81. It’s become a somber and thoughtful visual representation for me. People walk by and wonder. There is no explanation out there. But if you know me and follow this blog, I always say, we need more wonder in the world…

As the “opening” continues, so does the dying and tying on. Take care everyone…

waking up…

The new fermentation vat is already waking up and so are the new little silkworms. It’s a good day.

indigo journal

And this morning…

good hana means fermentation is taking place
if you look closely…
test strips

To beginnings and endings

I added a new Moonmate video a few days ago yet never got this blog post finished to announce it. This is the shortest one so far! Originally I thought they would all be about 5 minute videos but up to now I have not been able to achieve that. Today’s video focuses on making some kakishibu base fabric as a starting point- check it out…

Generally, it takes me a bit to write a post and these days you would think that would be simple, given that we are all staying at home. But herein lies the problem! We are all staying at home! And staying at home with two musicians leads to some interesting days. No one is going anywhere so finding a nice block of uninterrupted time in which to write/record/teach is somewhat problematic. In the before times, each of them would regularly be gone for hours at a time but not now! We are all seeking some separate space for our various activities. Even my noise cancelling headphones can only do so much and more often just serve as a visual reminder that I am doing my own thing. My blog posts are being written in fits and spurts and not in one nice stream of thought. On the other hand, there are positives as well- Trevor and I are enjoying more gardening time together and and Phil is working on more recordings. Plus, a marimba has arrived!

There have been many points over the past couple of weeks where I said to myself: “hey me, that is something I want to include in my next blog post”, but alas-much of it fades away as time passes by as I flit like a butterfly from one thing to the next…. I really should write them down. (ps…the monarchs are laying lots of eggs and caterpillars are hatching all over the yard!)

Here are a few links to thankfulness…that I managed to remember!

Mo from her blog “It’s Crow Time” wrote a beautiful post that included some moons and a wonderful bag she made for a friend. She’s been a long time and patient moonmate…thanks Mo! Hers is a blog I recommend subscribing to by email.

And then again, my daily read and maybe yours too, is Jude’s Spirit Cloth-taking a new turn from a new place. She is doing a “work beside me” type project that many are enjoying. This post, from a few days ago, features moons and the thought of overlapping as an idea.

And John Marshall is now doing online workshops! Maybe I mentioned that in the previous post. I finally was able to secure a copy of his book “Singing the Blues” just in time for the new indigo vat.

I’m making a new natural indigo vat- finally. An organic fermentation vat. I didn’t have enough indigo for a full 40 gallon vat so started with a smaller 10 gallon one. Pasted up the indigo, measured out the other ingredients, pulled 10 gallons of rainwater I had collected for a large vat, and dug the rest of my madder so I could use it in this vat. Moved the madder to a new location.

I have wanted to try rainwater for quite some time and now finally getting the chance. I notice that it is one full point higher (9) in pH than our regular tap water (7.8). I re-calibrated my ph meter and realized that I needed a new container of calibrating solution but had enough for about 2 more times. Used up the last of my soda ash so ordered a bit of that too from a local pool supply shop. Also found that my titanium aquarium heater was no longer working so went ahead and ordered one. Seems they have gotten cheaper since the last time I ordered one-hope it’s a good one for my purposes. It’s still cool at night here (upper 50’s/low 60’s) so it needs a little help. I have it sitting in a sunny location for the time being and will dig out some insulating wrap for it today.
After retrieving the wheat bran, indigo and some additional madder from the garagio freezer, I note that a good sorting out of the freezer is in order. There are dyestuffs, cocoons and other materials in there along with walnuts (squirrels continue to visit), last seasons roasted hatch chili peppers (very spicy!), various flours and other things. Need to remove all and defrost this week.
Updates on how the vat is doing in the next post I imagine…

On a sad note, I saw a notice that Michelle Whipplinger of Earthues has passed away. I didn’t purchase often from her site but did gain invaluable information from her writings. I know many were fortunate to take workshops from her and benefit directly from her global expertise gained over a long and sustained practice.
She left a beautiful, kind and compassionate knowledge base in her wake for us to enjoy. Blessings to her memory and to her family and friends.

And in celebration of beginnings… my old silk moth eggs did not hatch but I ordered a small batch of eggs (mainly since I had gotten the neighbor kids interested and a little home schooled science might be good) and they should be hatching any day now.

To beginnings and endings…and to continuing. I think I’ll leave it here.

In the Moment

Time slowed a bit this week, or at least that’s my perception. In the Moment.

I did a little tinkering with moonmaking and the result was a pleated moon on silk ro. I included a bit on that in the new moonmates video.

I talked a little bit about the fabrics I use. I could go on and on with that topic as it really is key to dyeing anything at all and can dictate the type of shibori process best suited for the cloth.

But back to the pleated moon. I’ve wanted to try this for some time. I really liked the process. Adjustments were made to allow the pleats to be retained (not wetting the fabric first, then letting the piece dry while clamped after rinsing out well). Then the whole thing was trimmed a bit before stabilizing on a background cloth using Jude’s glue stitch (or invisible basting stitch). I love the sculptural quality of it stitched onto the background. I don’t know where this piece is going or what it will lead to. For now, I have it pinned to the wall where I can think on it a while. What I did find was that the pleats were easily retained- even around the outside edge of the resist. The silk has a memory and unless forcefully removed, remains.

Here is a quicklink to Jude’s youtube showing her glue stitch that I referred to.
There were other interesting moons this week, they continue to fascinate me, endlessly.

TIme now to go do a drop off of supplies to Amma. For some reason this past week the facility would not allow the Kaiser hospice nurse to do her regular visit there- without explanation. After a series of calls to various people in positions to question this, nurse visits have resumed. You really do have to keep up with what is going on in these facilities.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Mata ne!

floating…

Time seems to have taken on a strange floating quality these days. Not really sure where it’s going, or where we are on the timeline. Here we don’t operate on a M-F or a 9-5 schedule anyway, but I hear others asking “what day is it?”. I know it’s Wednesday here because it’s street sweeping, if that helps…

I hope you are reaching out to close friends and family to check in on them and say hello. I know I am. In most cases, they are fine, staying home, and riding this out. But sometimes, they are not. I reached out to my good friend VaVa in Houston to see how she was and how it was going there, only to find out that last week she had a stroke and was in a car accident! She will be in rehab for at least a couple of months to recover and regain her lost functions. Some of you may have met her working in my booth at the Houston show. I was so glad I reached out now. I am so far away and can’t pop in to visit her but will be checking in with her daily. Love to you VaVa!
So do, check in. You just never know!

As the “stay at home” order continues, we can’t go and visit my MIL who we had just moved to a board and care home that is much closer to us. She’s doing OK but not being able to visit her is concerning. Our communication is limited to texting and facebook-she has aphasia as well and can no longer speak. Her iPad is her window to the world and to her family in NZ and Iceland. We go and drop off things she needs each week. We will have a party when this is over and get to see her in person again! I know many of you are separated from family as well. It’s really an easy choice as they are safer in isolation. We will hang in there together!

After the last post and video tutorial I decided I wanted to make the tutorial vids 5-7 minutes long max. Nope! Today’s moonmaker tutorial was even longer, so I broke it up into two vids. Hopefully, I can get them down to the 5-7 minute goal. Today’s tutorial shows a moon using two different techniques- arashi and itajime shibori. I also added a little something else in the second video. This video shows you how to use a “blocking fabric” in itajime. It can be applied to larger board itajime as well. Think about how you might use this technique.

Today is a new moon with all the possibilities of starting anew. It’s a good time to sprout new seeds of intention. Soon, we will be able to look up at the moon together again and watch as it grows full. Meanwhile, take care, reach out, stay healthy.