Category Archives: itajime

in the air…

Lots of thoughts rumbling around here since the last post. This is gonna be a longer post, so settle in.

various tomato seedlings transplanted up and getting a bit of a slow start due to cooler weather but it’s warming up now.

Spring is definitely in the air. And so is hope in many quarters. Spring always is in the very heart of a gardener and I’m no different. Like Spring seasons, life is slowly changing and renewing. Many people are getting vaccinated, getting out and adjusting to what currently is. Just being here is good. In fact, quite wonderful.

Hirata san sends me photos of the beautiful cherry blossoms in Kamakura and I’m having hanami natsukashii (cherry blossom viewing yearnings)…here are a couple to get you in the mood. We have our itinerary for the Silk Study Tour set for 2022 and are looking forward. The photos below show the new cherry trees approaching the Hachimangu shrine. It is just gorgeous with all the trees in bloom! This approach was reworked just a few years ago and is a lovely walk down the center of the main street.

I’ve struggled to post often this past year, instead letting thoughts congregate a bit before getting them written into the ether. That doesn’t mean that they are more clearly expressed with the passage of time, sometimes I think it is quite the opposite! Too many thoughts blend, are forgotten and so on, but today felt right so here we are. Sometimes I take short notes for the blog on my phone to remind me of something I want to write about and sometimes I don’t, letting the thought return like a butterfly to its host plant if it works out that way (speaking of butterflies, the caterpillars of the clouded sulfers have gone somewhere to pupate, I know not where) and the praying mantis oothecae should be hatching any second (haven’t seen the babies yet).

Fresh on my mind right now are my beader friends in the Czech Republic (CR) who write me that they are suffering greatly from their government’s misconduct and irresponsibility in regards to COVID. I felt so sad hearing her description of their situation there. Vaccines are extremely limited, and lockdowns are very strict beyond what science would rationally dictate. People feel stifled and rebellious and somewhat hopeless. They look forward to a new election in October, she says.

“forbidden to move out of our districts, forbidden to work and not compensated, forbidden to socialize, forbidden to breath without a mask even if there is nobody around us in a 100 metres range(328 feet), forbidden to leave our homes between 9pm and 5am… and god knows how long til the end, because the government has literally NO PLAN”

I know she won’t mind my sharing her words here anonymously. I can be so absorbed in my own world here, listening to others broadens my perspective. I love that we have become long distance friends sharing our worlds. At the end of our conversation I shared the music of Joan Armatrading (a long time favorite of mine). I’ve been listening to her music today in the studio after Maura in India (Mustard Seeds Kolkata) featured a song on her FB post this morning.

Seems we lost a number of writers in March, notably Beverly Cleary(104), Norton Juster(91), Larry McMurtry(84), and Marianne Carus(92). My kids and I enjoyed their work and say a fond farewell, having left us with many good reads.

My heart was warmed by a message/conversation received from the mother of a son who credits me with far too much- but as we say, we never know what good a simple act of open-heartedness can give rise to. She credits me with reaching out to him as a young teenager who was struggling greatly and saving his life but it was her perseverance and love that brought him to meet me at a show in Houston (they lived in IN) and to encourage his interest in textiles and art. It is to his credit (and hers) that he graduated with a degree in art and is now teaching art in a HS in CO and just got accepted to grad school. He is out and doing what he loves, being who he is. How can you not love that?

It’s haru basho in sumo right now and today is the final day. We enjoy watching sumo here (I love looking at the silk gyoji costumes with their jaquard weaves and wonderful color combinations) and love watching both the juryo and makuuchi divisions. In a lower division called sandanme one of the rikshi (Hibikiryū) suffered a horrible injury perhaps resulting in paralysis (yet to be determined). The resulting uproar over treatment of rikshi injuries has resumed in sumo and is very justified. If you follow sumo, you know what I am talking about. Japan needs to step up. Tradition is one thing, humane treatment of rikshi is another.

Here in CA people over 50 are eligible for vaccinations April 1 and everyone over 16 is eligible April 15. Some areas have already opened to over 50 and we just received our first vaccination here. We still need #2 in 21 days plus a waiting period but progress is happening and workshops will again begin this summer! I am noticing how it is affecting my mental well being today. I feel inspired and more alive. I hope you are taking advantage of vaccinations in your area so we can all move ahead with safety and more peace of mind. This is a time to consider the future and reinvent many things.

Speaking of the studio, my recent post on the paid blog was quite interesting (apparently only to me-haha) yet I’m not sure if subscribers are reading regularly. Makes me wonder about that path. I won’t be doing this again, methinks. All posts there are password protected unless you subscribe but I thought I would “unprotect” this one to share here. It’s about indigo and madder and what I am making now… moonfire! March moons are all about madder and indigo. Today is the full moon as well as a shop update. Moonrise last night was spectacular here. Are you watching where you are?

I also was listening to a video I came across that resonated with me by George Monbiot who promotes “feeding the world without devouring the planet “. This also applies to textiles and clothing which continue to be a resource problem. As the planet goes, so go we. We survive by walking a fragile line of coexistence with nature. The planet will outlast us surely, but by how much? That is up to us.

In the meantime, I continue to dye. I have been dyeing madder and indigo. On a frustrating note, my aquarium heater in the indigo vat is out of commission again. I think that the high pH just does it in and results in its early death. They seem to last less and less time these days (this one just 5 months). Maybe this is the answer? Pricier than replacing the heater but…less wasteful if it lasts a couple of years. The weather is heating up now (81 degrees today) so a heater for the fermentation vat won’t be needed soon. I have been sorting through old cloth and over-dyeing in both indigo and madder to create some interesting cloth sets for the shop. Moonfire sets are also available there. A little diversion is always fun. I love how madder complements the indigo. I can imagine the projects that will be made from these cloth sets. From my imagination to yours…

and in the end, a look back to an older post.

forgetting and remembering…plus some holiday fun

What’s it called when you think you did something but you realize you actually didn’t? Jeeze… I was helping a customer on the phone with her order (she was ordering a moonbag) and I asked her which one she wanted. She said, “There’s more than one kind?”. I had to check the shop. I took all the photos for some new pieces for the shop before the KOKORO event and then must have been interrupted and never went back and finished uploading them!

Well, in any case, I’m doing it now. Oops. See the new items here.

One fun thing i’ve noticed in my own neighborhood and even among social media friends is that people are enjoying decorating and doing holiday fun a little earlier this year. With many folks home, WFH or just home and not working, holiday decorating lifts the spirit. Walking the neighborhood at night has been cheerier than usual. I got into it here myself with the neighbor girls and we made a little holiday Santa house in the front yard that my grandson could visit. I did order the plain cardboard house and we used what we had around here to decorate it-old Christmas cards, lights, wrapping paper, extra decorations, glitter glue and anything else we could find. The girls are 9 & 11 and the 9 y/o especially took to it. In fact, she spends some time in there every day she tells me, reading, playing, taking photos – she even made a little video of herself in there. So cute! My grandson was able to visit the other evening (he’s 1 1/2 years old now) and it was a very special treat for me. His favorite part was opening and closing the doors-with gusto! The little house took quite a beating but held up just fine. I had added extra duct tape reinforcement on the doors ahead of time as they seemed a little weak. Fortunately, the weather here has cooperated and there isn’t any rain in sight. If there is, I can easily move it inside for a bit. We add little things to it here and there and it’s a continual source of fun. A little holiday magic with kids is WONDERFUL! (no photos of the grandson are allowed online so the neighbor girls are all i got- but you can trust me they are cute as hell) Hope you are having a little holiday fun yourself!

Time continues to blend days, into months, into a whole year that is nearing its end. 2020 hindsight is about to be the story of the day as all publications/media will be doing their year end lookbacks. I’m not too sure I want to read all about that. I’m going to face forward and carry on.
In case you were wondering… Milo the cat often helps me blog…he’s sitting on my lap as i write this post and this is my view…

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.

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

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!

Sweet Peas for Wednesday

Caught some wind in my sails and I’m busy prepping the studio for the workshop this weekend (lots of cleaning!). There are folks coming from NY and TX plus a couple from here in CA. Prepping equipment, materials, and space.

I had a need for a couple of new moons for something I’m working on so made a batch for us all. I’ve got 10 sets of five in the shop so please help yourself.

When I’m dyeing the moons, I’m reminded that the majority of humanity can look up and see the moon and wonder. I try to remember to look up every night or day to catch a glimpse.

As for the cloth, old silk, cotton, hemp, wool pulled from my “save for moons” clothbox. Several special fabrics were used in this batch but one stands out for sentimental reasons. It’s a simple cotton toweling that had a sweet embroidery in one corner and along another edge there was my mothers name written in black marker. Most likely a practice piece done at the instruction of Nana, her mother.

So not sure the backstory but I saved the embroidery section to use elsewhere and used the rest do dye these moons.

and now for something a little different here…

While I still have a couple of post drafts started about the 2019 silk study tour that I just can;t seem to get finished (too much video and photo-sorting bogging me down) I’m here to catch up with other goings on around here.

Obon is in the air! Maybe you had a chance to attend one in your area!

Last weekend we had our natsu (summer) shibori workshop at the JANM. It was a great 2 days of shibori dyeing and discovery. I am so pleased that so many return again and again to further their shibori skills there- and wonderful to see so much progress. The participants who are new to the workshop get lots of suggestions and encouragement from returning practitioners- so fun to see. New friends and new connections.

egg,rice, spam,nori,brown gravy-coffee!

We had our Sunday morning Shibori Breakfast Club at the Aloha Cafe in Little Tokyo which got us off to a good start fueled with coffee and a delicious breakfast. Sandra introduced us to their spam musubi loco moco style which was really good. Never was a spam eater but I do like a good musubi now and then. Spam has a history from WWII and is a favorite ingredient in several Okinawan dishes and also made its way to Hawaii and the Philippines as a meat staple when times were tough and meat was in short supply. I recently put some cans of spam into our earthquake kit…

There are several upcoming workshops at the JANM…a plant dyeing workshop in September (kusakizome) which is sold out with a waiting list, a repeat of the komebukuro making workshop that we did in January (think there might be some spots still open for that), and on December 7&8 another shibori and indigo workshop(not yet listed on the JANM calendar)- good timing for making some personal holiday gifts.

I also have lots of yarrow so we will have a couple of yellows to play with. We’ll stick to mostly yellows, blue(sukumo-composted indigo), and madder for the red/orange and shift the colors with mordants and overdyeing. We’ll add some avocado skins and pits as everyone wants to try that. We will work predominately on silk but I’ve decided I will bring some assorted fiber swatch packs for everyone to test with. We will be making a dye swatch notebook. I will bring seeds and cuttings so if anyone wants to grow their own, they can. A few of us will get together prior to the workshop to prepare some of the dyestuffs and stock solutions as it does take time.

I planted the marigold seeds before deciding on doing this workshop(fortuitous!) and was thrilled at how well they have done. They are the large bushy type- not the small cute six pack starters sold at the local nursery-so LOTS of big flowers,plus they have kept pests off my nearby veggies since spring. I have tons of seeds to share at the workshop as well.
The madder is a bit trickier- it’s about 4 years since I planted it and have never really dug it up. I’m having to soak the area (I didn’t plant in a raised bed with nice soil) to be able to get the roots out. I will relocate it after this! The sukumo is some I brought back from Japan and really only have enough to do a small light vat but that will be enough for our purposes here.
The pomegranates are looking great and will be ready by late September so that will be deliciously perfect! We’ll have some pomegranate juice to sip!
I’m saving avocado skins and pits in the freezer as are others signed up for the workshop and might see if I can also get some eucalyptus trimmings from the local trees.

Outside of this, the garden is producing nicely-tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, parsnips, potatoes and more. The night blooming cactus is just getting started with its nightly display among the jasmine scenting the air-in the past 5 nights alone 91 flowers have bloomed. Quite spectacular! Last night 40 were open and the sliver of a clouded moon peeked out from behind.

it’s kind of dark and most of the blooms right now are high above us. this cactus is about 25-30 feet now -planted in this location about 25 years ago. I’ve had them since about 1982 or so. I can enjoy them now from my second story window! They used to be in a 12″ pot!

Aside from this, I added some ribbons to the webshop, finally-and some flowers too!!!

I was barely using Etsy over the past year and along with many other smaller sellers of handmade there, are not happy with their decision to only prioritize searches for items with free shipping offered. Now we all KNOW shipping is not free. On Amazon Prime, one pays an annual subscription for “free” shipping. We pay one way or another. Etsy’s suggestion to sellers was to raise the price of items and then to include “free” shipping. How very transparent of them, NOT! The only thing I have in my etsy store are the shibori ribbon scrap bags. So in order to show up in searches, I priced the scrap bags to include the shipping-for FREE! haha. Right. I disclose all this in the listing by the way. The real drag is that if a customer wants more than one, they pay the higher price for both. Not cool. So I recommend going to my website where you can buy all the yardage you want and in the colors you want and it all ships to you for one combined price anywhere in the US ($4). Unfortunately for CA buyers, on Etsy, you also get charged sales tax on shipping now, where you didn’t before (and you don’t on my website as per CA resale laws). Anywhoo… sorry for the mini rant but just wanted to put that out there.

In other news, mills in China are discontinuing weaving certain types of silks. Silk satin for instance. The times they are a-changin’….

wherever you are, i hope you have a gentle summer.
may calm winds blow, peace prevail
and children continue to sing, dance and wonder!

distilling essences

Yesterday,

Pom and Walnut.

Dyeing in the light of the Super Moon.

And Indigo, of course.

I gave them a Moon Bath.  For the shop soon. They are resting now.

Today, thinking about what something is really made of. What we are made of.  Looking closely. Distilling it down. Instilling  Reviving memory…

Yesterday I saw where Maura (of Mustard Seeds) took the kids out to their local area to ask about leaves from trees that grew around them (in Kolkata, India) and they learned so much! And in several languages. They learned by talking to people in their neighborhood. Then they went back and made posters and art works.  More of this!

 

 

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.

moon

I think the thread may be dry now.

weaving across colors and then some

Some things take a long time to figure out.  I wondered about this quite some time ago while participating in one of Jude’s classes.  Then I set it aside. Recently while working on something new, I realized exactly what this was for.  And now I’m wondering again. Getting into the Spirit of things.
woven moon