Category Archives: japanese textiles

In my head… and silk sha

Over the past several weeks since the last blog post, I’ve written several posts here. Unfortunately, they’ve been in my head only! As I work through this and that, I take photos, record notes-all with the sincere intention of writing a post here. But alas, things get away from me and here we are!
But this post covers some fun and exciting silk textiles and other various news.

First I will say that local government elections are on the horizon here in Long Beach which is one of the things that have been distracting my mind and time. We have some excellent people running this time, but as usual, we are up against the money and power that the usual machine politics has installed here. BUT, there is reason to hope this time. People are sick of it.Please put a good thought forward for us to basically save this city from over-development and financial mismanagement. It’s a lot of time and an all volunteer effort for us and our grassroots candidates.

Next, I have been working on the upcoming Refashioning Kimono workshop. There is still time to sign up and even to order a kimono it you don’t have one on hand. A shipment from Richard arrived yesterday and I’m busy getting them photographed. I’ll be adding them to the shop later today. There is a nice variety to choose from. I am going to focus this post on one particular type of silk summer weave called sha. It’s one of the three types of silk gauze fabrics that are summer weight fabrics- ra, ro and sha.

Silk gauze is a transparent open weave fabric created from a complicated intertwining of warp thread. There are three basic styles of gauze weave in Japan: ra, sha, and ro. Known collectively as usumono (literally, thin fabric), silk gauze is thought to have first been worn in the summer by court nobles, samurai and other members of the upper classes in the early 8th century.

https://web-japan.org/niponica/niponica11/en/feature/feature03-3.html

Ra, a crisp silk mesh textile is often used in summer obi. Ro, a thin drapey silk woven with skipped rows to facilitate the air passing through the fabric on those hot, humid summer days Japan is famous for. Sha, is somewhere in-between. It’s defined by skipped or very open rows like ro, but more crisp than plain ro. It can also have various weights of weft threads- or even combine materials such as silk and hemp.

Here’s an example to clarify…

sha kimono, katazome replicating kasuri

When I first saw photos of this piece, I thought it was kasuri-where threads are dyed in advance of weaving to create the patterns on the cloth. The edges of the patterns are generally blurred as a result of this weaving technique. Sometimes the warp threads only are dyed, sometimes the weft, and sometimes both. Upon receiving this piece, I see now that this is a katazome(?) piece! It is paste resisted and the stencil or screen used to apply the resist includes the blurred edge pattern of kasuri- so to replicate one technique with another. Several stencils/screens or maybe even a sponging brush were used to create the overlay colors of subtle white and yellow over the turquoise. In the center photo above, you can appreciate the lightweight transparency of sha. In the third photo taken through a loop, you can see the weave structure. Every third pass a heavier weight and more twisted silk thread is used.
Textiles inform life. From the earliest times they tell us about ourselves, our history. The materials and techniques exemplify the skill and craft development of time and place. Preserving these textiles, studying them, learning from them, and using them now satisfies something very core in me. I really enjoy coming up with ways to use these old textiles.

Like the shibori I practice, the selection of cloth to be used is a key determinate to the success of the shibori work and dyeing. I often see people practice and teach shibori without a lot of thought of the fabrics being used. I find that is so key to the result. If you are trying shibori dyeing and haven’t experimented with a wide range of fabrics I suggest you give it a try and I can pretty much guarantee you will learn a lot about cloth!

April moons are all sent out and May moons are on board! I had been anxiously awaiting a silk bolt Richard found for me and was “over the moon” when it arrived. Perfectly timed for this post, it is silk ro. So one of the two moons for the Moon Circle for May is this moon:

Each moon will be different as you can see above. Cranes are a symbol of good luck and longevity as cranes are said to live 1000 years. They actually only live 30-80 years but are in fact one of the oldest living birds on the planet with some fossils thought to go back as far as 10 million years!
The little open hole in the rows allow a little seepage of indigo so the edges are not as sharp as you see on some other fabrics I’ve used for moons. Like I said above, if you explore different fabrics, you will learn a lot! The other moon will be a crescent on an old kimono silk floral…May is the flower moon…

here you can see the weave structure in this detail. It’s much more formalized than the sha weave structure

Speaking of May and flowers…
Of course the garden nurtures and grows, despite very drastic and impending water restrictions which have been imposed here and set to begin June 1. I have been upping my water-saving tricks to include saving kitchen rinse water in a bucket that goes out to the garden. Fortunately, unlike my many neighbors here, I already took out every blade of grass years ago and don’t have to water much of anything except my edible garden and my fruit bearing trees. We will be restricted to one day of outdoor watering a week- likely until winter (or longer!). I expect to see more people taking out their lawns.

And… I found a new textile converter in LA to bias my silk. They did a great job-phew! The converter I had been using disappeared into thin air- poof!
I’m having some silk cording done as well as soon as the silk thread arrives. Ordering silk thread on cones at wholesale became a complicated ordeal! Only found a light grey which will do just fine. I need it sewn with silk so it will dye with the fabric. Most converters want to sew it with cotton or poly. Nope!
OK…well that’s it for now. Back to photographing and editing the kimono pics.
Will probably be tomorrow when I get the rest of them up there.

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!

Up or Down?

…or somewhere inbetween?

I have been feeling very confused lately. Lost really. One day I decide to offer some workshops, the next day I it all seems wrong and I change my mind, only to retrieve the idea a couple of days later. Take this post for example, will I keep it? Delete it? I just don’t know…

In the meantime, I make moons for the moon circle. The March moons are almost all finished. I took a little different approach to March. Maybe it’s the mood I’ve been in lately. March moons focused on process- the discharge process. Discharge is the removal of color- the discharging or releasing of the dye molecule from the cloth. Separation. Like mind from body. Disappearing the color…less and loss. Waning…declining, diminishing, decreasing.
It’s a process in itself to study.


I decided what I am going to do with my moons. I’ve been wondering about that, and about when that might happen. Up to now I have just been saving one set each month along with the description I enclose in a notebook until i figured it out. Mostly I thought I would do a wall piece or a small quilt that included all the moons from 2022. But then I had a little visit with my grandson…
I was wearing my cross shoulder moonbag and we were looking at some photos of himself I had just taken of him on my phone. He wanted to look at other photos and so I showed him some garden photos, the cats and dogs, and as we flipped by some of the moons, he identifies them…”Nana, moon!” (yes, he’s talking up a storm at 2 1/2 now). Then he looks at my bag, and says “Nana’s Moon”. Could you love it any more? I kept thinking about it over the next day and each time it just made me smile. As I was packaging up the moons in their cards and printing out the mailing labels it came to me…a little moonbook for Dean! Nothing too elaborate, just one page a month- small and simple enough so it’s doable and can be completed easily over time little pages I can take along and stitch on here and there. Now I’m a little excited and l am looking forward to this project!

Moonbags

I wonder what some of you out there are doing with your moons. Maybe you too are collecting them until the right moon mood hits you. I hope some of you will eventually share your moon projects with me.

As I finish up one month’s set of moons I think about the next. I already have my idea for May but for April, I may focus on some natural dyed moons using the seed pods from the feathery cassia out front.

Leslie from NSW Australia identified the mystery plant from the last post as a type of wattle in the comments and said that the seed pods from a particular wattle yield a green. Must test that out. The wattle is just now setting pods so in a couple of months I will collect them. The cassia too- but I have a bag of pods I saved from last summer so will use those now. She also clued me into a website I wasn’t familiar with that had a great list of wattle. I only had my own moon leaf wattle so didn’t realize how many other types there are! Especially did not guess that many of them are a narrow leaf variety.

I’ve planted some marigold seeds again for some late summer /fall possibilities. I have lots of tomato seedlings almost ready to plant out. I was out checking on the madder this week and broke off a few skinny root bits to propagate some new plants for another area- they are already sending out shoots! In the same area, I have a cyclamen I planted nearly 40 years ago. It disappeared a few times over the years but when we had enough rain it would reappear. It’s not a fancy one but a bright deep red/pink and in the past few years I’ve made an attempt to water it when needed just to keep it alive. It’s at the base of the ginko tree and benefits from the great mulch of ginko leaf drop in the winter. While i was checking on the madder (nearby) I noticed HUNDREDS of tiny cyclamen babies! Not knowing how these reproduced I looked it up on youtube and saw a fascinating vid on cyclamen plantings. Not having to worry about propagating them myself, I’m just potting up some of these to spread around. They are kinda expensive to buy at the nursery if you want a bunch of them. They little babies are pretty adorable. It will be fun to watch them grow. I didn’t know that they preferred dry shady areas! I think they really like the ginko mulching they get here.

And speaking of seed pods, Nancy surprised me with a package today of the pods she collected in this post from her blog Pomegranate Trail. I had commented on them and they are more fascinating in person. They really do float my boat Nancy! What I noticed also is that they make a cool percussive sound when they knock together. (this is what happens when you have lots of drummers around you-everything becomes percussion!

nancy’s seed pod boats!


And speaking of percussion, we went to see Trev and Jen in the pit orchestra for Fullerton College’s production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was great fun- I had never seen this live and was amazed at how much the music relied on the percussionist. It was written for 3 percussionists I think but there was only budget for one (remember this is education and the arts, not war) and he held it down well hopping from one instrument to the next. But in the hallway there I saw this poster. It’s great don’t you think?

There were also 4 more relating to music and theater degrees. Looks like they had been there a while and produced by the college some time ago…

Also, when I am doing handwork etc., I’ve been taking Robert Reich‘s “open class” called “Wealth and Poverty” on YouTube. It’s quite good and you don’t even have to enroll in a University! I’m a little behind and on week four at the moment. I think he’s a great teacher on this topic. His website is here.

And finally, my hanging orchid (not upright blooming) cymbidium is glorious at the moment…it has 8 flower spikes and about 270 blossoms! I repotted it and moved its location last year but other than a little worm juice from the worm bin it’s pretty much ignored.

yippee!

So I guess I found my way after all…

Full Snow Moon

Today is the full moon and a February moon- the Snow Moon. And coincidentally, we had a cold snap that brought hail and snow locally here yesterday (Pasadena!). Last week it was 90! Check this out!
I’ve been working on finishing up the February moon circle subscription sets and along the way I took some photos to document the fabrics and some of the process.
This month’s main moon is indigo dyed on some very old kanoko silk shibori. This was already partially deconstructed when I found it at a temple sale. Only the lining had been removed.

February’s moons…
I love how after dyeing,rinsing, and drying as well a light steam pressing, the shibori texture endures!!

just a few shots of the work table- plus a test dip into the revived fermentation vat oxidizing… looks like it’s fine! It was in the upper 80’s and even 90 one day so I got the ferm vat back in shape. Now it’s cold again!

i was just playing around with some silk- not a moon but planetary. saw some beautiful Nasa telescope photos that were the inspiration.

This week’s shop favorites were all about moons.

I was looking around online for old images of something and I came across this site which was a lot of fun. I’ll go back later to enjoy more. This particular image about washing kimono might interest you. Enjoy and wonder!

Fragments

Today I finally finished this piece. I wrote a little about it here a few posts ago when I realized I was going to line the back side with some fine red silk. I said:

“The other project is still ongoing but I think I solved a dilemma that had been plaguing me for a while. I made this piece -a bit of an ode to fabric scraps and stitches and wasn’t sure if or how I wanted to back it. I always like the back of a stitched work-maybe just out of my own curiosity. But this has sat there feeling a bit unfinished and finally it ended up sitting next to some lovely old red lining silk. The jacquard pattern woven into the very very fine red silk are beautiful cranes with florals and vines. This auspicious pattern was probably for a wedding kimono lining or some other important kimono lining. It’s a full bolt but disassembled and stitched back into a continuous length. I decided I didn’t want to cut it to fit the width of my piece- it would ruin the full pattern. So I decided to stitch it into a tube at the proper width to stitch the lining to the back of my piece. This way, should someone ever want to reuse this beautiful silk, all you would have to do would be to unstitch it. Kind of like a kimono.”

As I was hand stitching the lining onto the back, It started to take on a vestment-like quality to it. Not so much like a religious type thing but a cloth with qualities that could be used for a special occasion- a celebration or a ceremonial sort of time. The cloth makes it feel that way. In the shop here.

tsujigahana on my mind

As those of you who have come along on the Silk Study Tour to Japan, you have had the opportunity to visit the Ichiku Kubota Museum. There is not a single person that has visited here on the various tours that left this exhibit unmoved or unchanged. Many have shed tears while experiencing this place, or while contemplating what we had just seen, while enjoying the tea room upstairs overlooking the garden waterfall. Even if you know nothing about Kubota when you enter, when you leave you long for more. There is a spiritual connection to beauty in the work, the surroundings and gardens, the architecture, and a deep respect for passion and perseverance he brought forth. Even though much of the experts in the various videos talk about the painting and imagery in his works, I am in awe of his deep understanding of and connection to the materials he used, and especially of the silk fabrics he utilized to get the results he saw in his very keen mind’s eye. The way he used stitch to bind and to texture the silk was a marvel. Even thinking about it now can transport me to that place.

Back in 2009 I blogged about my first visit there I was on the first Silk Study Tour to Japan with Maggie Backman and took a day away from the tour by bus to check out this museum. Beginning in 2011, all the tours have included a stop at this wonderful place!

You can enjoy this many part documentary covering various aspects of Kubota’s work here.

and this website-

Way back in 2008 I made a little silk baby quilt after looking at some of Kubota’s work. It was a meek attempt but I enjoyed trying out some ideas. I called it the “journey quilt”, the moon to guide the way, waves to sooth, and mountains to climb. “The baby” just turned 13! Simply made so it could actually be finished, he still has it.

One weekend at the Japanese American National Museum we studied and attempted some small tsujigahana ourselves. We came to understand its complexity. I have never really gone back to studying or practicing this technique but if you are so inclined, the marvelous John Marshall is giving an online workshop all about tsujigahana! Here he gives a brief description of the process. Here is a link to John’s workshop hosted by Botanical Colors. I’m sure it will be wonderful!

That’s all today. I have had the links to the Kubota Collection in a draft post since December and thought it would be a good time to get it out there since John is doing a tsujigahana workshop next month.

who, what, when, where

Somewhere I recently read that 90% of writing is rewriting. This often rings true when I’m writing blog posts. I stop and start, sometimes by design, sometimes by circumstance. Often times when I go to hit the “publish” button and I see the number of revisions I’m shocked! Some of the revisions are minor of course, a word or two here and there, a punctuation or spelling correction, or just an adjustment to make if feel better as the words roll by. Other times, it’s as if I started out with one idea and end up with a completely different post for one reason or another. Some posts are completed in one sitting, others are written over the course of several days. I never know which it will be once I’ve started.

Sadly, I’m attending a service today for a man named Bill Pearl who for 20 plus years was the journalist with the most integrity in our city. He was mostly ignored by local government as he didn’t write what they wanted him to-but the people loved him and it is very obvious by the many, many outpourings of love and stories written online in his memory. He kept politicians accountable and residents informed as best he could.
He always asked us to think about the who, what, when, and where of a story. Should you wish to spend a little time learning about our friend Bill, you can go here, and here.

Many times while I’m working I write clever blog posts in my head, fully meaning to write them very soon. Unfortunately (or fortunately), they usually disappear from my mind before I get back to the keyboard. If I’m lucky, I stop what I’m doing for a second and jot a voice note into my Notes app for later retrieval. If I’m further fortunate, I can actually remember what I meant to write about from that note!
Ahhh… so goes blogging. At least the way I do it these days. I really don’t know how Bill managed it all these years…

Recent days have had me preparing & shipping out the kits for the upcoming Komebukuro Treasure Bag workshop starting on the 20th. That reminds me…I need to go into the shop and halt all kit sales. I won’t have time to do any more to be mailed out in time before the workshop. BUT- you can still sign up for the workshop and use your own materials. In fact, there are people who only do the workshop and don’t order kits which is just fine. I love to see what fabrics they choose to use. If you sign up for that there is a materials list you can download and work from.
Workshop Only Link

In dyeing the linings for this set of kits, it was easy to see that one piece of lining evaded my poly detector. I thought I had done burn tests on all of them. This is kimono lining that I later (after dyeing) I applied a lightweight fusible to before cutting into the 6″x6″ squares.

You can easily see that one was silk and one was poly in the vat. It’s still been quite cold here and the vats are being a bit tricky outdoors. And my hands were freezing!

I originally thought I would include a slug of un-disassembled but (indigo dyed) silk lining just for the fun of having the participants see how it is before taking it all apart but I changed my mind after remembering how a few struggled with stitching the silk without a fusible. So I dyed, washed, ironed, applied the fusible and pre-cut the squares for ease of handling. The silk lining can also be tricky to cut if you aren’t set up for it and I don’t like participants to become frustrated with the project. It was a bit more work for me but better than having everyone have to fuse and cut their own.
I try to improve each time and take what I notice from the past and move ahead.

Later today, I have a monthly check in with Ann Wasserman with past students of her quilt restoration workshops. (She’s got a new workshop in signup stage if you are interested in checking it out.) It’s just a zoom check in to see what everyone is working on and how they are doing with their restorations (I only have a little progress to report myself) and I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve been up to.
(Ok, so in the meantime the check-in with Ann and group happened. Saw one gal from my session and the rest seemed to be from the prior session. Shares of repair projects all around with one pretty extensive project that took a year to complete. Lots of tiny pieces in that one. It was fun to see the excitement around the completion of it! Maybe the most interesting conversation was about the rescuing of the records of the California Heritage Quilt Project. One of the women in the group has stepped up to rescue the records and the project. Many other states have State quilt registry projects which I learned about in Ann’s class. Some state groups have published books about them. The California group is just trying to get itself back up and running so if anyone here has the interest and time, please contact them!)
Over on Twitter (which I don’t think many readers here engage in) I have been following some great historical costume and fashion accounts. Oh my! Some of the items shown are so amazing I need a fainting couch! Also, some of my favorite Japanese sericulturist accounts are starting to contemplate their spring silkworm rearing. Will I raise silkworms again this year? I don’t know.
Right now though, there has been a good amount of unexpected snow in the Kanto region. The photos of snow in Kamakura, Yokohama, and Tokyo are beautiful and make me nostalgic for the winter snows of my childhood there.

some familiar scenes in Kamakura but with snow!

Japan… I get emails asking about the Japan tour. With omicron rising, it’s doubtful to happen this spring. I will consider the fall if things settle down. Please sign up for the constant contact newsletter via the top link in the sidebar here. That’s the best and easiest way to stay informed on the tour. If you email me or ask to be added to the list on a social media thread, I might not get to it. Just being honest…

My son and his new wife are quarantined in Taiwan for three weeks. Like Japan, there are no tourist visas but she is a Taiwanese citizen and they are visiting family once they get through the quarantine period which is very strict. Their all time number of Covid cases is only 17,000. They are serious about maintaining their low exposure to the virus. Currently the biggest complaint is that there is too much food being delivered!

We won’t restart the tour to Japan until it is safe to do so.

There’s more but must get on with it now. Stay safe out there…check on your neighbors and friends.


textile detective continued…

Now that the holidays are over, and the sun is back out after some very much needed rain, I’m back to finish off the mystery of the silk fabric from the obi I was deconstructing here.
As you may or may not recall, there was a question as to whether the sateen silk backing of this obi was a cloth woven of silk and paper which would have been very rare. I sent a bit to my friend Velma who makes shifu and she pointed out that she could not detect any “seeds” in the weft threads as she unwove them. The seeds would be where “the strips are joined in one continuous thread by tearing a small tab of paper from the connecting strip above two threads. This tab is rolled in the same direction you intend to spin the thread creating the “seed”. This seed is one of the most notable characteristics of paper thread, and forms a unique pattern in the final woven cloth.” See here for attribution of this explanation and more about shifu.

I too had unwoven a bit more of the weft and looked at it more closely seeing that the fiber did actually look more like a cotton or hemp than paper. I did another burn test on the warp just to make sure and it really did smell like cellulose and not protein fiber-confirmed!

I also received back a reply from the Kyoto Shibori Museum who sent me the following interesting reply:
“It looks like an obi made a long time ago.The Japanese embroidery is very beautiful, and I think it’s hard to see anything like this now. The red stamp part is usually stamped with the weight of the fabric, the name of the manufacturer, the place of origin, etc., but it cannot be identified here. The kanji woven into the silk can be read as KAMI GO. It could be the name of the manufacturer/weaver or the title given to this particular obi.
KAMI means God and GO is the name of an ancient Chinese country. Japanese kimono is also called GOHUKU, but it means the kimono that GO people came to when the shape of the kimono came from China to Japan.

The best guess at a date would be late Meiji- early Showa. So around 100 years old.

I have been wondering what fabric I would use for the January Moon of the Month Circle. To begin the year and the Moon of the Month Circle, I will be sending both moons using this beautiful obi silk lining. Can’t wait to get to the vat and make them!

A couple more projects claimed the workspace in December. first, a not so auspicious
t-shirt quilt I have been threatening/promising to make for my son trevor going on ten years now! When he went off to college and cleaned out his dresser, there were a lot of favorite t-shirts going back even to co-op preschool days. There were memories from music camps, summer camps, marching bands, favorite pokemon,surf and skate brands, and even their own rock band from when they were kids. I had cut out the graphics and backed them with a lightweight fusible and there they sat, stacked and ready to go. Over time he added a few more from college music groups, shinkendo, and Japan. As I cleared out some of the workspace I decided that THIS was the year I would finish it. I spent two days stitching them together, backing, quilting (by machine), and self binding it. Done! It’s a fun ride from preschool through college in addition to being a utilitarian quilt made with recycled fabrics. The first photo he sent me of its use had a big fluffy cat sitting on it- success!

The other project is still ongoing but I think I solved a dilemma that had been plaguing me for a while. I made this piece -a bit of an ode to fabric scraps and stitches and wasn’t sure if or how I wanted to back it. I always like the back of a stitched work-maybe just out of my own curiosity. But this has sat there feeling a bit unfinished and finally it ended up sitting next to some lovely old red lining silk. The jacquard pattern woven into the very very fine red silk are beautiful cranes with florals and vines. This auspicious pattern was probably for a wedding kimono lining or some other important kimono lining. It’s a full bolt but disassembled and stitched back into a continuous length. I decided I didn’t want to cut it to fit the width of my piece- it would ruin the full pattern. So I decided to stitch it into a tube at the proper width to stitch the lining to the back of my piece. This way, should someone ever want to reuse this beautiful silk, all you would have to do would be to unstitch it. Kind of like a kimono. Something from the Amuse Boro Museum rings in my head at times like this.

2015 Asakusa, Japan Amuse Boro Museum
i imagine sericulturist feeding the kaiko, the silkworms spitting this thread, the dyers dying the thread, the pattern designer graphing out the pattern for the loom cards, the weavers weaving… imagine what the silkworm provided!

The sun has come out here and is drying the outdoor workspace after all the rain. The snow has covered our local mountains and the new year begins with this wonderful view and hope for a year of drought recovery. About a million poppy seeds and bachelor buttons have sprouted in every nook and cranny in the backyard!

the unity of the circle

I thought we might enter the 2022 New Year with a confidence and vitality that would enhance our well-being and allow us to look back on the past two pandemic years with a certain gratitude and commitment that we could go forward with lessons learned for the future.

Hmmm…that was around mid October. Yes, I’m an optimist!

Now, it is clear the better thing to do at the moment is to admit that we are not quite ready for that yet and to step into the New Year a bit gingerly, with a commitment to looking out for each other and continued determination to adjust to things as they come at us.

Here and there over the years on this blog (entering my 17th year now!) I have committed to a word at years end, and the word that I am thinking of a lot these days is an old and good friend of mine…

P E R S E V E R A N C E

Now this old friend has carried me further than any other word I can think of in these sorts of situations and is often well paired with other words…

love P E R S E V E R A N C E hope P E R S E V E R A N C E
compassion P E R S E V E R A N C E trust
P E R S E V E R A N C E kindness P E R S E V E R A N C E time
P E R S E V E R A N C E understanding P E R S E V E R A N C E
peace P E R S E V E R A N C E community
harmony
2022

There have been many occasions missed, rerouted, and cancelled this past year. There have been deaths, illnesses, pain and sorrows. Too many sorrows for sure. But there have also been births, unions, and celebrations too. We persevere. While 2022 will continue offering us challenges, we can and will rise to meet them. We really have no other choice do we? Perhaps the most important thing we can do is to maintain harmony.

For the New Year, I have a couple of new projects I am working on as in-person gatherings are still on hold. One is a textile talk series over zoom that will (mostly) be about the Japanese textiles I have collected over time. I am sorting and organizing that at the moment. This was suggested to me by a couple of people and most recently my friend Janet in one of the online classes where I went off the rails talking about some of my Japanese textiles. I received several emails telling me how much they enjoyed that spontaneous part of the workshop. OK-I hear you. I appreciate the suggestions and the feedback. Because in the end (and the beginning!), it really IS about serving the needs of customers and those that are interested in what I do. This thought of service and commitment I carry forward into the New Year. Thank you!

Wrap your mind around this if you can…this is a silk weaving! I photographed it at the obi weavers studio in Kyoto in 2019. It continues to amaze me. It’s quite large as i recall. hard to convey in a photograph but quite amazing in person.

The other offering I am doing is a Moon of the Month Circle. It’s a subscription item to receive 2 moons a month. These will be made using some of the fabulous cloth here and each months moons will have a note about the fabric, the dye, and whatever other story the cloth wants to tell. The two moons will be sent out first class mail tucked into one of my MoonMate photo cards. Let the moon guide your inspiration!
The moons continue to be one of my most loved shop items and making a subscription item with them will help me even out the making of them as well as make my income stream more predictable in unpredictable times. Of course you can still order the separate sets of moons but these will be a bit different than what you get in those sets.
Use them in stitching, journaling, and multimedia projects, gift a subscription to a creative friend- let the moon be your inspiration!

Petition of Japanese traders to the authorities. In order not to understand who the initiator is, all the signatures are written in a circle. 18th century.

I post this image here as I found it fascinating. As I understand it, placing the signatures in this circle presented the traders as equals, so no one person would be targeted for recriminations as a result of the request. The unity of a circle. The protection of many by the circle. Just something that make me think and wonder…


Welcome to 2022 friends…may we all look up at the same moon in peace, love, harmony AND perseverance!
Omedetou tomodachi sama!
Glennis

Case of the textile detective…

Here I have to tell a little of the back story to this old obi. Previously I had blogged about taking Ann Wasserman’s online workshop on quilt repair and restoration (see her blog here). I had found her online while doing some research on the crazy quilt I named Ida Belle. (while I was editing this post, Ann put up a new blog post about her latest repair/conservation quilt-a wool crazy quilt. You can see a video of her talking about it here.) In getting to know Ann a bit via email, we discovered we were quite harmonious when it came to cloth and textiles. Even Jude’s name came up as we were both early enthusiasts of Spirit Cloth (currently in wordlessly watching mode until after the New Year). In our conversations, she mentioned that she had some Japanese silk fabric that had been gifted to her many years ago and that she had no idea what to do with it or even what it was. She sent some images and asked me to look at it.

From the images she sent me, my guess was that it was an obi. It had a couple of areas of highly embroidered florals over some shibori along with large lengths of blank undecorated areas. There was what appeared to be a fold line down the center and the length of the piece indicated that it was an obi. At this point, Ann asked me if I would “adopt” it and do what I thought was best with the piece. I agreed, thinking that it would serve as a nice sample of shibori with beautiful embroidery for future in person workshops (hoping I get back to that eventually!). As you can probably guess, someone like Ann is often given and asked to “adopt” a fair amount of textiles but this one was outside of her particular realm.

When it arrived here, I looked it over and took a few of my own photos. I noticed a couple of things right away. First off, the shibori work is really very sophisticated. It impresses me that way where the the use of dyes fades into the background to give the very subtle feeling of distance. The silk used here is chirimen. Shibori techniques used are kanoko (fawn spot), boshi (capped resist), and makiage (stitched motif). I had a couple of questions so I also sent an email to the director of the Kyoto Shibori Museum. (Their latest youtube video is wonderful!) It’s obvious that the shibori was done with the final embroidery in mind. The embroidery! Wow… very beautiful nihon shishu.
I noticed that this shishu has a fairly high “loft”. I asked another friend, Mary Alice in Houston, who teaches this form of Japanese embroidery (you can find her online here) and she said that sometimes the older versions of this were padded underneath. What I ultimately discovered was that there are two layers of silk stitching (one perpendicular to the other) that provide this padding.


What I conclusively decided was that I would disassemble this obi. I decided this for a couple of reasons. The folding and storage were doing it no favors. Storage to me is “out of sight, out of mind”. I like things to be enjoyed and used. So I began to unstitch this beautifully hand stitched obi…and discover its secrets.

If you attended last week’s Komebukuro Treasure bag workshop “check in /hang out” session, after the questions and progress sharing was over, I shared my obi disassembling project. At the time I was about 3/4 through the unstitching. At that time I shared both the front and the back of the amazing embroidery. The back is also amazing and shows the wonderful and tiny stitches used to couch down the gold leafed silk threads. Goldwork embroidery is done using a core thread (usually silk or cotton) that is wrapped with a fine layer of gold leaf. Couching is the main way this thread is used as (I’m guessing) you wouldn’t want to pass this delicate gold thread through the cloth over and over. Couching is done in any number of colored silk threads for contrast and results depending on the embroiderer’s desired artistic outcome.

SInce that session, I have finished taking this piece apart and and discovered something very wonderful. The back side of the obi seemed a little odd to me. The front side of the fabric was very much a sateen-shiny with lots of long silk floats in the weave. However, the back was very matte and had an odd texture. Looking at it with a jewelers loop it was obvious that the warp and the weft were very different fibers. Unweaving a section of an end was in order! The warp was composed of very many fine silk threads. I carefully removed several rows of the much thicker and dull weft threads and did a burn test. Cellulose for sure. Then there was the issue of the feel of this textile. So papery… so I started searching online. I was slipping down another rabbit hole!

I started by searching for shifu, which is a textile woven of paper threads. My friend Velma sent me search for Susan Byrd who wrote the book A Song of Praise for Shifu – Shifu Sanka as well as made a wonderful video on preparing the thread for weaving. I’ve followed Velma for many years and have been amazed at her work and her blog, Wake Robin. I have sent her a piece to look at and give me her thoughts. After doing some reading it seems that it is likely kinujifu (kinu meaning silk and jifu, the word for shifu-paper cloth- when attached to the word kinu) if the weft thread is in fact paper. I did do a sample moon dyeing and when the fabric was wetting out, it curled up like crazy into a tight curl. I haven’t seen that before…


Even if it doesn’t turn out to be kinujifu, I have learned SO MUCH!

this mark of the weaver was woven into the end of the sateen piece

The center of the obi is a stiff cloth called obi shin. In many old obi the center layer is made of old cloth patched together. In fancier old obi, a special thick woven cotton cloth is used. Now days, manufactured obi shin is widely available and I’m not sure what they are made of. Perhaps cotton, perhaps poly. But over the course of time, I have collected and used a variety of old obi shine. I have made many of the moon bags from them as they have a great texture and character as well as being very sturdy. They were also often discarded and I was finding them at flea markets in Japan so someone was saving them. Part of the problem with storing these old obi with thick obi shin is that in the humidity of Japan, they tend to become damp and don’t dry easily if improperly stored. This collected moisture can easily mildew and stain (sometimes called foxing) the exterior obi fabrics. Such is the case here and there with this obi. I also moon dyed a piece of the obi shin. it dyed beautifully…

As I look at the fabric from this obi (now temporarily rolled onto three large kimono rolls), I think the best thing for the embroidery portions will be to conserve them flat in museum grade glass with UV protection. My thought is to frame the embroidery with a border of the silk/cellulose fabric. It would be great to frame it so the back side of the embroidery is visible. The main embroidery would go to Ann of course and the lesser one I would keep for a workshop sample. It just makes sense to preserve them this way unless anyone here has another idea-I’d love to hear it.

After all this, I am reminded that I have so many talented and knowledgeable friends that share the love and interest in textiles, preservation, and craft. It is truly a bounty of riches created over time!
Now if you have the time and interest- go grab a cuppa and come back to enjoy some of the links and videos noted within. There is a lot to take in!

Don’t forget, there is a new workshop forming for the 2022 Komebukuro Treasure Bags – details here.