Category Archives: japanese textiles

a quickie announcement…

I’vee had a couple requests to set up a local silk shibori flower making class, so I did!
There are only 4 spots open so if you are interested, please check the shop listing here.

All materials are included in this small group class.

I was going to post this on FB yesterday as a new event but there was a worldwide FB outage affecting postings,comments etc.  Maybe that isn’t a bad thing?

And while I am at it, I will remind you of the upcoming April 6-7 Shibori and Indigo workshop at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles (or as it is sometimes known as- Japangeles).  Signups are through the museum at above link.

The rain here has gone away for at least the next couple of weeks and I was able to replace the shade structure over the dye space outside. There is a new squirrel in town (or even possibly Squirrelly Gurl herself as they can live up to 8 years or so). She is so friendly to me and personality wise, much like the OG Squirrelly Gurl. I can’t know for sure but am enjoying her daily visits. Buddy the dog enjoys watching her and feeding time but the new cat-Kuro chan is trying to chase her when she can!  SG is too fast for Kuro-thankfully and outsmarts him every time.

I did channel a little bit of Ume san last week and made this bag from the piece of sashiko laced boro from the last blog post. Adding it to the shop now.

Cross shoulder bag, made entirely from used/recycled and vintage materials outside of the thread and the shoulder strap. One outside pocket on back side, one inside. Completely lined with vintage kasuri kimono silk.
Front fabric covered button closure with indigo twined wrap-around cording. Outside pocket fits large mobile phone while an ipad can fit inside.

Link to shop

 

Plus the Silk Study Tour to Japan is in high gear. Everyone is getting ready for this great adventure.  I’m receiving the bio pages for the booklet I make to hand out to our hosts so they can learn more about us.  It’s always interesting to them!  We still have 2 spots open for anyone wanting to make last minute plans to join our textile adventure.  Link here. 
In the absence of the Amuse Boro Museum (which closes this month) we are making plans to visit the Mingei Folk Museum instead.  It just so happens that they are having a special exhibit of the work of Motohiko Katano, known for his adventurous and creative shibori patterns.  I have never seen his work in person so I am quite excited about this.  My first visit to this museum was with vintage textile dealer Carola Pfau’s husband Makoto (now passed), who also treated me that day to several of his favorite temple sales.  Boy did we have a good time! Great memories…
We will also be visiting the Ichiku Kubota Museum as well as the Kyoto Shibori Museum so participants will have the opportunity to study some of the best shibori in the world!

Time to go and dye the rest of the indigo thread for this weekend’s workshop!
mata ne!

Life’s curves…

Another month comes to a close here.  We are getting some good rain again and are grateful.  A cold and wet day means a good day for working inside and cleaning up paperwork, posting online, and answering emails.

shibori curves… like life and the unexpected curves

first time student was patient and deliberate-guntai shibori

Unfortunately, one of those emails was accepting the cancellation of two spots for this year’s Silk Study Tour to Japan. This year’s tour has been the year of cancellations!  Never before have I had this many having to bow out of the tour!  Almost all for health reasons unfortunately.  What a disappointment for those who have had to back out!  Every time I have been able to fill in the earlier spots but now, here we are in the home stretch, having to fill in a couple of spaces.  Would you or someone you know like to join us?   This tour is an exciting and educational adventure into the textile world of Japan wrapped in the culture and beauty of the Japanese people.
What will you experience?

  • a visit to a traditional sericulture farm
  • a visit with an indigo dyer
  • entrance into the beautiful museum of Ichiku Kubota
  • a night at a resort hotel overlooking Kawaguchi Lake
  • tour of a Silk Museum (or two! Yokohama optional)
  • several nights at a resort spa ryokan (inn) with traditional Japanese baths and a lovely traditional Japanese dinner
  • two nights in Tokyo Ginza area with free time to visit museums,shop and a day side trip to Kamakura and Yokohama-optional
  • a stop at a kimono museum (if open)
  • a visit to an obi weaver
  • a visit to Tomioka Silk Mill (new World Cultural Heritage site)
  • a stop at a textile museum
  • a morning at the famous Kyoto temple sales
  • a visit to the shibori museum in Kyoto
  • visit the Amuse Boro Museum in Tokyo(optional) Sadly, this museum is closing March 31
  • a visit to a washi studio (handmade papermaker)
  • a visit with a modern sericulturist
  • tea ceremony
  • and any added invitations we may receive and accept!  (we already have a few!)
  • a workshop with a natural dyer
  • a workshop with Ton Cara-a silk processing and weaving studio
  • and more!
    Not to mention all the small moments that you will experience if you wonder and notice!This year (we always have repeat travelers as it is a trip that can be taken more than once), we have the honor to include once again, the author of the book American Silk, 1830-1930:Entrepreneurs and Artifacts,  by Jacqueline Roberts and Madelyn Shaw. This book details the history of silk production in the US and is a wonderful look at early entrepreneurs and the textile mills pre-synthetics.  I enjoyed it very much.
    Coincidentally, I met Jacqueline at a Costume Society of America convention many years ago when it was in San Diego (2007 or ’08). She had a table in the vendor room and I saw her book on the table as I passed by.  Of course I stopped and talked to her and bought the book.  It was several years later that she came on the silk tour and I recognized her name. I had to ask if that had been her I bought her book from and of course it was!  How interesting that our paths would cross like that!
    You can book the tour with or without airfare- ask me for the Land Only price. More info here. Single supplement also available. Please share with anyone you know who might be interested!

Amuse Boro Museum in Asakusa closing

I had heard rumblings about this here and there but no one could provide any first hand knowledge of the info.  Over the weekend I emailed the museum itself to inquire as the Silk Study Tour had planned a half day trip there this May to see this wonderful collection (as we have done many times in the past).  This morning I received an email from them to let me know that this is, in fact true.  They have since placed an announcement on their website in English.

I can’t express how wonderful this visit has always been to me.  I have been at least 6 times over 8 years and each time I come away with something new to wonder about. I had to really convince Hirata san that this was an important place for us to visit with our tour group and every time we went (it was always an “optional” visit), those who did go were moved by the exhibit and its meaning, its place in folk textiles, and how the collection developed.  After celebrating its 10th year anniversary, sadly, the museum will close March 31,2019. We will miss our visit there this year but there is some good news!  The Amuse Museum will be looking for a new location somewhere in Japan to re-open sometime in 2020. There may be a traveling exhibit somewhere, sometime, as well.
In the past, I have posted many photos and blog posts about my visits there. Here is a slideshow I created in 2015 or so. I was getting together photos to do a new one and realized I had already done this!

I also found this which is even better:

So we say a fond farewell to the Amuse Museum until, like a silk caterpillar pupating in its cocoon, it reemerges into a whole new life!

It’s been very rainy here this week and promises to continue here through Thursday. This means I will focus on indoor work and there is plenty of it.  I am finishing up the selection of fabrics for this weekend’s workshop.  All are vintage and varied. I also finished up the second bag sample and took a couple of quick photos. and here are the little vintage textile packs for the boro side of the bags- they will indigo dye their own base fabric as well as the rest of the fabrics for the bag.

I hope to convey some simple concepts through this workshop.  That beauty can be created with simple materials, perseverance, and the need or desire to caretake those around you.

I was also reminded to revisit one of my favorite books, “Rural Japan, Radiance of the Ordinary” by Linda Butler. (You can find a copy here or maybe in your library) I’ve had it for many years and often pick it up to look at the photos. This time I reread the text and was rewarded with the following Japanese proverb:

“Mu kara yuu o umu” or translated, “Out of nothingness, something is born”.

It reminded me of the boro textiles at the Amuse. Thank you Amuse Museum for the pleasure of visiting and learning about sashiko and boro! We are richer for the experience.

Communicating practice

A new year. I hope it finds you well!

Recently, I’ve been busy doing organizational work for the upcoming Silk Study Tour to Japan.  I don’t think I mentioned it here, but if you are on the Shiborigirl newsletter email list you read that after being almost full, the tour lost a few folks upon my return from the Houston show. Life throws you a curve and we adjust. Those who had to change their plans will be missed but vow to join us on a future adventure (2021). They will follow along online and be travelers in spirit.  I put out a new newsletter and we regained most of what we lost in terms of participants.  There are still a couple of spots open with a few folks still considering joining us.

If you are interested, here is the link  with all the information.  If you have questions, just email me.  Tour departs May 14, 2019. It’s gonna be another good one!

I have been also been preparing for the new workshop at the Japanese American National Museum.  This one is filled with a waiting list but if you want to read the description, you can go here. (I expect we will do it again.)  I also proposed a version of this class (due to limitations of time and facility) at this years Quilt festival in Houston.  We will see if the class is chosen for that venue.  I am really passionate about educating folks on understanding the difference between a fabric company putting out a line of “boro printed” fabrics and really knowing the history of such textiles.  I figured that by making things with all recycled fabrics is a start.  Spreading the word. It’s one thing to talk about it here on the blog and quite another to put fabric, thread and needle in the hands of someone for the purpose of education and perhaps a little thought of mottainai.  In any case, here are some pics of what I’ve been up to…(click thumbnails to enlarge)

It’s been an education to make these pieces and like anything else, a practice. I still need to put the cording on the bag but have it all dyed.   After finishing the bag, I was inspired to do a larger piece since the scraps I prepared for the class were so enticing. I tore a piece of linen off one of the old linen pieces I bought in Houston and dyed it dark indigo blue. I marked the horizontal stitching lines onto it and arranged the scraps.  Then I spent about 13 hours just stitching. It all felt good in my hands as I rocked the needle back and forth. I really learned and appreciated not just the cloth and the thread, but the use of the sashiko adjustable ring thimble with plate. It takes some practice and over the many hours of stitching, I grew to love the ingenuity of it.  Have you tried one? I do love a good thimble and have several varieties but had not spent a significant enough amount of time with this type. I plan to get even better with more practice.

That’s the thing isn’t it? Practice. As I worked on this long piece, a communication between myself, the materials and tools set in. It’s a simple running stitch-nothing fancy. But as the needle pierced each scrap my hand felt the resistance, the thickness, the density of the weave. Do we even notice this these days?  Many of the scraps were from cloth hand woven long ago, most softened by age and use. Most fabric today is made with machine sewing in mind.  The hand of it made stiff with printing inks and chemical finishing. It’s not friendly for sewing by hand. The tight weave of many modern quilting fabrics facilitates the printing of crisp patterns but resists the piercing of the hand rocked needle. I can really lose myself in the old cloth, wondering about it’s cloth story as I sew.

There is a lot to wonder about.

 

 

Hoshigaki, pommegranate, and dyeing gold from red

Upon returning fro Houston it was time to get at the persimmons if I wanted to get on with any hoshigaki (dried persimmons).  Mine are the Hachiya variety if you don’t recall from previous posts on this annual topic. I was concerned they might be a little too far along for hoshigaki when I returned from the show but seems they were fine.  The tree was very prolific as usual again and it simply produces way more persimmons than we can eat fresh or even give away, for that matter. Not everyone is a persimmon fan.

In order to dry them they are washed, and peeled before being tied in pairs to a string to hang. Since I pick from my own tree I can easily cut them with a little “T” at the top to facilitate the tying.

The biggest issue is mold, which I am having a little issue with this year on a few of them so we will lose a few. Seems to mainly be the ones not getting as much sun as the rest.  This year I am drying them all outside. Unfortunately, (for the drying persimmons but YAY for the garden and the fires!), we have had several rains that have necessitated my having to cover them and the dampness is also contributing to the mold I think.  At least it’s certainly not helping.

I have some that are on a moveable drying rack and that set can be put into the garage with a fan when needed.  I am in the “massaging” stage so need to give them all a few squeezes each day to keep them soft on the inside and to keep the outside surface from having permanent crevices where mold can grow.

I have about 150 drying here and my son has about 50 at his place. We still have at least 100 -150 ripening on the tree!  A double recipe of persimmon walnut bread only uses 2-3 medium size ones! They are good fresh with a little plain yogurt in the morning! A few pics…

Prior to taking care of the persimmons, I had to deal with the pomegranate tree.  Unfortunately some were lost and ripened while I was away but not to worry. I picked the rest of the tree and juiced them and sent all the peels and any inedible ones to the dyepot! Dyed some lovely golds on mostly silks while I enjoyed some fresh juice!

Next post will be a long needed shop update! and speaking of persimmons… I made these for the show and missed getting them into the box when I packed!  So they will be going into the shop.

made from vintage japanese and indigo dyed scrap fabrics with immature persimmons that fell and dried(the bead)and the dried top of spent persimmon flowers. each has a small bag of emery in the bottom of the pincushion to clean and sharpen your pins and needles.

 

 

Today’s textile- an antique komebukuro

Back in June 2012, I posted about this wonderful komebukuro.  Here I copy the relevant part of the post in order to list this in the shop.

This particular one appears to be quite old and with many areas repaired.  It employs various homespun cotton and hemp fabrics and the rope is handmade from hemp or other bast fibers. It is also quite large- the bottom measures 11″x11″ and each of the 4 sides about 15″(H) x 12″ .  One side (the inside?) is more interesting than the outside-you can better see the patchwork. I would guess this one to be from the Meiji era (1868-1912). I appropriately found it at a temple sale. 

This piece has been displayed at many of my workshops:

inside full view-1

more inside detail

edge detail and rope

bag bottom inside

outside view 2

another outside view

If cloth could speak!  One can only imagine the past life of this bag, but from all the mending and variety of scraps used in its making, one can guess that it was made in the Japanese spirit of “mottainai” which conveys regret over wasting something useful. Poor families saved all cloth, which was then made and remade into useful objects many times over. I love this piece as a reminder of that notion- that we can be more thoughtful and find ways to make what we have last longer, and remain purposeful.
These types of “rice bags” were used for errands, carrying rice and perhaps other daily necessities, and sometimes to take offerings to local temples.

This one I came across at a Tokyo area temple sale in 2012, before I knew much about boro and Japanese folk textiles.  I had yet to find and visit the Amuse Boro Museum in Asakusa. When I saw it it just spoke to me and I have admired it first hand since then. When I first brought it home it was quite dirty and I did give it light vacuuming,  a gentle soak and hand wash to clear the fabric of the accumulated dirt. It seemed to appreciate it. I usually display it with more patched side out. Added to the shop here.

 

making the most of what you have and a vintage nobori!

When I write a post I never fill in the post title until the end, even if in my mind I have one roaming around my head.  You never know what path a post might take. Speaking of paths… I’m putting my pathfinding and wondering skills to use in upcoming city elections. I feel that I would be disregarding reality if I didn’t volunteer to help. Most of my contribution will be in helping to spread the word on social media.

Please look up and around your communities and city halls and make sure that people have a voice. Make sure that money, ambition , and politics are not sending down taproots that crowd out the voice of the city’s residents. It’s a volunteer thing and there will be a balance that needs to be struck so that work and bills get taken care of as well. More on that later…

It’s been hot here. Watering the edibles in the yard mainly. Into second rounds of crops since our summer is so long here.

I noticed some things around the yard that might be good for the dyepot or other meanderings so I collected them up.  Will be testing them out on some old silk lining fabrics.
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I started this post a few days ago and am only now getting back to it.  The red dragonfly pictured above has been hanging out in the garden for at least a week now!  I guess they are somewhat territorial.  I also ate my first cactus fruit today.  It was delicious- juicy, mildly sweet with a flowery flavor. Really amazing when you eat them right off the cactus with the warmth of the sun still holding on to the fruit.

I should back up a bit here and post a small gallery of photos of my amazing cereus cactus. It is a Queen of the Night (actual name used by about 4 different varieties of cereus night bloomers) and aptly named. I’ve been sharing these on my FB page for the last couple of weeks.
Some nights have given us over 100 blooms, others 80, 70, 50.  I would say that we will have had around 1000 blooms this year when it is all over. I spend much time outside at night gazing up.

******** feel free to skip the politics down to the ****************
City politics in Long Beach have really changed over the years. Most of city council and the mayor are on personal political trajectories fueled by big money, developers, unions, PACs, and officeholder accounts (no real news here-how is your city government doing?).

The most current & egregious effort they have made is to place a measure on the upcoming ballot to change the city charter and afford themselves an extension of term limits (from 2 to 3 terms). And all by telling voters this is a strengthening of term limit laws! They claim they are doing away with a loophole where one can mount a write in campaign in the primary election when in fact regardless of whether it is two terms, three terms or ten terms the California Election code allows this write in effort. I’ll spare you most of the gory details but when hundreds of residents showed up in the middle of the day during the week for the final hearing where council voted to place this on the ballot (all but two who spoke were against and those two were LB govt. employees!) . They voted unanimously 9-0 in favor to place it on the ballot.  They will spend about $700,000 of our tax $ on this self serving effort.  They no longer listen to the people.
This has resulted in outrage to the point that many of the city’s resident/neighborhood advocacy groups are supporting a newly formed peoples PAC- the Long Beach Reform Coalition. This has meant many hours of meetings, emails, & phone calls in order to write the ballot measures’ opposing arguments and rebuttal statements. We were even sued by the city yesterday in LA Superior court with less than 24 hour notice for something that could have been handled in the local city clerk’s office -a correction and rewording of a couple of the statements! Writing ballot measure arguments and rebuttals is not for sissies!  I learned a lot! The city is bullying the residents. This PAC is needed in order to pool resources and help finance opposition to such things as well as help new council candidates fund their campaigns against the overwhelming money of the entrenched incumbents.
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I have spent far more time than I can afford to on this. It is cutting into my studio work time. In order to compensate a bit for this (and be able to pay my bills next month!) I am listing a few of my favorite acquired textiles from Japan.  Some of these I have used as samples for students to view in my workshops or as show pieces in my booth in Houston.  I treasure them all but it is time to pass them along to others.

First off, I will show you this wonderful tsutsugaki  nobori I purchased in a small shop in Mashiko-the home and pottery studio of famed Shoji Hamada.
I honestly did not know what I was going to do with this piece at the time but had recently been given a beautiful book by a Japanese designer that inspired me and used all sorts of vintage Japanese textiles in her clothing designs.
This nobori is likely from 40’s- 50’s (Showa) and is very brightly painted. It is very large and was probably used in Boys Day festivals. I thought I might even fly it here for special occasions but it is so long and theft is an issue. I’d love to see someone put it to good use!
It is 21.5 ” x 204″. The cloth is hemp- it is more rugged than cotton and smartly so for its intended use. Not too tightly woven and slubs in the weave suggest it may be a home woven cloth. All stitching on it is by hand. As a purposeful vintage textile it is imperfect, but the imperfections are not objectionable (a few stains and unintended brush marks -no holes or tears). The image painted on the nobori is of samurai riding their horses- a familiar boys day banner theme. Let’s look at it!

highly stylized faces of both the samurai and the horses and dramatic costumes with pine tree against a blue sky

These two photos are one half of the piece. The painting is detailed on both sides as they were meant to be seen from both. Below, the simpler portion which has the crests.
The hangers on the side are hand sewn on and could be removed without damage to the main cloth itself.

Tsutsugaki is a paste resist technique used to draw on the design outlines and the colors and detail features are hand painted. The crest portion is probably done using a cut stencil like katazome with the black being screened on (i’m guessing on this).
some detail shots:

So now for some photos from the book I was gifted…

vintage nobori as a over jacket- duster length

sleeves use the crests

Aren’t those great?  So now I post the nobori in the shop. I will add the other items, hopefully tomorrow and do a shorter post (much shorter) on where I found them and their history.