It’s been 15 years here on the blog and almost just as long Milo the cat has appeared here and there. I went back and searched posts (he started appearing in early 2008) and found many photos and mentions that even I had forgotten about. He has been a steadfast companion all this time and during this past year he even insisted on making appearances on zoom too. It was with a heavy heart that we had to put him to sleep a couple of weeks ago. I was just too sad to post about it and even now… we miss him dearly.
On an upbeat note, we got our second vaccination last week and all was well-even without any side effects at all other than a sore arm for one day. May 5th will be our two week mark. I am hoping that more and more people choose to get vaccinated so we can begin to congregate more and see fewer people fall ill. I’ve barely seen my nearby grandson who will turn two next month this entire year. I know many of you have also missed seeing dear ones. While people in many other countries are literally dying for a vaccine, people here are saying “no thanks, I’m good”. Astounding. Here in LA, even the police are only 50% vaccinated (while having access for months now) leading one to believe they are choosing to remain unvaccinated while working with the public! Even Japan seems determined to have a summer olympics against all reason with only a 1% vaccination rate and rising infection rates. And India! Such suffering…
Over the past couple of weeks I have been going through some of my collected Japanese fabrics as well as cleaning out a cupboard or two. In one of the cupboards I found an old hand stitched cat doll my grandmother had made. It is so basic, yet with a lot of personality. Made with what looks like a cotton toweling and red thread it seems to have been an exercise in hand sewing practice. The face and her name are drawn on with a (now faded) marker of some sort. Interestingly, in one place where the stitching came undone the material that was used to stuff the piece was showing. It is stuffed with women’s nylons. Since nylons were not available commercially to women until around 1940, I had to reassess who/when this little cat was made. So either my Nana made this for my mom (maybe a class?) or my mom made it and for some reason my Nana’s name was written on it for identifying purposes. My mom would have been around 10 in the early ’40’s. Nana was born in 1901. Both Nana and mom loved cats. This little guy is probably about 80 years old…
Back to the fabric sorting/organizing and I wondered…what if I made a little cat based on Nana’s cat? So I did. What if I made one for my grandson with some photos and a story? What if I made a pattern and a kit with instructions using some of the Japanese fabrics I have? And so it is… a quick and fun little project for a child or just the child inside us all. Added to the shop here.
I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile now and after receiving several inquiries after the recent post I am getting it checked off of my list today. I am including here a new link for those who are interested in receiving the sign up email for the tour which I expect to go out in early June. Here it is!
The 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan has now been rescheduled for May 11-26 2022. Please know that it will be a requirement of the tour to have been fully COVID19 vaccinated in addition to any other health requirements put in place by the Japanese government, the airlines, and our hired bus company. We will strictly adhere to all health requests of the host artisans, museums, hotels, restaurants, shops, and any other places to which we travel.
Hirata san (our Japan-side coordinator and guide) and I have been in frequent communication over the past year and are excited about organizing the upcoming tour. We have a new itinerary that includes some of the past favorites and a few new ones! Prices have not yet been confirmed as all that has to be redone in light of this past year.
Lots of thoughts rumbling around here since the last post. This is gonna be a longer post, so settle in.
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.
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…
Recently I did a little bit of hinode (sunrise) pattern shibori for moons. I like the contrast of that pattern -sunrise with the moons. I added some arashi to it as well and new moons are in the workflow.
Yesterday I spent a little time repairing my gravity fed steam iron. Fortunately, I still had my old one and was able to take a part off it that rescued the newer one- at least for the unforeseen future. A different part had broken on that but I had saved it “just in case”. Now I can reasonably get rid of the older one with less guilt. This is my third one of this model (Sapporo 527) over the course of about ten years or so. I do a LOT of ironing with the silk so I have worn out the steam button on the previous ones. They are still the best ones for what I do and still affordable. Not the iron for everyone though so if you are looking at them make sure it suits your needs.
The weather has been wonderful for spring gardening and planting so I did a bit of that before we get more rain tomorrow. Always thankful for rain here. Inside, I have been busy with a couple of needle projects. I finished one last night.
Back to the “fish filet”. It’s actually a koi nobori for Children’s Day (sorry Milo). I’ve wanted to make something like this for a while and I was recently inspired by a pile of indigo scraps from making the last batch of takaramono treasure packs I listed in the shop. (those are all gone but I’m working on a new batch). I wanted to make something using odd bits of fabric as another example of what you can do with bits and pieces.
Coming back to this post this morning to finish it up I read my email and see that the Paper Source chain of stores (the one that purchased the bankrupted Papyrus chain barely a year ago) is itself claiming Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Reported by Craft Industry Alliance here, small makers and vendors are banding together to support each other by asking customers to buy directly from them as well as the other remaining smaller stores that they supply. It seems clear from the reporting that Paper Source placed “non-ordinary course of business orders immediately before filing for bankruptcy”. This is fraud. I hope that these small makers and vendors get relief but somehow I doubt it. Paper Source is owned by a major private equity firm based in Bahrain. The majority of the vendors they screwed are small women owned/ family businesses. You may have one of these stores in your town. You can check this IG thread to find direct access to some of the affected vendors.
Today, I was distracted by silk and a new silk device I purchased from Two Looms Textiles-a tsukushi. They had acquired one some time back and were not using it so contacted me as a potential foster parent for the item. Happy to adopt and try it out! It arrived yesterday.
The first thing I did was to make some silk mawata caps. That did not go so well as I usually make the square mawata using my stand but from researching a bit saw that caps are preferred for making yuki tsumugi ito. Not a complete disaster but not exactly caps. Practice needed just like I did for the mawata.
I used them anyway for my first practices. The thread was too thick but I carried on. I found some caps I had brought back from Japan and tried them.
Much better! Fluffed them all out like I had seen online. I find there is a trick to putting them on the tsukushi so you can easily pull the fibers out to the desired thickness. The think with yuki tsumugi is that it is not twisted- it’s basically pulled out and sealed with spit. In the end, i was using a bowl of water as that seemed better.
I am not interested in ultimately making super fine threads like those which are used in the beautiful yuki tsumugi fabrics from Japan but something quite rougher and folkier like the fibers used to weave this bolt of cloth… yeah it’s a dream. But if you don’t dream, then what?
Meanwhile in the garden, will be transplanting the tomato seedlings next week into 4″ pots. And, my seed potatoes arrived so I am preparing the raised bed where they will be planted. Will add some pole beans to the same bed when it’s time. (note to self, start seeds!)
and in the background of course….moons. I think I am going to make some special sets using only that fabulous silk cloth above. Like jude commented, the indigo is in love with that cloth.
( and by the way…the Daily Dyer is having an issue with my mobile app uploaded posts. Please be patient. I will reload that last post for the third time sometime tonight)
Today I was planting more seeds. I got to thinking about the growing roots. The snap pea seeds I planted last week have sprouted and are forming their first roots. Roots are essential to the growth of the seed and the eventual plant it sprouts. I water the seeds, put them in the sun during the day, take them inside on cold nights, move them to bigger containers when they get too large, and weed out the weak or unwanted plants.
And so it is with wonder and creativity. Once I have been exposed to the seeds of creativity or inspiration, I cultivate that creative wonder in order for it to take root. It’s easy to skim the surface of something (and I’ve skimmed many ideas, techniques and processes) but once I develop enough wonder about something to the point that it starts to take root I want to move forward in a way that continues to develop those roots and lets it become much more. And that requires fertilizing and cultivating those roots with more wondering and practice. The more roots something grows, the stronger it can become. Not everything takes root. But everything I learn along the process carries me forward. Some things I choose not to cultivate in the moment-I may come back to them another time. Things need time to generate roots and grow. But enough …. meanwhile in the garden-
Moving from garden to studio…
A few posts ago I showed you some jeans i had refresh dyed in the indigo vat and repaired. That led to a friend dropping off some old pants he wondered if I might be interested in doing something with them. Only one pair was really of interest to me but seems like quite the project!
Now, I’m not quite sure how they came to be in this condition but I’m suspecting the garment industry had a hand in it. I’m going to give them a couple of dips before I put them in the mending pile. I might be up for the challenge. Thinking on it.
Meanwhile, I posted this ol’ moon today and although it is long sold, I received a very special request for one like this. I will make it with intentions of holding on.
Over on the Daily Dyer, I explained the making of these pocket squares for a special order. Indigo on silk satin. One is double arashi, the other triple. having them in hand is akin to playing with a slinky- mesmerizing.
Other goings on in the studio involve completing a shibori ribbon order for a customer in the UK and doing some indigo dyeing of vintage fabrics.
Shop Update Alert!
AsiaDyer (aka Richard) and I have collaborated on a plan to relieve him of some of his growing pile of “cloth with character” (aka imperfect and assorted). This involves lots of sorting on both our parts, shipping from Japan, and in some cases overdyeing to get it into some really lovely and fun packages for your projects. Each pack contains one moon and some indigo thread to get you started. The packs include katazome, shibori, kasuri, stripes, and solids. The end result is a takaramono (treasured items) pack of inspiration for your creative wonderings. Pair it with a pack of solid indigo shades dyed in the fermentation vat and you have a project in the making. in the shop here.
In kitchen news, I have been the fortunate picker of my neighbor’s orange tree. They don’t use them and they are just now finishing their season (started in December). This week I made orange marmalade for everyone and also am making a jar of orange liqueur. Most recipes tell you to use the peel and slice the oranges but my method is simple…from a friend in Poland.
We spent a week worried about Bella- our aging dog. She’s better now after a couple of vet bills- haha. Getting older isn’t for sissies no matter person or creature. Milo the cat is still hanging in there but the time is coming. I’m spoiling him rotten right now.
We have arrived to December. I have caught up with all the Kokoro order except one which will be finished in the next few days. Thank you to everyone who ordered with the Japanese American National Museum in mind. The largest amount of revenue they will receive from me came from subscriptions to the Daily Dyer. The Daily Dyer got going this past week and can still be accessed if you are interested here. I enjoy the structure of it- now more than ever!
For those of you interested in shibori, you might take a dive into what Yoshiko Wada and Ana Lisa Hedstrom and others are presenting over on the Slow Fiber Studio website under Conversations. I just finished watching the presentation on arashi shibori and was intrigued by one of the historical patterns presented there. I liked a lot of the things that were brought up in regards to using different types of cloth in different ways. Also I agree with the fact that overall in shibori practice, your own particular circumstances whether it is in regards to space or financial limitations, shibori presents challenges to overcome and encourages solutions to be found. The endless possibilities of all that. This is one of the main things that has kept my interest in shibori going all these years. I noticed that one of the things that was faintly mentioned in regards to some of the arashi shibori patterns that are twisted while pushing on the pole prior to dyeing is the grain of fabric. Whether you have wrapped the cloth on the straight of grain or on the bias makes a big difference in the outcome of the pattern. At least it does for me! Try it yourself and see. I discovered this many years ago while experimenting and although I haven’t done much of this type of shibori recently their presentation inspired me to make a few new samples to remind myself.
These were done with a fairly medium to lightweight linen in the newly restored indigo fermentation vat. Cloth wrapped on the bias was very easy to twist and create the puckers in the cloth needed to create a fairly regular pattern. The center example of fabric wrapped on the straight of grain was much more difficult to twist with any evenness and resulted in mostly stripes. Same cloth, same dye vat, same pole, same day…different result courtesy of the grain of fabric.
I’ve been saving up little swatches in a notebook of arashi samples and will add these. It’s fun to try to recreate old patterns because you often end up with something new while learning. The extra cloth will be used for moons and cards. Have you noticed the moon lately? Here, it’s setting late in the morning now.
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!
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.
I started working on this piece of cloth in order to add it to a larger piece I am stitching. The whole cloth itself is made from reclaimed, recovered, and salvaged bits of cloth-some redyed, restitched. This one in particular is from a couple of those categories.
Time stitching is time to think and reflect… When the fabric of our lives seems to errode and threads are laid bare, those of us who have the means, the desire, or the ability to strengthen the surrounding cloth/life can help hold it together. Stitching around the red silk, the cloth/wound was revealed, memorializing it’s existence, strengthened and preserved. The still fragile and ever eroding stripes/lives are grounded by solid yet invisible (on the front side) tiny stitches. The back side shows the structure and the pieces and stitches added in an effort, though impossible, to make the cloth/person whole again. Scars/tears will remain, lives lost and forever altered. This cloth is a small tribute to those who lost their lives this past week in Long Beach CA. In quiet moments of handwork, these thoughts rise up.
I chose this piece as it showed the story of the cloth from several perspectives. It had been reused previously (most likely as a cushion or futon cover) and taken apart. With several holes in it perhaps, the intention being to patch and reuse again.
As I handled the piece to think about how to apply it to the larger piece it became apparent that it needed some stabilization first. Using that same red silk I’ve shown you recently, I decided to highlight a couple of the duty worn areas. As I turned it over in my hand, I realized that the wear on this piece was really only in the warp areas of the brown dyed sections. This being a mainly indigo piece, it was warped in a couple of shades of indigo and what looks to be kakishibu (persimmon) dyes. The weft is indigo in two shades. What you notice is that only the kakishibu dyed sections are deteriorating- telling me that this dye was more damaging to the fibers over time. Was it treated with an iron mordant and not well rinsed? Not sure. But it’s very clear that only those sections broke down over time telling me it is dye related and not wear related.
I applied the lightest weight stabilizer to the back of the very fine red silk which I used. First stitching invisibly (front side) to stabilize the section and then further stitching the open areas revealing a bit of the red silk. Holding it up to the light, reveals its strengths and weaknesses.
I further decided that it needed more stability and added a larger piece of thin indigo dyed cotton to the backside. Copying methods I have seen on some of the vintage boro I have, I stitched the edges and again along either sides of the deteriorating stripes. It’s now ready to be part of the larger piece.
Above is just the process I used to stabilize the worn scrap. As I said in the video (last post), using the red silk to highlight patched areas reminds me of the Japanese ceramic technique generally called kintsugi. Looking up the translation of that word it contains the kanji for tsugi which means “inherit, succeed, continue, patch, graft”. So carrying this further, tsugimono would be something that is in need of patching. Yes, the patchwork that is our life, our clothstory. Stabilized, but not made whole.
Originally, zakka referred to uncategorized or common tools and things one would use in everyday life. Nowadays, it refers to a much broader category of items- generally useful and beautiful things that improve your life or bring you joy.
I added a few new things to the shop under the category Zakka.
I really do get a lot of joy from making these pieces. I love to figure out what cloth I will use, how I will lay out the design and fabrics including the stitched pieces. As I work with each piece I can often associate where I collected each bit of fabric and reminisce as I sew. Each is done one at a time and without any formal pattern- I just work it all out as I go. Sometimes I need to redo something to improve the end result and I even like that part of it because I learn something new each time. The beauty of learning… Here’s a little video of the wallet piece…
If you want to try your hand at making one of these, RIchard always has a nice selection of various textiles to enhance your project in his etsy shop. Plus other wonderful one of a kind objects!