Category Archives: memory

silk to senninbari

Today I’m preparing the fabrics for July moons. I’m kinda excited again about the cloth for this month’s moons. I enjoy deciding how to delight the moon circle each month. This time I went through my bins and chose a roll of something I’ve been saving and drooling over for YEARS! It’s silk tsumugi. But not just ANY old (and i mean old) silk tsumugi. This is the most lovely, drapey, thin, folk style cloth I’ve ever had the privilege of caretaking. It is completely hand spun and hand woven, undyed or treated in any way. In my mind I see a woman hand twisting the silk thread on her lap inside her small wooden home. It is uneven in places. Maybe she is new to the process or perhaps she knows the character which she imbues into the cloth from the wisdom of her past. But it is just wonderful. The silk floss might be what was left from her first rate cocoons- which were sold off to the local cooperative and sent off to be reeled at the filature mill. Who knows how long ago…I am just imagining here.

The cloth has texture, character, an uneven natural color in places. The warp is very, very fine reeled silk. Dressing a loom with this fine a silk must be an art in itself. There are slubs and tiny spots of darker threads in the weft which seem to me to be from discoloration of the cocoon by the silkworm. I hesitated to cut some of it for moons but I just can’t keep it all to myself. It must be shared. I happily imagine all the things it may be used for by those in the moon circle.

Some time back I did a meter or so of indigo shibori with some of this cloth for a garment. The shibori on the top right of the blog header above is some of that. It took the indigo like a dream!

The other moon this month is a departure of sorts. It’s also on old silk but on the scraps of a great and colorful silk meisen cloth that was one of the kimono pieces I remade with participants of the last Kimono Refashioning workshop. I’m enjoying putting these small bits of cloth in your hands for inspection and wondering.

I enjoy picking a style of moon I think will go with the character of the cloth.

Here I chose a straight forward circle for the meisen silk moon and a partial rough ombre moon for the tsumugi cloth.

I’m also preparing fabrics for the upcoming in studio August workshops. The shibori workshop is sold out with a waiting list. The Thursday August 4th workshop has one opening and the Sunday August 7th has 2 openings. Here is the link if you want to check it out. I spent the better part of today prepping all the vintage fabrics for these projects. I am dyeing the base pieces in the natural vat which is loving the warmer weather these days. I love sorting through all these fabrics and wondering about their past lives as well as imagining their future.
I’m setting up the “alumni reunion” for those that were in either session of the Refashioning Kimono workshops. Look for the date in your email inbox.

I have had several requests for new dates for both the Refashioning Kimono workshop as well as the Komebukuro Treasure Bag workshop. These new sessions will begin in late August and September. Look for dates in the next blog post.

In addition to the moons for the moon circle, I was inspired to do a bunch of these moons. I recently saw some new images of the planet Venus from NASA. Pretty amazing!

new images of the planet Venus

That reminded me of some hand dyed fabric I had bought several years ago in Houston. I used some of it to repair the couch cushions but I had some left over that I used for Venus inspired moons. There wasn’t enough fabric for the monthly moon circles so I just put them into the shop here.

I’ll end this post with a referral once again to the blog Old Photos of Japan and Kjeld’s recent post titled 1930’s Off to War. Another well researched and interesting post about being conscripted and sent off to war in Japan and how it was “celebrated” by the families and the public. It was the first of two times this past month where I came across the term senninbari or thousand person stitches. I had not known about this and it’s another way to honor the cloth and the stitch. He has a wonderful ukiyoe he came across depicting a scene of a kimono clad woman collecting the stitched knots in public at a temple. The images depicting this practice have dots marking the position where the knots are to be stitched much like the kanoko shibori dots that are marked with aobana. A really great post. I hope you go visit his site and support his fantastic work!
He includes this clip of a film with a “song for senninbari as well, Aikoku Senninbari (愛国千人針, Patriotic Thousand Person Stitches), released in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. In this clip of women collecting stitches on the street, you can hear part of the song as sung by Junko Mikado (三門順子, 1915–1954).

just going…no step is too small.

I don’t believe in magical thinking, in being positive without action. I do believe that one can manifest things or people or places into their lives by educating one’s self and taking actions, even tiny ones, toward that thing, that place, or even a person. This may be especially good information for young people these days.

This post is going to be about this sort of thing. It’s also about shibori, Japan, travel, and probably other things I’m not aware of just yet.

You all know I like to garden. Nature relaxes me. Gardening inspires me and gives me small daily moments to appreciate the details of Nature. Seed planting is one example of this. I can literally throw some seeds on the ground and they might sprout. Nature might convene with me. And maybe not. They may be easy to take care of where they pop up or they may be in a path and get trampled to death without ever flowering and re-seeding themselves. The location might be too sunny, too shady, or take too much water to thrive. Or, I can plant the seeds, nurture them in a container until they become a strong seedling and transplant them somewhere they will successfully grow to maturity.
We can’t (and aren’t meant to) control everything but we can work with what we have and adjust and learn along the way.

You probably know I grew up in Japan. I really longed to return-to surround myself with that place I remembered and had fond memories. Many years ago, I was selling my porcelain buttons at Quilt Festival. In those days (mid 90’s), there were many Japanese visitors to that show-much to my surprise at the time. I didn’t then know how popular quilting in Japan had become. I had great fun interacting with these women and speaking with them using my rudimentary Japanese. Eventually, they would make a point of always coming to my booth and sometimes even asking for my help with another vendor to make a purchase or ask a question. Then, an interesting thing happened.
I was invited to go to Japan and sell my porcelain buttons at the first World Quilt show in Tokyo. Only ten US vendors were invited. They would handle everything. The booth would be free. They paired me up with a quilter who was also doing the show at whose home I was graciously offered to stay. All I had to do was get to Japan with my goods. I went from dreaming of going back to standing on the street in Kawasaki. I could feel it all around me, the climate, the street shops, the aromas… I literally cried right then and there, I was so overcome with gratitude from ending up just standing in that spot. I’m pretty sure anyone who might have seen me in that moment on the street was mystified. But I was HOME!

It was probably about a decade later that I had closed the porcelain company and had given myself a year sabbatical to figure out what the heck I was going to do next. It was time to reinvent Life. By this time, I’d processed the death of my first husband, married a second, had two kids (then in high school) and was still in the process of a very ugly complicated divorce that was just dragging on and on. Phil had come into the picture. But dammit- I was going to take the kids to Japan! They had been studying Japanese at school and were anxious to go. So we went! Again, in co-operation with the Universe I was once again HOME! We went on a very tight budget- often spending $40 a night for all of us in a “gaijin house”- pre AirBNB. We stayed with some Yakuza too, another interesting adventure and a story for another time.
It was 2006. I returned back to Long Beach and began to make shibori- and shibori ribbon was born!

Back to the Quilt Festival I went with the ribbon and my other shibori textiles. This was around 2007. Enter Maggie Backman (for whom I’ll forever be grateful). Maggie was the originator and seller of the Colorhue Silk Dyes and herself was a master of Japanese embroidery selling both the dyes and the silk threads to other US distributors. She asked me to teach some shibori on silk classes using her dyes at the show. I told her didn’t feel I was qualified. She fortunately did not listen to this nonsense! (If you know Maggie-she’s hard to say NO to!) And so it was. I ended up teaching shibori there for many years, really coming into my own. Another HOMEcoming of sorts thanks to Maggie. Turned out we had both lived in Yokohama/Yokosuka at the same time. Me, as an elementary school girl, and she, the wife of a Navy Captain and mother to her own kids.

A couple of years later she was beginning the Silk Study Tour to Japan. She had gone once to lay some groundwork and was now ready to take some paying travelers. It was 2009. She INSISTED I come. When I demurred because of the cost, she arranged a loan from a fund her Aunt had left with easy pay back terms so I could go. I went and assisted her in every way I could. By the next tour, she really needed my help (due to her husband’s health and the fact she was 81) and I started to take over the tour for her. By 2011, I was in charge of the tour and although Maggie no longer comes with us (she turned 92 this year!) she always loves a full report and gives advice.

So where is all this leading you may ask by now(if you are still here!)? I’m circling it back to how one manifests the life you want to live. This is for you-feel free to share the sentiment:

when what you do is perceived as being frivolous, persist!

Shiborigirl

In non traditional careers, we are often told to “get a real job”. The arts can be perceived as a frivolous pursuit. But my advice is to discard that thinking. Visualize getting where you want to go or what you want to do. Everything you do is a step in that direction. Even when it doesn’t seem so. Make it so.
It’s part of you becoming. Wishing doesn’t make things so. Actions do. Small and large. Sometimes even just reminding oneself of the direction or the destination is enough in the moment. There are lots of off and on ramps along the way! Take the road less traveled!
*****************
This post above was written several weeks ago and I just hadn’t published it. I was just wondering about it. Lots of activity here and finally now calming down a bit (I think) and I’m back to the blogging “mood”-ha!
I’ve been cleaning out the studio and found some of those old buttons on sample cards- I enjoyed looking at them and remembering the process.
Plant a seed. Adjust. Take small steps. Collectively you’ll get somewhere!

At the intersection of craft and sanity

Who am I? I’m just going to say this here in the beginning. This post won’t be for everyone here. It’s not really about art, craft, or shibori, per se, but it touches on it and really is about balance, mental health, creativity, and life in general.

Maybe it is for everyone, come to think of it. But if you are here just for the shibori, then feel free to click away- I take no offense. Yes, this is already starting out as a weird post don’t you think?

This is a post I’ve often thought about writing over the years and actually it has been touched upon here and there. I might describe it as the intersection of craft and sanity.

Once upon a time there was a little red-headed child. Life was confusing. It was apparent from an early time to this child that she was pretty much on her own in many ways and needed a way to be balanced and stay sane. It was an intuitive thought, not verbally or even mentally articulated, but it was more a feeling of survival. As time passed, the child was more and more stressed due to issues within the family. Stress did not feel good. The child discovered that creating felt good! The child’s intuitive self awakened to this and made creating a way of life, not really knowing all this on an intellectual level, but only in an instinctual sort of way.
Stress=feeling bad, creating=feeling good.
So the child learned to spend more time in that creativity space. This way, life was livable!

Now I am not suggesting that in order to be creative, one must have anxiety, stress, and even PTSD in your life. I would never wish that upon ANY person, and especially not a child. But we do not live perfect lives and many children experience these issues on a regular basis due to many things (even in the most seemingly “normal” life), which is why it completely exhausts me to know that many kids do not get the space they need to counteract these life problems by having time for creativity.
Creativity can be in many forms- making by hand, singing, dancing performing, cooking, playing an instrument, gardening, (even cleaning the house!) and so forth.

This little redheaded child grew up and had her own children. Seeing the dearth of art and making in their school day, the redheaded mom created a space for that. Here’s an old blog for that here. There are only 55 posts published there. I’ve often thought I should delete it, but for some reason I keep putting it off. I just reread much of it and still feel pretty much the same about what I wrote there. It’s interesting to look back and read your thoughts from 15 years ago. Prior to starting that blog as a separate entity, I was writing posts about it here on Shibori Girl. It was fairly short-lived though, as we got the ax a couple of years later. (Most of the sidebar links are dead.) I did enjoy going back and reading the comments there. Special thanks to those commenters who read and participated-many whom are still readers today! (love you guys!)

This is not limited to children by the way. I only give the above example because people often tell me things like, ” you’re so talented!”, or “I could never do that”. My inner child-self knows they are coming from a different perspective and I usually say something like “well, it’s a practice” and ” really, I think you could!” (or just “thank you”). But the inner adult-self knows that for me this came as a result of an anxiety filled life where the child learned that living in that creative space was like medicine. It was also an escape where she could lose herself, feel better, and eventually it became a practice. It became a place where I made a home and just moved in.

I have seen this in many readers here, in people I meet at workshops or at shows. I hear stories from you. I saw it in the kids from the Elementary Art experience.

What is my motivation for writing this post? I wonder myself. I guess I want to remind ourselves that we can alleviate the stress in our lives with creativity. It’s positive! There are so many ways to be creative. It’s low cost! Many public schools have cut and altered art experiences and in doing so, cut off a vehicle for better mental health and well being for kids. Not good. Kids grow into adults. Our society needs every possible tool and material in the artbox to create good mental health in our schools and in our society. I’m also motivated to “pay it forward” as it were, since I personally had a situation which allowed this possibility to exist. Many do not.

Creativity leads to wondering, wondering can identify issues and problems and lead to solutions. Thusly, the algebraic equation is something like:

Creativity + Wonder = Solutions

We can see the results of the loss of factory production in the US. The loss of jobs where people produced things with their hands has left many jobless or in jobs that don’t give this sort of satisfaction and stimulation. Working with your hands stimulates chemicals in your brain (endorphins) that make you feel good. There are many studies about how working and creating with your hands benefits your overall health-both body and mind. You can be young or old for this to work. You don’t have to make it your career, you can practice it to the degree in which you choose. Like medicine, not everyone takes the same prescription or dosage.

These past couple of years have brought us new worries and stresses. We grieve the losses in our lives. There are new divisions. The recent stirrings of war…

It’s the perfect time to create and work with your hands. It can calm the mind, teach new skills, and point in new directions.

I’m going to just leave it at this for now. Isn’t it enough? And yes, I’m celebrating circles having completed another trip around the sun (or 834 moon trips around the planet if you’re keeping track…). So perhaps all this meandering is just part of that….

amazing to think that Paul MaCartney wrote this when he was 15 or 16!

No pictures, just thoughts this time…next post it’s back to “regular programming”, whatever that is!



Half mast…

Some of the most meaningful pieces made by anyone using my indigo moons have been made by Mo. It’s been a heartbreaking week with the news from Australia that she lost her beloved Old Man Crow to cancer and the vast beyond. She has supported so many over the years with her beautiful and heartfelt stitchings. Her stitches and his song have made for a beautiful pairing over many decades. If you follow her blog-well, you just know. So much love pours out of it. So many have joined in heartfelt messages, entertaining remembrances, and shared sorrows over there. There is a circle of friends that although we’ve never met in person, we have connected ourselves together in many ways. For those who might say that the internet doesn’t foster real and true friendships…I don’t agree. There are many of us who have been blogging and corresponding here for over a decade, yet never have met in person. One day…we may!
But if we don’t, I still dearly treasure this circle of friends-and there are many.

Nothing more to say really. It’s enough. My moon flag flies at half mast…for Mo and her Old Man Crow.

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.


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

Ida Belle

I took a little detour to pleat and dye that wired silk organza from the video I mentioned last post. I fashioned a fairly large flower from it so those following along could see the wired edge. I still have to think about what stamens I want to put into- i do think it needs them.

Wiring the edge adds lots of possibilities and can make the pleating come alive. You can get the wire in many colors but here I just used the first thing I could put my hands on which was a copper colored wire.

Then, while looking for some silk embroidery threads I came across another treasure I had almost forgotten about! It’s an old silk crazy quilt with lots of shattered silks which I bought one year at the Houston show.
As you may know, shattered silks from the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s abound in many old silk quilts. The reason being is threefold- silk was often mordanted with metallic solutions to hold or brighten the colors, soaked in metallic salts & allowed to dry, rendering them heavier as silk was sold by weight, and also (I just learned)…to increase the rustle of the bustle (well, actually the skirt) as was the fashion in those times. Bustles-imagine! (Thank goodness we no longer dress like that!)
Unfortunately, this resulted in the breakdown of the silk over time-hardening the fabric to the point of cracking and breaking or “shattering” as we say. For you long time and textilian readers here, this is not news. I only repeat this which has been mentioned here before since there seems to be a new group of readers now whose understanding of such things is unknown to me (welcome new readers- irrashaimasu!).
I made a little video to show you the current condition of the quilt.

Ida Belle

Ida Belle. Isn’t that a great name? Of course I got curious and spent WAY too much time going down rabbit holes trying to see if I could discover who Ida Bella was. I did find one very good possibility…
Meet Ida Belle Sievwright. 1865-1955
She lived in Melrose MA and was associated with this charity fundraising quilt dated to 1897-1898.

After a bit of poking around online, I came across the blog of Ann Wasserman-quilter, quilt restorationist and repairer. She was the person into whose hands the Melrose Quilt fell and who documented the fascinating process of researching and restoring the Melrose Quilt for a special event exhibition in the city of Melrose. Beyond that, she wrote a book, “Preserving Our Quilt Legacy: Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve“. She also has an upcoming online workshop on quilt restoration that looks amazing. She wrote about the process of restoring the Melrose Quilt on her blog in six parts. I’m sure in quilt preservation circles she is very well known but not being in those circles I was not familiar with her expertise. After reading all six posts, I started reading her many other entries about other quilt repair and restoration projects.
It gave me some ideas about what I might do with this quilt I now call Ida Belle.

Now this Ida Belle may or may not be MY Ida Belle, but I like to think she might be. There are reasons to think it is a distinct possibility. The timing is right. I would date my Ida Belle somewhere between 1910 – 1935. Why you ask? There are some tobacco silks in there that can specifically be dated to 1910, so it can’t be before that. Ida Belle Sievwright would have been in her late 40’s to early 50’s in 1915 and she would have been 70 in 1935. Her two daughters were born in 1891 & 1898. Her husband was a travelling dry goods salesman. She would have had access to basic fabrics but would not have been considered a wealthy woman by any means. My Ida Belle is unfinished. The back and binding were never completed. The sewing is very competent, the decorative stitching simple but very consistent. All the decorative stitching is done with bright colored wool yarn. No fancy silk embroidery threads for Ida! The pieced backing cloth is completely made of simple recycled cottons and linens- mostly clothing or linings. A simple and frugal gal was Ida! Even though her family and daughter’s name appear on the Melrose Quilt, she could very well have been one of the quilters who worked on it. The Melrose Quilt was tied with wool yarn, not hand quilted. Apparently that was typical of many more utilitarian quilts of that time. The fancier silk crazy quilts had lots of embroidery, used more luxurious silk threads and often included silk velvets. This quilt is not that.

In any case, I had a great time exploring Ann Wasserman’s site, Ida Belle’s history, and imagining what I might do with this fixer-upper of a quilt. As most of you who know me, you know I would ideally want to get it into a condition that allows it to be used. It’s no use folded up into a drawer somewhere. At the same time, I want to make it so it doesn’t deteriorate any faster that it needs to. I also don’t like the idea of covering the back of it. I find the back as interesting as the front! I wondered about putting a simple binding on it and perhaps a 4-5 momme silk organza backing. That way, you can still see through it. Then maybe tying it all with wool yarn. That’s after doing the repairs on the shattered silk blocks.

Let’s dream and wonder…


no doubt

it’s summer. here, one can tell by the garden jobs that need attending each day before getting started on other things. plus, by the amount of tomatoes piling up on the kitchen counter.

and in all things summer, the mockingbirds sing throughout the night, the fans hum in the background by day, and earlier morning watering is preferred. also, the garden is filled with creatures. (and the dog got skunked)

the hornworm was put in a box in the garden where a bird flew off with it for a juicy meal. the monarch cats are now in their beautiful green chrysalis’ and the neighbor cat…well… let’s just say he appears to be moving in from over on the next block.
i’ve taken to making tomato soup and hot processing it to use the extra tomatoes that i don’t pass on to friends and family. it’s even really good cold! i’m drying lots of the cherry tomatoes. there are thousands i think. each day, one at a time.

the ladies…

the ladybugs have been breeding here and having a garden party. they daily eat all the available aphids so no damage to plants-lucky me! seriously, they are everywhere. these are tiny! earlier in May I found tons of the nymphs. found these ones when i was picking tomatoes this morning.
meanwhile i also continue to harvest and save assorted dye materials- right now mostly cassia pods and marigolds.
speaking of doubt, out a an abundance of caution, i cancelled the in-person tekumo shibori workshop and reformed it as a zoom workshop. Covid does not seem to be done with us even as we vaccinate and with the delta variant and numbers rising throughout the state and county it seemed the right thing to do. and just when i do this, now silk organza is no longer available. at least not until late august i’m told. fortunately, i have enough on hand for the workshop but jeeze…it’s always something.
fortunately, in addition to the organza i have on hand i have a nice selection of other japanese silks for us to experiment with.
each cloth to its own.

three silks, same technique, same dye session-different results.

stay safe, get vaccinated, and keep masking when indoors in public. your families love you.
each moment is precious.

in the air…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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