Category Archives: memory

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.

 

 

more mottainai …

A recent interaction on a FB post comment thread led me to thinking about sewing boxes.  It was a very funny meme shared in a closed group and went like this (some sewers will also think this is funny):
In any case, it was about preferring cookies over sewing supplies (when you presumably had no use for sewing supplies and loved cookies). We got into a conversation about remembering how personal sewing baskets can be and I said I preferred a tin of sewing supplies over a tin of cookies (especially since I could bake cookies any day of the week but to be the recipient of someone’s sewing basket…well…it was like being the keeper of their stories).

Over the years I have become the receiver of several such boxes, baskets or tins acquired by gift, trade, or purchase at a yard sale. Each sewing collection is very personal and tells a story. It’s so much fun to sort  through each collection.

I’m sure many of you know what I mean. You could also tell sewing box stories.

I even mention this since we are talking about mottainai again which is really what this meme is about!
Why throw away a perfectly good storage box?  Save and re-use! This was a Japanese American based group so it was fun to see all the comical comments about expecting something delicious only to find out that there were sewing and mending supplies inside.

I started this post a day ago and even today the thread still grows.  It really struck a vein of memories for many and I thought you would enjoy the story.

I sadly report that tonight my old man kitty, Toby, has been having some seizures for the past several hours. He’s not really mine, but I’m his.  He used to live a few doors down but decided to relocate here a couple of years ago and goes home to visit on occasion.  We’ve been attending to his needs and declining health these past couple of years but sadly I think this is the end.

He’s sitting at my feet as I write this…

I’ll sit with him tonight and if need be, take him for a last call at the vet tomorrow.  He’s been my constant companion for the past year and a half…

I know my heart will need a little mending when he’s gone.

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.

 

the sacred stitch, revisited

I came back to this post, originally published in December of 2011 because of a new comment from Linda who had visited it two years after it published. Five years late, she reports she is well and still kicking!
It gave me an opportunity to reflect on a few things and wonder how I felt about not only what I had written, but also about all the lovely and thoughtful comments by you, the readers.  I find I’m good with all of it and pleased to see how many of the comments came from folks I still interact with today. I see how many of you have persisted, endured, grown, and created over the intervening (7!) years.  Sashiko is more popular than ever these days and I’m pleased to say that it is the hand stitching method that won out over the machine on this one.
Out of curiosity, I searched for the sashiko machine online and found a forum where people were talking about their experience with it and it seems that it was pretty finicky with a high price and without good customer support. It seems the machine is still being made for home sewers and can often be found “on sale” for $1499 (as opposed to the original $2000).

Originally, I thought I would just republish the post with today’s date but then realized that editing the date would take it out of it’s space-time continuum and I don’t want to mess with the gravity of such things.

You just have to go to the post link yourself. You might be interested in re-reading it or maybe you never read it the first time. Don’t skimp on reading the comments.

Today, Toby watches the silkworms while I clean out the frass.

 

carry on child…and wonder

I remember when I was 13 and this song came out.  I believed it. So did many others I’m guessing.  We lived in Japan and we heard it on Armed Forces Radio like all the top hits. The Vietnam War was ongoing and not to be ended for several more years. We got a lot of the war news in the daily Stars and Stripes.

I heard it again the other day and I still loved the emotion behind it. But it made me sad to hear it in our present time. In 1970 it made me feel happy and hopeful! At 13 I was not very aware of race, racism, or of the disparity life was dealing out to non-whites in the US. We were growing up in another country and when listening to the radio I often did not know (or wonder about) the race of the groups we heard until I stumbled on an album cover at the PX and when that happened it was exciting. I had my own reasons for wanting to believe the words of this song and it wasn’t until years later when we had returned to the US that it started occurring to me that this song was written about something I had no reason to understand based on my own experience at that time. Thankfully, that has changed. But maddeningly, for many, that day has still not come to pass.  We simply cannot continue down this path.  It is such a waste of our collective potential.
I was reading as I always do, jude’s blog, about saying what we are thinking. I tend to keep most of it to myself, at least here. But I am always thinking as I work and it becomes intertwined in everything I do and everything I make. It can’t NOT be that way.
So, this is what I was thinking about this morning as I prepared some silk for an upcoming workshop at the JANM. You can read more about the workshop in the previous post.
As for the silks, these are mostly collected from the last trip to Japan. Found in dark shop corners, as they are all leftover from unassembled kimono and were un-dyed which makes them perfectly suited for dyeing mandala but generally overlooked by other customers there.  Fabric kits this time include habutai, jacquards, chirimen, organza and some satin organza (new to me and difficult to work with -so far).

I actually had to go out and buy a backup sewing machine for this workshop-picked up a low end brother machine-something in case my regular machine takes a dive during the workshop and allows us to have two machines going.  In the past I just had the one and hoped for the best!  In Houston when I do this workshop we have rooms full of machines and everyone can sew their own.  This workshop requires a sewing machine.
Encouraged by jude’s blog post this morning, I dug out a video I made a month or so ago that I never used. It’s a few “loose thoughts” stitched together in video form. This one’s for you jude!

As for other goings on here, my shibori ribbon likes to travel the world and has been to so many more places than I have!  Recently to Russia, Italy, Poland, and the UK. So that continues.

The garden is producing tomatoes! Kind of crazy for January but I took a chance on equally crazy weather and voila-tomatoes! Also there are lettuces, swiss chard, carrots, onions, beets and broccoli for now. It’s also citrus time here still and whether I am sharing my own or enjoying the bounty from others we have our quota of vitamin C covered daily here. I hope you are as fortunate.

Ooh Child…

wishes

Our wishes came true here- r a i n !

More expected tonight. We are way behind and grateful. So far no downpours here and we hope for the best in the burn areas.

Rain necessitated taking some photos indoors in poor lighting in order to list some things in the shop. Moons mainly. All indigo. Some moons on silk, some on cotton and all vintage cloth and collected in Japan. Several scarves, some with moons and others using various shibori techniques are also there. In she shop now, here.

In addition, over the turn of the new year, some lovely new silk shibori ribbon has arrived in Italy and in Russia.

There are new classes coming up as well. Two at the Japanese American National Museum (still open) and one at the Fresno Fiber Guild (sold out).
I did a little slideshow for each one –
-on Saturday and Sunday, February 3-4 from 11 AM to 4PM it’s Shibori Mandalas on Silk.
(sign up here)

-and then on March 24th and 25th it’s more of Indigo Shibori dyeing
(sign up here)

And one last thing, I will be sending out an email for the 2019 Silk Study Tour to Japan to interested parties who have indicated interest via the Constant Contact newsletter (signup here and in the right hand sidebar). I have been working on editing a group of photos into a slideshow from last year’s tour.  It’s hard to select 30 or so out of thousands! But the memories I had while sorting were wonderful!
Coming soon!

 

 

 

 

the wayback machine…

Just wanted to make sure this recently surfaced image makes it into the Wayback Machine (here https://web.archive.org/ ).

Even longer than I remembered, the moon has figured into my work. I was reminded by this photograph. As I recall, I was sitting outside the local community pool, likely babysitting. I did a lot of that in HS.  I used most of the $ to buy art supplies, fabric to sew clothes, and parts to upgrade my 10 speed.  I’m not sure why my pieces were hanging on the fence here. Maybe some sort of “show”? The piece on the left was my first try at batik.  The one on the right was a hooked wool rug from a design I did on paper. Even back then I was fiddling with color and fiber. I was in the 10th grade, so about 16 years young.

about 44 years ago in Burke, Virginia

My sister just digitized a trove of old photos (almost 800). There are some classics there.  I pulled a few more to post on FB for the Yokohama Girls. (I’ll tag you there once I get them posted.)

And a special thanks to our dad Cale, who was a photographer his whole life. His collection of slides was immense, many since discarded unfortunately. I wish I had them now- especially the 1000’s from Japan in the 60’s. Would be fascinating to see some of them now.

And into the New Year we continue to travel. I plan on making a giant pot of Pho tomorrow to start the year off.

Travel well my friends. Continue to be courageous, kind, and creative into 2018.