Category Archives: natural dyeing

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.

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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.

giving thanks and a birthday too!

I have started in on the ribbon orders that have patiently been waiting my return from Houston. So far, I have dyed the base colors on about 750 yards.  Next will be the pole wrapping and over dyeing in all the favorite colors.  They will find their way across the country as well as to many other countries as soon as they are finished.

I also finished up sorting out and organizing the recently dyed indigo and pomegranate fabrics and moons which are in the shop now in limited amounts. After the holiday I will add more if needed.

I will have them there until Wednesday night when I will close both shops for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I am a participant every year in Buy Nothing Day (so called Black Friday) where I don’t purchase or sell anything.  Apparently, Black Friday is the new Thanksgiving Thursday according to Walmart and some others. It this really necessary? (Black Friday,  who ever gave it that name anyway?)

The shops will be re-opened on Monday so please, have a great holiday. Enjoy your families and friends with great and shared thanks-giving.

Plus! Phil turns 50 next weekend-Happy Birthday to my special guy! There is even a little pre-birthday celebration with the fam later today. A favorite and indulgent cake has been baked…
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YUM! And no, you can’t order a slice of cake with your order!

distilling essences

Yesterday,

Pom and Walnut.

Dyeing in the light of the Super Moon.

And Indigo, of course.

I gave them a Moon Bath.  For the shop soon. They are resting now.

Today, thinking about what something is really made of. What we are made of.  Looking closely. Distilling it down. Instilling  Reviving memory…

Yesterday I saw where Maura (of Mustard Seeds) took the kids out to their local area to ask about leaves from trees that grew around them (in Kolkata, India) and they learned so much! And in several languages. They learned by talking to people in their neighborhood. Then they went back and made posters and art works.  More of this!

 

 

re-loving pre-loved

Last week was a bit of a blur.  A 2 day workshop at the JANM, all the prep and putting away for that consumed days apart from the actual time at the museum. We made fermentation vats for everyone who wanted to take one home.  I decanted and took a 5 gallon container from my own ferm vat to the workshop for participants to try out.  We “seeded” each of the new vats with a cup or two of my vat, so now the mother vat has children and I may become a grandmother! Or at least an Auntie. I took NO photos that weekend- was just very involved and focused on what we were doing. Thanks to all who came and also to those who plan on returning to the upcoming workshops Dec 10-11 and also on the Feb. 4-5.

The week also brought some pomegranate dyeing into view and it feels as if I am spinning straw into gold. Using lots of old cloth-collected and gifted- re-loving them.

And now finally, I attempt to finish this post started nearly a week ago.  With the first boxes sent off to the Ed office for my Houston workshops and the studio reorganized from that fiasco I continue…
plus, we got some rain…

 

the rear view mirror

This post is like looking into the rear view mirror of last week.  It’s the last Monday in August now and in some places (not here really) Summer is connecting with Fall.  Here though, it seems summer is colliding with Fall.

pomegranate rinds-early!!

pomegranate rinds-early!!

Not even out of August and the pomegranates are ready!  So we (Trevor and I) picked about 25 and he seeded them for me.  What is left will produce some beautiful golds and greens (when added to to some indigo blue).
And if that’s not enough evidence of climate change for you- the persimmons are starting to go off as well!  This is unprecedented here (in the 36 years I have lived here and been the caretaker of this garden).  Generally, these are not ready until November when I return from Houston and peel and hang them for hoshigaki.  They are smaller this year (more work) and I should have thinned them.  I never have had to before.  A few had dropped and while the tip is orangey-the top is still green.  Softened, they are still delicious.  So this means I’ll keep my eye on them to try to determine the right time to pick and peel.

And if that isn’t enough, the ginkgo tree is dropping nuts.  I’m sharing with the boys who like to sit up in the tree and drop the outside parts on my head while I sit in the shade under the tree. A few years ago, Richard showed me how to prepare them.

And just so happened that Saturday was the NM hatch chile roasting at the nearby market…so of course I had to go.

It took about 3 minutes for 25 lbs! They put them in a bag inside a box where thy seated for a while and Trevor and I spent about 2 hours peeling and seeding them.
IMG_3337Whole and chopped and in the freezer in recipe sized portions. Some went to neighbors as well.  We had to wear masks while doing this and should have worn gloves as well.  The burning on the backs of our hands didn’t start until we finished and lasted for hours but is all gone now.  Next time…

The veggie garden is minimal at the moment.  Mostly kale, cukes and a new crop of heat tolerant tomatoes (a second tomato crop this season) which I wondered about but is doing as promised and setting lots of tomatoes-currently golf ball size.  I added some vermiculite to the raised bed to help even out the moisture and conserve on watering.  It appears to be working well especially with the new basil I planted- lots for delicious walnut basil pesto.  Never have done that before except in pots.

The fruit trees all have soaker hose rings on them and even then are wanting more water than I am giving them. Lots to adjust to as we get hotter and drier.

And in the studio- lots going on there too.  Ribbon orders and lots of indigo in addition to a little more beading trying to get to the right mix for the class project in Houston.  Here’s the latest addition to the shop– garden inspired with a remnant from the past…

I always loved this porcelain button and its garden theme.  The sense of something about to happen yet it lets you wonder.  I chose green shibori ribbon of course- some tailings.  The picot edge beads are like drops of dew. I stopped and started a few times on this, letting it tell me where wander.

I restocked the shop with indigo at the beginning of last week and mostly it is gone now- thank you!  The second part of my Houston booth now paid for. Phew!

I also received a nice stack of old linens from a friend. They belonged to her mother who passed away some years ago. I knew her well back then and it will be a treat to work with them.  They will be showing up soon.

 

 

orinui shibori and indigo おりぬい絞りと藍

After a very productive and busy weekend at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo (Los Angeles) I had a little idea in my head I needed to get out.

A few more photos might be helpful.

Dyed in the fermentation vat.

At the museum we worked with a wide range of fabrics- many recycled. Fabrics included silks, cottons, hemp, linen, & bamboo in many weights and weaves.  Much was learned about fabrics, shibori techniques and how to dye with the indigo.  Next workshops at the museum are scheduled for Oct. 8-9 and Dec. 10-11.  The new twist will be that we will also work with a fermentation vat and learn how to make a small one you can take home with you.  Contact JANM to sign up.

And just a reminder- My three classes at the upcoming International Quilt Festival in Houston are taking registrations at the Quilts Inc. site. You can see the individual events on my FB events page or go to the registration site and see all the classes there.

waiting for the thread to dry…

…is kind of like watching paint dry. Having finished off some orders in this heat I am able to get back to the vat today.  Dyeing a bit of this and that as needed.  As for the vat- it’s a happy vat at the moment.  My little experiment of sewing a big cotton scrim bag to put down into it (keeping any organic materials out of my more open weave cloth as I dye) has been successful.  I placed a few round stones in the bottom to keep it anchored below (somewhat). I also found I could move it over to my smaller light vat as well when needed.  It is not forming much hana (flower) but has a nice coppery sheen on top and is a deep green and dyeing well.
indigo vatAs a reminder- one needs to continue to stir the vat each day, especially when not using it.  This action reintegrates the organic materials and any undissolved indigo in the vat.  There are various theories on whether or not you want to get some oxygen into the vat while stirring (especially if the vat is in disuse).  My particular theory is that since the bacteria consume oxygen they need at least a little bit ongoing to keep up the good work.  That hana you see on your vat is a sign of good fermentation and the result of oxygen bubbling to the top and meeting with the air.

I am anxious to get on with it while I am in the mood but the thread I am dying to use is still wet.  I am working on a show piece for Houston (as in “show”, I mean a piece for the wall of my booth) and it seemed to me that I needed to set it aside and work on a smaller, simpler piece to solve some puzzles and answer some questions I was running into on the larger one.  I also depend on wondering here to catch a few thoughts.

Let’s just get clear on one thing. I am not a quilter.  This may not even be a quilt. It is something.

So that being stated, I have lots to wonder about as I go down the path with this one.  I will say that if you define a quilt as:

“layers of cloth held together with threads drawn through with a needle”

-then this is (a version of) a quilt. But maybe it is something else. Maybe it is a dyers cloth (run through with a needle)? Ahh…to define something. To categorize. To make it black or white. How can it be one thing and still be another? Two things at the same time? Or none at all.  Maybe it is its own thing. That might ring true sometimes. Maybe for today. For now, it is a beginning. It is blue. Many blues. And it has moons. Many moons.

moon

I think the thread may be dry now.