Category Archives: nature

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.

let your creative wonder grow roots

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.

-the complicated simplicity of disappearing

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.

There’s more, but enough for now…

little dreams

dreaming big inside
my small silk cocoon today
i wonder what if

big dreams small spaces
when will i emerge again
to fly free once more

I like haiku because it distils a thought…

Update:
The silkworms are mostly finishing cocooning with a few stragglers that hatched late. I lost surprisingly few. The two batches at neighboring homes fared less well. One lost all of them (20) and the other lost 16 of their 20 but have 4 that cocooned. I have around 200. At least 50 of the eggs did not hatch at the beginning but when I ordered 200 I was sent 300 (ish). I prepared a cocooning tray for the girls next door who lost all theirs which looked like this:


It’s kind of hard to tell here, but silkworms have a yellowish almost transparent cast to them when they are ready to cocoon. They are filled with sericin to spin their cocoons. Left to free range, they would find a couple of branches or a dried curled up mulberry leaf in which to spin a hammock , and finally a cocoon. I made this with both plus a few TP rolls cut in half so they can see what the cats prefer. Of course letting them cocoon in dried leaf makes for messier collecting of cocoons and renders the kibisu (outer silk) fibers inexorably mixed with leaf detritus. The Japanese have a cool machine for removing the cocoons from the frames and also for rolling the cocoons to remove the outer kibisu-all clear of any leaf material and usable for other purposes without too much effort. It will be 2-3 weeks before moths emerge. Many of mine will be dried, killing the pupae inside and the cocoons stored in the freezer for later reeling.

And if silkworms didn’t have enough to do, you can read about their contribution in developing a vaccine for COVID-19! From The Mainichi and Kyushu University.

I made a little discovery this past week in regards to the native narrow leaf milkweed. I have wondered since last year why the monarch caterpillars don’t seem to utilize it as opposed to the tropical milkweed which keeps popping up in the yard here and there. They also like the balloon plant (milkweed) very much. They LOVE the small broad leaf native milkweed that they eat down to nubs every chance they get- so much so that it never seems to get a good start here. Fortunately, it spreads from underground and keeps popping back up.
Back to the narrow leaf milkweed… I kept seeing the monarchs laying eggs recently on the flowers (it’s flowering now). The flowers are small clusters of tiny florets at the tip of the stems. I realized they probably don’t use the leaves as the leaves are so narrow and unstable they can’t really land on them to deposit their eggs on the underside of the leaf, but the flowers are broad and stable. I started noticing tiny spiders and even some of the tiny praying mantis on the flowers and I thought they would devour and eat the eggs or any larva that hatched-bummer. Then I started noticing that the flower heads are all wilting and dyeing! I thought- oh well….
then this!

I actually started to cut off some of the dead flowers thinking the spider infestation might spread. So now I have a little box of monarch caterpillars to watch over until they get big enough to transfer back to the plant!

We took a trip out on Monday to get away from our cocoon and to visit MIL in hers at the nursing/board and care facility. Since she is in hospice they allow restricted visits- PPE in place. We visit outside mostly. She fell Sunday and thankfully did not break anything but has some pretty colorful facial bruises from bonking her nose. She is doing ok all things considered and always welcomes the visit. It is very difficult communicating since she also has advanced aphasia. We do our best.
Afterward, we went to the new Mitsua market and got Japanese bento for a picnic at the South Coast Botanic Gardens. They really have done a good job reopening there. Online time spaced ticketing, contactless entry, masks required, distance marked cueing (when needed), wide open outdoor spaces. They allow picnics in the meadows and there were actually very few people. Cost is $15 per person and you can stay as long as you like. A family annual membership is $65 for unlimited access for 2 for the year. We did that. They also have special dog walking tickets twice a month in the evenings (they are open 8 am- 8 pm). Eighty seven acres of gardens and trails. Sculpture too!
A great place all around! Highly recommended for corona daytripping.

the bees were going crazy on this flowering thyme border… the sound doesn’t really translate here.
I had heard of this but never seen it in person- I asked Phil to stop so we could watch for a bit. Goats clearing the hillsides…
Goats Rock!

and in the garden… tomatoes are rising! Milo ventures outdoors and approves!

Solstice Silkworms

On this solstice, I think of Nature and the natural world. I think of the passing of time, our place on this planet and the global environment. The sun is not standing still, nor is time.  Recent days have seemed very, very long and dark- even at a time when light lingers. I let the change flow over me knowing it WILL change. All things change.

I am watching the silkworms change every day. They are my daily reminder.

I am sorry to report that this weekend’s workshop titled Moth to Cloth at the JANM has been cancelled due to low enrollment.  I’m a bit sad about this as I was really looking forward to it.  I guess the topic was a little esoteric for the venue. I feel like I’m taking it a little personally though.  Everyone wants indigo and shibori workshops.  The August offering there is already sold out with a waiting list now.  So for now, my 500 silkworms and I will just carry on…marking time.

silkworms for Moth to Cloth workshop

Did you know that from hatching to cocooning a silkworm increases in size by a factor of 10,000?
Here they are today, June 12, 2018.  Toby is wondering what this is all about. It’s his first experience with the silkworms.
Workshop link here.

the day there were 9 kittens and we landed on the moon

It seemed a day where anything was possible and I believed it.

I wonder. A lot. But for today, let’s go back to that day and that feeling.

July 20, 1969. I was 11. We were visiting the U.S. for the first time in 3 years. I was not in Japan on this day, but definitely considered Japan my home.  I was in Gig Harbor, WA.

a moon memory

(i see mistakes in the original post but i choose not to edit or correct it for sentimental reasons-just pointing them out in this post really for my own information and amusement.)

I just saw the Dan Rather post on FB about landing on the moon and was reminded of why I appreciate his eloquent musings and historical perspective.

I often remind myself that we all look up at the same Moon, and that when Nature prospers, so do we.

 

 

rain memory

feel smell remember

silently falling earthbound

we rejoice again

I was struck by a nostalgic feeling this morning as I went out to retrieve the paper. I love that. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the place or time but it was a good sense-one of those ones that can transport you places. I tried to hold on but it was fleeting. It rained in the early hours before I awoke and left silently.

I have been working hard getting out ribbon orders ahead of the trip to Japan. No recent indigo to report but all the rain has me wishing a bit that I had planted some.  I make do with the edible greens in all practicality. They are delicious! We eat them every way imaginable and more.

Hirata san sent me a map of our upcoming adventure. We always stray a bit as occasions arise but maybe you would like to see it? This does not include the the trip to Yokohama and Kamakura.

we will see so much!

I am still stitching on the traveling moon piece. The little indigo I have been dyeing has centered around overdyeing vintage indigo scraps.  Really enjoying the serendipity of that. I just bought a vintage cotton yukata bolt from Richard’s etsy shop that had some interesting patterns I might do some overdyeing with.  Additionally interesting to me was part of his description:

This is a vintage bolt of yukata cotton, a printed indigo. It is unused and still bound up. There is a rather cute vintage tag on the front, an image of a young lady wearing the yukata that this fabric is dyed to become, basically, modeling it. On the tag, the name of the fabric pattern, shio matsuri, or tidal festival. The pattern seems to be a bit of a play on Hokusai’s waves, which are ubiquitous throughout japanese aesthetic.

This is enough fabric to become a yukata, which means it is at least 11 meters of fabric. As is sometimes the case, this fabric has markings and lines to cut along marked on it. It is printed so each piece is obvious and separate, there is not much guesswork involved. The way to make a yukata is pretty standard, so it makes sense, to print it like that , make it easy. Each section has the name of the piece it will become along the very edge. See the fifth photo above.

In any case- I look forward to examining it.

And before I end this, we went to see the poppies…it was glorious! Even inspired a new base dye session…

 

day trippin’ in the poppies CA style

the rain will surely extend the poppy season…weekdays are the best as big crowds on the weekends.

fragments

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This little moon fragment carried me north recently to lead a shibori and indigo workshop for the Central Coast Weavers. It was a wonderful group of women who weave and share an enthusiasm for fiber in many forms.  The workshop space,  a large private studio affectionally known as “The Barn” kept us warm with a wood burning stove in one corner, fed with a kitchen area stocked with home baked breads and more, and busy with a large working area. Rosemary and Kay, the owners and creators of The Barn, have the second floor space lined with rows of large floor looms- maybe 15-20. I don’t think I have ever seen such a variety of large working looms in one location.
Previous to the workshop day, I gave a lecture on silk at their monthly  members meeting where they have a “show and tell”. Some of the things that they brought to share with members included this wonderful rug that was woven by one of the women. I think it was my favorite!

hand woven wool rug by Central Coast Weavers member

hand woven wool rug by Central Coast Weavers member

I can’t remember her name but she is the one holding the rug at the far end. They also had a little fundraising raffle at the meeting where members bring something fiber related they no longer need and if it is something you would like to re-home you can put some of your raffle tickets in the cup for that item.  Everything found a new home-plus the guild got some money for new books for their library. Lovely to see and thoughtfully purposeful!

The Barn workspace

The Barn workspace-a half-view

There is a new package being prepared for Wendy.  It will contain a set of needles and indigo threads.Someone might have a desire to add to the cloth in their own way, to hold the needle in their hand and feel of the thread as it is pulled through the cloth. It might just start someone wondering.

Right now though, the 3rd storm of the week here is drenching us-as if trying to wash away and clear out all the drama of this past week.  I welcome it.  I just hope all my monarch cats are finding refuge out there somewhere.  And that the sun will come out next week and dry out my poor flooded studio space!

newly emerged before the storm

newly emerged before the storms

 

‘Tis the Season- Solstice

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

I was reminded of this song (by Joseph Brackett in 1848) when I was on Facebook this morning and Maura posted some photos of Christmas making at a mental hospital in Calcutta, India.  They were making holiday cheer from colored paper- the paper chains being my personal favorite. They were sharing some sweet treats and gifts thanks in part to Mustard Seeds Kolkata.  The photos immediately gave rise to the first line of that song. (Judy Collins has a nice version of it here.)

I post this today as we turn the corner on the shortest day of the year to see the days grow longer. Thankfully, for there is much to be done ahead of us.  Simplicity might just be one of the answers don’t you think?  In that simplicity perhaps we can become freer, turning, turning and in the end, delight in the coming ’round right.

I think Joseph Bracket was onto something here.  Of course we are all familiar with the Aaron Copland version of this in Appalachian Spring.  Another favorite. And speaking of Spring….

It seems a good day to plant another kind of seed.  A sweet friend gifted me some of her native California milkweed seeds. (thanks Colleen!).  Meanwhile, outside in the garden I think the last monarchs are finishing their meals and heading for their transformations.
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A seed is like an idea- it needs planting and nourishing, sunlight, warmth, and sometimes protection. I will never forget my visit to Luther Burbank’s historical home in Santa Rosa. I posted about it here in December of 2012 and have gone back to this post many times. Take special note of his “seed vault”.

Luther Burbank's seed vault

Luther Burbank’s seed vault

As we move into the coming year, I think there will be some need for “seed protectors” in our communities. I wonder what you want to protect? A few things come to my mind…

Life, health, and human dignity are a few of the things that come immediately to my mind.  This will take a community of protectors.

On a personal level, I want to protect wonder, compassion, beauty, love and peace.

I will find these things in small corners.  They will be found in the piercing of a needle through cloth with hand dyed thread. I will find them in the tip of a brush where it meets with paper.  I will always find them in the small and large details of Nature where ever I am. I will find them in the people I surround myself with, the actions I take, the words I hear, write and speak.
I will find wonder, compassion, beauty, love and peace -and protect it.
Yes, I will.

Happy Solstice!
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seeds, seedlings, seeded

Back to seeds

The beauty of seeds is that they can become.  What?  Something of beauty perhaps. Many seeds are beautiful themselves. Today I was noticing the seeds in the yard.

I will save some of the sunflower and poppy seeds. That sunflower plant had over 70 flower heads all at once. There are so many.  The birds love them too and we share them.  The poppies were so successful this year and gave much delight to all who saw them.  And so easy.  I really didn’t have to do anything at all except cast them out at the right time. Nature did the rest.  Next year, if you drive by you’ll know the house for all the poppies.  The seed heads for both the sunflowers and poppies are in the drying and maturing stage. Some will just drop on their own and surprise me next year. Faithful volunteers.

Yesterday, I went to present myself and my “career”  for Career Day at a South LA Elementary school.  First, I want to say that the kids were great.  They are like little sponges that soak things up.  They were enthusiastic.   Turns out- the school does have two mulberry trees on its campus.  Just no memory of why.  I think I can solve that. Next year, I will get some silkworms started early- just when the mulberry leafs out.  Plant some silk seeds and water them into fertile ground there.  As for explaining my “career” to the kids-it was challenging, funny, and informative.  I only had 30 minutes with each of the 4 classes. Most of the time was spent talking about silk and silkworms.  I brought a tray of them-still so tiny. We cut open the cocoons and saw the pupae inside. I passed around a hank of reeled filament silk, mawata, yarn, kibisu and more.  I showed them the cocoon frames-both straw and cardboard. They all took home a cocoon and a square of silk. Three classes were 3rd graders and one was 4th grade. Trevor had 4th and 5th graders and did 5 sessions. His kids learned to play a couple of rhythms with straws at their desks with him playing bells. This K-5 has no dedicated art or instrumental music teacher.

Unfortunately, I must report that the silkworms are not thriving.  This is the latest I have ever started them. I really wanted them for the career day event and was taking a bit of a chance.   Although there is green mulberry leaf here it is not new and succulent. It is just too dry. We had rain earlier this season but has been very dry for over a month now. El Nino did not arrive in the south this year as predicted. Moving on…sadly.

But fortunately, my friend Nobue Higashi in Annaka, Japan is having a very successful cocoon rearing season. I recently watched this NHK short video on a visit to her place there.  I couldn’t find one video of the entire episode and this one repeats but you can see the portion of the show in which they visit her.

A long hot dry summer is ahead. Water will continue to be precious.
so many poppy seeds

There are a few openings left for the indigo and shibori workshop on June 18 & 19. Contact the Japanese American National Museum to sign up. I will have some indigo seeds to share as well.

demonstrated at the workshop