Category Archives: not about shibori

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…


wondering in and around our local backyards…

Unless you just started following this blog last week, you probably know that aside from shibori, dyeing and silk, my other pleasure is gardening. This post is NOT about shibori, or dyeing, but isn’t everything connected?

Summer vegetable gardening is in full swing here- picked the first zucchini and tomatoes last night and made a beautiful and delicious casserole with them for dinner. Had to use store bought onions and garlic but those are going to be harvested soon as well.

it happened before i got to finishing this post!

Something has been simmering in the back of my mind this past year as I watch the California powers that be (and that generally means the $$$ powers in real estate development who fuel politics) gradually chip away at any and all open space by filling our urban area with much denser spaces- both residential and commercial development, without creating a balance of open space like parks, preserves, and community garden spaces. Not only are they building denser multi story residential buildings, cities and the state are allowing- in fact encouraging, increased density on single family home lots with minimal open space required.
As a home gardener for over 40 years, I feel this loss for future families and the environment. Gardening connects us to Nature, to our Earth, and maybe most importantly, to ourselves. It grounds us. As I wander in my little backyard oasis watching the birds, bees butterflies and other insects I wonder how much longer they will continue to have backyard habitats. A mindful gardener is a temporary keeper of the land they work, be it a small farm,orchard or a raised bed garden in their backyard or community garden. Small gardens are habitats for myriad birds, insects, and peaceful contemplation. A “habitat for the contemplative mind” if you will. Gardens provide food and beauty for ours and our neighbors tables.

I wonder what will happen when generations of humans have lost this connection not just to nature, but to the processes that teach us where our food comes from (and I don’t mean the grocery store-or even the farmers market)? Yes, we will probably (hopefullly) still take trips to visit nature on vacation, but will it be accessible out our back door or down the street? For many, it already isn’t there. And for many, vacations are something one dreams of.

I wonder how concerns for our environment will fare when people are disconnected from the soil that they can dig and run through their hand? What will be the tipping point for all this?

Even in urban areas like the one I live in, there are rivers (long ago cemented in) and wetlands (cruel fodder for continued oil extraction ($$$) and groups fighting for the very life and last breath of these valuable spaces. The local pols throw meatless bones in our direction hoping to satiate the majority through their next election funded by the very developers robbing us of these open spaces. Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) are avoided by both developers and our city, in favor of lesser mitigated negative declarations assuring us that the harm they do won’t affect us….much. There are solutions- solutions that cost extra $money and mean less profit. Decades of promised river plans bulldozed by the very pols that 20 years ago, used those promises in speeches to voters that fueled their slick campaigns.

I can’t say where this ends…but I see people out walking in this very neighborhood pass by my house and I can hear them say “Wow! I’ve never seen how artichokes grow!” or “is that how onions grow?”. If only they saw the back yard…

Cheers to the following Long Beach groups and their continued persistence in tilling the soil in their dogged and valiant efforts to educate and preserve enough nature and environmental quality for us here in our urban city so future generations have access to nearby places where we can co-exist in partnership with the very thing that keeps us physically and spiritually grounded.
CARP-Citizens About Responsible Planning
“Promoting the quality of life in the City of Long Beach through involvement and education in the greater Long Beach area.”
HUSH2/LBNF- Long Beach Neighborhoods First
To educate the citizens on environmental, social, and health impacts of policies and actions proposed by public officials or private entities on land use, transportation, and redevelopment efforts impacting our neighborhoods.
LBRC-Long Beach Reform Coalition
“The Long Beach Reform Coalition is a local, non-partisan umbrella organization and political action committee that promotes and supports public policies, laws, and candidates toward the goal of a transparent, accountable, and inclusive government.”
RPC-RiverPark Coalition
“Our vision is a healthier, happier environment for communities within the watershed of the lower Los Angeles River revitalization zone.”
Long Beach Chapter Sierra Club
” Exploring and enjoying nature is a healthy, happy way to live.”

I know most of my readers here are not from anywhere near this local area but I do know that many of the places you come from are feeling the pressures exerted on your own local habitats and environmental quality of life. I hope that you have organizations in your cities, towns and regions standing up for Nature, our World, and that you choose to participate with your involvement as you can. All are in need of funding, participation, and assistance.
Check out your local area groups and stay involved!


And Windy has stormy eyes…

Spent some more time mending that old favorite quilt. It’s been very windy and cold here so some afternoon inside time is welcome. I’m applying the repairs on a “what do I think will work here” basis. Not all worn areas get the same treatment. The goal here is to restore the quilt to a condition that will favor continued everyday use. So that means that repairs will be visible, practical, and in some cases whimsical!

In addition, while on an outdoor gardening break, I caught my jeans on something resulting in a large tear about 10 inches long. Into the repair pile they went after a dip into the vat to restore some color to the worn areas. I had a little fun with this repair and applying the same goal as the quilt above, I’m back to wearing them and they feel very sturdy. I have another pair that could use some of this stitchlove as well. The satisfaction I get from doing this keeps me at it.

The garden is sprouting all kinds of seeds, both wanted and not so wanted. There will be plenty of weeding in my future. The feathery cassia continues to perfume the front walkway and the knife leaf wattle is just starting to bloom with its seemingly millions of tiny bright yellow pompom flowers. I’ll add a photo later when it is fully bloomed out. My onion and garlic patch is doing just fine- I have about 50 garlic and 150 onions planted there. I’m starting to plant seeds for the spring garden but with this colder weather it will take a little extra time for them to germinate. I can wait. Gardening is all about waiting. And watching. And hoping.

The recent wind pretty much tore up the studio shade/rain cover so today’s plan is to get out there before the rain hits and replace it with a used one I found online for $40. The moon was seen through the hole…

And Windy has wings to fly…
Maybe you are too young for this song but we heard this nonstop on Armed Forces Radio in 1967, Yokohama. The Association is worth a few listens …it’s been a while.

dearest friendlies…(part 1)

It’s been a rough week, month, year! So many ups and downs. I been telling myself I would write a blogpost almost every single day these past two weeks but…well I just couldn’t didn’t. I read your blogs, FB pages, twitter and a few books, and took lots of stitches.
First off, my dear friendlies, one of my favorite FB friends/writers/ NYC poet of life, Michelle Slater passed away. I never met her in person but here, through the blog when she began commenting many years ago. I think she came here via Spiritcloth as many of you have for so long (and even for some, more recently). We had so many wonderful exchanges over the years, through social media as well as the mail. She lived alone in a rent controlled apartment in Manhattan and gave us the gift of so many views of the city she had lived in for over 60 years. She also wrote a blog (actually several) filled with observations of life, photos, and poetry. Just reading the sidebar of her blog could change your life and worldview.
She commented on my blog many times over more than a decade and I will treasure each comment once more whenever I come back to one. In the years prior to our friendliness on FB, she gave me glimpses into her world as they related to mine in her comments but it was only 4 years ago she left me the following comment that told me even more about herself than i had known:

I’ve never made a living at what I’ve loved to do, neither in twenty years of Theater, another ten or fifteen in Film, video and photography, nor as a writer, nor painter, and I only dabbled in cloth. I could blame this on the fact that I somehow managed to eek out a living on the fringes doing this and that, or that I always worked for unpopular causes (feminism, peace, justice etc.), but the truth is I was simply never ambitious enough to pursue money, nor did I have the stick-to-it that’s needed, and now, at seventy three, I’m quite poor in the pocket book. Sometimes friends send gifts, my Social security and small pension from one 11 year position just manage to keep me in internet, phone, electric, and rent (blessedly low after many Landlord battles) and I even get some food aid from a Senior nutrition program. I’m able to go to doctors thanks to medicare basic, but not dentists. I had help to pay for two cataract operations from several generous friends as I live without credit cards. But my admiration for craft and those, like you who manage to somehow make it work is unbounded. The way the 21st Century is leaning into the automated and the digital, outsourcing and growth does look bleak…not to mention the awful political wrangling and the shameful wars…still, I believe that though the artists are as endangered as the polar bear and Minki whale, we persist in another dimension, and that’s as real as the space probes and the industrial glut. Love fuels the enterprise and it’s the best fuel ever to emerge from this earth enterprise.

Michelle in NYC

She was found in her apartment, apparently in her usual chair, when friends noticed she hadn’t posted for several days and wasn’t answering the phone. In my mind I imagine her setting up a new post with a fabulous link or video or simply typing “Goodnight dear friendlies” with a photo view out her apartment window as she did so often.
So here’s to you Michelle… Goodnight with gratitude my friend!
Link to the last video she posted…here.
And my original post (2016) where Michelle left the above comment.

other parts (2 and maybe 3 to follow). comment link is at the top of post.

Stitching stars

I rewarded myself for getting my taxes 90% complete today by stitching stars into the indigo universe.

I just wanted to mention a couple of things about this wonderful silk floss I’m using. It’s about 100 years old and just divine!

Richardson’s silk floss has some interesting history and I came across this print ad.

The silkworms are cocooning quietly in the background and I’m thinking about indigo dyeing their silk as an embroidery floss of some type. It’s a big dream.

But hey, a girl can dream.

73, 75, 81…

I was thinking that this post would be about looking back to various Silk Study Tours to Japan and when I started to go through photos of trips going back to 2009, I became overwhelmed. So many photos, so many memories…I think this weekend I will add some new photos to this page. There is also the small blog I did in 2011 on the tour. Perhaps this will do for now.

So, I went and fed the silkworms instead. Then I pulled some cocoons out of the freezer and reeled about 60 or so. Not too many, just 60. I want to get better at this so…practice!

I also want to get to the point where I am adept at twisting them to create something akin to 8ply. That would be about 240 individual strands of silk as I reel about 22-25 cocoons at a time.Perhaps I will dye them in the ferm vat and embroider or sew with them. perhaps I will save up for my desire to actually weave a bit of cloth from cocoons I raised, reeled, and dyed. The reeling went well after initially working out a couple of bugs. Then I realized I need to get a few more itomaki (bobbins) in order to really do this. I found that one of my antique ones actually works with my newer zakuri, so that’s a start. I will go forward with these two just to get a sense of going and a direction. Doing this while raising a small batch of silkworms seems appropriate and even more interesting to me.
I had my friend Nobue Higashi on my mind the entire time as she is such an expert at both sericulture and silk reeling. She is now feeding their first set of silkworms of the season. They have reached their 4th instar now. See her latest blog post here.
I don’t post much to IG these days but a recent post of a time lapse of the silkworms eating brought the attention of someone I was not familiar with and found very interesting. Lisa Onaga has some very interesting writings and research on her blog. It’s more for the “silk nerd” but I know there are some of you out there because some of you have gone on the silk tour-and some more than once!
I’ve been reaching out to some of the past participants to check in with them and touch base- very nice to connect! It’s a long list so won’t get to everyone but feel free to reach out in this direction as well.


The other day I was working on the new indigo vat (update- it’s doing great!) and realized I was really upset about something I had read on twitter earlier. I read the words “human capital stock“. It stuck in my head as I worked and I started to wonder …
This can be viewed as political if you wish, but referring to people as “human capital stock” leaves me nauseated. Regardless of who is doing it. I was in the middle of dyeing some indigo cloth for something I am working on (a background piece for something Spirit Cloth -ish). I was ripping some edges which I was piling up and using in the garden to tie up the tomato vines. I then heard the current reported COVID death stats for my city (Long Beach,CA) which was 73. I kept on ripping. It was strangely satisfying. I even did a short video of it. The sound, mesmerizing…

Then I started counting the strips, as I approached 73 I started wondering…then I started tying them to the bushes in the front yard. I added 2 more the next day-75. Now, I must go out and add 6 more-81. It’s become a somber and thoughtful visual representation for me. People walk by and wonder. There is no explanation out there. But if you know me and follow this blog, I always say, we need more wonder in the world…

As the “opening” continues, so does the dying and tying on. Take care everyone…

Hopeful…楽観的 -らっかんてき

Always during this time of year I begin to get the urge to raise silkworms. Recent walks in the neighborhood encourage me when I see mulberry trees leafing out with fresh tender greens. What silkie could resist?

Reading an account of rice farming and poverty in early 1900’s Japan from one of my favorite books “Memories of Silk and Straw” I saw this, adding further to my yearning…

Watching and caring for small creatures such as silkworms is very calming-at least to me. Seeing them eat, grow, and transform is a reminder of so many things. It makes me a little sad that the local schools no longer do this even though they often have mulberry trees on their campuses, originally planted there for this very purpose.

The neighbor kids are home a lot more now so perhaps they might be interested.

I have eggs in cold storage in my fridge which I saved from my last rearing dated July 2018. A bit old and who knows if they are still viable? I took out one set and will test to see if they will hatch. If not, I may order a small amount of eggs just for fun.

Growing up in Japan in the mid ‘60’s we lived in a house owned by a very wealthy Japanese family. It was located high on a bluff which overlooked the port area of Yokohama. As a child we went on field trips to the Yokohama Silk Center and came home with a small box containing one silk cocoon, one small square of silk, one bit of reeled silk. We regularly visited a nearby famous garden (Sankeien).

Later, much later, say 40 years later, I came to realize that the wealth of the owners of that house we lived in was most likely afforded to the family by the main industry of the time-silk. All wealth in Yokohama and in many other areas of japan was driven by silk trade.

That garden we regularly visited was built and owned by a wealthy silk merchant who many decades later donated the property to the city of Yokohama. It had been their family residence. Only in the past ten years did I learn that one of my early schoolmates was a granddaughter of this family and grew up playing and roaming the private sections of this grand place and it was through her connection that special field trips there were arranged.

The Yokohama Silk Center still exists and I make an effort to go again each time I visit.

So yes, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today and hoping some of the silkworms will hatch. I’ve put them in a warm spot, with some humidity and hoping for the best in this current corona cocoon.

Be well everyone…

fragility

I started working on this piece of cloth in order to add it to a larger piece I am stitching. The whole cloth itself is made from reclaimed, recovered, and salvaged bits of cloth-some redyed, restitched. This one in particular is from a couple of those categories.

Time stitching is time to think and reflect…
When the fabric of our lives seems to errode and threads are laid bare, those of us who have the means, the desire, or the ability to strengthen the surrounding cloth/life can help hold it together. Stitching around the red silk, the cloth/wound was revealed, memorializing it’s existence, strengthened and preserved. The still fragile and ever eroding stripes/lives are grounded by solid yet invisible (on the front side) tiny stitches. The back side shows the structure and the pieces and stitches added in an effort, though impossible, to make the cloth/person whole again. Scars/tears will remain, lives lost and forever altered.
This cloth is a small tribute to those who lost their lives this past week in Long Beach CA. In quiet moments of handwork, these thoughts rise up.

I chose this piece as it showed the story of the cloth from several perspectives. It had been reused previously (most likely as a cushion or futon cover) and taken apart. With several holes in it perhaps, the intention being to patch and reuse again.

As I handled the piece to think about how to apply it to the larger piece it became apparent that it needed some stabilization first. Using that same red silk I’ve shown you recently, I decided to highlight a couple of the duty worn areas. As I turned it over in my hand, I realized that the wear on this piece was really only in the warp areas of the brown dyed sections. This being a mainly indigo piece, it was warped in a couple of shades of indigo and what looks to be kakishibu (persimmon) dyes. The weft is indigo in two shades. What you notice is that only the kakishibu dyed sections are deteriorating- telling me that this dye was more damaging to the fibers over time. Was it treated with an iron mordant and not well rinsed? Not sure. But it’s very clear that only those sections broke down over time telling me it is dye related and not wear related.

I applied the lightest weight stabilizer to the back of the very fine red silk which I used. First stitching invisibly (front side) to stabilize the section and then further stitching the open areas revealing a bit of the red silk. Holding it up to the light, reveals its strengths and weaknesses.

I further decided that it needed more stability and added a larger piece of thin indigo dyed cotton to the backside. Copying methods I have seen on some of the vintage boro I have, I stitched the edges and again along either sides of the deteriorating stripes. It’s now ready to be part of the larger piece.

Above is just the process I used to stabilize the worn scrap. As I said in the video (last post), using the red silk to highlight patched areas reminds me of the Japanese ceramic technique generally called kintsugi. Looking up the translation of that word it contains the kanji for tsugi which means “inherit, succeed, continue, patch, graft”. So carrying this further, tsugimono would be something that is in need of patching.
Yes, the patchwork that is our life, our clothstory. Stabilized, but not made whole.

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.

 

cocoons!

After six weeks of silkworm rearing, I have about 400 cocoons.  I started off with an order of 500 eggs, so here and there, lost a few.  There were no noticeable die-offs of any great number- a good thing that tells me I avoided any major disease issues by keeping the silkworms clean, well fed as well as in good temperature and humidity.  It can be a real disappointment when something starts to kill them off. I can only imagine what can happen to large scale sericulturists.

I stifled these today in the oven at about 180 degrees. This will allow these cocoons to be reeled or used in ways where I want a whole uncut cocoon.  With about 400 cocoons, if I let them all emerge I would end up with 10,000 or so eggs.  I can’t imagine having to feed that many here.  In fact, if I did allow the silkmoths to all emerge, mate, and lay eggs they would end up dying by starvation unless I put the eggs into cold storage.  I would never be raising that many here anyway.  I do have a few folks who wanted to get some eggs from me so I will save some for them.  I will store the cocoons in the freezer in a net bag until needed. These cocoons will be used in Houston for my mawata class there along with some I purchased from Nobue Higashi who raises silkworms in Japan.

silk,silkworms

I should not let you leave this post without paying homage to the life of the silkworm. Yes, I have killed them and have feelings about that.  In Japan, there are temples and shrines devoted to the silkworm or sericulture in general.  Giving thanks for a good harvest and for the protection of the silkworm until cocooning are common among sericulturists in Japan even today. Shouldn’t we remember to be grateful for everything? There are many shrines devoted to sericulture scattered throughout Japan.

It was perhaps not a coincidence that today I was catching up with Nobue on her blog that I read this post where she talks about just this thing…the google translate is very rough but you can get the jist of it. I am looking forward to seeing Nobue san again next year!

You can read about the silkworm deities at Kaiko no yashiro (蚕ノ社) – the Silkworm Shrine here. It’s an interesting story.
Next year on the Silk Study Tour to Japan we will add a short visit to this Shinto shrine. It is about 20 minutes by car from our Kyoto hotel I am told.  If there is not time to add it to the whole group itinerary, I will make time for those interested in a visit here in an early morning trip by taxi.

Following this down a bit further, I found an excellent couple of blog posts on this shrine.

-about the Kaiko no Yashiro (Silkworm Shrine)

-speculation about the triangular torii

-fascinating history of the Hata clan
part one

part two

I made another little video that covers the cocoon harvesting.