Category Archives: sericulture

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.

 

 

 

 

Event page update-classes in Houston

I am doing a little blog and website maintenance and am now referring the events page here on the blog to my new website event page which I will keep updated. Just simplifying basically.

The new listings there are the classes I will teach at the upcoming Houston Quilt Festival. Here are the classes I am teaching this time:
Please visit the website link above for details.

I already have received a few emails expressing disappointment that I am not teaching any shibori and indigo classes there this year.  I opted to not offer those to Quilts Inc this year as they have invited several others to teach the same topics in the past couple of years and quite frankly, it diminished signups for my class last year.  Unfortunately, one of those teachers that was directly competing with my class just didn’t show up last year (!) and aside from disappointing a lot of students, lower enrollment in my all day class, there was a lot of confusion about it all. I have to ship in and buy a lot of supplies for that class which is costly and I refer all students to other vendors for supplies.  This year, all the classes I am teaching are related to supplies I will have in my booth in an effort to offset some of the costs.

These are the “behind the scenes” decision making that has to go on to keep this dyers bills paid.  These shows continue to change and one must look out for ways to make it all work in order to continue to teach and vend there.  Many of the smaller one of a kind vendors no longer do. It simply becomes too expensive. We carry on.

That being said, I am excited to teach the three half day classes I submitted. As always, I will give it my all to provide a fun, rewarding, learning experience! Hope to see you there!

Oh, and we will be using some of the cocoons that the silkworms are spinning right now!

almost ready…

Independence (for silkworms)

Somehow sensing that this year’s Independence Day needed a sign, a signal, a ray of something, the silkworms picked the 4th to start cocooning.  Now, the 6th, many are involved in that seemingly magical process while the rest are casting about looking for some real estate to call home.
I’ve been working and watching them. Thinking about my own cocoon of sorts. If I were a silkworm I might not want to emerge for awhile.
The caterpillars will be in their pupae stage for about two weeks and those that are not stifled  will begin to emerge from their cocoons then. Stifled cocoons (where the pupae is killed by heat or steam) will be used for reeling and cut cocoons or cocoons from which the moths have naturally emerged can be used to make silk hankies or mawata for other textile uses.
I have two types of cocooning frames or beds. One is the cardboard frame type currently used by sericulturists in Japan and one is the straw bedding. I got them both out and cleaned them up before setting them up for the silkworms.

I’m hoping there will be some good news to share with them on the other side! 

A few more photos…

It’s hot here today-supposed to be up to 103 today and tomorrow. Drew all the blinds and keeping the house cool as long as possible hoping to not use the $AC$.  Our little cocoon for the next couple of days…at least until the sun sets at 8 PM.

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.

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.

 

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.

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