Category Archives: shibori

pressing on… indigo and other stuff

On this hot and muggy Sunday I finish up a large order of the shibori ribbon and wonder. Often when I wonder about what I am doing I take to the vat and gain some perspective.  Besides, I have a couple of workshops ahead of me here-3 that involve indigo and need some wondering and planning time.

today the natural vat has a good coppery sheen but little flower. however, it is dyeing well

today the natural vat has a good coppery sheen but little flower. however, it is dyeing well

Starting off with some moons on old tattered asa (hemp) from Japan got me thinking about what ties us all together on this little planet we named Earth – as well as what tears us apart. 

tattered moon- somedays i feel just like this and am in need of a little mending

tattered moon- somedays i feel just like this and am in need of a little mending

I figure I need to order 30 yards of cotton scrim for my workshop in Houston October 26- done and crossed off the list.  The rest of the fabrics to be used are remnants and scraps I have been collecting of some very lovely old and reused fabrics brought back from Japan.  We will dye them in indigo and apply different techniques- shibori mostly, as well as use our imagination before stitching them to the indigo dyed scrim.  Kits will also include swatches of vintage kasuri, katazome, and shibori.  I will have several very nice vintage boro textiles on display for students to study as well as a selection of books and photos from my recent visit to the Amuse Boro Museum in Asakusa, Japan.

workshops start with me creating a new sample- even if I have taught the class before- I want to be very familiar with it and add to previous knowledge I  taught this class at the JANM over a year ago

workshops start with me creating a new sample- even if I have taught the class before- I want to be very familiar with it and add to previous knowledge
I taught this class at the JANM over a year ago

Pressing on, I make my sample by my own hand, I cut the fabrics, collect the swatches.  As I dye the new sample I think about the room that I will be teaching in, the number of students, the problems that will be encountered by restrictions of such a setting and must be solved before anyone walks through the door to make things go smoothly and find success for all who gather that day in that room. I aim for a version of perfection knowing full well that there will be less than that achieved but aiming high is where I like to begin.  I am already looking forward to teaching this class and its myriad lessons.

My class is called Indigo dyed and Boro Stitched and can be signed up for by going to the Quilts Inc. site for the Houston International Quilt Festival.  The class is # 117  on Monday Oct. 26, 2015 in the online catalog.

I am teaching two other classes there as well- Shibori Mandala Magic on Silk (class #217) and Splendid Silk Shibori Poinsettias (class # 611).
The Mandala class is an outcome of working with Richard Carbin and combines the folding techniques I learned from him with a completely different method of resisting and applying the dyes.
Richard’s presence will be felt in the vintage silk fabrics we will use which were collected by and purchased from him.

The Silk Shibori Poinsettia class is a fun Friday evening class- a good sit down and relax class at the end of a busy week.  Many lovely pieces are sure to be made as gifts for friends and family on this night.

I tried to upload an image of a great little boro piece I brought back from Japan but WP is being fussy right now so it will have to wait until later.  Until then, I’ll add a couple of photos of something I made the other day just to satisfy a need I had-a small bag that snaps open by pinching the sides and holds all I need. I used some obishin between the cloth layers.

It’s raining again now- hardly can believe it! It has been such a gift.  I have somewhere I’m supposed to be so until later-

mata ne!

just wondering

the reduction of something to nothing more than a commodity is what you are doing. 

are you aware of what you are doing? do you even care? 

to copy the work of another without a thought other than to gain monetary enrichment – is money your God? 

do you understand from where the material you work with eminates? how it comes into being? do you teach others of this eminence? do you reach for the deepest understanding through your work and pass that knowledge along? or are you just seeking financial rewards in the moment, unaware and uncaring of that which you may destroy along the way? 

please think about what you are doing. 

I realize it may be hard to understand when there really is no intention other than personal enrichment- but try to imagine another view. 

I really don’t know what else to say.  






karamatsu shibori

the way i do it…and baby squirrels too!

As I sit here tonight writing this, the silk is steaming out in the studio and I go out every 30 minutes to change out the poles.  In between, I check the chicken roasting in the oven, think about doing that final sales tax return due in a few days, answer emails, and listen to the bees. Out back the guys are recording the weekly groove.  I’ve taken to doing my weekly blog post when that happens.  A schedule of sorts.

organizing dye work

organizing dye work

Listen to the bees?  Yes, the bees are back.  Actually they never really left but now they have become problematic again since I need to do the landscaping out front and they gave my helper a sting yesterday.  Turns out he is somewhat allergic so last night we foamed up and screened off all their entrances and exits.  And today they are just downright mad.

Oops, timer just went off so time to change out the poles.  Be(e!) right back!

OK.  Where was I? Where I sit at my computer is right above where the bees have fashioned their hive underneath the house and I can actually hear them through the electric outlet…buzzing up a storm! Yes, I have had the beekeepers out and it was decided that they are just too smart for us (thankfully) and the hive is completely inaccessible for removal, so that is that.  They’ve had a good run here (8 years off and on) and have minded their own business for the most part.  So, enough about the bees.



The dogs have been groomed as of yesterday and I was reminded via mail today that the whole pack of them including the cat need their rabies vaccines updated or I will face all kinds of fines and such.  So another thing on my “to do” list beckons.  Apparently, I can send my child to school unvaccinated but there is no “belief exemption” for dogs and cats.  Milo TOLD me he really, really, does not believe in the rabies vaccine.  He heard it gives him an odor that mice can detect from 50 yards.  I said, “Sorry, no go-it’s off to the low cost vaccine clinic with you!”

I promised a sort of SOTU address of sorts in this post, so here goes.  Fact is that I am fairly overwhelmed with ribbon orders.  I’m sorry you are having to wait but that’s just the way it is at the moment.  There are no shortcuts to take here in regards to making it and besides, that would be somewhat contrary to the point of it all wouldn’t it? I have my own way of prioritizing the orders too.  I try to honor the FIFO scenario but I can and do make exceptions.  I believe in honoring the most longstanding and regular customers whenever possible as well as those who are going out on the road with the shibori ribbon incurring show fees and travel costs- I know what that entails and I do appreciate you meeting up with the customer face to face.  Small folk and designers also get an extra point and larger entities who only sell online may have to wait a bit more.  Agree or disagree, that’s just the way I do it.



Again with the timer…back in a sec…

OK- back again.  Chicken is smelling good, fed the dogs, made a salad, wine now in hand. So back to the SOTU.  Making the ribbon has become my “day job” -a good thing since it supports the household and keeps things flowing here.  I don’t want to minimize it or take shortcuts with it because something gets lost in that.  It needs to be beautiful, and that takes time.  I don’t want to farm it out which takes the specialness from it.  Each inch IS an adventure– in the making of it and the using of it.  I have seen that over and over and respect that.  A good roll of the shibori ribbon reveals that sincerity, that intent.  It matters who is involved in the making of it and why.  So I continue making and sending it- for the enjoyment and wonderment of the end user.  In my “spare time” I stir the indigo vat and dip a little here and there.  I have my personal projects on the side for now.

shibori inspiration

shibori inspiration

Last weekend was the shibori workshop at the Japanese American National Museum.  It was wonderful as usual.  Great folks, each coming together to gather some new information and practice. It was really nice to see many familiar faces mixed in with the new ones. I really enjoyed hearing the snippets of conversation between participants getting to know each other a little bit.  By the end of the second day they were exchanging info and planning to get together outside the class and visit each other.  I like that too.  With 20 people in the class I was a little envious I couldn’t get to know more about each one of them- I was so busy! But it felt good that everyone enjoyed themselves so much! One thing I wanted to stress about the workshop is that we were mostly dyeing old kimono fabric. Many of the samples I had around the room were vintage pieces.  I wanted to remind them of the beauty of aging.  That is also a very Japanese concept especially when it comes to craft.  Things of beauty DO age.  That beauty is lasting, evolving.  A good thing to remember.

Ahhh… the last timer has sounded…now to finish up and set the fans.

Back again.  Dinner served and cleaned up. Guys back outside recording.  The rest of the night is mine!

This is getting to be a long post- hang in there!!  I am doing some organizing and work on the Silk Study Tour to Japan as well. (So many things to do!!) It is getting exciting.  We still have some spots open so please contact me if you *think* you might like to come along.  Yes, I know it is a bit of pocket change.  I don’t take that lightly, but believe me travel is always rewarding- and life is short. Looks like it will be a smaller group this year which in itself is nice for participants and easier on me. Financially, we will squeeze by.   I never know if we will do this again.  Can we ever know the future? The dollar is good against the yen right now so we are fortunate.  I remember back in 2011 when the earthquake in Japan on March 11 resulted in the tidal wave that wiped out the coastal areas in Miyako in Tōhoku’s Iwate Prefecture as well as created a level 7 meltdown  at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. That night it so happened I was online with friends in Japan and was informed about the strong earthquake.  As the evening proceeded, video of the tsunami in progress appeared. Devastating and hard to comprehend.  In the following weeks we were not sure we would continue the tour but kept an open mind.  As it turned out we went on May 14, 2011.  We were practically the only foreigners touring in Japan at that time.  The Japanese were somewhat in a state of shock still but very glad we were there as so many (most) tourists had cancelled plans- the economy suffered.  I cannot express how grateful and hospitable they were towards us.  We were not in any danger as we did not venture into areas of concern but of course there was much media coverage of possible dangers.  Two years later we went again and brought forth a whole new group of “silkies” ( those interested in sericulture and silk).  Now, 4 years later we plan to go again.  We will learn and see many things. Some of the artisans we visit are aging rapidly.  We may never see them again.  We visited with a very interesting natural dyer in 2009 that had passed away in his late 80’s by the time we visited again in 2011. His specialty was natural dyes and their UV resistance. Fascinating!   Time is of the essence sometimes…

In finishing up the lengthy post here I will end on the Adventures of Squirrelly Gurl.  As it happened, it seems she became a Squirrelly Mom on the day of the last post- National Squirrel Appreciation Day! Go figure.  Leave it to her to make a big deal out of it.  I hadn’t seen her that day and wondered. The next day she came out and visited me quite late in the day and was very frantic- wanted her food and wanted it NOW! Then she was off.  I thought it odd but accepted.  The next day the same.  I got suspicious as she seemed a bit more svelte than usual.  Sure enough, we have been hearing babies up in the palm tree when she leaves them to take a break and come down for food and a stretch.  They make a loud screech, almost like a bird.  So today they are one week old! We won’t see them for months yet- when they are almost ready to leave the high rise nest!

more on the spirit of a thing…

Today and yesterday was a combination of things.  Saturday and Sunday is the Shibori Fusion  workshop at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.  There might be a spot of two left but you will have to check with them. Sign ups are through the museum.  So that means a lot of preparation this week.

We are focusing on using silk and color (as opposed to the indigo workshops I often teach there).  I could have just ordered silk and been done with it, but I see these workshops as an opportunity for teaching more than just shibori dyeing.   So in that spirit, the last couple of days have been busy taking apart old silk kimono and nagajuban.


These are some in progress of dismantling. Such careful stitching, some even sewn with twisted silk thread. Handsewn french seams…the drape of the silk…the sheerness of the lining silks.  Each one yields 12-13 meters and if lined twice that of two different silks. a few stains here and there but nothing that will be noticed after dyeing. In any case these will be pieces that will be practiced on and hopefully used in a future project.   So a day spent with these pieces pulling threads, ironing and organizing- all the time thinking about how we will be dyeing them.  No need for new fabrics when these ones already exist.  I hope to build an appreciation in the participants for these fabrics.  After sorting, cutting, ironing and bundling-they really are lovely!

kimono silk bundles ready for eager dyers!

kimono silk bundles ready for eager dyers!

Most of these are from interior kimono and nagajuban so are off white or very pale in color-easily over-dyed. They are also very soft as they were to be worn close to the skin as opposed to the outer kimono layers.  They have their own spirit from previous owners and the spirit of each dyer will add their own imprint to the cloth.

Other things going on here include the shipping of lots of orders. I put out a lot of silk shibori ribbon scrap bags this week to clear out the scrap box.  Thanks to all who ordered the scrap samples to play and create with- Buddy overseas all the final inspection of orders here:

I closed the etsy shop until next week- need a little break from that to concentrate on the workshop and wholesale orders for a bit – look for it to reopen in a week…or so. I have some fun little ideas I also want to play with and need a little mental space in which to do it.  I hope I can find some!

In addition, I finally heard back from the city on their approval of my re-landscaping plan which conforms to their Lawn to Garden water saving plan.  So I went to Home Depot to buy some heavy black plastic which I will lay down and cover with free mulch from the city yard to kill off the lawn- or what is left of it.  It will take at least a month to kill off this way but worth it. Apparently, most everyone else will be doing it another way and Home Depot has stocked up to take advantage:

Apparently we never learn…

I know I promised an introduction to Squirrelly Gurl for those who haven’t yet met her but this got in the way first.  Next time-for sure.


in the Spirit of things

I am doing lots of repetitive things in the making of this shibori ribbon.  Lots of measuring, counting, winding, ironing and pot stirring.  Waiting for pots to heat up, things to cool off, dry up, unwind.  In the in-betweens and during the repetition I have time to think. And wonder.

People often ask me things at workshops like “What kind of brush do you use”  or, “what brand of “x” do you buy?”  I try to answer the best I can but really it’s not about these things.  It’s more about your commitment to what you are doing, the time you devote to it, your willingness to repeat something over and over than to anything else.  Take my brushes for example:

brushesThey are simple, basic and acquired over time.  Some are repaired, most not very expensive. But it’s more about HOW I use them and how they’ve become part of my daily routine.  I get used to these simple tools and I like things that last- especially under the duress of the dye studio.  Most of these are made by hand and the maker has also taken care and added their skill to the process.

This past month two of the family cars have been sent to the scrap yard.  They were each around 30 years old.  I really hated to see them go. They have served us well -one was already a salvage vehicle when we acquired it over 10 years ago. We got an additional 10 years out of it!   But we were faithful and repaired them many many times. I seemed a shame to not!  They were replaced by two *new* cars 5 years younger. I saved a memento…
Looking around the other night while folks were in the back studio rehearsing my eyes settled on this-

reel to reelYou might remember these from some time ago.  I was actually thrilled when my son fell in love with this.  It works and he has used it here and there.  As a recording engineer, I think he wanted to recreate the fidelity of past recordings in some of his current work.  It gave me the chance to tell him about how my dad had one of these at home and how I learned to splice tape back in high school for a “video” project I did about the Kent State killings and the Vietnam War.  Must have been around ’74-’75.  I made a slide presentation of images I collected from books, newspapers, drawings I had done etc. and had made into slides. To this I set music, radio news recordings and overdubbed my voice recorded on a Sony reel to reel.  I didn’t think it was really a big deal as I had watched my dad put together such things many times but when I presented it in class apparently, it was a big deal.  I wonder who owned this machine in the past? I hate it when useful things become obsolete.  I like it when folks find a way to use the obsolete.

old banjoA good musical instrument never becomes obsolete.  One recently came our way and it will be repaired and played.  This definitely has some spirit and a story.  We will find out more soon.


It’s late now, and the pomegranate tree casts its shadow on the back fence as the last of today’s silk steams.

The next post, in which I introduce you to Squirrelly Gurl ( for those who don’t follow FB), is forming in my mind…

wondering leads down new paths… and back again

It’s true, my blogging sabbatical is over.  It was never really “official”, whatever that means, but in the 9 months in which I haven’t blogged here I have been missing it.  Missing you, those of you who don’t partake in the flurry of other social media offerings.

What exactly do I miss about it?  I miss the wordier, more thoughtful, slower pace of writing a blog post as opposed to the quick quip on Facebook or a clever (maybe) image on Instagram.  If I want to give myself a sorry excuse, I will say I have been very busy these past months. I am quite thankful for that as there have been times when I wondered…financially speaking, if continuing was the way to go.  But being my persistent self, yes, once again persistence was the way.

Often over the past nine months I have thought- “Oh!  I should blog about that.”  Then I let it be and carried on in my work and the moment passed.  (Sometimes for the better I will admit.)

Blogging is more like a homemade meal, often with ingredients right out of your own garden. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the rest are more akin to a fast food joint- you’re in and you’re out. Things can happen in fits and bits.  That is what I have noticed.  And while I work out in the dye studio I can keep up with all that on my phone in a staccato-like way.  I can even throw up a photo ever so easily as I work.(Squirrelly Gurl says Hello!) Throw out a comment or two, commiserate, cheer on, congratulate, and send birthday wishes to people (some of whom I actually know!)  But in the end,  it’s the words and thoughts I miss.  Expression in a different form.

So, even if you can only stop in for a home cooked meal every now and then, come on by- I’ll be here stirring the pot a bit.

Some images from 2014 on your way out, great thanks to all who were a part of it- enjoy, create and wonder!!  We need more wonder in the world…