Many thing going on here…I guess I’ll start with sericulture and the silkworms. My friend Nobue Higashi and her husband have just finished their spring crop of silk cocoons. It’s pretty impressive. You can see her blog here (just click your translate button to read in English as I do- it’s too complicated for my poor Japanese even if the google translate sucks-you’ll get the jist of it). My current dream is to take more workshops at Ton-Cara. Somehow…
My small batch of silkworms (quantity unknown) are doing very well. Eating every mulberry leaf in sight. I’m expecting them to slow down any day and vomit up their guts (nice visual huh?). Then they will rest a bit and start to swing their cute little heads around while in the “praying” position. I have prepared the cocooning frames and straw bedding. I have my mini sericulturists making their own cocoon forms from TP tubes cut in half an glued together. On a sad note, one set of the silkworms suffered from grasserie and a garden burial was prepared. We are not sure of the cause but two things are possible contenders- tainted mulberry leaves from a street tree in the city or just from not enough aeration due to laying leaves without branches. I think tainted leaves might be it. In any case, so goes sericulture. The other neighborhood family’s silkworms are fine and have been eating the same leaves as mine. I will send a new batch over to them later today so they can watch the cocooning.
I have been dyeing a bit also, indigo and otherwise. I collected the seed pods from the feathery senna that last year I discovered gives a nice rich gold. I also collected and tested the knife edge wattle and discovered that those pods gave a nice rich brown. All this was done on silk with alum. A lovely green was was the result of over dyeing the senna dyed silk with indigo from the fermentation vat.
I had a chance to speak on the phone with Karren Brito in Oaxaca today where we are still hopeful of her receiving the zakuri I sent her way. It’s not easy dealing with bureaucracy there. But I was really interested in her conversation about sericulture in Mexico and the history of it there. I actually did do some online searching and couldn’t find much but she had a lot to share about it. Maybe one day…
This was my Solstice project, more or less. Still not done but who’s rushing these days? It has a great feel in my hand while stitching on it. The back is an old linen tablecloth with great weight and drape. The front is a variety of cotton, silk, and linen scraps that were used to test dye the new indigo fermentation vat. The silk embroidery thread was gifted from Katrina quite some time ago. It’s from a stash her mother’s friend discovered when clearing out a house. It’s about 100 years old. I thought I had blogged about it but can’t find the post to link here. It’s great to stitch with. Amazing really. I’m not used to such luxurious embroidery thread!
And in moon news…just a few to add today.
And the old cat Milo has decided to join life downstairs after secluding himself upstairs for the past 8 years. We don’t know why, but we are enjoying his company in the garden, the studio and the rest of the downstairs. The dogs give him space for the most part.
First of all, I want to say a little something here about my friend who passed away last week from breast cancer. Some of you who attend the Houston Quilt Festival or Roundtop/Marbuger know her. I’ve mentioned her here on various occasions as hers was always my favorite booth at the Houston Quilt Festival. Not only was she brilliant, she was a lover of good cloth, cloth with a history. Carola Pfau and I became friends over ten years ago after meeting at the show. Her booth, Textile Treasures, was always just that- a treasure trove of interesting and instructive textiles she had collected from around the world, most predominately from Japan and Germany. Over the years we bonded over that cloth, shared vendor frustrations and joys (we shared many of the same wonderful customers at the show), helped each other out, and had more than a few delicious after show dinners. I have lots of stories I could tell about my times with Carola but the best thing I can share about her is her will to live, to live life her way, and to leave this earthly realm a better place for her having been here. She spent the last number of years enjoying traveling in her RV with her beloved cats making new friends, visiting old ones, and sharing her adventures and tribulations with all of us online. Her recent favorite saying was FUCK CANCER! I will miss her… A couple of stories… One year I eyed a particularly nice piece of hand spun and handwoven european linen in her booth and just knew it was worthy of some indigo dyeing. I bought the piece, $100 for a 2 yard cut (special vendor discount applied) and returned from the show with it. It was about 20″ wide, had lots of character, texture, and potential. I was actually a bit intimidated by it. I didn’t want to ruin it! I hung it on the back of a door near my flower making table and just looked at it for a year. Finally, I made the attempt. I sketched out a plan and set up to dye the piece. I opted for simplicity, applying some itajime techniques I learned from Satoh san. Satisfied with the result, it must have been two shows after making the purchase, I took it back to the Houston show, hung it on the edge of the booth, and put a price on it. Carola wandered by the booth and admired it and asked the price. I asked if she remembered this cloth. She laughed when she realized I had bought it from her. She ended up taking it back to her booth. We had a good laugh about that. I was so pleased she liked it enough to buy it back (vendor discount applied). Carola had spent a lot of time and had lived in Japan with her husband Makoto. One year, when I was going to Japan, she insisted I stay in her room at their apartment in Tokyo. She was in Austin but Makoto was fine with it she said. It was a great visit. Makoto loved to haunt the temple sales and flea markets which was exactly what I wanted to do. We spent a couple of days having the best time shopping for textiles, some for me and others for Carola that I knew would sell at the shows Carola was doing at the time. It was that trip that I found the used zakuri (silk reeling device) that I brought back with me (more on the zakuri later in the post). Makoto had a nice collection of porcelain sake cups he was adding to. He also took me to see the Mingei Museum for the first time. (old blog post on this here) Treasured memories AND textiles! Right around the time I met her, I remember her telling about her attempt to get her license renewed at the DMV. She sent me this link. It is classic Carola! I went back and watched it. It also reminded me of how she took no prisoners with the medical and insurance companies during her fight to get the healthcare she needed and wanted after her breast cancer diagnosis. She visited me in her travel van early on in order to get access to cannabis edibles that were available here in CA but not in TX. They helped her sleep when difficult treatments and medications did not. Her sister wrote a blog post in memoriam to Carola. Ahhh Carola…you will be missed, remembered dearly and hilariously! Sayonara Carola- mata ne!
Continuing along about the zakuri I purchased in Japan, I recently received a note from my favorite shibori expert Karren Brito. She was interested in procuring a zakuri that she could pass along to friends in Oaxacca that are raising silkworms there. Since workshops here are not happening for a while, I thought that that the zakuri I purchased in Japan with Makoto would be doing more service there than here. I have the other one I am using and I loved the idea of sending it to Karren and the silk workers down there. She tells me that they have been raising silkworms in Mexico for 500 years! I did not know this. She also tells me that in order to get silkworm eggs from the government for commercial rearing, you must have 200 mulberry trees. Interesting! Boxed up and sent via DHL, the zakuri is now stuck in customs in Mexico City…we await clearance. Apparently, being made of wood, there is a concern. Wish us luck!
In silkworm news here, the “tiny masters” have entered the 3rd instar (stage). It’s much easier to clean the trays now they are larger. I have a couple of neighborhood kids raising 20 each. It’s a good project for kids. Two are elementary schoolers and the other is a HS student. I sent them all several interesting links to study. They asked me if they could let them emerge, mate, and lay eggs. Yes!
As for the numbers…we reached 100 deaths this past weekend and are now up to 108 as of today. I need to rip more strips of indigo fabric… 😦
It’s been hot here lately-mid to upper 90’s even here at the beach. Thankfully, today started a cooling trend. The garden is coming along nicely-lots of vegetables!
And, finally, I was putting together various test scraps from the fermentation vat for a base when I heard about Carola. It prompted me to dig into some of the linen I still had from her, cut a strip and dye a moon. This is now morphing into something else entirely.
I added a new Moonmate video a few days ago yet never got this blog post finished to announce it. This is the shortest one so far! Originally I thought they would all be about 5 minute videos but up to now I have not been able to achieve that. Today’s video focuses on making some kakishibu base fabric as a starting point- check it out…
Generally, it takes me a bit to write a post and these days you would think that would be simple, given that we are all staying at home. But herein lies the problem! We are all staying at home! And staying at home with two musicians leads to some interesting days. No one is going anywhere so finding a nice block of uninterrupted time in which to write/record/teach is somewhat problematic. In the before times, each of them would regularly be gone for hours at a time but not now! We are all seeking some separate space for our various activities. Even my noise cancelling headphones can only do so much and more often just serve as a visual reminder that I am doing my own thing. My blog posts are being written in fits and spurts and not in one nice stream of thought. On the other hand, there are positives as well- Trevor and I are enjoying more gardening time together and and Phil is working on more recordings. Plus, a marimba has arrived!
There have been many points over the past couple of weeks where I said to myself: “hey me, that is something I want to include in my next blog post”, but alas-much of it fades away as time passes by as I flit like a butterfly from one thing to the next…. I really should write them down. (ps…the monarchs are laying lots of eggs and caterpillars are hatching all over the yard!)
Here are a few links to thankfulness…that I managed to remember!
Mo from her blog “It’s Crow Time” wrote a beautiful post that included some moons and a wonderful bag she made for a friend. She’s been a long time and patient moonmate…thanks Mo! Hers is a blog I recommend subscribing to by email.
And then again, my daily read and maybe yours too, is Jude’s Spirit Cloth-taking a new turn from a new place. She is doing a “work beside me” type project that many are enjoying. This post, from a few days ago, features moons and the thought of overlapping as an idea.
And John Marshall is now doing online workshops! Maybe I mentioned that in the previous post. I finally was able to secure a copy of his book “Singing the Blues” just in time for the new indigo vat.
I’m making a new natural indigo vat- finally. An organic fermentation vat. I didn’t have enough indigo for a full 40 gallon vat so started with a smaller 10 gallon one. Pasted up the indigo, measured out the other ingredients, pulled 10 gallons of rainwater I had collected for a large vat, and dug the rest of my madder so I could use it in this vat. Moved the madder to a new location.
I have wanted to try rainwater for quite some time and now finally getting the chance. I notice that it is one full point higher (9) in pH than our regular tap water (7.8). I re-calibrated my ph meter and realized that I needed a new container of calibrating solution but had enough for about 2 more times. Used up the last of my soda ash so ordered a bit of that too from a local pool supply shop. Also found that my titanium aquarium heater was no longer working so went ahead and ordered one. Seems they have gotten cheaper since the last time I ordered one-hope it’s a good one for my purposes. It’s still cool at night here (upper 50’s/low 60’s) so it needs a little help. I have it sitting in a sunny location for the time being and will dig out some insulating wrap for it today. After retrieving the wheat bran, indigo and some additional madder from the garagio freezer, I note that a good sorting out of the freezer is in order. There are dyestuffs, cocoons and other materials in there along with walnuts (squirrels continue to visit), last seasons roasted hatch chili peppers (very spicy!), various flours and other things. Need to remove all and defrost this week. Updates on how the vat is doing in the next post I imagine…
On a sad note, I saw a notice that Michelle Whipplinger of Earthues has passed away. I didn’t purchase often from her site but did gain invaluable information from her writings. I know many were fortunate to take workshops from her and benefit directly from her global expertise gained over a long and sustained practice. She left a beautiful, kind and compassionate knowledge base in her wake for us to enjoy. Blessings to her memory and to her family and friends.
And in celebration of beginnings… my old silk moth eggs did not hatch but I ordered a small batch of eggs (mainly since I had gotten the neighbor kids interested and a little home schooled science might be good) and they should be hatching any day now.
To beginnings and endings…and to continuing. I think I’ll leave it here.
Online sales have been extremely slow. Workshops and events I planned on participating in have been cancelled through the fall. No magic money has arrived from the government here. The California EDD which had the self-employed wait until today to file for help is a dumpster fire of website crashes and unanswered phone lines. No end in sight for that.
I have never in my life applied for any type of assistance , having been self employed my entire life. I have no idea what others are doing but here’s what I am doing today…
I’m going through my inventory of work and will be listing it here on a first come first served basis. No reason to save it in order to sell later at a show. Honestly I don’t even want to take the time to list it in my shop but will have to just to keep it organized in some form. Please excuse the less than usual detail I take to photograph and list things. This first batch will be done as one listing by number using the drop-down menu. These scarves normally go in the shop for $185 plus shipping. Today, they are all $50 including shipping. Anything left at the end of tomorrow I will cut up and put into scrap bags for sale at a later date. You too, may just want one to cut up and use-who knows? The pleated silk is great fun to work with in all kinds of stitching projects.
Time slowed a bit this week, or at least that’s my perception. In the Moment.
I did a little tinkering with moonmaking and the result was a pleated moon on silk ro. I included a bit on that in the new moonmates video.
I talked a little bit about the fabrics I use. I could go on and on with that topic as it really is key to dyeing anything at all and can dictate the type of shibori process best suited for the cloth.
But back to the pleated moon. I’ve wanted to try this for some time. I really liked the process. Adjustments were made to allow the pleats to be retained (not wetting the fabric first, then letting the piece dry while clamped after rinsing out well). Then the whole thing was trimmed a bit before stabilizing on a background cloth using Jude’s glue stitch (or invisible basting stitch). I love the sculptural quality of it stitched onto the background. I don’t know where this piece is going or what it will lead to. For now, I have it pinned to the wall where I can think on it a while. What I did find was that the pleats were easily retained- even around the outside edge of the resist. The silk has a memory and unless forcefully removed, remains.
Here is a quicklink to Jude’s youtube showing her glue stitch that I referred to. There were other interesting moons this week, they continue to fascinate me, endlessly.
TIme now to go do a drop off of supplies to Amma. For some reason this past week the facility would not allow the Kaiser hospice nurse to do her regular visit there- without explanation. After a series of calls to various people in positions to question this, nurse visits have resumed. You really do have to keep up with what is going on in these facilities.
I open up my wordpress site to write this post and see that almost 3 weeks have passed since the last post! Has reality melted time? Dali’s Persistence of Memory comes to mind. I’ve been busy, but time seems incongruous with reality. Maybe it’s my memory or perception of time that can be faulted. In any case…
It’s time for a new Moonmates tutorial. If you recall, they are free, but don’t let that discourage you from contributing using the pay as you wish link in the sidebar. In these times, all contributions are welcomed. Today’s tutorial is a bit different as we had lots of rain here the week I started working on the video, so I took a little different approach. I think you might like it. I also cleared out all the orders for the moons and ribbon scrap bags so if you were waiting for your moonsets, you may have them now or they are in transit. I also restocked the shop with moonsets.
In the news over the past week was an an announcement that Quilts Inc. was not going to refund vendors for their booth fees from the cancelled Pittsburg Spring Market. Then after what appears to be a virtual landslide of negative social media commentary lashing out at their decision, they found the money, turned that decision around and are now refunding booth fees. I know many who were relieved to hear it! My question is what are they doing regarding the scheduled Long Beach Quilt Festival scheduled July 9-11? They have yet to announce any cancellation of the show- although from everything I am hearing in the city and the state, there will not be any large events happening that early. Lots of vendors are wondering and have sent in booth fees. I seriously doubt that the public will be rushing out to attend large events this soon. I just received a cancellation for a show I was going to do in early October here in LA. If I were them, I’d get ahead of that and announce the cancellation now. The future is very uncertain isn’t it?
Working on moons this past week, I made a little discovery. I became obsessed with the patterns on the little blocking fabrics I was using to make a particular type of moon. I started setting them aside and then altering them in divergent ways. The rain, having driven me inside to work, I started arranging them in variously. I settled on one layout and started piecing them together using Jude’s non-paper piecing method. I have been enjoying the lookback review she is doing on her blog of all the techniques she uses in her work and I wanted to practice a bit with them. Now pieced and ready to attach to a background cloth, I have it hanging on the wall gathering thoughts on how I want to proceed. I’m leaning toward simplicity and see it as a bit of a meditation piece. I think I’ll use Jude’s glue stitch to mount this on the background cloth.
Several pieces have been added to the wall and are gathering thoughts on what they might become. here’s another…
Again, the woven moon is a takeoff on Jude’s cloth weaving technique. The background moon is dyed on an old grainsack that had been repaired. The lower moon is on some old thick silk organza I found in Japan. It looks like a planet with a gaseous cloud swirling around it. Who knows where this one will go? I hope I don’t have to wait for more rain to find out. It might be quite a while…
The post-rain garden is looking really wonderful and flowery. We pulled the rest of the beets and daikon for pickling, making room for more summer veggies. Another round of beets, lettuces and beans are in the works. Seeds are sprouting everywhere. The weed pulling continues…
Since we last visited, the full moon came and went and we are approaching the new moon soon. I’ve been playing with new ideas for moons and they become more complex.
Perhaps you would like to visit the shop?
If you have previously pondered purchasing one of the pieces in the shop under the Zakka category, you might want to take advantage of the marked down prices there. A lot of work went into these pieces and while I hate to do it, they aren’t doing me any good sitting here in my inventory. Maybe today is your lucky day-and mine too!