Collecting up a few bits and pieces.
I’m gathering the the circle of participants.
Collecting up a few bits and pieces.
I’m gathering the the circle of participants.
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…
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….
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.
and in the garden… tomatoes are rising! Milo ventures outdoors and approves!
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…
Last week was a bit of a blur. A 2 day workshop at the JANM, all the prep and putting away for that consumed days apart from the actual time at the museum. We made fermentation vats for everyone who wanted to take one home. I decanted and took a 5 gallon container from my own ferm vat to the workshop for participants to try out. We “seeded” each of the new vats with a cup or two of my vat, so now the mother vat has children and I may become a grandmother! Or at least an Auntie. I took NO photos that weekend- was just very involved and focused on what we were doing. Thanks to all who came and also to those who plan on returning to the upcoming workshops Dec 10-11 and also on the Feb. 4-5.
The week also brought some pomegranate dyeing into view and it feels as if I am spinning straw into gold. Using lots of old cloth-collected and gifted- re-loving them.
And now finally, I attempt to finish this post started nearly a week ago. With the first boxes sent off to the Ed office for my Houston workshops and the studio reorganized from that fiasco I continue…
plus, we got some rain…
This past week has had me busy on a number of things. I finally updated the events page here on the blog. Sheesh. You’d think that would be a priority. It use to be! These days with Facebook and Instagram I also list events there as well and things seem to fill anyway. Thankfully! But I do resolve to get back to keeping it more updated. Promise.
Also, I sent out the information on the upcoming Silk Study Tour to Japan 2017 last week. That takes quite a bit of time. I had promised to get that out in March but… well, things happened. But now it is done and last night I even played around a bit with my iMovie. Made a little trailer. For fun.
The tour info can be found here. Signups are ongoing and in the first week it is halfway filled with another 25% corresponding and wondering. So if you had your eye on this trip before, better to wonder earlier than later. We will keep a short wait list just in case.
There is really something special about receiving a handmade gift from someone who used what they purchased from me to make it. It returns to me transformed. It has new life and energy that has been added. It reminds me why I do what I do and why I enjoy it. When I send something out I get to wonder what will become of it. Sometimes I receive emails with photos or links showing what folks have done or made with their purchases. I receive stories. Some are simple and heartwarming, some are funny, some are sad, and some are transformative. They are all good. There arises a circle -like the moon, a give and take -like the tides, that connects us. So although it hardly seems enough for all these riches, I want to thank you once again. Thanks for sharing your abundance of creativity-with me and all the others in your lives.
When I make new things I explore them a bit knowing that once I add them to my shop offerings the receivers will expound upon my ideas or create their own- even better and more wonderfully creative things. This has been an intention of mine for a long time now. I wondered why-how I came to it. I’ve had a lot of years to come to understand why that is- too much to explain in a simple post. It’s enough for me to understand it in my own life.
I returned here the other day to reread this post upon the news that my favorite ceramist Harrison McIntosh passed away locally at the age of 101. You can read about his life here. I can’t really add much to all that has been written about him and his life/work except to say that I have really admired his ability to integrate the two things seamlessly (and perhaps a message to him to tell Woody I said hello).
And if all this isn’t enough, with everything that has been going on here I did not do my usual announcing or my upcoming (this weekend!) workshop at the JANM. We will be focusing on mandalas on vintage silks and there are still spots available. You can sign up here through the museum-and I apologize for the late notice here.
There’s more, but enough for now…
I have lots of ideas in my head. They need transference to my hands. This week I was able to accomplish a couple of these. Ideas are really nothing until action is visited upon them. Firstly, this-
Silk shibori gauze tubing. In the testing stages and time will be needed to ramp it up into production mode. More endless possibilities. I will be selling this by the yard on a retail only level in the new year-limited colors to begin with. More on this to follow. Maybe no one will love it like I do but this is the sort of thing that feeds my soul. I conquered the ribbon. I need a new and more challenging conquest. I found a couple pendants that matched this colorway…
Sorry for the crappy photo-taken on the fly. But more wondering about silk shibori ribbon bead embroidery. This is interesting on a few levels. Firstly, because it is from scraps that customers don’t want. I love that. When customers started complaining that the ends of their ribbon rolls were ugly, I started cutting them off and saving them for myself. I thought they were the most interesting part of the roll. Go figure. That’s been the story of my life. So here I have a huge box of “ends” that I don’t even put into scrap bags. Mine, all mine!! Now when I make a roll of ribbon I try to make the “ugliest” ends possible! It suits me.
Secondly, Katrina and I have been busy finalizing our Silk Experience calendar for the Houston Quilt Festival 2016. It’s now finished and checked off the list. One of the new teachers has a lightweight gridded single sided fusible product that I ordered a sample of. I have other ideas for it but in the meantime, it occurred to me to try it for my shibori ribbon brooch/pendant sample for the class I submitted to Quilts Inc. for next year. It works great for quickly stabilizing a pleated design with the ribbon. Just arrange and pin the ribbon to the stabilizer and hit with some steam from the back side quickly – easily holding the ribbon in place prior to beading. This can also be done with sections of the ribbon that I see art quilters using. Just a simple thing really, but useful.
And some of what is heading to Italy…soon
In indigo shibori news, Buddy loves his linen pillows. Silly dog.
It’s over and I’m home. A long 10 days of constant action and responsibilities. Classes, setup, teardown, travel and the lugging of more stuff than I want to remember. Until next year!
A few highlights included classes that went smoothly, a great booth setup, and seeing so many customers and students from throughout the years. Also had some crazy weather and flooding! Note to self: pack boots next year! (I did pack umbrellas and a raincoat!)
I got to meet Deb McClintock of the blog NATURAL DYEING IN THE TEXAS HILL COUNTRY. I have enjoyed her adventures in natural dyeing for some time now. She also grows and dyes with indigo, madder and pomegranate (among other things). Thanks for taking the time to stop by Deb! Got to visit with Judith Montano a bit- she is so busy teaching every year at Festival she hardly gets down to the show floor. I have admired her book Elegant Stitches for many years- have a copy of the original edition from way back and love how her work has transitioned from crazy quilting into the lovely landscapes she does now. Had a little time with Brooke from Hannah Silks- we go way back. So far back that neither one of us can any longer remember how long ago! Was saddened to hear that her mom Hannah had passed away- she was the Hannah behind the silk.
It was a pleasure to see and meet up with folks who appreciate the techniques and materials behind the textiles. I really enjoy the vintage dealers most I think (Carola Pfau of Textile Treasures, June Colburn, Carol Saber and others). Their knowledge of the textiles they sell is priceless. These textiles teach us so much. What do the textiles of today teach us? I wonder. A customer came to talk to me about what she had seen at the show. She felt that the prizewinning quilts were lacking something. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it at first. They were detailed, precise, painstakingly designed, impressive in scale, pleasing to look at…yet, something was missing. Our conversation turned to the missing element- the fact that so much of the quilting done these days and especially for big quilt prizes is technology and consumer driven. Ever more sophisticated machines, tools and fabrics dominate. In some of these pieces it causes them to feel sterile, almost as if they weren’t make by hand. But yet they are. Such precision in cutting, stitching, and profusion of color and design made available by the limitless palette of modern fabrics takes away something I think. Comparing the vintage quilts in the show with their newer cousins one causes one to wonder about all this. I know I am speaking blasphemy when I say this. One can wonder can’t one?
Today the show boxes arrived and were unpacked and I will send out emails to catch up a bit. I needed a few days to recover (I forgot to mention the visit to the Urgent Doc in Houston did I?) and regain my balance, literally. Perhaps some leftover items will appear in the shop by the end of next week…
There’s an upcoming workshop at the JANM to prepare for (sold out) and orders to start on in addition to a few custom orders placed at the show. Time to get busy…
People at the show were already excited about the 2017 Silk Study Tour to Japan and wanted to write me checks but I am not ready for that just yet. Hirata San and I are working out the new itinerary already and will have it up by January 30. This time we will do 12 nights and include Kyoto! What fun. To be informed of these details please sign yourself up for my Constant Contact newsletter in the sidebar and make sure to check Silk Study Tour as an area of interest.
And in Freer news… I have added the Silk Shibori Ribbon Poinsettia Brooch PDF which includes links to the two videos on how to make this holiday piece. I have also added a PDF to the simple shibori fringed flower. This is easily made with small scraps you may have around. Please enjoy.
Here are a few shots from the show- big thanks to Donna and Virginia for helping me get through it all- you both were integral to the whole. Also thanks to Katrina Walker and the whole Silk Experience team of teachers and Quilts Ed staff for doing a great job at Quilt Festival. It was very much appreciated.
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.
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.
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.
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-
Seasons mark time like nothing else. The visual signs all around us are unmistakable.
-the feel of the air in the morning and again in the evening. Sounds also turn the corner into fall.
And here at my desk I also must mark time. The time that orders must ship, the time that show prep begins and materials must be sent off. Schedules for next year are already filling in. I do that as if I know how things will be when that time rolls around. I laugh. Ha! What if? We don’t know at all but here we are making plans.
The world seems so uncertain.
Just in case, Richard and I are planning a new in-studio workshop (details coming), I’m planning dates for shows and other workshops in the new year. And also a couple of trips are in the works. I’ve been asked to coordinate two adventures in Japan next Spring. One is a private group of friends returning to the past in a way- sharing old memories and getting to know each other again in the present. A reunion tour. I hope to make it a very special time for all.
The other, is coordination of a short extension tour for Maggie Backman‘s Cross Culture Tour. I have to say, when and if I get to be Maggie’s age, I hope I have her enthusiasm, energy and spunk. This is an idea she has had for some time now. It grew out of her love for sharing Japan, silk, and learning with others. For quite a number of years now we have realized that while we are introducing gaijins (foreigners) to Japan through our own “Silk Road” via the Silk Study Tour to Japan, there were an equal number of Japanese who were interested in what we were doing. And while Maggie was bringing in teachers from Japan to teach in the Silk Experience classroom at the Houston Quilt Festival and while Japanese visitors to the show were signing up for silk classes…she wondered…
-what if…? What if she organized a tour that combined US teachers and Japanese teachers and included both Japanese and American/foreign students in a bilingual workshop in Japan. So here is what she has put together:
My job is to lead and coordinate the tour extension but I will also be around to lend a hand when needed during the workshop portion. The US teachers are Katrina Walker and June Colburn. Japanese instructors are Masako Wakayama and Noriko Endo.
So take a look and wonder…and imagine marking time between now and then.