Category Archives: Silk Study Tour to Japan

too much and too little

Why is it I can’t get to writing blog posts the way I used to?

Part of it is because I let too much time pass between them and then I get to feeling overwhelmed by all that I want to communicate in a post so I put it off. But today’s the day!
Another part of it is that so many other things are demanding my time and mental space at the moment. Have you ever written ballot arguments for measures appearing in an upcoming election? Walked for a candidate? Worked on social media to get a good candidate out there? Involved yourself organizing and researching issues for a community and candidate? It’s a lot of mental space. Paying attention to your local politics is important since many want to move up in the ranks and we can’t afford to have unethical people running our cities-regardless of party. City governments need to remain nonpartisan!

Amami dreams…

Ongoing here is is a series of Power Alerts- meaning residents are asked to reduce electricity use during our current heatwave. Heat always saps my energy and usually my work happens outside-in the heat. We close the nights cool air in the house and pull the shades during the day to preserve coolness. We rarely use the AC this way but there are times when it gets to the upper 90’s that I succumb to the need-keeping the thermostat at 80. It’s also not cheap! I’m doing more inside work today and for the next three days.
Additionally- we are getting ready for a 2 week ban on outdoor watering. There is a major pipeline repair that will be underway on a pipe that supplies water to a large part of Southern California. Hopefully the weather will cool down and give us a little help but that’s a big if. Deep watering my critical trees, filling my rain barrels to water only the the most sensitive plants over the next two weeks. I’ve pulled all the veggie garden and won’t plant again until late fall due to all this. Hoping for cooler weather and a little rain this fall. Fire alert is HIGH!


Thankful…

I am thankful we have water at all…Jackson Mississippi.
I am thankful to be closer to the coast…inland temps in the 100’s-110- only cooling to 90 at night!
I am thankful not to be in a high fire danger zone. Currently Castaic area is burning.
I am thankful we have electricity and are only asked to cut back.
(Conserve for the greater good!)
I’m thankful my 35 year old Volvo passed smog yesterday so it can be registered! Sad though that my beloved mechanic is calling it quits this week. He was a 240 enthusiast and specialist. He was devoted to keeping these cars on the road in good condition. So far this 35 year old car has retired two great Volvo mechanics!

In shibori news… I’ve sent off a shibori ribbon order to Michelle at Fundametals which she will have listed soon in her shop. I finally got FedEx to settle a claim on a lost order to France after it disappeared in mid June. Jeeze. An ordeal- but finally over.
August moons were all sent- a little later in the month than usual and they were HOT! Hope you all liked them. I only managed to screw up a few by double shipping some due to a label printing error but that’s better than someone not getting theirs. Better to overship than undership! I hate it when people are unhappy with me. I always work to make it right for them.


Also, playing around with some hotaru (dragonfly) stencils and various stitching…

September moons will involve natural dyes- seems appropriate being a harvest month. I’ve collected quite a bit of the feathery senna seed pods and due to the heat, my fermentation indigo vat is really kicking! I will be combining those two this month. One silk and one cotton. I’m working it out now. The iron vat needs a little attention but will get to that in good time.

We are inching closer to taking deposits for the 2023 Silk Study Tour. Japan is starting to relax their restrictions a LITTLE. Thinking is that by next May we will be able to resume. Dates for the tour are 5/11-5/26 2023. Keep your fingers crossed. In the meantime, enjoy this end of summer post by Meiji Showa Old Photos of Japan about musical insects!

https://www.oldphotosjapan.com/photos/903/insect-musicians-mushiuri-insect-vendors-vintage-albumen-print?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email

I didn’t mention it last post because I was still too sad about it but crazy cat Moose was taken back and moved by his “real” owners. He had been part of the daily scene here for a year, sleeping in our bed at night and by my side or harassing my own cats here by day. He was a royal PITA but we loved him and took care of him. He didn’t want to live with his owners. He was a fighter and a misfit. I hope he is OK.

We miss him every day but I do have to say that OUR cats and the neighbor cats DO NOT! They have resumed their places as top cats and I can’t blame them. Pictured here is the Captain, next door cat that spends most of the day here but goes home at night. He is Kuro chan’s buddy who has resumed sleeping in the shade on the surfboards where moose use to dominate. They look alike and the easiest way to tell them apart is by Kuro’s ragged ear and Captain’s saucer eyes

A fruitful month here in the garden yielded a delicious cantaloupe, some grapes from a neighbor, and a bunch of pomegranates I still have to get out there and pick so I can juice them. Later, when it cools off. Lemons are done for now but limes getting ripe. I just went outside for a minute and the high predicted heat has not materialized- at least so far for today it hasn’t hit 90 yet.

And then there are the ginko nuts…ginnan in Japanese. Probably the most I have ever seen & way more than I can use with not many takers. If you are local and want some, let me know! They are currently in the “stinky phase”. The heat is baking the outside smelly part and hastening the process. Once the outside has sloughed off I will collect and process what I can. Google eating ginko nuts for ideas…. There are plenty for the squirrels to stash away for the “winter” here. They too, are waiting out the stinky phase.

And then the night blooming cactus. It has produced many evenings of 100+ blooms. The bees were in heaven and now with fruits ripening high up the purple finches are having plenty of sweet, juicy, seedy eats.

I’m finishing up details on upcoming workshops so look for that next post. It won’t be so long…

just going…no step is too small.

I don’t believe in magical thinking, in being positive without action. I do believe that one can manifest things or people or places into their lives by educating one’s self and taking actions, even tiny ones, toward that thing, that place, or even a person. This may be especially good information for young people these days.

This post is going to be about this sort of thing. It’s also about shibori, Japan, travel, and probably other things I’m not aware of just yet.

You all know I like to garden. Nature relaxes me. Gardening inspires me and gives me small daily moments to appreciate the details of Nature. Seed planting is one example of this. I can literally throw some seeds on the ground and they might sprout. Nature might convene with me. And maybe not. They may be easy to take care of where they pop up or they may be in a path and get trampled to death without ever flowering and re-seeding themselves. The location might be too sunny, too shady, or take too much water to thrive. Or, I can plant the seeds, nurture them in a container until they become a strong seedling and transplant them somewhere they will successfully grow to maturity.
We can’t (and aren’t meant to) control everything but we can work with what we have and adjust and learn along the way.

You probably know I grew up in Japan. I really longed to return-to surround myself with that place I remembered and had fond memories. Many years ago, I was selling my porcelain buttons at Quilt Festival. In those days (mid 90’s), there were many Japanese visitors to that show-much to my surprise at the time. I didn’t then know how popular quilting in Japan had become. I had great fun interacting with these women and speaking with them using my rudimentary Japanese. Eventually, they would make a point of always coming to my booth and sometimes even asking for my help with another vendor to make a purchase or ask a question. Then, an interesting thing happened.
I was invited to go to Japan and sell my porcelain buttons at the first World Quilt show in Tokyo. Only ten US vendors were invited. They would handle everything. The booth would be free. They paired me up with a quilter who was also doing the show at whose home I was graciously offered to stay. All I had to do was get to Japan with my goods. I went from dreaming of going back to standing on the street in Kawasaki. I could feel it all around me, the climate, the street shops, the aromas… I literally cried right then and there, I was so overcome with gratitude from ending up just standing in that spot. I’m pretty sure anyone who might have seen me in that moment on the street was mystified. But I was HOME!

It was probably about a decade later that I had closed the porcelain company and had given myself a year sabbatical to figure out what the heck I was going to do next. It was time to reinvent Life. By this time, I’d processed the death of my first husband, married a second, had two kids (then in high school) and was still in the process of a very ugly complicated divorce that was just dragging on and on. Phil had come into the picture. But dammit- I was going to take the kids to Japan! They had been studying Japanese at school and were anxious to go. So we went! Again, in co-operation with the Universe I was once again HOME! We went on a very tight budget- often spending $40 a night for all of us in a “gaijin house”- pre AirBNB. We stayed with some Yakuza too, another interesting adventure and a story for another time.
It was 2006. I returned back to Long Beach and began to make shibori- and shibori ribbon was born!

Back to the Quilt Festival I went with the ribbon and my other shibori textiles. This was around 2007. Enter Maggie Backman (for whom I’ll forever be grateful). Maggie was the originator and seller of the Colorhue Silk Dyes and herself was a master of Japanese embroidery selling both the dyes and the silk threads to other US distributors. She asked me to teach some shibori on silk classes using her dyes at the show. I told her didn’t feel I was qualified. She fortunately did not listen to this nonsense! (If you know Maggie-she’s hard to say NO to!) And so it was. I ended up teaching shibori there for many years, really coming into my own. Another HOMEcoming of sorts thanks to Maggie. Turned out we had both lived in Yokohama/Yokosuka at the same time. Me, as an elementary school girl, and she, the wife of a Navy Captain and mother to her own kids.

A couple of years later she was beginning the Silk Study Tour to Japan. She had gone once to lay some groundwork and was now ready to take some paying travelers. It was 2009. She INSISTED I come. When I demurred because of the cost, she arranged a loan from a fund her Aunt had left with easy pay back terms so I could go. I went and assisted her in every way I could. By the next tour, she really needed my help (due to her husband’s health and the fact she was 81) and I started to take over the tour for her. By 2011, I was in charge of the tour and although Maggie no longer comes with us (she turned 92 this year!) she always loves a full report and gives advice.

So where is all this leading you may ask by now(if you are still here!)? I’m circling it back to how one manifests the life you want to live. This is for you-feel free to share the sentiment:

when what you do is perceived as being frivolous, persist!

Shiborigirl

In non traditional careers, we are often told to “get a real job”. The arts can be perceived as a frivolous pursuit. But my advice is to discard that thinking. Visualize getting where you want to go or what you want to do. Everything you do is a step in that direction. Even when it doesn’t seem so. Make it so.
It’s part of you becoming. Wishing doesn’t make things so. Actions do. Small and large. Sometimes even just reminding oneself of the direction or the destination is enough in the moment. There are lots of off and on ramps along the way! Take the road less traveled!
*****************
This post above was written several weeks ago and I just hadn’t published it. I was just wondering about it. Lots of activity here and finally now calming down a bit (I think) and I’m back to the blogging “mood”-ha!
I’ve been cleaning out the studio and found some of those old buttons on sample cards- I enjoyed looking at them and remembering the process.
Plant a seed. Adjust. Take small steps. Collectively you’ll get somewhere!

tsujigahana on my mind

As those of you who have come along on the Silk Study Tour to Japan, you have had the opportunity to visit the Ichiku Kubota Museum. There is not a single person that has visited here on the various tours that left this exhibit unmoved or unchanged. Many have shed tears while experiencing this place, or while contemplating what we had just seen, while enjoying the tea room upstairs overlooking the garden waterfall. Even if you know nothing about Kubota when you enter, when you leave you long for more. There is a spiritual connection to beauty in the work, the surroundings and gardens, the architecture, and a deep respect for passion and perseverance he brought forth. Even though much of the experts in the various videos talk about the painting and imagery in his works, I am in awe of his deep understanding of and connection to the materials he used, and especially of the silk fabrics he utilized to get the results he saw in his very keen mind’s eye. The way he used stitch to bind and to texture the silk was a marvel. Even thinking about it now can transport me to that place.

Back in 2009 I blogged about my first visit there I was on the first Silk Study Tour to Japan with Maggie Backman and took a day away from the tour by bus to check out this museum. Beginning in 2011, all the tours have included a stop at this wonderful place!

You can enjoy this many part documentary covering various aspects of Kubota’s work here.

and this website-

Way back in 2008 I made a little silk baby quilt after looking at some of Kubota’s work. It was a meek attempt but I enjoyed trying out some ideas. I called it the “journey quilt”, the moon to guide the way, waves to sooth, and mountains to climb. “The baby” just turned 13! Simply made so it could actually be finished, he still has it.

One weekend at the Japanese American National Museum we studied and attempted some small tsujigahana ourselves. We came to understand its complexity. I have never really gone back to studying or practicing this technique but if you are so inclined, the marvelous John Marshall is giving an online workshop all about tsujigahana! Here he gives a brief description of the process. Here is a link to John’s workshop hosted by Botanical Colors. I’m sure it will be wonderful!

That’s all today. I have had the links to the Kubota Collection in a draft post since December and thought it would be a good time to get it out there since John is doing a tsujigahana workshop next month.

who, what, when, where

Somewhere I recently read that 90% of writing is rewriting. This often rings true when I’m writing blog posts. I stop and start, sometimes by design, sometimes by circumstance. Often times when I go to hit the “publish” button and I see the number of revisions I’m shocked! Some of the revisions are minor of course, a word or two here and there, a punctuation or spelling correction, or just an adjustment to make if feel better as the words roll by. Other times, it’s as if I started out with one idea and end up with a completely different post for one reason or another. Some posts are completed in one sitting, others are written over the course of several days. I never know which it will be once I’ve started.

Sadly, I’m attending a service today for a man named Bill Pearl who for 20 plus years was the journalist with the most integrity in our city. He was mostly ignored by local government as he didn’t write what they wanted him to-but the people loved him and it is very obvious by the many, many outpourings of love and stories written online in his memory. He kept politicians accountable and residents informed as best he could.
He always asked us to think about the who, what, when, and where of a story. Should you wish to spend a little time learning about our friend Bill, you can go here, and here.

Many times while I’m working I write clever blog posts in my head, fully meaning to write them very soon. Unfortunately (or fortunately), they usually disappear from my mind before I get back to the keyboard. If I’m lucky, I stop what I’m doing for a second and jot a voice note into my Notes app for later retrieval. If I’m further fortunate, I can actually remember what I meant to write about from that note!
Ahhh… so goes blogging. At least the way I do it these days. I really don’t know how Bill managed it all these years…

Recent days have had me preparing & shipping out the kits for the upcoming Komebukuro Treasure Bag workshop starting on the 20th. That reminds me…I need to go into the shop and halt all kit sales. I won’t have time to do any more to be mailed out in time before the workshop. BUT- you can still sign up for the workshop and use your own materials. In fact, there are people who only do the workshop and don’t order kits which is just fine. I love to see what fabrics they choose to use. If you sign up for that there is a materials list you can download and work from.
Workshop Only Link

In dyeing the linings for this set of kits, it was easy to see that one piece of lining evaded my poly detector. I thought I had done burn tests on all of them. This is kimono lining that I later (after dyeing) I applied a lightweight fusible to before cutting into the 6″x6″ squares.

You can easily see that one was silk and one was poly in the vat. It’s still been quite cold here and the vats are being a bit tricky outdoors. And my hands were freezing!

I originally thought I would include a slug of un-disassembled but (indigo dyed) silk lining just for the fun of having the participants see how it is before taking it all apart but I changed my mind after remembering how a few struggled with stitching the silk without a fusible. So I dyed, washed, ironed, applied the fusible and pre-cut the squares for ease of handling. The silk lining can also be tricky to cut if you aren’t set up for it and I don’t like participants to become frustrated with the project. It was a bit more work for me but better than having everyone have to fuse and cut their own.
I try to improve each time and take what I notice from the past and move ahead.

Later today, I have a monthly check in with Ann Wasserman with past students of her quilt restoration workshops. (She’s got a new workshop in signup stage if you are interested in checking it out.) It’s just a zoom check in to see what everyone is working on and how they are doing with their restorations (I only have a little progress to report myself) and I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve been up to.
(Ok, so in the meantime the check-in with Ann and group happened. Saw one gal from my session and the rest seemed to be from the prior session. Shares of repair projects all around with one pretty extensive project that took a year to complete. Lots of tiny pieces in that one. It was fun to see the excitement around the completion of it! Maybe the most interesting conversation was about the rescuing of the records of the California Heritage Quilt Project. One of the women in the group has stepped up to rescue the records and the project. Many other states have State quilt registry projects which I learned about in Ann’s class. Some state groups have published books about them. The California group is just trying to get itself back up and running so if anyone here has the interest and time, please contact them!)
Over on Twitter (which I don’t think many readers here engage in) I have been following some great historical costume and fashion accounts. Oh my! Some of the items shown are so amazing I need a fainting couch! Also, some of my favorite Japanese sericulturist accounts are starting to contemplate their spring silkworm rearing. Will I raise silkworms again this year? I don’t know.
Right now though, there has been a good amount of unexpected snow in the Kanto region. The photos of snow in Kamakura, Yokohama, and Tokyo are beautiful and make me nostalgic for the winter snows of my childhood there.

some familiar scenes in Kamakura but with snow!

Japan… I get emails asking about the Japan tour. With omicron rising, it’s doubtful to happen this spring. I will consider the fall if things settle down. Please sign up for the constant contact newsletter via the top link in the sidebar here. That’s the best and easiest way to stay informed on the tour. If you email me or ask to be added to the list on a social media thread, I might not get to it. Just being honest…

My son and his new wife are quarantined in Taiwan for three weeks. Like Japan, there are no tourist visas but she is a Taiwanese citizen and they are visiting family once they get through the quarantine period which is very strict. Their all time number of Covid cases is only 17,000. They are serious about maintaining their low exposure to the virus. Currently the biggest complaint is that there is too much food being delivered!

We won’t restart the tour to Japan until it is safe to do so.

There’s more but must get on with it now. Stay safe out there…check on your neighbors and friends.


took a little road trip…

It was time for a little road trip, it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and Phil’s birthday. So we got the animals and house handled by son and wife, gassed up the ’87 Volvo wagon and hit the road!

Just getting OUT of LA is the harder part but once we hit the open road it was smooth sailing and the coastal views were grand. Made a stop in Pismo and then again at San Miguel Archangel mission. The mission was closed but we walked around outside a bit and down to the little adobe museum (also closed when we were there) and walked around the outside garden area. Just one little photo…

The missions have a romanticized past of colonization in the name of religion and land expansion where the local tribes were essentially wiped out and their culture all but destroyed (what’s new?). Of the missions I have visited (maybe half+ of the 21 California missions), this one is my favorite. It seems the most authentic and hasn’t undergone a massive restoration or rebuild. But alas, closed on this trip.

We continued on and found a hotel room near some friends and took in the sights and sounds of Niles California. Saw their Christmas tree lighting and parade, ate some nice food, visited with friends. We discovered another much smaller mission in nearby Freemont so wandered over there with the Birthday Boy…

Phil on his 55th birthday…rocking the indigo shibori t-shirt he dyed. Later we went and had Korean soup at a very small family owned restaurant in nearby Union City. (Here at the Mission San Jose)

Moving along to something textile related, I brought along several small projects to work on and ended up working on just one of them. I am stitching together old vintage bow tie quilt blocks made from 30’s feed sack materials when I noticed some printing on the back of a couple of the plain pieces.

The printing says Lincoln Bleachery and Dyeworks. The one in the center I’m not sure.
So of course I looked to see what I could find out about them and ….found this.
In the company history, one of their mills was even named Sinking Funds Mill (I guess they weren’t expecting much?) Fortunately, later renamed. I also read somewhere that some of the companies selling product in feed sacks would have their company name and product info printed onto the feed sacks with washout inks so women could use all parts without any waste if they didn’t like printing in their pieces.

Before I left, I was working on these. They’re still sitting on the work table waiting for me to get back. I did get them into the shop but didn’t publicize the fact. I think I did a short livestream on making them before I left. Seems a blur now. Some Holiday Cheer. I know many of you are as concerned and depressed as I am on hearing the news of the new variant. We will wait to hear the details and continue to follow the protocols from scientists. I spent a couple of days before I left working on the Japan tour for May, but it’s looking grim again…damn!

https://www.shiborigirlstudios.com/shop/holiday-cheer

Dyeing and social media

Lots of dye work going into the upcoming workshop kit materials. Like this selection of silk linings that were dyed yesterday for the komebukuro kits. Dyed using the indigo fermentation vat and a marigold dyepot for blue and gold linings. Of course I couldn’t resist doing a little bit of green since I had those colors going. I originally thought I would use the pomegranate dyepot but it wasn’t looking as gold as I wanted. So I decided to use it for the drawstrings and cording instead.

Interestingly, the two greens were produced with the same silk and the same dyepost/vat but the order of operations was reversed. Blue over gold and gold over blue (the more olive green) created two completely different greens. A green themed komebukuro was not planned but I might just have to put together fabric for one of those-just so I can use those delicious greens.

I am using some really nice brown linen (acquired somewhere long ago/can’t remember where) for the upper band on the bags. I liked it so much on the brown version I decided to overdye it in indigo for the blue bags. It dyed a very dark/almost black blue. It will make for a nice background for anyone wanting to do sashiko stitching there and a good dark contrast for the indigo bags in general.

The “Fall” weather turned to Summer again today, likely hastening the ginko trees turning to gold. Upper 80’s low 90’s for the next few days. I really can’t wait for the leaf drop. so much beautiful mulch will blanket the garden but a couple of weeks standing under the golden ginko tree is really something to look forward to. I’ve been enjoying the photos posted online of the fall leaves turning from around the world! In Japan, we always enjoyed taking a ride on the skyways, no matter the season. They even have special busses for fall leaf viewing that take you the most beautiful locations.

fall leaf viewing by skyway cable cars in Japan

And of course I’m still working on organza dyeing and pleating. There are two cats that don’t live here (and don’t like each other) constantly trying to vie for the top assistant position.

Captain help on the ironing board with the organza

Also, please give a visit again to the Kyoto Shibori Museum youtube video page and this video. It is beyond describing what they did to accomplish this major piece of shibori.

I am really starting to look ahead to next year’s Silk Study Tour.The 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan has now been rescheduled for May 11-26 2022. It’s looking promising finally! We are still waiting for Japan to open up to tourists again and to respond to whatever protocols will be in place. It’s so hard to anticipate what they will be, but it does look like we are moving in the right direction. As a reminder, all participants will be required to be fully vaccinated at the time of acceptance into the tour as well as meet all travel restrictions, mandates, and requirements in place by both the US and Japan at the time of travel. I will be sending out the official notice by the end of this month with applications. The way to get on this email list is to sign up here. If you have emailed me and asked me to be put on the list, I have likely directed you to this email signup. (I may have missed a few…) If you had signed up to receive info on the 2021 tour, you will still get the 2022 tour email. you don’t need to sign up again. If you can’t remember or have a new email- DO sign up again. It will filter out duplicates (or tell you you are already on the list).

marigolds from the broth- they smelled good- like flower tea

The Shiborigirl Social Media Report…

As those of you who make a living (partially or completely) by making, teaching, and selling know, social media is a necessary part of what you do (or perhaps need to do more of). I am always in the position of needing to do more of it and really not finding enough time to do it! But if I don’t, sales and signups show it. Maybe you are in that position as well. (Or maybe you are a customer and are worn out from being marketed to!)
Maybe this part of the post won’t be of interest to you but here are my latest thoughts on what it takes to remain viable in the current environment.
keep writing your blog (or get one started now!)
this is the best advice I have to give really. I’ve said this all along and I’ve never stopped. I started in 2006 and have regularly blogged ever since. Yes, there have been some times of lesser blogging (especially during times when I was attending to subscription blogs, teaching or traveling) but this is the best way to stay connected to your circles of interest. A blog is a great timeline and window into what you do in photos, videos and words. It remains there forever and you and readers can reference past posts anytime. My favorite people are from the blog and through their blogs as well. We have some very long term relationships here. I love that people can add my blog to their readers or sign up to receive my posts via email. It’s not filtered by a platform algorithm. I use WordPress and there is really much more it offers than what I can use.
-Have a website (of course) and your own online shop
Make it as simple or as complicated as you want (simple is best for me but still seems complicated!). I have used etsy in the past but never exclusively or even majorly. I’m so glad I no longer use it as the way it has evolved just does not suit me at all. The whole “star seller” thing is atrocious. Your online shop (and even etsy) is just a virtual cash register and you need to lead people to it. Don’t expect any of them to do your marketing for you.
-Have a way to collect email addresses & use this for newsletters!
I’ve used Constant Contact for many years and it’s served me well. There are lots of options on how to do this but I like self sign up lists and have mine on the top right of the blog here. (don’t wear out your subscribers with newsletters though or they might just not read them)
Use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, TicTok, and the rest as you need or desire to.
I use FB (both a personal page and a studio page). I use Instagram here and there. Most people love IG more than I do. I’m not really a Pinterest person but will use it as a way to point people to my website etc.. I don’t do TicTok currently-just too much for me at the moment although some people use it as their #1 SM site and do it very well. YouTube is also a great resource and I really should do more with it. No matter which platforms you choose, it’s important to engage with your followers and form relationships, to offer good and interesting content. To be giving more than you receive. You do need to understand the relationship of some of these platforms to each other as some don’t play nice with each other (ie FB & Youtube). I use my Twitter mostly for local politics but do have some fascinating people I follow and interact with there- sericultureists around the world, artists, textile museum folks, and others. Some people hate Twitter and Facebook and some love one or the other or both. Maybe one of the most important things I can say about SM platforms is that YOU can curate and control your experience. If you are seeing lots of content you don’t like- then change it!
I haven’t even mentioned “boosting” or placing ads which is an art in and of itself. I dabble in it as I don’t have a lot of $ to spend on it and since my time to fully understand and make the most of it is limited I just do a small amount of it.
Maybe the most difficult thing is to keep up with all the changes and updates to these platforms and how they will affect me and my business. It really is a full time job (that I don’t want) yet don’t have enough time for if I am going to get ANYTHING done in the studio!
Of course Covid plays into all this and did I mention Zoom? I did in the last post and since then I have started doing some Facebook livestreaming on my studio page. After several trials and tribulations I mostly got it working the way I want it to- just giving a quick live video update on what I’m working on. I’m using a 2 camera view with some OBS software (OBS Studio is the one I like) that allows me to show you my work table plus my “talking head”. I do this so i can feel more present with you even though I’m using a virtual platform.
-You can always set up a linktree that you can quickly post here and there when your website isn’t quite what you want. You can also set up various linktrees to serve different purposes. My linktree.

**NOTE** in doing this post I was checking links and found that one of the links in the sidebar which was supposed to be going to my Paypal account was actually going to various random people’s paypal!! Off to fix that now! CHECK YOUR LINKS FROM TIME TO TIME! I reported it to WP and took screenshots but WOW! Sorry to anyone who might have sent $ for the Moonmates series that I didn’t acknowledge!

Overwhelmed yet? I am… now to get back to the studio…

making moons too- some for moon orders and some for the komebukuro bag kits




moon circling

The past few days have had me back at the indigo vats working on new sets of moons. The only vat of the three that didn’t need reviving was the fermentation vat, which had a nice coppery surface and was dyeing beautiful blues.
Cleaning up around the studio I found a couple of base cloths that I had dyed moons into and had set aside for myself to play with on a rainy day. Well, the rain never did come but I craved a little needle time so I threaded up and got to work. It was quiet peaceful work-just going along with it. I never plan them out ahead of time- just let the cloth take the lead.
I finished off the little moon cover for the buckwheat pillow that had been looking kinda shabby. It’s an envelope style so the cover can easily be removed. The back are two pieces of old sturdy kimono cloth. I love these things and much prefer them to any kind of foam pillow insert. They just have a great comforting feel.
Next I had an old feed sack that had a wonderful repair on it- I dyed a tattered moon over the repair. These are treasured and useful scraps, the scraps of our lives. As we work to put our heart and souls back together after this past year and a half, I’m feeling pretty tattered myself these days and stitching these blues seems to wash away some of the sorrows.
Circling of Moons can be considered a series of sorts. I have a number of them started around here in various stages of completion. Various moons, various cloth, but mostly indigo. The ones that aren’t indigo are natural dyes. I’m grateful for some of the stitching techniques I learned from Jude- especially what she calls the “glue stitch”. I use that extensively to stitch the frayed raw edge pieces to the base cloth. I fray them enough first so they won’t unravel more and stitch them down with these tiny stitches. You can barely see them and probably can’t in a photo. Later I add the running stitches with thicker thread to ask your eye to travel with me around the moons. I want you to meander and wonder as you look at these pieces. To take a little trip.
Someone recently said to me, ” I have a sewing machine but just don’t know where to start”. I say, start anywhere! Start with a needle in your hand- sit in your favorite chair or the kitchen table. Gather some bits of cloth- cut up old clothes- go to the secondhand store and get some old cotton cloth. (skip the poly!) No machine needed. You can always unstitch something if you really can’t live with it but just let things develop. YOU will develop with practice.
I also did a couple of short videos that were requested from participants in the recent tekumo workshop. One had to do with machine hemming using a hemming foot, and the other with wiring the edge of a hemmed silk piece. You can see them on the FB studio page by scrolling down a few posts.

Late last night I took a 2 hour zoom tour of a sericulture farm located in the Kofu Basin in the Yamanashi Prefecture of Japan. It was quite interesting. Probably the largest sericulture operation I’ve seen so far in Japan. He said they raise 160,000 cocoons at a time there and grow them from seed. Most of the sericulture farms now get the silkworms in the 3rd-4th instar from the local collective and raise them on mulberry from that point to cocooning. Here’s a few links for my “silky friends” to enjoy…


Silky moth friends at Ashizawa Sericulture
And speaking of circles, Circle of Silk is a lovely story of silk sericulture hanging by a thread.
And also, a video on silk thread reeling by my friend and sericulturist in Annaka, Nobue Higashi whom we visit with on the Silk Study Tour to Japan. Enjoy!

Silk Study Tour to Japan 2022

I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile now and after receiving several inquiries after the recent post I am getting it checked off of my list today. I am including here a new link for those who are interested in receiving the sign up email for the tour which I expect to go out in early June. Here it is!

click the image above to sign up
for the upcoming tour info

The 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan has now been rescheduled for May 11-26 2022.
Please know that it will be a requirement of the tour to have been fully COVID19 vaccinated in addition to any other health requirements put in place by the Japanese government, the airlines, and our hired bus company. We will strictly adhere to all health requests of the host artisans, museums, hotels, restaurants, shops, and any other places to which we travel.

Hirata san (our Japan-side coordinator and guide) and I have been in frequent communication over the past year and are excited about organizing the upcoming tour. We have a new itinerary that includes some of the past favorites and a few new ones! Prices have not yet been confirmed as all that has to be redone in light of this past year.

Stay tuned! In the meantime, please enjoy some photos and an older blog from past tours. Previous tours occurred in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017,and 2019.

Nihon e ikimashou!

in the air…

Lots of thoughts rumbling around here since the last post. This is gonna be a longer post, so settle in.

various tomato seedlings transplanted up and getting a bit of a slow start due to cooler weather but it’s warming up now.

Spring is definitely in the air. And so is hope in many quarters. Spring always is in the very heart of a gardener and I’m no different. Like Spring seasons, life is slowly changing and renewing. Many people are getting vaccinated, getting out and adjusting to what currently is. Just being here is good. In fact, quite wonderful.

Hirata san sends me photos of the beautiful cherry blossoms in Kamakura and I’m having hanami natsukashii (cherry blossom viewing yearnings)…here are a couple to get you in the mood. We have our itinerary for the Silk Study Tour set for 2022 and are looking forward. The photos below show the new cherry trees approaching the Hachimangu shrine. It is just gorgeous with all the trees in bloom! This approach was reworked just a few years ago and is a lovely walk down the center of the main street.

I’ve struggled to post often this past year, instead letting thoughts congregate a bit before getting them written into the ether. That doesn’t mean that they are more clearly expressed with the passage of time, sometimes I think it is quite the opposite! Too many thoughts blend, are forgotten and so on, but today felt right so here we are. Sometimes I take short notes for the blog on my phone to remind me of something I want to write about and sometimes I don’t, letting the thought return like a butterfly to its host plant if it works out that way (speaking of butterflies, the caterpillars of the clouded sulfers have gone somewhere to pupate, I know not where) and the praying mantis oothecae should be hatching any second (haven’t seen the babies yet).

Fresh on my mind right now are my beader friends in the Czech Republic (CR) who write me that they are suffering greatly from their government’s misconduct and irresponsibility in regards to COVID. I felt so sad hearing her description of their situation there. Vaccines are extremely limited, and lockdowns are very strict beyond what science would rationally dictate. People feel stifled and rebellious and somewhat hopeless. They look forward to a new election in October, she says.

“forbidden to move out of our districts, forbidden to work and not compensated, forbidden to socialize, forbidden to breath without a mask even if there is nobody around us in a 100 metres range(328 feet), forbidden to leave our homes between 9pm and 5am… and god knows how long til the end, because the government has literally NO PLAN”

I know she won’t mind my sharing her words here anonymously. I can be so absorbed in my own world here, listening to others broadens my perspective. I love that we have become long distance friends sharing our worlds. At the end of our conversation I shared the music of Joan Armatrading (a long time favorite of mine). I’ve been listening to her music today in the studio after Maura in India (Mustard Seeds Kolkata) featured a song on her FB post this morning.

Seems we lost a number of writers in March, notably Beverly Cleary(104), Norton Juster(91), Larry McMurtry(84), and Marianne Carus(92). My kids and I enjoyed their work and say a fond farewell, having left us with many good reads.

My heart was warmed by a message/conversation received from the mother of a son who credits me with far too much- but as we say, we never know what good a simple act of open-heartedness can give rise to. She credits me with reaching out to him as a young teenager who was struggling greatly and saving his life but it was her perseverance and love that brought him to meet me at a show in Houston (they lived in IN) and to encourage his interest in textiles and art. It is to his credit (and hers) that he graduated with a degree in art and is now teaching art in a HS in CO and just got accepted to grad school. He is out and doing what he loves, being who he is. How can you not love that?

It’s haru basho in sumo right now and today is the final day. We enjoy watching sumo here (I love looking at the silk gyoji costumes with their jaquard weaves and wonderful color combinations) and love watching both the juryo and makuuchi divisions. In a lower division called sandanme one of the rikshi (Hibikiryū) suffered a horrible injury perhaps resulting in paralysis (yet to be determined). The resulting uproar over treatment of rikshi injuries has resumed in sumo and is very justified. If you follow sumo, you know what I am talking about. Japan needs to step up. Tradition is one thing, humane treatment of rikshi is another.

Here in CA people over 50 are eligible for vaccinations April 1 and everyone over 16 is eligible April 15. Some areas have already opened to over 50 and we just received our first vaccination here. We still need #2 in 21 days plus a waiting period but progress is happening and workshops will again begin this summer! I am noticing how it is affecting my mental well being today. I feel inspired and more alive. I hope you are taking advantage of vaccinations in your area so we can all move ahead with safety and more peace of mind. This is a time to consider the future and reinvent many things.

Speaking of the studio, my recent post on the paid blog was quite interesting (apparently only to me-haha) yet I’m not sure if subscribers are reading regularly. Makes me wonder about that path. I won’t be doing this again, methinks. All posts there are password protected unless you subscribe but I thought I would “unprotect” this one to share here. It’s about indigo and madder and what I am making now… moonfire! March moons are all about madder and indigo. Today is the full moon as well as a shop update. Moonrise last night was spectacular here. Are you watching where you are?

I also was listening to a video I came across that resonated with me by George Monbiot who promotes “feeding the world without devouring the planet “. This also applies to textiles and clothing which continue to be a resource problem. As the planet goes, so go we. We survive by walking a fragile line of coexistence with nature. The planet will outlast us surely, but by how much? That is up to us.

In the meantime, I continue to dye. I have been dyeing madder and indigo. On a frustrating note, my aquarium heater in the indigo vat is out of commission again. I think that the high pH just does it in and results in its early death. They seem to last less and less time these days (this one just 5 months). Maybe this is the answer? Pricier than replacing the heater but…less wasteful if it lasts a couple of years. The weather is heating up now (81 degrees today) so a heater for the fermentation vat won’t be needed soon. I have been sorting through old cloth and over-dyeing in both indigo and madder to create some interesting cloth sets for the shop. Moonfire sets are also available there. A little diversion is always fun. I love how madder complements the indigo. I can imagine the projects that will be made from these cloth sets. From my imagination to yours…

and in the end, a look back to an older post.

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…