Category Archives: Silk Study Tour to Japan

Getting in touch with reality

Some days are a real mix of duties.

Today, I:

-filed and paid my state sales tax return

-returned many emails

-attended to the Tour banking

-made indigo moons!! Yay!⬅️

-shipped some orders

-vacuumed and cleaned house

-videoed for phil

-pulled some weeds and trimmed the apricot tree

-made dinner

-attended to my social media

-posted this!

I had to make this list because at one point I actually felt I didn’t get anything done today.

I needed to remind myself.

Moons for komebukuro.

new moons and a shop update

A while back I hosted a zoom workshop where participants and I refashioned a kimono into a more easily wearable garment by shortening and removing sleeves.This project leaves you with some fabric to use later. One of the pieces I reworked was a wonderful hemp unlined summer kimono that was kasuri woven with a wonderful 40’s or 50’s design like meisen. This very bold and colorful piece is now wearable as a lightweight over-jacket. The leftover cloth was set aside until now. I did a little test to see if I liked it to start out the January moon circle. I LOVED IT! wow…what fun. Laying out the cloth for the moons, each one is uniquely fun! Being a bit of an open weave I wondered if the indigo would leak a bit into the moon-it didn’t. And the cloth took the dye beautifully without completely overwhelming the design. Each of course is a bit different.

The other smaller moon this month is indigo dyed onto some beautiful silk jacquard I had been stingily hoarding since I was at the end of the bolt. It has a delicate chrysanthemum (kiku) pattern on a slightly off white (natural) silk. The weight is light- like for a nagajuban (silk under kimono).

While you can join the moon circle anytime, if you want the January moons featured here you need to sign up prior to Jan 30. Thanks to everyone who is currently subscribed and especially to those who joined for a second time!

I also added some items back into the shop- Neko chan kit, indigo treasure packs, and indigo yardage in 3 shades.

lots of inspiration!

The madder I dug is still drying since it’s been so wet here lately. Maybe it will figure in February or March moons. It’s still cold here (for us!) we’re lucky if it gets to 60 and the nights are in the low 40’s. The garagio is still cold and wet! Looking forward to the forecast of ten sunny dry days ahead! Hopefully we will continue to get some rain in the next couple of months. I hope to get at some of the weeds outside. There is a forest of cassia seeds sprouting! Yikes!

On another note, I got up at 2 AM on Tuesday to hear Nobue Higashi’s sericulture lecture on Zoom. It was very interesting! I saw a mulberry field machine that helps pick the mulberry. It claims to be able to do the work of 10 people in collecting mulberry for feeding the silkworms. She also mentioned and showed some images of a machine that is kind of like a ferris wheel for silkworms. As the bins of worms circulate, feeding is easily done to many worms in a smaller space. I understand that the reason these are not in wide use these days is that the parts are not available to repair them when they break down. Hirata san and I once visited a sericulture farm about ten years ago that used this method. It was interesting and I have since wondered why it’s not used more.
She also had a nice section on the commercial hatching and raising of the young silkworms (before they are distributed to the farmers). I knew about this but had never seen the inside of these facilities. If you are interested in this lecture series, you can still sign up (see last post for details).

I’m really looking forward to meeting up with Nobue and all the artisans along our way on the Silk Study Tour to Japan in May. Join us?

Sericulture in Japan Today and Colors by Ken Nordine!

Just a quick update with some fun stuff.

First, last Sunday at Phil’s rehearsal the sound guy Kevin was playing Ken Nordine through the system during setup. I was fascinated! Never knew anything about him nor had I heard his albuns. But I did know that voice- and you probably do too. So I went down the rabbit hole to learn more.
Phil bought us a turntable over the holidays so we could enjoy the hundreds of vinyls we have. It has been so much fun! We not only enjoy the music, the memories invoked, but the album covers and inserts! Took me back to my HS bedroom and the basements of friends on a Friday or Saturday night.
So now I am on the search for Ken Nordine’s album “Colors” which is what Kevin was playing. Some of you may know it but it was new to me and ever so fun! Among other things, Ken Nordine is known for his “word jazz” recordings. His voice is like silk and so communicative! CDs can be found but albums at an affordable price less so. But I am patient… we will see. Until then, I have downloaded the record. Also found the accompanying book for a few bucks. Maybe the grandson will learn colors ala Ken Nordine! One of the people in the audience that day was Carol who by a very weird set of circumstances was a PE and dance instructor at Burbank High when ny SIL (who lives in NZ) and was her PE teacher! Carol and I got to talking and she had this album (Colors) and used it for improv with her dancers back then. She could even recite some of the words all these years later. Great conversation. She’s somewhere in her 80’s now.
Colors…

OK- the next wonderful thing is going to take a bit of explaining and some links for you to check out. If you don’t know of Nobue Higashi, she is the sericulturist we have been visiting since 2015 on the Silk Study Tour. Previous to that, we had been visiting Koyata san’s home where he kept a small cocoonery (I now think he is over 100!). Nobue san’s enterprise has grown and her and her husband may be the youngest serious sericulture farmers in Japan now! They are keeping tradition alive while at the same time creating a very niche market for her customizable and hand reeled silk from the cocoons they raise. It’s a HUGE endeavor that has taken her 20 years to get to this place. Her history is fascinating!
She is giving an online zoom series of 7 lectures on sericulture that begin January 17th. Her lecture series will cover domestic sericulture, it’s history in Japan- mainly focusing on Gunma Prefecture and the connections to Yokohama as it relates to silk exports, silk cocoons and the variety of strains, the history of silk reeling, silk technologies and how they changed and expanded silk in the industrialization of Japan, hand reeling (her specialty) from the Edo period to now, and the cultural aspects of all of the aforementioned! I’m sure I left out something!
Of course the lectures are on JST so for me here they are at 2:30 AM PST- but you will be able to access them for three weeks afterwards. The series cost is ¥14,000 which is about $103 USD. If you are interested in the series, you can sign up here. I had to actually send an email so they could prepare a payment request as the website seems to only allow signups inside Japan. Email is seraph(at)tokai.or.jp

The series is in Japanese but they may try to get some notes done in English afterwards to accompany the lectures. In any case, I am signed up!

If you want a little encouragement, they have shared this hour long bio on Nobue and how she came to do this miraculous thing… then visit the vimeo link. The password is “silkworm” and it does have English subtitles. They have allowed me to share this with you in hopes of spreading this important knowledge.
The series is being hosted by these folks who order custom reeled silk from Nobue which they use as warp for their beautiful woven kudzu cloth. All of this is a labor of love!

Here are some photos of our visits with Nobue and her husband over the years…


We can’t wait to see her again in May on the Silk Study Tour to Japan! We will have a workshop with her at Ton-cara where everyone gets to reel some silk and make silk mawata.

unfolding time…

When I haven’t posted in a while, I hardly know where to start! I looked back just now and see that it’s been nearly TWO MONTHS since the last post. I think that must be a record! Not to worry…
just been busy.

Several things have been going on. First, I organized the itinerary, info and newsletter for the Silk Study Tour To Japan for 2023. I sent out a few waves of email newsletters and right away filled 10 of the 16 spots. If you wanted to look over the details, here is a link to the details. Contact me if you have any questions!

Next, the first post Covid workshop at the Japanese American National Museum was completed last weekend. It was wonderful to be back and see so many familiar faces and new friends as well. I didn’t even take any photos- just a couple of quick video clips. Just a little glimpse… I live streamed the clips on FB and didn’t save them… but available here if you want to view them on FB.

Today is November 8– (I probably won’t even complete this post to my satisfaction until tomorrow) but I hope you went out and voted! Here in Long Beach there are several wonderful true grassroots volunteer groups out there working hard at getting some great candidates elected against a very powerful and monied political machine. There is corruption. I don’t know how we’ll do, but we are hopeful. It’s taken a considerable amount of time and energy and decreased my ability to do the work I do here. I’m looking forward to more mental peace post election!
UPDATE>>> It’s now Wednesday and after a late night election watch party nearby, we all went home fairly accepting defeat to the machine and the overwhelming amount of $$ poured into machine candidate campaigns (by the scandalous LA Federation of Labor no less), only to be revived around midnight (once we all got home) with an update that put our candidate within 99 votes of a win…less than one % point! We may not have the final outcome until Friday, so we remain hopeful.

Back to the Museum… there’s a great exhibit there at the moment and I pulled a couple of photos and a vid for you. Remember back in July of this year when I did a post that featured Old Photos Of Japan referencing senninbari (1000 stitch belt)? Well there was one in the exhibit! I was so excited to see it. Partly because it hadn’t occurred to me that senninbari might have been made for soldiers in the Japanese concentration camps to send off with their men going to war for the United States. The exhibit is called Sutra And Bible and you can read about the exhibit here-it has been extended until Feb. 19th, 2023.

The exhibit reminds us too, that silk had a part to play in the establishment of the first Japanese colony in North America in 1869- by samurai families fleeing civil war in Japan.

Sutra and Bible is a fascinating look at the history of faith in the Japanese community and into their camp experience. A discovery of sutra stones brought to light the role that religion played in the lives of Japanese migrants in the US. The sutra stones themselves are beautiful and inscribed with portions of Buddhist sutra.

I also viewed in person the Ireicho- a sacred book listing over 125,000 names of people of Japanese ancestry who were incarcerated in the camps.

beautiful and solemn


A quick note about October moons… I am late in finishing the last portion of them so if you are waiting, do not despair! I’m finishing them off today and getting them out tomorrow! Then on to November!

We had a great rainstorm yesterday and all my rain barrels are filled! there is plenty of catching up to do outside. I’m picking and sharing persimmons with the birds and squirrels again this year- plenty for all as usual. The behemoth cactus is STILL blooming! Not quite sure what to make of that. It’s been blooming since July I think which is a very long time-most ever as far as I can remember. Cactus and Dia de los Muertos, cactus fruit, and my daily friend in the studio.

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