Category Archives: silk textiles

silk to senninbari

Today I’m preparing the fabrics for July moons. I’m kinda excited again about the cloth for this month’s moons. I enjoy deciding how to delight the moon circle each month. This time I went through my bins and chose a roll of something I’ve been saving and drooling over for YEARS! It’s silk tsumugi. But not just ANY old (and i mean old) silk tsumugi. This is the most lovely, drapey, thin, folk style cloth I’ve ever had the privilege of caretaking. It is completely hand spun and hand woven, undyed or treated in any way. In my mind I see a woman hand twisting the silk thread on her lap inside her small wooden home. It is uneven in places. Maybe she is new to the process or perhaps she knows the character which she imbues into the cloth from the wisdom of her past. But it is just wonderful. The silk floss might be what was left from her first rate cocoons- which were sold off to the local cooperative and sent off to be reeled at the filature mill. Who knows how long ago…I am just imagining here.

The cloth has texture, character, an uneven natural color in places. The warp is very, very fine reeled silk. Dressing a loom with this fine a silk must be an art in itself. There are slubs and tiny spots of darker threads in the weft which seem to me to be from discoloration of the cocoon by the silkworm. I hesitated to cut some of it for moons but I just can’t keep it all to myself. It must be shared. I happily imagine all the things it may be used for by those in the moon circle.

Some time back I did a meter or so of indigo shibori with some of this cloth for a garment. The shibori on the top right of the blog header above is some of that. It took the indigo like a dream!

The other moon this month is a departure of sorts. It’s also on old silk but on the scraps of a great and colorful silk meisen cloth that was one of the kimono pieces I remade with participants of the last Kimono Refashioning workshop. I’m enjoying putting these small bits of cloth in your hands for inspection and wondering.

I enjoy picking a style of moon I think will go with the character of the cloth.

Here I chose a straight forward circle for the meisen silk moon and a partial rough ombre moon for the tsumugi cloth.

I’m also preparing fabrics for the upcoming in studio August workshops. The shibori workshop is sold out with a waiting list. The Thursday August 4th workshop has one opening and the Sunday August 7th has 2 openings. Here is the link if you want to check it out. I spent the better part of today prepping all the vintage fabrics for these projects. I am dyeing the base pieces in the natural vat which is loving the warmer weather these days. I love sorting through all these fabrics and wondering about their past lives as well as imagining their future.
I’m setting up the “alumni reunion” for those that were in either session of the Refashioning Kimono workshops. Look for the date in your email inbox.

I have had several requests for new dates for both the Refashioning Kimono workshop as well as the Komebukuro Treasure Bag workshop. These new sessions will begin in late August and September. Look for dates in the next blog post.

In addition to the moons for the moon circle, I was inspired to do a bunch of these moons. I recently saw some new images of the planet Venus from NASA. Pretty amazing!

new images of the planet Venus

That reminded me of some hand dyed fabric I had bought several years ago in Houston. I used some of it to repair the couch cushions but I had some left over that I used for Venus inspired moons. There wasn’t enough fabric for the monthly moon circles so I just put them into the shop here.

I’ll end this post with a referral once again to the blog Old Photos of Japan and Kjeld’s recent post titled 1930’s Off to War. Another well researched and interesting post about being conscripted and sent off to war in Japan and how it was “celebrated” by the families and the public. It was the first of two times this past month where I came across the term senninbari or thousand person stitches. I had not known about this and it’s another way to honor the cloth and the stitch. He has a wonderful ukiyoe he came across depicting a scene of a kimono clad woman collecting the stitched knots in public at a temple. The images depicting this practice have dots marking the position where the knots are to be stitched much like the kanoko shibori dots that are marked with aobana. A really great post. I hope you go visit his site and support his fantastic work!
He includes this clip of a film with a “song for senninbari as well, Aikoku Senninbari (愛国千人針, Patriotic Thousand Person Stitches), released in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. In this clip of women collecting stitches on the street, you can hear part of the song as sung by Junko Mikado (三門順子, 1915–1954).

In my head… and silk sha

Over the past several weeks since the last blog post, I’ve written several posts here. Unfortunately, they’ve been in my head only! As I work through this and that, I take photos, record notes-all with the sincere intention of writing a post here. But alas, things get away from me and here we are!
But this post covers some fun and exciting silk textiles and other various news.

First I will say that local government elections are on the horizon here in Long Beach which is one of the things that have been distracting my mind and time. We have some excellent people running this time, but as usual, we are up against the money and power that the usual machine politics has installed here. BUT, there is reason to hope this time. People are sick of it.Please put a good thought forward for us to basically save this city from over-development and financial mismanagement. It’s a lot of time and an all volunteer effort for us and our grassroots candidates.

Next, I have been working on the upcoming Refashioning Kimono workshop. There is still time to sign up and even to order a kimono it you don’t have one on hand. A shipment from Richard arrived yesterday and I’m busy getting them photographed. I’ll be adding them to the shop later today. There is a nice variety to choose from. I am going to focus this post on one particular type of silk summer weave called sha. It’s one of the three types of silk gauze fabrics that are summer weight fabrics- ra, ro and sha.

Silk gauze is a transparent open weave fabric created from a complicated intertwining of warp thread. There are three basic styles of gauze weave in Japan: ra, sha, and ro. Known collectively as usumono (literally, thin fabric), silk gauze is thought to have first been worn in the summer by court nobles, samurai and other members of the upper classes in the early 8th century.

https://web-japan.org/niponica/niponica11/en/feature/feature03-3.html

Ra, a crisp silk mesh textile is often used in summer obi. Ro, a thin drapey silk woven with skipped rows to facilitate the air passing through the fabric on those hot, humid summer days Japan is famous for. Sha, is somewhere in-between. It’s defined by skipped or very open rows like ro, but more crisp than plain ro. It can also have various weights of weft threads- or even combine materials such as silk and hemp.

Here’s an example to clarify…

sha kimono, katazome replicating kasuri

When I first saw photos of this piece, I thought it was kasuri-where threads are dyed in advance of weaving to create the patterns on the cloth. The edges of the patterns are generally blurred as a result of this weaving technique. Sometimes the warp threads only are dyed, sometimes the weft, and sometimes both. Upon receiving this piece, I see now that this is a katazome(?) piece! It is paste resisted and the stencil or screen used to apply the resist includes the blurred edge pattern of kasuri- so to replicate one technique with another. Several stencils/screens or maybe even a sponging brush were used to create the overlay colors of subtle white and yellow over the turquoise. In the center photo above, you can appreciate the lightweight transparency of sha. In the third photo taken through a loop, you can see the weave structure. Every third pass a heavier weight and more twisted silk thread is used.
Textiles inform life. From the earliest times they tell us about ourselves, our history. The materials and techniques exemplify the skill and craft development of time and place. Preserving these textiles, studying them, learning from them, and using them now satisfies something very core in me. I really enjoy coming up with ways to use these old textiles.

Like the shibori I practice, the selection of cloth to be used is a key determinate to the success of the shibori work and dyeing. I often see people practice and teach shibori without a lot of thought of the fabrics being used. I find that is so key to the result. If you are trying shibori dyeing and haven’t experimented with a wide range of fabrics I suggest you give it a try and I can pretty much guarantee you will learn a lot about cloth!

April moons are all sent out and May moons are on board! I had been anxiously awaiting a silk bolt Richard found for me and was “over the moon” when it arrived. Perfectly timed for this post, it is silk ro. So one of the two moons for the Moon Circle for May is this moon:

Each moon will be different as you can see above. Cranes are a symbol of good luck and longevity as cranes are said to live 1000 years. They actually only live 30-80 years but are in fact one of the oldest living birds on the planet with some fossils thought to go back as far as 10 million years!
The little open hole in the rows allow a little seepage of indigo so the edges are not as sharp as you see on some other fabrics I’ve used for moons. Like I said above, if you explore different fabrics, you will learn a lot! The other moon will be a crescent on an old kimono silk floral…May is the flower moon…

here you can see the weave structure in this detail. It’s much more formalized than the sha weave structure

Speaking of May and flowers…
Of course the garden nurtures and grows, despite very drastic and impending water restrictions which have been imposed here and set to begin June 1. I have been upping my water-saving tricks to include saving kitchen rinse water in a bucket that goes out to the garden. Fortunately, unlike my many neighbors here, I already took out every blade of grass years ago and don’t have to water much of anything except my edible garden and my fruit bearing trees. We will be restricted to one day of outdoor watering a week- likely until winter (or longer!). I expect to see more people taking out their lawns.

And… I found a new textile converter in LA to bias my silk. They did a great job-phew! The converter I had been using disappeared into thin air- poof!
I’m having some silk cording done as well as soon as the silk thread arrives. Ordering silk thread on cones at wholesale became a complicated ordeal! Only found a light grey which will do just fine. I need it sewn with silk so it will dye with the fabric. Most converters want to sew it with cotton or poly. Nope!
OK…well that’s it for now. Back to photographing and editing the kimono pics.
Will probably be tomorrow when I get the rest of them up there.