Category Archives: silk

and now for something a little different here…

While I still have a couple of post drafts started about the 2019 silk study tour that I just can;t seem to get finished (too much video and photo-sorting bogging me down) I’m here to catch up with other goings on around here.

Obon is in the air! Maybe you had a chance to attend one in your area!

Last weekend we had our natsu (summer) shibori workshop at the JANM. It was a great 2 days of shibori dyeing and discovery. I am so pleased that so many return again and again to further their shibori skills there- and wonderful to see so much progress. The participants who are new to the workshop get lots of suggestions and encouragement from returning practitioners- so fun to see. New friends and new connections.

egg,rice, spam,nori,brown gravy-coffee!

We had our Sunday morning Shibori Breakfast Club at the Aloha Cafe in Little Tokyo which got us off to a good start fueled with coffee and a delicious breakfast. Sandra introduced us to their spam musubi loco moco style which was really good. Never was a spam eater but I do like a good musubi now and then. Spam has a history from WWII and is a favorite ingredient in several Okinawan dishes and also made its way to Hawaii and the Philippines as a meat staple when times were tough and meat was in short supply. I recently put some cans of spam into our earthquake kit…

There are several upcoming workshops at the JANM…a plant dyeing workshop in September (kusakizome) which is sold out with a waiting list, a repeat of the komebukuro making workshop that we did in January (think there might be some spots still open for that), and on December 7&8 another shibori and indigo workshop(not yet listed on the JANM calendar)- good timing for making some personal holiday gifts.

I also have lots of yarrow so we will have a couple of yellows to play with. We’ll stick to mostly yellows, blue(sukumo-composted indigo), and madder for the red/orange and shift the colors with mordants and overdyeing. We’ll add some avocado skins and pits as everyone wants to try that. We will work predominately on silk but I’ve decided I will bring some assorted fiber swatch packs for everyone to test with. We will be making a dye swatch notebook. I will bring seeds and cuttings so if anyone wants to grow their own, they can. A few of us will get together prior to the workshop to prepare some of the dyestuffs and stock solutions as it does take time.

I planted the marigold seeds before deciding on doing this workshop(fortuitous!) and was thrilled at how well they have done. They are the large bushy type- not the small cute six pack starters sold at the local nursery-so LOTS of big flowers,plus they have kept pests off my nearby veggies since spring. I have tons of seeds to share at the workshop as well.
The madder is a bit trickier- it’s about 4 years since I planted it and have never really dug it up. I’m having to soak the area (I didn’t plant in a raised bed with nice soil) to be able to get the roots out. I will relocate it after this! The sukumo is some I brought back from Japan and really only have enough to do a small light vat but that will be enough for our purposes here.
The pomegranates are looking great and will be ready by late September so that will be deliciously perfect! We’ll have some pomegranate juice to sip!
I’m saving avocado skins and pits in the freezer as are others signed up for the workshop and might see if I can also get some eucalyptus trimmings from the local trees.

Outside of this, the garden is producing nicely-tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, parsnips, potatoes and more. The night blooming cactus is just getting started with its nightly display among the jasmine scenting the air-in the past 5 nights alone 91 flowers have bloomed. Quite spectacular! Last night 40 were open and the sliver of a clouded moon peeked out from behind.

it’s kind of dark and most of the blooms right now are high above us. this cactus is about 25-30 feet now -planted in this location about 25 years ago. I’ve had them since about 1982 or so. I can enjoy them now from my second story window! They used to be in a 12″ pot!

Aside from this, I added some ribbons to the webshop, finally-and some flowers too!!!

I was barely using Etsy over the past year and along with many other smaller sellers of handmade there, are not happy with their decision to only prioritize searches for items with free shipping offered. Now we all KNOW shipping is not free. On Amazon Prime, one pays an annual subscription for “free” shipping. We pay one way or another. Etsy’s suggestion to sellers was to raise the price of items and then to include “free” shipping. How very transparent of them, NOT! The only thing I have in my etsy store are the shibori ribbon scrap bags. So in order to show up in searches, I priced the scrap bags to include the shipping-for FREE! haha. Right. I disclose all this in the listing by the way. The real drag is that if a customer wants more than one, they pay the higher price for both. Not cool. So I recommend going to my website where you can buy all the yardage you want and in the colors you want and it all ships to you for one combined price anywhere in the US ($4). Unfortunately for CA buyers, on Etsy, you also get charged sales tax on shipping now, where you didn’t before (and you don’t on my website as per CA resale laws). Anywhoo… sorry for the mini rant but just wanted to put that out there.

In other news, mills in China are discontinuing weaving certain types of silks. Silk satin for instance. The times they are a-changin’….

wherever you are, i hope you have a gentle summer.
may calm winds blow, peace prevail
and children continue to sing, dance and wonder!

cloth to treasure…and a quick check-in

it’s actually confusing me as to where all the time goes. suffice to say it passes and there seems not enough of it to do all the things my mind wonders about and wanders into.

i have many stories yet to tell and photos and notes to sort through and write about here on the blog- all promised but not yet accomplished. many things are being done here behind the scenes and along the sidelines- prioritized by daily needs and responsibilities, but for a few minutes today, i put a little something here on the blog.

having shipped out all the fabric packs collected on the tour and the other requests made by students and friends, i spent a day making up a new garment! i wore one that i made while in japan and wanted to do a new version in order to honor some of the vintage fabrics i purchased. like the other one, this is made with recycled hand woven cloth previously from kimono that have been taken apart. (btw- NO! Kimono should not be trademarked–as if…you all here know my thoughts on that nonsense)
a couple of things about this garment- i had seen a version of this somewhere in japan a couple of years ago but it was made from western width cloth and only had a front and back made from the same cloth. my idea here is to utilize the kimono width cloth and keep it as intact as possible so that it would be possible perhaps, to take it apart and reuse it one day (or at least in large part). to do this meant that the back and front would need to be split to accommodate typical kimono width cloth and since i wasn’t a fan of having it split down the middle in front, i added a faux placket in front to offset that making it asymmetrical. using a combination of hand woven cloth, i made the amami oshima tsumugi silk the star of the garment while adding three coordinating kasuri patterns. i matched the pattern in the front placket just for fun and did not cut the selvedge on at least one side of all the main pieces. the selvedge contains part of the cloth-story for anyone who might be interested in the future. i have several other sets of cloth i will be using to make a few more of these. it’s very easy to wear with some leggings and even sandals or tennis shoes. i have promised several on the tour that i’d do up a muslin pattern for them to make up for themselves- so far, not yet done… will have to make a few more to settle in on the pattern.
my favorite part of this piece and the ones i’m excited to make going forward is that i’m using beautiful textiles that will be once again worn! some of the techniques used in making these fabrics are disappearing and my hope is that by making useful and wearable garments that these fabrics will be further treasured and worn again, not just cut up and used as scrap. whole cloth in a way. there is a small bit of boro in the lower part of the front placket that i kept intact, preserving further the treasure that this fabric continues to be. someone else thought enough of this piece of cloth to restore it with a patch. who am i to cut it away and discard it?

onto the next thing…the past few days have been consumed with making up an order of silk shibori no hana for the kyoto shibori museum. they are taking me longer than expected and i’m only half way through. several orders of ribbon also await and will be base dyed today. here’s a peek at a few of the flowers heading to kyoto soon…

hopefully, i will have some of these available in the shop later this summer when i’m caught up a bit around here. for those waiting on ribbon orders, i’ll start sending those out next week. stock is very low at the moment and the shop a bit disorganized. colors showing in stock where there is none, so some of you may get a note from me asking if you would accept a color substitute until i get things all straightened out. apologies for that…

life here continues, phil and his band steel parade have been out singing and performing for people young, old , and in between. the other night’s performance at the local nature center concert was a whole lot of fun. it’s wonderful to see everyone dancing out under the trees there.

the yard is in summer clean-up mode and little by little weeds are being removed, the second crop of veggies are being planted, and springs tomatoes and eggplant are being served up. hope your summer is wonderful and full of hope.
gotta run-baby dean just arrived! time to put my nana hat on…

Amami Oshima Tsumugi Weaving

As a followup to the last post, I continue with the weaving portion of my trip to Amami.

On the way to Higo Dorozome Friday, I saw a sign that read “Oshima Tsumugi Village” so we decided to start there on Saturday. I didn’t realize until afterwards that this is where Jackie did her mud -dyeing workshop (we later compared notes). Since I had already done the sharimbai/dorozome workshop we opted for the basic tour and focused on weaving. They have a good but short tour of the weaving process but the real highlight was the addition of a weaving session on one of their looms where you could weave and keep a length of Oshima silk tsumugi. This was purchased at the beginning of the tour with the entrance fee.

Of course, the plain weaving of a piece of silk oshima tsumugi is a fairly basic process even for a novice. The real work as most weavers know, is in the preparation of the warp and the set-up of the loom. Oshima tsumugi takes this to new heights with its complicated pattern drafting, the precise dyeing of both the warp AND the weft threads prior to measuring and warping the loom. In addition, starch is also applied to the silk threads prior to “shim-bata” weaving as well as after the dyeing prior to warping. the starch or glue is made of specific types of local seaweed.

The process of dyeing the threads:
Prior to the late 1800’s, the threads were wrapped with banana plant fiber to resist the dye and form the kasuri patterns. Other methods, from various areas dyeing resisted threads for kasuri weaving, include tying and clamping the threads, but in 1907 two men from Amami in Kagoshima prefecture invented a new method. This consisted of weaving the warps and the wefts temporarily with cotton threads on a special shim-bata loom which resulted in more precise and complicated patterning as well as improvements in production quantity and quality.(The tightly woven cotton wefts over the silk warps resist the dye in shibori-like fashion.)

We saw the preparation of the warping threads-the weaving of the patterns from a precise draft of the pattern desired as well as the additional colored dyeing of the wefts post-dorozome dyeing. Apparently there are 28 (!)preliminary processes that take place in preparation of the actual weaving.
Once the loom is warped (we did not see that process) the weaving begins and the weaver takes over. The weaver handles the shuttles adeptly and quickly, stopping every 7-10 centimeters or so to adjust the threads with a sturdy needle and correct any errors in the pattern caused by tension issues, by adjusting the warp threads before continuing on.

I was sat at a loom and after a brief instruction in Japanese and (international hand waving) I wove about 20 centimeters of beautiful plain woven silk, alternating shuttles filled with a variety of solid and multi-colored silk bobbins. It was like magic! The finished piece was a simple striped pattern and the resulting cloth was very smooth and lightweight.

It really is amazing how the skills for this type of silk fabric came to be developed, practiced and cherished by the Japanese of Amami Oshima and beyond. You can really appreciate the very high prices of this fine silk cloth once you have seen it first-hand. You can read about it, see photos & videos, but to experience it first hand- even for a short time is precious. One of the weavers told me she had been weaving for over 40 years. She said that anyone could do it but that it takes 4 years of 8 hours a day weaving to achieve the correct quality as a weaver of oshima tsumugi. I actually thought that might be understated. I told her I have a lot of catching up to do!
The whole process is such a team effort and the failure of the materials or quality at any point in the process has the potential to ruin the work of all the prior steps taken by the other artisans to that point. Everyone is very focused on a good outcome.

A couple of other points to note- the silk used is not filature silk, meaning that it is not reeled from the cocoon. It is referred to as a yarn, meaning that it is spun from a silk like mawata.
Apparently, sericulture was (is?) practiced on the island but I did not get to see any of that this time. Further research ahead…
I’m interested in seeing how the silk used for the Amami oshima tsumugi is spun and prepared for weaving here, who does it, and where.
Another note- during our tour of the tsumugi village, our guide/driver Kounosuke tells us that his mother was a weaver on the island before she had children (4). AND that his grandfather was a dyer….he has lived on Amami his entire life and had not seen the weaving process before.

About the guided tour at the Amami Oshima Village:
If you are not there to do a workshop, the tour seems quite rushed. They have a specific amount of time devoted to each group before ushering them into the gift shop. I get the impression that there are a lot of casual tourist that go through there by the busloads in the high season. The gift shop does have two parts- the VERY expensive side featuring full kimono, full bolts of woven silk, obi, and various other very fine clothing items and also another side which is filled with fine but more affordable and smaller items- all beautiful and interesting to see.
Kounosuke told us that the high season is of course Golden Week, July and August (when school is out and workers have vacation time) as well as during the Hatchi-matsuri or August festival. He said that was his favorite holiday of the year in Amami. Our other guide who did speak English was Yui who grew up in Yokohama (!)and came to live in Amami one year ago after visiting it on vacation. It’s that kind of place.

Here is a photo gallery from the tour:

As before- there is a lot of video to edit so perhaps on the plane I will do some of it. To follow, the rest of the day tripping around Amami and then time traveling again back to Kyoto.

Other online resources:
https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/KQIy7n8uomYiIQ
this site gives a very good explanation of the tsumugi dyeing and weaving process by Kyoto Women’s University
https://kogeijapan.com/locale/en_US/honbaoshimatsumugi/

Houston Quilt Festival 2018 wrapped in a blog post

So here it is-the post Houston Quilt Festival blog post! Finally. It’s always such a stress to prepare for the festival and I always feel that I could have done more or better-but once I’m there, I’m there and no need to fret anymore about it. As usual, it turns out it was all fine- even better than that really and any doubts as to why I put myself through all of it melt away.

I made a little slideshow video of how a booth comes together. You might find it interesting…

Why is that? Well, mostly because of the people. The people who take my classes, the people who visit my booth, the people who help me in all the small and large ways (Yes, Virginia! Yes, Phil!).  It’s the people. They assure me that I am there for a purpose- and not just the purpose of selling them something. Of course it has to be a financial success in order for me to return year after year, but it’s definitely something more than that.

There are the intangibles-not easy to define but oh so necessary.

The gal who came all the way from South Africa to take my class on making mawata (hankies) from silk cocoons-she had just successfully raised her first batch of 2500 silkworms to cocooning and needed to learn how to process them. She has big plans of starting a small sericulture business there to employ the local community and bring a product to market. Very cool.I am wishing her all the best!

The gal who took an afternoon flower making class and who had a terrible morning- she really just needed some therapy handwork and a place to find some success in what she was making. Even though she struggled a bit at first, it is my goal to make it so everyone can find success at their own pace and level in my classes. The more I do this the better I get at recognizing each person’s individual needs. You have to be able to do this quickly as the classes are only 3 hours long (in this case) and there can be up to 24 students at a time! Everyone gets my attention. Afterwards when the show opened, she visited the booth several times and she was inspired not only to make things for friends and family but supported my efforts enthusiastically (and financially!). I thank her greatly!

The 90 year old woman who came by my booth when she noticed I was from Long Beach to tell me about her life there before she moved to Texas. She had been coming to the show for many years even though she wasn’t a quilter- just liked to enjoy the many creative souls in the room for a day. She looked quite fine in her Gianna Rose (Donna, Frankie, Dawn, and others will remember…) jacket and flower pin. And she grew up very near where I now live. She had been an antique dealer (not textiles, she said , although nice things often crossed her path) and liked to mend things simply and was always interested in the handwork of quilting.

The grandmother and granddaughter who came by and reminded me that when the granddaughter was 10 or so that I had given her a piece of ribbon to ponder. They had made the show an annual event for the two of them and the granddaughter looked to be about 15 now, still interested in sewing and crafts and, more importantly, coming to the show happily with her grandma.

The gal who stopped by and reminded me that when I owned a yarn shop in Long Beach that it was her very favorite and she since has not found a better one (it was at least 12 years ago!).

The various folks who come by “just to check”  and see if I happened to find a long lost stash of porcelain buttons I wanted to sell.  Love ya, but no. That was my previous incarnation and I appreciate that you remembered it!

The folks who stop in “just to look” because it’s so interesting and beautiful and those that say they always stop because they always learn something new. (Thank you so much!)

Honestly, I could go on and on.

Like I mentioned to Jude via a post comment a few posts back, I feel like I’m a placeholder of sorts.  Should I elaborate or do you know what I mean? It does give meaning to what I do, but like I also know, it has to be fiscally viable in order to continue. I was pleasantly surprised by the show’s outcome.  So, thank you all again. Truly grateful as I continue.

I missed a number of my fellow vendors who are no longer doing the show for one reason or another. It has become more difficult to make all the numbers work out, not to mention that for some of the folks (especially the vintage textile dealers are no longer spring chickens) the pure physicality of doing a show makes it a challenge. Great to see The Scarlett Lady (no website) there- where I found some great vintage linen dyeables and a few other fun things -vintage stamens and some irresistible “kittens with clothes” embroideries I couldn’t live without…(I actually still have a few of my childhood books featuring kittens with clothes…)

Those of us “in the biz” know that every show is it’s own unique experience and that it’s prudent to count on one thing (at least!) to go completely haywire with the potential of disastrous!  If you can do that and roll with the punches, you might make it. Only two major haywire events this time and it wasn’t disastrous at all- AirBnB host cancelling my res without explanation or notice and the rental car company who was a complete disaster but I was able to return to the airport the next day and rent from a different company.  You just NEVER know what the issue will be but you KNOW it will be something!  Rock and Roll! My good friend and seamstress/milliner/postal goddess, Virginia (of Yes,Virginia & Nasa Postal ) hosted me and facilitated many things for me that were of great service and much appreciated.

The workshops I taught were great fun and well reviewed- I always take the reviews seriously and almost always agree with the helpful criticism offered in them. It’s important to be able to see what you do through someone else’s eyes.  I am usually SO busy teaching that I take very few photos of the actual workshop but I did manage to get a few of the Moth to Cloth class before and at the end.

(you can click into each thumbnail image to a larger view)  We also made some silk batting for a lap size quilt which went home with the gal who volunteered to be the class helper (takes roll, handles the evaluations, and other duties for the Ed office staff).  We did that at the end and it was a real surprise to them how much you could stretch out one cocoon! Always fun to end with a big bang! As a reminder, here is a video of us learning to do it on the Silk Study Tour a few trips ago:

And to finally end this long post (if you made it this far!), there was lots of fun in the shibori ribbon classes and I continued making flowers for demonstration purposes  and custom orders for shoppers in the booth.  I really enjoy making people wonder!

All for now thankfully. There will be a couple more posts to catch up with in the next few days…
mata ne!

 

 

Silk Study Tour to Japan and the final days of silk moths…

I have been wanting to get to this post all week but, well…you know. Life, work, local politics, heatwave, gardening…need I go on?
Hope this finds you well and safe from heat, fire, flooding, typhoons, drought and in relative good health! Earth is challenging many!

First off, the update email for the Silk Study Tour to Japan has been sent to those who are signed up to go next year (May 2019).  If you are signed up and didn’t receive it let me know.  If you are interested in one of the remaining spots here is a link to the basic info and itinerary.

I previously covered my classes at the upcoming Houston International Quilt Festival and online registration is now ongoing.  Visit my website for the pertinent details and links.

We just concluded the most recent workshop at the Japanese American National Museum which was really wonderful.  They just keep getting better and better!  Returning students are really taking on more challenging designs and experimenting. New students jump right in and are encouraged by the returning students. We are now picking a couple of new dates to end the year. Will add to the website and announce as soon as they are finalized.

As I added the link to the JANM I just saw the upcoming exhibit  :Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata’s Journey through the World of Japanese Toys September 15, 2018 – March 24, 2019. This will be right up my alley since I grew up there from 1965-72! Yokohama tomodachi-let’s go! Natsukashii ne…

Anyway, back to the silk moths. The silk moths emerged, mated, laid their eggs and quietly died.  The eggs dried, turned grey and are stored in the fridge for now.   Here is a little video I put together about this stage. Even the local cat Toby helps out!

 

cocoons!

After six weeks of silkworm rearing, I have about 400 cocoons.  I started off with an order of 500 eggs, so here and there, lost a few.  There were no noticeable die-offs of any great number- a good thing that tells me I avoided any major disease issues by keeping the silkworms clean, well fed as well as in good temperature and humidity.  It can be a real disappointment when something starts to kill them off. I can only imagine what can happen to large scale sericulturists.

I stifled these today in the oven at about 180 degrees. This will allow these cocoons to be reeled or used in ways where I want a whole uncut cocoon.  With about 400 cocoons, if I let them all emerge I would end up with 10,000 or so eggs.  I can’t imagine having to feed that many here.  In fact, if I did allow the silkmoths to all emerge, mate, and lay eggs they would end up dying by starvation unless I put the eggs into cold storage.  I would never be raising that many here anyway.  I do have a few folks who wanted to get some eggs from me so I will save some for them.  I will store the cocoons in the freezer in a net bag until needed. These cocoons will be used in Houston for my mawata class there along with some I purchased from Nobue Higashi who raises silkworms in Japan.

silk,silkworms

I should not let you leave this post without paying homage to the life of the silkworm. Yes, I have killed them and have feelings about that.  In Japan, there are temples and shrines devoted to the silkworm or sericulture in general.  Giving thanks for a good harvest and for the protection of the silkworm until cocooning are common among sericulturists in Japan even today. Shouldn’t we remember to be grateful for everything? There are many shrines devoted to sericulture scattered throughout Japan.

It was perhaps not a coincidence that today I was catching up with Nobue on her blog that I read this post where she talks about just this thing…the google translate is very rough but you can get the jist of it. I am looking forward to seeing Nobue san again next year!

You can read about the silkworm deities at Kaiko no yashiro (蚕ノ社) – the Silkworm Shrine here. It’s an interesting story.
Next year on the Silk Study Tour to Japan we will add a short visit to this Shinto shrine. It is about 20 minutes by car from our Kyoto hotel I am told.  If there is not time to add it to the whole group itinerary, I will make time for those interested in a visit here in an early morning trip by taxi.

Following this down a bit further, I found an excellent couple of blog posts on this shrine.

-about the Kaiko no Yashiro (Silkworm Shrine)

-speculation about the triangular torii

-fascinating history of the Hata clan
part one

part two

I made another little video that covers the cocoon harvesting.

 

 

 

 

Independence (for silkworms)

Somehow sensing that this year’s Independence Day needed a sign, a signal, a ray of something, the silkworms picked the 4th to start cocooning.  Now, the 6th, many are involved in that seemingly magical process while the rest are casting about looking for some real estate to call home.
I’ve been working and watching them. Thinking about my own cocoon of sorts. If I were a silkworm I might not want to emerge for awhile.
The caterpillars will be in their pupae stage for about two weeks and those that are not stifled  will begin to emerge from their cocoons then. Stifled cocoons (where the pupae is killed by heat or steam) will be used for reeling and cut cocoons or cocoons from which the moths have naturally emerged can be used to make silk hankies or mawata for other textile uses.
I have two types of cocooning frames or beds. One is the cardboard frame type currently used by sericulturists in Japan and one is the straw bedding. I got them both out and cleaned them up before setting them up for the silkworms.

I’m hoping there will be some good news to share with them on the other side! 

A few more photos…

It’s hot here today-supposed to be up to 103 today and tomorrow. Drew all the blinds and keeping the house cool as long as possible hoping to not use the $AC$.  Our little cocoon for the next couple of days…at least until the sun sets at 8 PM.