dreaming big inside my small silk cocoon today i wonder what if
big dreams small spaces when will i emerge again to fly free once more
I like haiku because it distils a thought…
Update: The silkworms are mostly finishing cocooning with a few stragglers that hatched late. I lost surprisingly few. The two batches at neighboring homes fared less well. One lost all of them (20) and the other lost 16 of their 20 but have 4 that cocooned. I have around 200. At least 50 of the eggs did not hatch at the beginning but when I ordered 200 I was sent 300 (ish). I prepared a cocooning tray for the girls next door who lost all theirs which looked like this:
It’s kind of hard to tell here, but silkworms have a yellowish almost transparent cast to them when they are ready to cocoon. They are filled with sericin to spin their cocoons. Left to free range, they would find a couple of branches or a dried curled up mulberry leaf in which to spin a hammock , and finally a cocoon. I made this with both plus a few TP rolls cut in half so they can see what the cats prefer. Of course letting them cocoon in dried leaf makes for messier collecting of cocoons and renders the kibisu (outer silk) fibers inexorably mixed with leaf detritus. The Japanese have a cool machine for removing the cocoons from the frames and also for rolling the cocoons to remove the outer kibisu-all clear of any leaf material and usable for other purposes without too much effort. It will be 2-3 weeks before moths emerge. Many of mine will be dried, killing the pupae inside and the cocoons stored in the freezer for later reeling.
I made a little discovery this past week in regards to the native narrow leaf milkweed. I have wondered since last year why the monarch caterpillars don’t seem to utilize it as opposed to the tropical milkweed which keeps popping up in the yard here and there. They also like the balloon plant (milkweed) very much. They LOVE the small broad leaf native milkweed that they eat down to nubs every chance they get- so much so that it never seems to get a good start here. Fortunately, it spreads from underground and keeps popping back up. Back to the narrow leaf milkweed… I kept seeing the monarchs laying eggs recently on the flowers (it’s flowering now). The flowers are small clusters of tiny florets at the tip of the stems. I realized they probably don’t use the leaves as the leaves are so narrow and unstable they can’t really land on them to deposit their eggs on the underside of the leaf, but the flowers are broad and stable. I started noticing tiny spiders and even some of the tiny praying mantis on the flowers and I thought they would devour and eat the eggs or any larva that hatched-bummer. Then I started noticing that the flower heads are all wilting and dyeing! I thought- oh well…. then this!
I actually started to cut off some of the dead flowers thinking the spider infestation might spread. So now I have a little box of monarch caterpillars to watch over until they get big enough to transfer back to the plant!
We took a trip out on Monday to get away from our cocoon and to visit MIL in hers at the nursing/board and care facility. Since she is in hospice they allow restricted visits- PPE in place. We visit outside mostly. She fell Sunday and thankfully did not break anything but has some pretty colorful facial bruises from bonking her nose. She is doing ok all things considered and always welcomes the visit. It is very difficult communicating since she also has advanced aphasia. We do our best. Afterward, we went to the new Mitsua market and got Japanese bento for a picnic at the South Coast Botanic Gardens. They really have done a good job reopening there. Online time spaced ticketing, contactless entry, masks required, distance marked cueing (when needed), wide open outdoor spaces. They allow picnics in the meadows and there were actually very few people. Cost is $15 per person and you can stay as long as you like. A family annual membership is $65 for unlimited access for 2 for the year. We did that. They also have special dog walking tickets twice a month in the evenings (they are open 8 am- 8 pm). Eighty seven acres of gardens and trails. Sculpture too! A great place all around! Highly recommended for corona daytripping.
and in the garden… tomatoes are rising! Milo ventures outdoors and approves!
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…
Always during this time of year I begin to get the urge to raise silkworms. Recent walks in the neighborhood encourage me when I see mulberry trees leafing out with fresh tender greens. What silkie could resist?
Reading an account of rice farming and poverty in early 1900’s Japan from one of my favorite books “Memories of Silk and Straw” I saw this, adding further to my yearning…
Watching and caring for small creatures such as silkworms is very calming-at least to me. Seeing them eat, grow, and transform is a reminder of so many things. It makes me a little sad that the local schools no longer do this even though they often have mulberry trees on their campuses, originally planted there for this very purpose.
The neighbor kids are home a lot more now so perhaps they might be interested.
I have eggs in cold storage in my fridge which I saved from my last rearing dated July 2018. A bit old and who knows if they are still viable? I took out one set and will test to see if they will hatch. If not, I may order a small amount of eggs just for fun.
Growing up in Japan in the mid ‘60’s we lived in a house owned by a very wealthy Japanese family. It was located high on a bluff which overlooked the port area of Yokohama. As a child we went on field trips to the Yokohama Silk Center and came home with a small box containing one silk cocoon, one small square of silk, one bit of reeled silk. We regularly visited a nearby famous garden (Sankeien).
Later, much later, say 40 years later, I came to realize that the wealth of the owners of that house we lived in was most likely afforded to the family by the main industry of the time-silk. All wealth in Yokohama and in many other areas of japan was driven by silk trade.
That garden we regularly visited was built and owned by a wealthy silk merchant who many decades later donated the property to the city of Yokohama. It had been their family residence. Only in the past ten years did I learn that one of my early schoolmates was a granddaughter of this family and grew up playing and roaming the private sections of this grand place and it was through her connection that special field trips there were arranged.
The Yokohama Silk Center still exists and I make an effort to go again each time I visit.
So yes, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today and hoping some of the silkworms will hatch. I’ve put them in a warm spot, with some humidity and hoping for the best in this current corona cocoon.
Time slowed a bit this week, or at least that’s my perception. In the Moment.
I did a little tinkering with moonmaking and the result was a pleated moon on silk ro. I included a bit on that in the new moonmates video.
I talked a little bit about the fabrics I use. I could go on and on with that topic as it really is key to dyeing anything at all and can dictate the type of shibori process best suited for the cloth.
But back to the pleated moon. I’ve wanted to try this for some time. I really liked the process. Adjustments were made to allow the pleats to be retained (not wetting the fabric first, then letting the piece dry while clamped after rinsing out well). Then the whole thing was trimmed a bit before stabilizing on a background cloth using Jude’s glue stitch (or invisible basting stitch). I love the sculptural quality of it stitched onto the background. I don’t know where this piece is going or what it will lead to. For now, I have it pinned to the wall where I can think on it a while. What I did find was that the pleats were easily retained- even around the outside edge of the resist. The silk has a memory and unless forcefully removed, remains.
Here is a quicklink to Jude’s youtube showing her glue stitch that I referred to. There were other interesting moons this week, they continue to fascinate me, endlessly.
TIme now to go do a drop off of supplies to Amma. For some reason this past week the facility would not allow the Kaiser hospice nurse to do her regular visit there- without explanation. After a series of calls to various people in positions to question this, nurse visits have resumed. You really do have to keep up with what is going on in these facilities.
We are sure to emerge from the corona in an altered state. Some things are going to change completely (some of those things will be positive for sure) and other things will drift back towards a state of complacency. One of the positive outcomes will hopefully be our increased attention to hygiene, health and communicable illnesses in the modern era. Having spent lots of time living in and visiting Japan, mask wearing there is de rigueur, or essential- a responsibility and expected, especially if you are sick with even a minor cold. We could definitely benefit from this. We are going to go forward with holes in our lives where people who held our hearts, hands and memories used to reside. We will go forward with uncertainty, in our work, our play, our basic well being. I don’t imagine this will ever really “be over”. It will “be different”. I think it warrants imagining and wondering what that looks like now, so as to adapt, adjust, and plan for a different kind of future. I keep thinking of the analogy of a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. It’s like we might have the opportunity to rethink how we want to emerge from life in the corona. The time to think about that is now. Looks like we will still have a couple more months to think about all this possibility and prepare! There have been lots of monarchs emerging in the backyard lately. They float through the air as I am weeding out the grasses that have taken over here and there after the rains. There are lots of wildflowers blooming that have reseeded from past seasons. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of poppies back there (not that i would want to!).
These are just some of the thoughts that pass through my mind as I keep busy out in the studio and garden this past week.
One item of note, it was one year ago yesterday I tripped over the low dog fence in the backyard breaking my arm. It was an instantly regrettable moment. A not so funny April Fools Day. One year later now, there is no pain, and all has healed very well. But to ensure I don’t do any such silly thing again, Trevor has built a new fence with a wonderfully easy opening gate! Sometimes, isolation allows for chores that have been long put off, to be accomplished! Yay! Now onto the fence on the left side which has needed new posts for a long time, thanks to termites. Currently we are enjoying lettuce, beets, daikon, eggplant and herbs from the garden. Just put in some broccoli, zucchini, chilis and tomatoes and have other seedlings to plant out soon.
But in the studio, I have been at a number of things, moons of course. And I’m adding a new tutorial for moonmates on the Moonmates page. One thing I realize while doing these, is that I will never run out of ideas for making moons. Each time I make some I want to try something different. It’s just how it goes. I have tried so many things over the years and it’s fun revisit some of them and to also try out new ideas. This is what I do love about shibori- the endless possibilities. There is always something new or different to try.
I’ve received some lovely emails and messages from you all upon receipt of your moonsets. Thank you. It inspires me to continue. My friend Mo in Australia who always makes love-ly and heart-felt objects put an indigo moon to work in her recent post Raggedy Blue Moon Heart. Jude was so kind as to put a link in her sidebar to the moonmaker page. If you haven’t ever visited Jude’s blog, Spirit Cloth, I would recommend it and subscribing by email. She’s been at it at least as long as I have (2006ish) so you have a lot of catching up to do over there!
In other announcements… all May and June workshops at the JANM have been cancelled and we are working on creating a schedule for July -Dec in the coming week. Stay tuned. Also, stay tuned for some new silk shibori ribbon in the shop. Haven’t got them photographed or listed yet…that’s next on “the list”.
You might be a fan of John Prine like I am and since hearing he was ill (COVID-19) I’ve been refreshing my play list with some of his music. Here’s one to get you started…I picked this version as it has a monologue about the song at the beginning.
One thing I have really enjoyed during this isolation time has been checking in with friends I don’t often communicate with. Some great catching up has been going on. A friend and I were texting re John Prine and other things (like how we’ve been friends for probably close to 20 years and she hadn’t subscribed to the blog (subscribe by email in the sidebar). She had a sweet memory of John Prine she shared (her husband has been a dealer of vintage vinyl albums forever) and she said I could share it here-
Quilt Festival is returning to Long Beach this July 9-11 after a 7 year hiatus. Classes for this festival are all understandably focused on machine quilting. As an alternative to this I am adding a few in-studio workshops for festival goers to consider. They are all directly before or after the show dates to allow participants to consider attending a workshop without missing any of the show. Here are the three workshops (held in Long Beach):
Of course anyone can attend any of these workshops but they have been scheduled around the festival to make them available to festival goers. I expect them to fill so if you are interested, I suggest you grab a spot!
I still have one more Arashi shibori workshop scheduled for the end of March (28-29) that has 3 spots open. I originally posted this as a 3 day workshop as a result of participant feedback after the first one, but seems like more people wanted a two day workshop due to time restraints on their part so I changed it back to a two day event.
The second workshop last weekend was visited by a brief downpour as we worked under cover outside. It didn’t put a damper on the enthusiasm for learning the process and the sun soon broke through and shined on the resulting work. My favorite photo was the communal pile of pleated silk shibori we made with all our pieces on day two.
The upcoming Indigo Shibori workshop at the Japanese American National Museum on March 14-15 still has a few spots if you want to join us. Signups are through the museum.
So as you can see, it’s been busy around here. Baby Dean is a regular visitor and although we don’t share photos of him on social media he is already 9 months old! He loves to play the piano, drums, and guitar (like his mom and dad, uncles and others who frequent his world). It’s so darn adorable! He has red hair just like both his grandmas! And big blue eyes. Ever curious, and now on the move, he’s already has taken his first steps- watch out world!
I went out into the studio today and found this beautiful heart shape in which crystals had formed on my work table. It was a result of a session of making indigo moons in the chem vat. I had to run out and take care of some things without cleaning up my table outside. I had made a few indigo hearts too.
Still lots going on here. Helping someone transition to hospice is walking sacred ground isn’t it? It can be everything…exhausting, peaceful, frustrating, loving, giving, taking and more. But doing a little each day… day by day…
and then a crystalline heart just appears…to remind you.
Have to clear my head and get into the correct frame of mind to write a new post here. Things are shifting as always. I’m trying to find my way through it all with my sanity intact and without losing my mind. This song came to mind…
The weekend arashi shibori workshop was wonderful. They were a great group intent on experiencing the process of pleated silk shibori. None had done discharge work so that was interesting to me since that is what I have done so much of all these years. Many had taken workshops with all the greats out there so it was interesting to me to hear of those experiences as we worked. So many things to learn out there! And each participant came with their own goals and intentions which is always fascinating to me. The outcomes were beautifully varied and while I think everyone had one piece that was not their favorite, those were the pieces that taught the most.
There is one more workshop scheduled for this month (which is full) and I am working on putting together another one for March 28-29-30 (listed here). There was one resounding request at the last workshop- that it be expanded to 3 days in order to allow for another piece to be made after seeing the results from day one. I understand this request and will give it a try at the newly listed workshop. It will also give me time to demonstrate additional ideas for anyone who is taking the workshop over again. As I explained to the group, I really enjoy it when people take a workshop more than once as it allows them to build their skill and knowledge, which is important in order to master anything. This is why I enjoy the workshops at the Japanese American National Museum so much. Participants return over and over again to work on shibori…in fact, some have been coming for years! By the way, the next workshop at JANM is March 14-15. Sign-ups are through the museum.
Of time and changes, we are in the middle of so much right now. Trying to find the path forward, searching for a way. So many conversations, looking for the balanced path. Listening… The universe feels out of balance here and somehow, somehow, we must find a way back. For all of us. For the world.
Caught some wind in my sails and I’m busy prepping the studio for the workshop this weekend (lots of cleaning!). There are folks coming from NY and TX plus a couple from here in CA. Prepping equipment, materials, and space.
I had a need for a couple of new moons for something I’m working on so made a batch for us all. I’ve got 10 sets of five in the shop so please help yourself.
When I’m dyeing the moons, I’m reminded that the majority of humanity can look up and see the moon and wonder. I try to remember to look up every night or day to catch a glimpse.
As for the cloth, old silk, cotton, hemp, wool pulled from my “save for moons” clothbox. Several special fabrics were used in this batch but one stands out for sentimental reasons. It’s a simple cotton toweling that had a sweet embroidery in one corner and along another edge there was my mothers name written in black marker. Most likely a practice piece done at the instruction of Nana, her mother.
So not sure the backstory but I saved the embroidery section to use elsewhere and used the rest do dye these moons.