just dreaming…of indigo and Japan

Recent ribbon dyeing has kept me away from the indigo (but also keeping the bills paid-thank you!) but while I have been wrapping and dyeing, the indigo has been growing! It’s about a foot tall now.

Which leads me to wondering..as usual.  What if I harvested this indigo and set about composting it?  How will I compost it?  Apparently, it takes 100 days according to Rowland Ricketts.  He has completed construction of a composting shed (so cool!) but I have no such shed at my disposal nor will there be one.  But in usual Shibori Girl form, I will figure something out.  Perhaps in  a sort of Heath Robinson sort of way…

I understand that the floor of the shed is made of sand, rice hulls, and clay in order to draw moisture away from the composting indigo.  I imagine the shed maintains an even temperature and humidity and the floor draws a stable temp from the ground.  The shed provides protection from sunlight, rain, and wind- not to mention bugs and such things…I will learn more of what is required.

Now how to create such an environment here in the yard… I am wondering.

Also wondering- what if I were to dry the indigo leaves and just dump them into a fermentation vat?  I wonder where (not if!) this has been done before.

As always,  I may need to return to my source- Japan.  And it just so happens I am leaving on Monday for just such a trip.  To finalize details and make a few visits, see a few folks, and have a few meetings for the 2013 Silk Study Tour.  I have a lot on my plate!  Fortunately, I will see Sato-san as she is having an exhibition in Tokyo while I am there.  Before she started dyeing indigo she worked up north for several years for an indigo farmer.  I think she will have some answers to some of my questions and it will be so very good to see her again!  I will also meet a new sericulture farmer, a new natural dye master, test out a new ryokan, visit the Yokohama Silk Museum and meet with it’s former Director.  In Tokyo, I will be hosted by Makoto san who’s wife is a long time friend from Austin who always has a fantastic collection of Japanese and vintage fabrics at the Houston Quilt Festival each year.  I will also meet up with Masae whose family specialized in kanoko shibori for 4 generations out of Narumi, as well as with her friend Watanabe san and hope to hear more about the artist shop we visited last time.

A day at a temple sale, just to browse and do some wandering- good for the soul.  And back just in time to post the Indigo Mandala class!

Also looking to collect a few artifacts to be loaned for the upcoming Silk Exhibit at Quilt Festival this year-Experience Silk, Then and Now.  Did I mention this before?

The exhibit will include exceptional silk works from teachers, artists and authors prominent in the textile/quilt  world.  It is also out our aim to show silk “from moth to cloth”, featuring historical silk pieces, as well as educational displays of silk production.  The exhibit is in conjunction with the Silk Experience festival classes/lectures, sponsored by Quilts, Inc., and the Special Exhibits coordinators. The prime organizers of the exhibit include Maggie Backman, Glennis Dolce and Katrina Walker and a host of other Silk Experience volunteers.

In many ways we intend this silk exhibit to be a collaboration and partnership in the continuing goal of education, creativity, and commerce.

And, the silkworms are getting crazy-big-fat and healthy!! Have lined up my silkworm sitters who are excited to have them again.  They might even be starting to spin when I return! Did I mention Mawata Madness here already?  Come and work with some of my very own cocoons- from my very own 2nd generation! It’s the weird things that excite me…

Gotta go-out of fresh mulberry and the cats need feeding…

mata ne!


survey-just a few questions for the class…

I actually meant for this poll to be on the student dye forum blog but mistakenly posted it here.  Instead of deleting it thought I would just leave it and let people answer it here as well-  will have to go and re-do it over on the other blog.

But as long as I am here, and I was meaning to get to a post here today sometime, I guess now is as good a time as any…

I recently took a short break to drive up north and see some musical performances at SJSU where one of my sons goes to school. It was SUCH a pleasure to see and hang out with these kids and teachers who are so passionate about their music, their artform, and their lives.  Even though they talked to me of their fears of what lies ahead as musicians (and very well trained ones I will add) they are sure they are still doing the right thing. I like that they are working through those fears and pressing ahead in “the arts” regardless of how impractical it may seem to them at the moment.  They just know they have to persist.  Deep in the core of their being and soul they know it. They are in pursuit of their dreams at a time when many are setting them aside. They know it is going to be tough going and we talked about that too.  We talked about persistance, about service, about training, about caring.

SJSU orchestral percussionists and “amma” (icelandic for grandmother)

~and then we listened to some very fine work. It was amazing.  If they have any doubts about how what they are doing and how to be of service through music I can say to them that those two evenings of concerts restored my faith in several ways.  We heard some amazing percussion work laced with theatrics and comedy-lighthearted and very entertaining.  A good experience for them to present some classical works in a new way and very approachable to any audience.  Thank you SJSU percussion studio!

four “martians” playing Martian Tribes by Emmanuel Sejourne, on one marimba

The next night we saw the SJSU Concert Choir and Symphony Orchestra perform at the Santa Clara Mission sanctuary on the campus of Santa Clara University.  Conducted by Dr. Bensen who has newly joined the staff at SJSU, it was magnificent.  The last of the three pieces was Beethoven’s Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op.80. which was sung in German but in translation speaks to the harmonies of life, love, strength and beauty, and how music engenders the wonderful.  It certainly did. And when we walked outside into the light of the the super full moon…well, it was sheer perfection.

SJSU concert choir and orchestra inside the Santa Clara Mission

Now, back working and after retrieving the silkworms from their weekend caretakers (thanks delia,cory,& cylus!) here is how they were looking yesterday:

lean mean (mulberry) eating machines

And after returning the fermentation vat is still going strong (my favorite).  I stopped at the San Jose Quilt Museum’s May Day Sale and found some vintage cotton threads that I overdyed in the F-vat (indigo crop update in the background):

Oh, and I almost forgot this…an idea for silk cocoons and percussionists  gleaned from my visit to the San Miguel Archangel Mission and some research on the Salinian Indians that lived in that area. I love visiting that mission.  Something keeps drawing me back to it.  Eventually, I will figure out what and why.  We actually visited 4 missions on this trip: San Miguel Archangel, San Juan Bautista, Santa Clara, & Santa Barbara missions- a great way to break up the driving and see some history. And the little volvo that could drove like the champ that it is-getting us everywhere without the assistance of AAA! YAY!

Now , I have several days of ribbon dyeing to get done so off to work…

mata ne!

indigo and mandala workshop announcements

Just a couple of quick workshop announcements-

The Indigo Mandala Workshop is now open for registration. The class is being co-taught by  Richard and myself-a collaboration from two sides of the world. We will both be active on the blog and answering questions.  Click on over to the shop link above to read the details of the class.  It will post June 1 and continue.



Then, I am taking reservations for a new in-studio 2 day indigo workshop.  We will work with all 4 of the indigo vat types I have going here.  We will practice various shibori techniques-itajime, arashi, and stitched, ombre dyeing, and moon making on various types of fabrics. Depending on the state of the indigo crop, we might be able to test out making a fresh vat. As always, I’ll have some colorhue dye on hand to experiment with on silk.  Hopefully, there will also be some silkworms to feed. Limited to 4 participants. Contact me with any questions.

~ all for today…mata ne!

this and that

Some days, the only thing to do is to clear the fog from your head with a walk on the beach.  Even if it’s foggy there- and doggy, as in dog beach.  So I did (or we did).

And when it’s time to get back to work even if the silk doesn’t want to sew itself and looks like the fog in your head and the fog at the beach, it isn’t. It’s just silk and it’s slippery and finally you manage it somehow even with your very lacking sewing skills and a crappy machine.  Not bad.

So when it turns out that you base dye it purple and discharge it, and overdye it with every color of the rainbow and it turns into purple haze, and ends up paying a bill or two (made 2, paid 2)-the fog starts to lift.  Color can always do that for me. Plus paying a couple of bills doesn’t hurt. Plus when you know that the recipients of the results of such hazy days are such kind folks and so thrilled to receive their pieces, the fog continues to lift.

And the garden continues to feed us and shower us with flowers, and the air is scented with jasmine, sweet peas and the baby birds have flown the nest- then we relax a bit.

In all of this I can’t seem to remember if I mentioned that I removed some eggs from cold storage.  Some silkworm eggs…   Nothing happening with them  yet but I’m still hopeful. It’s been about a week. Maybe they are not going to hatch. This is the first time I have hatched eggs from my own moths. Time will tell.

And I didn’t entirely abandon the vats this week. A little derangement occurred.  The 1-2-3 vat was quite cranky but I think I cured it yesterday with a bit of heat, upping the pH and some more fructose.

I also played around with some hana from the PR vat.  Was just wondering a bit.  What could one do with the hana… this experiment yeilded no answers. But it looked kinda cool in the process. Still I have other thoughts on the matter.

In between I needed to sit and do some therapy stitching as well as make a pile of silk flower broaches for the San Jose Quilt Museum gift shop ( I also sent them some ribbon packs and flower kits if you stop in to the shop looking for such things). On the recommendation of my son, I watched a movie while I worked called Melancholia. He loves Wagner and the film features Richard Wagner’s prelude to  his opera Tristan and Isolde.  Tristan (my son Tristan) loves romantic orchestral music and Wagner’s Tristan is credited with  laying the groundwork for the change of direction of classical music in the 20th century as well as influencing the development of film music. I really did enjoy this dark film about the end of the world as well as the galactic imagery enhanced by the music.  It had me thinking in moons, and the mokume I stitched while watching it became this-my shibori version of the planet Melancholia.

mokume meloncholia moon madness

I’m working on another shop update which will include an in-studio indigo workshop this June (only a month away!) as well as the coming online mandala workshop.  Gotta go!


indigo shop update…

Yes, it’s time for a shop update! A few things have already flown the coop-or maybe I should say vat, since this update is mainly for new indigo pieces.

there is (or was) some silk…

and then some cotton, with some patches stitched with silk. and a silk velvet moon.  a great summer weight scarf for casual wear.  boro-inspired- a reminder that no scrap is too small to use or dye.

and then some more silk…double edge ombre’d of course!   100% silk, a japanese narrow width open weave~

~double arashi plus ombre on a silk cotton blend. the ombre is across the width, not the length-I like a challenge…

and how about some moons?  or circles? or circles in squares? or any which way arashi?

all on lightweight silk habutai.



there’s a few more things but you get the idea…most 2nd items ship free with the first…

Like I said in the last post, the online indigo class is continuing and a new group is joining in. Fermentation is in progress!

The weather is warming up here a bit and the indigo vats are liking it.  There’s a bird’s nest under the eve of the house in the star jasmine and all day I can hear them while I dye. The babies yelling for food and the parents yelling at Milo the cat who loiters in the driveway, every now and then getting dive-bombed by the mockers just making sure he keeps a distance…I’m keeping an eye on him as well. Even Milo is wondering. Must be spring.

learning to bow and continuing

Yesterday as I was cleaning up the studio in preparation for some cooler wind and rain, I found myself bowing in thanks to the vats as I closed them up for the day.  A particularly lovely ombre piece had emerged from the fermentation vat and thanks was in order.  The bowing and ありがとうございました came naturally and without thought- and I wondered why I hadn’t done this before. Perhaps it was the natural response to the fermentation vat success.   In the moment I reflected that there were several things coming together that caused this instinctual thanksgiving.

indigo itajime on linen

First, the online indigo workshop is nearing it’s end.  This is the last week (week 5) and ombre dyeing was the last scheduled lesson.  My fermentation vat is solid now (at least I hope so!) and I am looking forward to using it all summer long.  Thinking about the online workshop…it is occurring to me that it is much like the fermentation vat.  The bacteria need a little time to get going and now that it is live and working, one wants to keep it going.  so I am thinking on that idea.  There have been a number of folks who want to join in as the weather warms up in their areas and have asked for me to run it again.

Rather than run it again, I’m thinking of continuing. At least through the summer months.

I don’t want to kill off the global indigo fermentation that is ongoing through this workshop,  and just like the fermentation vat, which needs feeding to keep it alive and active, so might the indigo workshop need some reviving with new folks and new ideas (this being one of them).  I can see how the accumulated knowledge and experience can continue to grow if the project is nourished.

indigo seedlings

The indigo seedlings are looking good so far- maybe there will be a fresh indigo dyeing lesson down the road if I can keep them going.  Several folks in the class are growing indigo as well.

So the plan has changed and the indigo workshop will continue.  I have reopened registration and will leave it that way for now. You can purchase it in the shop (which by the way, I redesigned last week and sold out items will show sold out on mouse over- a much needed improvement and requested by several customers tired of trying to find something not sold out!) – thanks to Big Cartel for the upgrades.

Then this is how it will work- everyone who already purchased this class is obviously still in-will remain in and you can continue to post and view lessons as usual.  I will continue to answer questions as needed- please have patience though as I am also working in the studio on many other things as well.  All newcomers will get added to the class as you sign up-again be patient and reply to the invites as directed-this makes my life so much easier when you do.  Email me for any help on this. I will undoubtedly add to the lessons here and there as things come up and time permits.

The real beauty of this experimental online indigo workshop is the knowledge that is being shared and created by having such a great group of folks all working in indigo together- some of whom are very experienced as well as those who are beginners.

And speaking of bowing…

I want to personally thank Jude -for her support and enthusiasm for blue and persistence, John Marshall -who added his vast experience to the group, to Ulrike- who I don’t think has an online link but who participated with great enthusiasm and knowledge from Germany, to Susan who’s work, blog and Japanese spirit I have admired for many years now. And of course to all the rest of you who took the course and trusted that such a crazy idea might actually work out! Especially to those of you who braved posting your work for all to see and discuss.  Really, we are all in this together and only through practice can we learn.

ありがとうございました  thank you!

So, now onto a couple of other things.

First- I am preparing a special followup class on indigo mandalas that Richard Carbin and I worked on when he was here a couple of months ago.  I will put it in the shop soon and we will share the proceeds equally.  I really recommend taking the indigo class first as we will not be discussing making a vat or any of that.  Just the making of the mandalas and the dyeing of them with indigo.  They are very special done in indigo.

at Satou san's

Next, I have opened up the 2011 virtual Silk Study Tour blog to the public.  You might want to enjoy a little of that.  The May 2013 Silk Study Tour is now gathering.  If you want to join us on the tour please click here and sign yourself up to receive more information. (Spaces are already filling and the tour is limited to 18 participants.)

taking stock and making it

the time has come again to restock the shop with ribbon and to that end my friend donna came by yesterday to help.  we do a little time-trading now and again which suits us both and helps get things done.  many emails ask me to let you know when more scrap bags are available and when new ribbons get added which is a difficult thing for me to do-except by saying so here.

click over to the shop to see what is available (generally 3 of each) plus a pile of scrap bags:

there is also a bit of indigo left- one pack  and this one has a dragonfly in it.  these are samples made to show techniques in the online indigo workshop.

and while i was at it i made some more moons.   it was night time by then.

drying by moonlight