post indigo blues

i love the early hours of the morning where everyone else still lives in their dreams, even the dog at my feet whose legs twitch, dogdreaming-perhaps running free, not at the end of a leash.

it gives me time to think, to make my morning coffee, read the paper and perhaps even write a post like this one here.

this morning though, i also have time to ponder the last two days which have been spent giving an indigo workshop here at my studio. as i drink this morning’s coffee, i look out on the just completed deck repair where we spent some of the time stitching, talking, and of course- wondering. all the blue that we hung at the end to get a bigger view of is gone, leaving me with the post-indigo blues.

my new moon friends

with everyone assembled, we took a look around the garden. within the first few minutes after they arrived, so did several beautiful hawks! the local crows and jays were laughing and waking the whole neighborhood and i looked up just in time to see a large beautiful hawk fly right over us from the two story cactus and into the alley behind. the hawks soared up and circled for several minutes while we watched. we don’t see them often in the neighborhood and never before have i seen them inside my yard. i captured a couple of pictures of one in the neighboring palm tree, feasting while crows screamed in the background.

hawk in the palm

there was also talk of feathers, and sky fabric, and spirit cloth in the making.

the 4 participants, karleen, mae, gerrie, and patty were a delightful group-full of wonder and enthusiasm in equal parts. three of the gals have taken many sessions from me at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) where i give workshops on a regular basis, the other had been in an online class with me. (in fact, there is another JANM workshop this coming saturday focusing on indigo where we will stitch dragonfly motifs among other things).

the four ladies -a retired firefighter, a painter, an apparel manufacturer, and a writer- enjoyed two days of exploring the vats at their leisure. my friend penny came by both days to assist and wonder with us. we spent the first morning getting to know each other, the textiles and the vats by making some swatch sheets.

swatch making

they had about a dozen or more various fabrics to work with so we made pages to help us remember.

one page was made to simply identify each fabric for later reference. the others showed how each fabric took the indigo dye with one and two dips in the vats.

no matter how you think you might remember it all, the memory has a way of fading, somewhat like the indigo.

it was a beautiful indigo day

we explored many indigo and shibori traditions, stitching,
itajime, and arashi as well as some ombre dyeing. patty even brought some old kimono silk from the lining of an old kimono that had been taken apart and she designed and dyed it to use for a garment she will make. it will be beautiful. everyone made many moons, the indigo and orange moons being the most popular i think. where ever i give a workshop we make moons together and i gain new moon friends. karleen seemed particularly keen on the board clamping and came away with a beautiful ombre piece over dyed with an itajime pattern.

a little itajime with ombre

gerrie and patty both made some large motifs on cotton flannel suitable for pillow shams and everyone did some larger scrim pieces they thought they might use for curtains.

in the end, everyone exchanged emails with promises to share the makings of their indigo fabrics and even left with intentions to meet again in Utah in february at the high desert silk retreat. some are even wondering if a visit to Japan in 2013 might be in their future… it was a wonderful indigo weekend!

and if that weren’t enough, my sensei in Japan sent me a note friday to express the following…the timing couldn’t have been better.
ぐれにす さん へ
ひらたさんから おくられてきました。
あめりかで すくもう が つくられていることを しり うれしい です。
これからは あめりかで どんどん ひろがって いくとおもいます。

she is happy to see the American’s interest in indigo rising like the moon. we both are.

thinking ahead-and wondering a bit

~just wanted to let you know i have added two pages here on the blog.
both require some thought, consideration and planning ahead so take your time to wonder a bit.
you can reach the new pages through the links below in this post or by clicking their links in the header above.

giant silk moth display from the Silk Center Takasaki, Japan

the first one is for the High Desert Silk Experience workshop/retreat in St. George Utah. a great opportunity to take some classes all about silk in a beautiful location. Signups are ongoing until Dec.1 or when the classes fill. i think we are about halfway there now…

the second page is for those of you who might want to consider joining us for the 2013 Silk Study Tour to Japan in May of that year. that might seem like a long way off, but planning ahead is the key to a successful tour.

in other news, i’m going to start raising a new crop of silkworms. hopefully, they will be the ones we will use in the workshop in UT to demonstrate the silk reeling skills we have learned on the previous two Silk Study Tours. i’m waiting for the weather to cool slightly so my eggs can be shipped-apparently, it is too hot for them to be delivered now.

pocket candy

yes, silk shibori pocket squares. i don’t talk about them too often but like the ribbon, they are something that goes on in the background of making here.

17 x 17 silk pocket square in orange/red orange

they are kind of self explanatory and you can see the the full details on my page devoted to them here on the blog.

what i really want to write about today are the customers who purchase my shibori pocket squares. such an interesting group of men!
yes, men like shibori too-and why not?
here are the two best reasons why (taken from my PSQ page):

Perhaps the most important one- women love them! Why? It indicates that you are interested in standing out and care about your appearance. Also, most women LOVE textiles. I have been told by men that the women can’t keep their hands off of these silk shibori pocket squares. They are intriguing (and a good conversation starter). They are fun to play with. I dare you to hold one in your hand and NOT be mesmerized by the colorful play of pattern and texture as you open and release the pleated silk. The sheer feel of the heavy silk charmeuse is luxurious.

Another virtue of wearing one of my Silk Shibori Pocket Squares is that no two are ever alike! It’s an acknowledgement and appreciation for things still hand made and one of a kind. In this world of mass production, fast tracking, mega malls, and super stores there still is room for some things to remain small and slow and made by hand one at a time. Remember that, each time you tuck one of my shibori pocket squares into your suit pocket.

the top 3-red/blue/gold based squares also come as a set of three

so who are these guys? some of them are entertainers, pianists, economists, ARS furniture appraisers, CNN newsmen, grooms and their groomsmen, fathers of the bride, boyfriends, photographers, architects, stylists, designers, dads and grads, guys in suits from all walks who want to have a dash of flash.

most recently, a reorder came from a fellow who is ordering a couple of pocket squares for his dad’s upcoming 85th birthday. apparently, dad borrowed one of his some time ago and refuses to give it back- gotta love that! so now, dad will have his very own set at 85!

i really do enjoy making pocket squares for these guys. they seem to enjoy emailing me stories and color requests to match particular things in their closet. sometimes they just send me an order for 4-6 of them and say-“just surprise me!”.

i have had some problems with making them however. this has caused me to reconsider how i am approaching their making. first off, i’ve been trying to make them as the orders come in and that usually means a few at a time. which also means that i don’t get the advantage of perfecting them over a larger batch of producing them. i was just getting too many sub-par squares (according to my standards). making them in between scarves and ribbon and indigo just doesn’t get me the quality i am looking to achieve.
while some people despise making something over and over, i see it as an opportunity to perfect a technique (thinking of those gals in Arimatsu) and i’ve always enjoyed that challenge in making.

double arashi indigo detail

so this weekend, i devoted myself to pocket squares and the stack of orders for them that have accumulated. one issue has been that since these are done on charmuese the fabric behaves a little differently than on the lighter silks i regularly pleat and dye.
some of the pleating has been kind of hit and miss and i am stuck with a box of less than perfectly pleated squares (i aim for the Mary Poppins “practically perfect”). they will be chopped up and put into scrap bags for houston. secondly, i wasn’t happy with the discharge and dye penetration on some and the resulting overall dye pattern on others. more for the scrap bag. other little problems are the ever increasing price of silk and as prices for the blanks rise, they decided to decrease the size! so now the 11×11 squares are 10×10. 11×11 is better to me but OK. so i experimented with the 17×17 version that dharma carries. it’s ok but a lighter weight and while the discharge and dye process is fine it’s just difficult to get the pleating perfect on them. (or as perfect as i’d like). more scrap.

overall this weekend i solved the two major issues that have been haunting me simply through practice and focus. and i’ve come to a couple of conclusions about restructuring the sales of these items. i’m going to work up an inventory of 30-40 pieces to keep on hand each month and devote a couple of days to restocking and custom orders. no more fitting them in here and there. pieces in regular inventory will remain the same price ($24.95) but pieces that are custom ordered will cost a bit more. and i’m going to also add them to my big cartel shop-soon (in the next day or so).

in the end, devoting a larger block of time to them is really the way to go and this will allow me to keep the price the same AND allow me to ship them quicker (win for the customer!). custom orders will still be available at an upcharge and will be produced during “pocket candy days”.
i was happy with all of the last batch (finally!) and they are still made one at a time by hand- just all day long! i have had a pocket square facebook page for over a year or so but just never did anything with it…going to start updating that too. i see a number of my friends adding themselves on there to get updates as they occur. now to get busy and get the inventory made and photographed….

pocket squares for sale in the shop now

hoping forward…and a little indigo entertainment

we are here thinking of all of you on the east coast, from SC and up, knowing you are busy with preparations for the storm. no matter when you might be back at the computer after settling in for the weekend with your loved ones, i thought i would post some visual entertainment to lighten up the tension nature creates as she winds up to release her pent up energy. you certainly have had your share this week from the earthquake to this and we wish you all well-know we are watching and thinking of you.

so, this week began a week of catching up and indigo was first on the list…

lots of stormy energy in this one...

white to near black indigo

this one turned out to be one of my favorites- i liked the high contrast and luminous quality of it. it ended up being difficult to translate what i liked about it in a photograph. the beauty of textiles…sometimes you just have to be there.

a couple more views follow. this was given to me by my friend donna…it had been hanging around her studio for quite some time. seems to be a sheer soft dotted swiss-ish cotton. it had a lot going for it to begin with. after dyeing with the indigo, it ended up with an interesting luminosity.

detail dotted cotton

another view- this captures some of the quality

then there was the silk gauze- haphazardly pole-wrapped, i like this effect every time i do it. it has a very topographic quality. like a silk map leading you onward.


always have to have some arashi…this on cotton lawn

indigo arashi on cotton

and this was done on the cotton scrim. i am loving this stuff.
more transparency…
detail of a larger piece
there was just something about this section that spoke to me, like indigo stick figures. or maybe it was just me wondering.

there was more but it was getting late in the day (week!)

moon shadows

that reminds me, i named my first cat moonshadow (first meaning the first i adopted on my own when i was living out on my own at 18) . she was a longhair light grey tabby with yellow eyes. i think i was in love with cat stevens at the time…

but as you can see, new moons are on the rise. we have some orange and indigo moons and also some moons rising against a few clouds. it doesn’t look too stormy…yet.

new moons rising

ok, i’ll throw in a photo of the silk hemp fabric i brought back from Japan, also transparent. and done in indigo ombre.

indigo on silk hemp

i’ve also been doing some wondering about organza…silk shibori ribbon organza. plan to have it ready for my Houston workshop. those in my ribbon class there will be the first to try it out. it will be added as an extra to their class kits.

Class # 110 is an all day shibori on silk dye workshop with a little indigo worked in and class # 243 is about fashioning silk shibori ribbons and fabrics into beautiful things.
Both can be signed up for by going to the Festival website linked above.

organza on fire-it suddenly got hot here today..and for the next several days so they say.

i’ll end it with a little lonely moon. it’s almost forlorn.

little lone moon

well, that’s it for now. this weekend is devoted to pocket squares. i don’t speak much about them. but i will.

and all you who have been patiently waiting for your indigo they are on their way. with a few extra goodies, moons, threads, and more. thank you for waiting.

in other news, jude harvested her indigo and got some fantastic blues from fresh leaf dyeing.
and india flint’s new book is out! i hear it is fantastic.

may the storm pass swiftly and keep you safe.


like i said in an earlier post, i am in the practice of noticing more. especially when things seemingly unconnected occur in close or relative relationship to each other. Carl Jung coined the term “synchronicity” to explain this connecting principle.

it so happens it is the time for obon celebrations in Japan as well as in Japanese communities around the world.
here in the LA area, the Japanese American National Museum hosted a summer festival in Little Tokyo. the above link lists oban festivals around the US- maybe there is one near you.

my friend Susan made note of one near her in her recent post.

and then out of “the blue”, i received a CD with some old family pics from a sister who has taken on the task of converting dad’s old slides…and there were those old pics of the bon odori.

it was a serious event and everyone came out for it. my best recollections were getting to dress up in yukata,the smell of yakitori, and catching pretty goldfish with rice paper wands. a general summer festival with all the trimmings. bon odori nights were the highlight of the summer with food, music, dancing, fireworks, paper lantern decorations and more. we definitely stood out with our red, blond and brown pixie haircuts and light eyes in a sea of Japanese. even in yukata there was no way to blend in. and in true Japanese hospitality the women were especially kind and wanted to teach us how to dance with them.

it was also a great place to see some fabulous japanese cotton textiles….not that i appreciated it at the time though.

Obon or Bon is an annual Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the deceased (departed) spirits of one’s ancestors that have past away and to honor (remember) them. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.

there were many memories that came back as i looked through dad’s old photos but i think this one was my favorite:

even now my favorite place to be is where the sea shapes the shore. like i’ve said before, must be the pisces in me keeping me moored to coastlines.


i have been doing more wondering about transparency. often things happen for a reasons that i can’t see until later. it’s like i have to peel away the layers to get to the understanding of what was really happening when i misjudged it to be something else. like the milkweed plant in the back yard.

you would hardly guess that those tiny little polygonal flowers would turn into big puffed out hairy balls and then split open to send seeds out on the breath of a breeze, floating upward in gravity defying flight. a few succommed to gravity and landed in the pond where they seemingly danced on water with the sky reflected beneath their myriad feet.

but usually there was a hint, a seed, a knowingness of some kind that i chose to overlook or just accept in the hope that it would pass or that i was possibly wrong. but i have found that mostly my intuition has served me well. it has in fact even saved my life on one occasion when i really paid attention. i’m paying more attention again. and keeping better company.

speaking of good company, Art Unraveled was good company and i had a chance to meet many new folks there. the vendor day was fun and a pleasure to see many unique artists that don’t pop up everywhere. a real treat.
we had a colorful time in the dye workshop and even did a quickie indigo vat. all the participants were new to dyeing and were quite happy to get their introduction using the colorhue dyes. they learned about various types of silk fabrics and had a chance to see how each type dyed. we made moons together and now i have more moon friends!

after the event was over i had a little time before the drive home to relax and enjoy catching up on my favorite blogs and online haunts. i noticed jude had been busy inspiring others to join her magic feather project so with a needle close at hand i joined in…

and in the end a beautiful sunset entertained us on the drive back home through arizona and california deserts. my, it was hot!