Tag Archives: cocoon

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.

If a picture is worth a thousand words…

Thought I’d do a little (or maybe not so little) post on whats been going on behind the scenes here lately.  Lot’s of various things- like workshops, studio work, a little flu (all gone now!), RAIN!, and working on the Silk Study Tour to Japan for 2019.

I received the Newsletter from the Fresno FiberArts Guild where I gave a workshop recently. What a great guild-very energized and involved in the community. It was wonderful to see the many resources  and skills available within the membership.  Plus, they were a delightful group to work with!

In the studio, ribbon making continues…

as well as more playing around with silk organza…

The flu came and went -thankfully, not too bad. Hoping the same for you out there! So many have had it in one form or another.
We did get rain this month-so big YAY on that!  Rain barrels full and the garden is refreshed. Snowpack increasing…
There are a number of milkweed plants out back with caterpillars on them but one in particular has about 15 large caterpillars about ready to form crysalis’. I never get tired of watching them.

All the other critters here are well…

And finally, I sent out the information packs, itinerary, and registration forms for the upcoming Silk Study Tour to Japan 2019 last week to those early birds who had signed up via the Constant Contact newsletter. Already 1/3 of the spots are filled.  If you need info, you can access the newsletter here. Here are some highlights from last year:

Next post I will list upcoming workshops both at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and my November workshops at the Houston Quilt Festival.

Hope you are well and wondering daily!

 

 

Houston Quilt Festival cocoon

I have been existing in a silk cocoon these past 10 days which has been wonderful considering the noise out there in the “real” world.

In the lifecycle of a silkworm, the cocoon has evolved to protect the silkworm as it pupates and transforms into a silk moth. It offers protection against predator threats as well as not so obvious threats of bacteria and other harsh realities providing its own ideal environment inside, regulating air, water, and temperature conditions inside the cocoon as the transformation occurs.

This is not unlike a trip to Houston and the International Quilt Festival.  We are inside the GRB Convention Center halls, in our own little (HUGE!) cocoon.  As I observe my own self in this cocoon, I also observe others around me and see many transformations taking place. We are seemingly oblivious to the noise occurring outside this cocoon. We are buzzing inside here, creating an energy that is exciting and palpable. The election, other news, and even connections to family and friends not present, cease to exist for the most part.

We Are Here.  We are reminded what it is to get away from our usual activities and places.  We are gathered together inside to create, learn, teach, view beauty and connect. Inside this cocoon we meet new people and learn from them, and we learn about ourselves from these interactions. We work as a team, making things go smoothly for all. When something falls out of place, there is a rush forward to help, to solve. In classes (both as teachers and students) we learn how to fail, to accept, to improve and to create solutions. We share joy in all of this and through viewing the immense display of quilts we experience beauty, talent, process and progress.

We know we will return, each of us to our own realities and places, back to our friends and families and home. But we will return transformed. We have seen so much beauty inside that cocoon, so much joy, sharing and caring for each other in this creative playground of cloth and fiber.  Perhaps this is where the comparison ends. Unlike the silk moth who will exist only a short time more, we will continue on, perhaps unraveling the cocoon as we return filled with new ideas and intention, having made new friends, strengthened old ones and set out on new paths and directions.

Here now at the airport, I am slowly emerging from this cocoon, having been once again transformed by the experience. I met so many, heard many stories, and shared much. Thanks to all who visited, took classes, participated in so many ways large and small.

new work and nightmares…

i had a dream…

i’m at houston and starting my indigo workshop only to realize i had forgotten the indigo. i woke up and realized that it had only been a dream (thankfully!!).  i fell back asleep and had another dream. this time i opened up my freezer and found it full of water (i should mention that this is where i store the indigo). i just got up and made coffee at that point.

this is how i get before a show.  a little crazy.

the other day i spent some time cleaning cocoons for the mawata class.  i am pre-cleaning them for the class (removing the pupae)-seems the practical thing to do considering the class is full and the time restrictions. we will demonstrate the process but will concentrate on making the mawata and even spinning a bit of silk yarn and needle felting some.  made a few mawata too-practicing.

not bad.

i was a little bummed out last week when i had to cut my Quilt  Festival booth back from the full booth i had ordered to a half booth due to finances-but we do what we have to and i’ll make it work.  so if you can’t find me at the booth printed in the directory-which i think was already printed, look for me in booth 1329, my new booth #. or, just look for silky shibori goodness and indigo.

that is all, over and out!

p.s. when you write a post in WP these days it shows you a list of recommended tags (which i rarely use as they don’t really pertain).  one of the recommended tags for this post is “post traumatic stress”. ha! just thought that was funny.  carry on.

Stumbling around

I’ve been meaning to do a little post about this for a week or so now. Ribbon dyeing has kept me at the dyepot and the flower sewing table.

Here is how it ended (badly):

a mess- and a waste

It started by my wondering why I needed to peel the cocoons before cooking them to soften the sericin before making mawata.  The silkworms spin a loose hammock of silk in which to suspend the cocoons and each cocoon has a beautiful halo (kibisu) of this silk.  Seemed a waste to peel it off.  Why not just leave it and add to the mawata?  Sometimes wondering leads you astray as it did here.

After cooking the cocoons, they became hopelessly tangled with each other and when trying to separate them they proved impossible.  I soaked them longer, I spun some of it directly from the water (interesting) but in the end most was relegated to the compost pile.

So I learned that yes, peeling the cocoons is best when making mawata.  Most people are not facing this issue as they are buying commercial cocoons where the outer silk has already been mechanically removed. Live and learn.

It did lead me to wonder about wet spinning directly from cocoons though…

Update on the silkmoths-

There are a few still here but most are gone and I have been collecting and storing eggs for next year.

And, I have been peeling the cocoons and using the silk as batting for the shibori leaves and flowers.

And a new flower style-

the very industrious silkworm

So today was the big day. Time to stifle the cocoons.  I know- some of you are squeamish about this so perhaps you want to click away to the kittens right NOW!

Turns out I have about 800 cocoons-actually 794 to be precise. Since I didn’t order the eggs but used my own from the last rearing I wasn’t sure.  I guessed around 1000.  Not a bad guess as you lose a few along the way.

794 cocoons

There are a preponderance of yellow cocoons so apparently most of the eggs were from the reverse silkworms.  This year, I separated out a few of the best cocoons into two separate boxes for mating  purposes in case I want to do this again next year in a more controlled manner.  Last year it was pretty much an inter-racial silk moth sex party.

cocoon detail

I also saved out a few cocoons for more fresh reeling.  I need to get to these tomorrow before they emerge.

So, continuing on, it was time to stifle the cocoons so they can be stored and used later.  I used Michael Cook’s instructions as before for this which involves drying them out in a low oven over a couple of drying sessions.  A little toast (no, not that kind) was made in their honor (coffee, mind you as it was morning) and the drying is in progress.

Just so you know, once the moths emerge, they will live for about 10 days (they do not eat during this time as they have no system for this) mating and laying eggs (female only of course) and then they die.  Left to their own, the eggs will hatch (500 per female!!) and if not fed they too will die.  So it’s a service they do for us- to create cocoons which then we can harvest and use.  If you want some eggs, let me know.

Also , I have been playing with the cocoons a bit-

white cocoon flower

Also, the pocket squares for the London wedding are completed and ready to ship tomorrow, the mandala class is now tying their mandalas, and other orders accumulated while I was away are ready to ship out.  I had to catch up on a little indigo today as well and I have to say the fermentation vat is just stellar right now.

wearing many hats …and colors

To order solid shade hand dyed indigo cotton, go here.

For other indigo items, try here. I just restocked some of the items.

Next up on the “to do” list- making silk shibori ribbon, silk reeling, and mawata making practice, and of course indigo dyeing on some really great fabrics I brought back with me to try.

wow! back from Japan and catching up-

zakuri

zakuri gears

zakuri maker mark- from Omiya

What a time I had!  So much to tell and so busy with things to catch up on.  Not to mention the Mandala Workshop which is posting and uploading as I write this.  Back and forth on two blogs- multitasking…

OK- a few high points just to get things started:

I was very lucky and found an Edo period zakuri. (Edo was the shogun period when Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa family, 1603 to 1868.)   This is a silk reeling machine all handmade out of wood-even the gearing!.  There were literally thousands of them made in the later part of this period for the purpose of encouraging the cottage silk reeling industry in Japan-according to Michel Cook of Wormspit. Mine is in quite excellent condition and was found in a flea market at a very fair price.  I have to mention that before I arrived in Japan my intention was to find one of these.  I didn’t know if I would succeed- I didn’t even know what they were called!  But I had seen them in museum displays on earlier Silk Study trips to Japan.  Seeing as I am collecting a fair amount of my own hand raised cocoons I really wanted to have one- for practical purposes-reeling my own silk.

My friend Makoto likes to visit flea markets on the weekends looking for various things and so the day after I arrived in Kokubunji, we went to the first of 4 markets I was to visit during my remaining stay.  At the very first one, at the very front of the market, there it was!  I was kind of astonished.  I thought, maybe I better walk around a bit and see if there are any more to compare it with.  It was front and center in the small space of an older fellow who also had some other nice and quite interesting items (but no textiles).  I decided to wander the rest of the market first wondering if I would find another.  I did find a few small boro pieces and saw some other very nice textiles quite out of my budget but no more reeling machines.  I went back to the fellow and asked if there was a rocker arm which seemed to be missing. To my surprise- he dug around and came up with it! We bargained a wee bit but since it was such a fair price I accepted his first offer of  サビスです(a sort of complimentary service of a price reduction).  Makoto also found a very nice porcelain piece for his collection and a good indigo kimono with hand loomed cottons and a bit of boro.

Fortunately as well, I bought it because I did not see another one of any sort at any of the remaining markets or temple sales I ended up visiting.  I suppose it had been waiting for me.  Since I had traveled lightly to Japan I was able to find a box and boxed it up as my second bagage to return home at no extra cost. It arrived in fine shape and there are 1000 silk worms finishing up their cocooning  in egg cartons on the bench next to the piano…(i’ve decided that the silkworms prefer piano to drums, which are in the other room-always improvising around here…)

 

i like the music book on the piano- improvise. kind of a mantra around here…

Speaking of silkworms- “cat momma” Delia and sons did a great job of watching over the silkworm farm in my absence and upon returning they are all mostly spinning-some done and a few last ones just getting into it.  I am hoping to try a little fresh reeling with some of them…Thank you Delia!

So here’s a little video from today-

 In other news, mom survived my absence. My sister checked in with her while I was away. Only (??) 2 other mobiles burned down in the park in the past 10 days- no one was hurt apparently.  They last one she reported to me tonight that they ate pizza while watching the firemen respond-there are a few other hoarders in the ‘hood but rumor is that they were “cooking incidents”. Also, her longtime cat Mr. Orange died while I was gone. He was showing some signs of something before I left so we set the mobile vet up to go for a visit-  he had a “mass” and had to be put down. Yay for mobile vet services- a great help! After that sadness, someone presented her with two small kittens. Oh dear! Will keep on top of this one. She also managed to screw up her banking so have implemented strict restrictions on that after sorting things out. So, for the moment, peace has been restored!

Tomorrow, the garden will be surveyed and dealt with.