Tag Archives: cocoons

silkworms for Moth to Cloth workshop

Did you know that from hatching to cocooning a silkworm increases in size by a factor of 10,000?
Here they are today, June 12, 2018.  Toby is wondering what this is all about. It’s his first experience with the silkworms.
Workshop link here.

back to the future-again

The story goes something like this:

One day Richard and I were emailing back and forth about this and that.  Mostly about textiles and old things he had come across and how they could be saved and utilized.  And about him coming here from Japan to teach another workshop.  And about how he had gone into the attic of an old farmhouse and found some remnants of the family’s sericulture activities.  At the time I was putting together the “Silk Experience, Then and Now” exhibit for last year’s Houston’s International Quilt Festival.  He had found some examples of the straw cocoon bedding and of the cardboard cocoon trays which followed years later.  He saved me some samples that I was able to display at the show.  A couple of weeks later, he emailed me to say that he had come across some washi “cocoon bags”- was I interested?  Without hesitation I said yes! Get what you can, I said, not really knowing what they were but instinctually sure they were important somehow.  If you saw the exhibit last year you saw these remarkable examples of what I consider to be folk craft-handmade objects that served a purpose in daily life. I love stuff like this.  Everyday objects that are used but also are beautiful both visually and for the fact that they fit into the structure of everyday life of the time in which they were produced by craftsman of those times.  Eventually, he had the opportunity to acquire a few more.

cocoon bags at exhibit

cocoon bags at exhibit

Now,  I have been to the main sericulture/silk museums in Japan as well as seen the collection of items at the Tokyo Silk Science Institute associated with Tokyo University.  I had never before seen anything like these washi bags!  I wondered…

cotton coon bag with markings

cotton cocoon bag with markings

I started researching online.  Couldn’t find anything.  In fact, vintage or antique washi itself was rare to find.  Mostly now you find a scrapbooking product claiming to be vintage washi tape.  An image search of “vintage Japanese washi” comes up with this page.  Not e x a c t l y…

this is washi

this is washi

What we have surmised so far is this- that these bags were made in Mino City-known for it’s papermaking and it’s close proximity to where they were discovered by Richard.  That they are easily over 100 years old. That some are treated with kakishibu (persimmon tannin) and others were dyed with tumeric (the yellow ones or yellow patches on them).  That they predate the use of cotton bags for silk cocoon transportation and storage.  That they were regularly sent back for repair and patching when needed and in the end, they were abandoned in favor of cotton bags.  Since Mino was a center of papermaking, they may be a somewhat regional object-using what comes naturally and is close at hand.  Hence, why I have yet to see them in other areas like Gunma or Yokohama which are more north.

Imagine!  Giant gusseted cocoon bags made of thick fibrous paper, patched, repaired and saved for tens of decades.  I have saved one out to give as a gift to the Yokohama Silk Museum if they are interested.  I have not seen one there.  I have saved myself one and have it hanging on a wall where I can see it every day and wonder.  Some people have expressed an interest in using the paper itself in their own artwork.  Either way, these pieces have ki or 気 which is another way to say vital life energy.  That they have resurfaced after all these years is so interesting to me.  We have several of them available in the shop.  It’s a joint effort between us to find these pieces good homes where they can continue to produce 気.

in the shop now

hanamayu- はなまゆ

Over the weekend the silk moths began to emerge.  This year I separated out a half dozen or so of the best white and yellow cocoons for mating.  Last year,  I let them mix and got a lot of variations.  We will see where this leads.

Mr Koizumi, the former Director of the Yokohama Silk Center show us cocoons from all the past periods of Japan’s sericulture history. So many types!

When I was at the Silk Center in Yokohama recently, I picked up a book on silk cocoon flowers (hanamayu- はなまゆ or cocoon flower) by artist Tomiko Sakai. She is a Nagoya native and has been making her fantastic floral creations for over 20 years. Each diminutive blossom is often fashioned into larger sprays with each complete floral work worthy of display at the most formal event. Imagine wedding, tea ceremony, formal entry, or any honorific occasion. One day, I would love to see some of her work in person. She uses only the finest of Gunma produced silk cocoons.  I see that an exhibit of her work was sponsored by both the Gunma Prefectural Government and the Tokyo Silk Science Research Center-both entities that we have visited on previous Silk Study tours.  I wonder…

The book is all in Japanese and was the only one in stock but has an ISBN 0f 4-89977-174-6 which you might be able to track down if desired.  I think the title is something like “Flower Born of a Silk Cocoon” but don’t quote me on that. I will contact the museum in Yokohama prior to our visit there next year and ask about the possibility of having a few in stock for our group when we are there.

The flowers are not anything like the ones I recently did but I would like to see what I could create based on some of her works.  Her craftsmanship (or perhaps the craftsmanship of her studio directed by her) is supreme.  She also uses some of the stained cocoons, incorporating the natural stains created by the emerging moths into the works.  My recent trials pale in comparison!

And on Saturday, I had the privilege of giving an indigo shibori workshop for a group of great high school kids here in So Cal.  Their teacher, Debra, has been the art teacher at this school (gr 7-12) for 32 years and you can tell that she loves her work and that her students love her.  This is a great credit to her, as difficult as it is to be a teacher in the public school system these days, she is full of energy and ideas for her students.  As she told me, she was in the right place at the right time and this is a very special school.  The students were wonderful and we all had a great time.  Several of the students are off to college soon and this was a great way for them to end the year.  A few pics:

the group and Debra waving from the back

gathering threads

discovering the results and wondering

resisting the temptations to pull it up and look

they got a glimpse of arashi shibori too-

volvo doubles as a clothes line…

some results- they all did a sample stitched piece before trying the dragonfly motif

and before i left i turned the drying indigo

me waving to you and the dried and separated first indigo harvest

early summer garden- happy to say that i have been meeting my personal challenge to feed us at least something daily out of the garden here for over a year. may it continue!

Thanks to Cathy Bullington of Elephant Booty for the idea to save all the various harvests through the summer and use an ice chest for a composting bin.  Also, thanks to jude for  introducing me to Debra’s blog Artisun through the link in her sidebar.

Now back to the dyepot, cocoons.

post show posts…

so much has transpired since the last post that perhaps i may break things down into some smaller bite-sized bits. don’t want to overload you and maybe it won’t seem too overwhelming for me. i write posts in my head these days and somehow so many of them just don’t seem to make it to the keyboard…

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starting from now and working backwards…
finally got all the boxes and junk from the show unpacked and put away. always a job i dislike. organizing and putting things away led to cleaning out and sorting and eventually purging and getting rid of some things that just don’t make sense to hold onto. but it really feels good to get things back in order. still, the outdoor studio awaits.

the best part was i unpacked some more of that great linen from Carola and a few goodies from habu textiles (some steel and silk yarn and some tsumugi silk yarn). am thinking to make this with it:

and perhaps ombre dyeing it with indigo in the end. big plans…

you can find the pattern here.

if you are a fan of my facebook page you know we’ve been having some silly fun with the silkmoths over there. they have been emerging, having sex and laying eggs all over the place. it’s like a silkmoth bordello.

there seems to be so much to keep up with…on so many levels. during the last 1/2 hour of the houston show i decided to try making a poinsettia with my silk shibori ribbon.
now if i could have done this BEFORE the show…but noooo. it did come out quite nice and while the silkmoths have been having their fun i made up a few more-just to get the hang of it. not too difficult really- just a little time consuming-each poinsettia has 10 separate parts plus the beaded center! but won’t they look great worn at a a holiday gala?

do you want to make your own? i will make up some kits if you think you do…it takes almost a full yard of holiday red silk shibori ribbon and 3/4 yard of the green silk organza. basically, it involves making lots of leaves in different sizes and stitching them together. if you just want to order the holiday red shibori ribbon and go it on your own….click here

next post…some exciting news for the Silk Experience and more about the Houston Quilt Festival. also, an interview with Noriko Furukawa of the Tama Silk 21 Life group. like i said, too much for one post. need to keep the sales rolling on in the background while everything else also gets done.

on profit motive -rehash

i thought i’d repost this post– seems timely. i saw it this morning on the WP list of top views from today. not sure what was sending folks there since this is from a little over two years ago. after re-reading the comments here again one thing stands out from kim’s comment. i’ve never shied away or had guilt from making a “profit” from what i do. if there wasn’t a “profit” in it for me then i simply couldn’t do it. profit has become a word with many negative connotations.
after all, it’s just an income. like a job (yes, a REAL job). it’s not like i work on wall street or for any big corporation controlling the lives of others through money and power. i just create.

ha!
the power of shibori. imagine.

what i did like about the post was the balance. and the reminder that wendy is still up there creating hope and healing and that every now and then i can participate in that hope and balance in this world is some small way. the power of shibori indeed!

and sadly, the little blue indigo doll still has not turned up…
maybe i can make a new one by the end of the year.

every now and then it’s good to look back and remember where i was in this adventure. after all, that’s really why i started this blog in the first place-to keep track.
now that i am rounding the 1/2 million views and 5 year mark here with hundreds of subscribers and daily views, it’s good to go back and critique some of it from this vantage point. i think i will.

oh, and an interesting picture. every post should have one…

how many cocoons does it take?