Tag Archives: cocoons

Houston Quilt Festival 2018 wrapped in a blog post

So here it is-the post Houston Quilt Festival blog post! Finally. It’s always such a stress to prepare for the festival and I always feel that I could have done more or better-but once I’m there, I’m there and no need to fret anymore about it. As usual, it turns out it was all fine- even better than that really and any doubts as to why I put myself through all of it melt away.

I made a little slideshow video of how a booth comes together. You might find it interesting…

Why is that? Well, mostly because of the people. The people who take my classes, the people who visit my booth, the people who help me in all the small and large ways (Yes, Virginia! Yes, Phil!).  It’s the people. They assure me that I am there for a purpose- and not just the purpose of selling them something. Of course it has to be a financial success in order for me to return year after year, but it’s definitely something more than that.

There are the intangibles-not easy to define but oh so necessary.

The gal who came all the way from South Africa to take my class on making mawata (hankies) from silk cocoons-she had just successfully raised her first batch of 2500 silkworms to cocooning and needed to learn how to process them. She has big plans of starting a small sericulture business there to employ the local community and bring a product to market. Very cool.I am wishing her all the best!

The gal who took an afternoon flower making class and who had a terrible morning- she really just needed some therapy handwork and a place to find some success in what she was making. Even though she struggled a bit at first, it is my goal to make it so everyone can find success at their own pace and level in my classes. The more I do this the better I get at recognizing each person’s individual needs. You have to be able to do this quickly as the classes are only 3 hours long (in this case) and there can be up to 24 students at a time! Everyone gets my attention. Afterwards when the show opened, she visited the booth several times and she was inspired not only to make things for friends and family but supported my efforts enthusiastically (and financially!). I thank her greatly!

The 90 year old woman who came by my booth when she noticed I was from Long Beach to tell me about her life there before she moved to Texas. She had been coming to the show for many years even though she wasn’t a quilter- just liked to enjoy the many creative souls in the room for a day. She looked quite fine in her Gianna Rose (Donna, Frankie, Dawn, and others will remember…) jacket and flower pin. And she grew up very near where I now live. She had been an antique dealer (not textiles, she said , although nice things often crossed her path) and liked to mend things simply and was always interested in the handwork of quilting.

The grandmother and granddaughter who came by and reminded me that when the granddaughter was 10 or so that I had given her a piece of ribbon to ponder. They had made the show an annual event for the two of them and the granddaughter looked to be about 15 now, still interested in sewing and crafts and, more importantly, coming to the show happily with her grandma.

The gal who stopped by and reminded me that when I owned a yarn shop in Long Beach that it was her very favorite and she since has not found a better one (it was at least 12 years ago!).

The various folks who come by “just to check”  and see if I happened to find a long lost stash of porcelain buttons I wanted to sell.  Love ya, but no. That was my previous incarnation and I appreciate that you remembered it!

The folks who stop in “just to look” because it’s so interesting and beautiful and those that say they always stop because they always learn something new. (Thank you so much!)

Honestly, I could go on and on.

Like I mentioned to Jude via a post comment a few posts back, I feel like I’m a placeholder of sorts.  Should I elaborate or do you know what I mean? It does give meaning to what I do, but like I also know, it has to be fiscally viable in order to continue. I was pleasantly surprised by the show’s outcome.  So, thank you all again. Truly grateful as I continue.

I missed a number of my fellow vendors who are no longer doing the show for one reason or another. It has become more difficult to make all the numbers work out, not to mention that for some of the folks (especially the vintage textile dealers are no longer spring chickens) the pure physicality of doing a show makes it a challenge. Great to see The Scarlett Lady (no website) there- where I found some great vintage linen dyeables and a few other fun things -vintage stamens and some irresistible “kittens with clothes” embroideries I couldn’t live without…(I actually still have a few of my childhood books featuring kittens with clothes…)

Those of us “in the biz” know that every show is it’s own unique experience and that it’s prudent to count on one thing (at least!) to go completely haywire with the potential of disastrous!  If you can do that and roll with the punches, you might make it. Only two major haywire events this time and it wasn’t disastrous at all- AirBnB host cancelling my res without explanation or notice and the rental car company who was a complete disaster but I was able to return to the airport the next day and rent from a different company.  You just NEVER know what the issue will be but you KNOW it will be something!  Rock and Roll! My good friend and seamstress/milliner/postal goddess, Virginia (of Yes,Virginia & Nasa Postal ) hosted me and facilitated many things for me that were of great service and much appreciated.

The workshops I taught were great fun and well reviewed- I always take the reviews seriously and almost always agree with the helpful criticism offered in them. It’s important to be able to see what you do through someone else’s eyes.  I am usually SO busy teaching that I take very few photos of the actual workshop but I did manage to get a few of the Moth to Cloth class before and at the end.

(you can click into each thumbnail image to a larger view)  We also made some silk batting for a lap size quilt which went home with the gal who volunteered to be the class helper (takes roll, handles the evaluations, and other duties for the Ed office staff).  We did that at the end and it was a real surprise to them how much you could stretch out one cocoon! Always fun to end with a big bang! As a reminder, here is a video of us learning to do it on the Silk Study Tour a few trips ago:

And to finally end this long post (if you made it this far!), there was lots of fun in the shibori ribbon classes and I continued making flowers for demonstration purposes  and custom orders for shoppers in the booth.  I really enjoy making people wonder!

All for now thankfully. There will be a couple more posts to catch up with in the next few days…
mata ne!

 

 

cocoons!

After six weeks of silkworm rearing, I have about 400 cocoons.  I started off with an order of 500 eggs, so here and there, lost a few.  There were no noticeable die-offs of any great number- a good thing that tells me I avoided any major disease issues by keeping the silkworms clean, well fed as well as in good temperature and humidity.  It can be a real disappointment when something starts to kill them off. I can only imagine what can happen to large scale sericulturists.

I stifled these today in the oven at about 180 degrees. This will allow these cocoons to be reeled or used in ways where I want a whole uncut cocoon.  With about 400 cocoons, if I let them all emerge I would end up with 10,000 or so eggs.  I can’t imagine having to feed that many here.  In fact, if I did allow the silkmoths to all emerge, mate, and lay eggs they would end up dying by starvation unless I put the eggs into cold storage.  I would never be raising that many here anyway.  I do have a few folks who wanted to get some eggs from me so I will save some for them.  I will store the cocoons in the freezer in a net bag until needed. These cocoons will be used in Houston for my mawata class there along with some I purchased from Nobue Higashi who raises silkworms in Japan.

silk,silkworms

I should not let you leave this post without paying homage to the life of the silkworm. Yes, I have killed them and have feelings about that.  In Japan, there are temples and shrines devoted to the silkworm or sericulture in general.  Giving thanks for a good harvest and for the protection of the silkworm until cocooning are common among sericulturists in Japan even today. Shouldn’t we remember to be grateful for everything? There are many shrines devoted to sericulture scattered throughout Japan.

It was perhaps not a coincidence that today I was catching up with Nobue on her blog that I read this post where she talks about just this thing…the google translate is very rough but you can get the jist of it. I am looking forward to seeing Nobue san again next year!

You can read about the silkworm deities at Kaiko no yashiro (蚕ノ社) – the Silkworm Shrine here. It’s an interesting story.
Next year on the Silk Study Tour to Japan we will add a short visit to this Shinto shrine. It is about 20 minutes by car from our Kyoto hotel I am told.  If there is not time to add it to the whole group itinerary, I will make time for those interested in a visit here in an early morning trip by taxi.

Following this down a bit further, I found an excellent couple of blog posts on this shrine.

-about the Kaiko no Yashiro (Silkworm Shrine)

-speculation about the triangular torii

-fascinating history of the Hata clan
part one

part two

I made another little video that covers the cocoon harvesting.

 

 

 

 

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.