Tag Archives: sashiko

a little crazed…

The recent days and weeks have been busy, full of daily goings on, dyeing, kit making, workshop prepping, visitors, and then the big event- a beach wedding!

It was a simply beautiful affair on the beach with a BBQ afterwards as the sun set. I had the privilege of making the wedding cheesecakes, vegan chili and helping with the clothing alterations. Others brought food, flowers and officiated. It was a perfect October evening with mild temps and a slight breeze. Children played at the shores edge and adults enjoyed food and conversation. Some surfed prior to the ceremony with the groom. Several people camped overnight nearby, under a bright near full moon.

This Saturday is the first of the two Zoom flower workshops. The material kits have been mailed, the work table set up and today I will do some test runs. The second Zoom date is next Thursday for those who would like to do it a second time or perhaps already had something scheduled for the first date. You can also still order a kit and get the video link when it’s done.

from plain to pleated

I made a whole bunch of extra kits and have added them in the shop. Here in Long Beach, we have hundreds of cargo ships off the coast and politicians encouraging people to shop early for the holidays since the logjam is delaying the arrival of goods. I say, why not make things instead? Here is a list of kits I have in the shop right now if you are inclined to make a hand made gift. I also have a few things ready made that might suit. I’m working on several more. If you have a special custom request, let me know. (I just looked over the shop and see I need to add a few things I never added so that will be my next task…)

Last week’s workshop with Ann Wasserman in her “Preserving Our Quilting Heritage” we were treated to her lecture with samples of quilts she had worked on and new ones now on her work table. We have all sent in photos of a quilt we want to “triage” and of course mine is that unfinished crazy quilt (Ida Belle) I acquired some time back. Here are the photos I sent in.

In between my own work, I have become somewhat obsessed with this crazy quilt thing. In doing a little research, I wondered where the term “crazy” had developed in regards to quilting. It seems (whether true or lore), to have been a reference to the crazed glazes on porcelain the Japanese had exhibited in the 1876 Centennial Exposition  in Philadelphia. Crazing on ceramics occurs when the clay body and the glaze don’t “fit”. That is, they don’t cool at the same rate after firing. This can be caused by a number of things-too thick a coating of glaze, the (intentional or not) chemical composition of the glaze, or thermal shock of cooling off a kiln too quickly. Tension between the clay body and the glaze creates a network of fine crackling. This can be enhanced by rubbing ink into the cracks to make the pattern of crazing stand out on a decorative piece. You don’t want crazing on dinnerware because over time and use the crazing can collect bacteria that may not be desirable. But on decorative ware, glazes can be designed to create a variety of crackle patterns and when I was a ceramic student we had to do just this in the Chemical Clay and Glaze classes. I loved the chemistry of ceramics. During 30 years of running my own porcelain company, we “cracked” many crazing issues. For the most part, even when we wanted a crazed glaze effect on a decorative line, stores and customers would often see it as a defect and we just abandoned it altogether. But that was another time and place…so, back to crazy quilts. So as the story goes, the crazed patterns on Japanese porcelain pieces at this exhibition in 1876 inspired a “craze” itself where quilters found beauty and interest in recreating this type of pattern in their quilts. Previously, quilts had been mostly geometric organized affairs. I imagine that the pieces that were exhibited were possibly Japanese raku.

In between this and that this week, I was looking at Ida Belle and realizing what a task it is going to be to restore it to a reasonable condition and as I was inspecting various parts of it I kept coming back to my interests in Japanese boro traditions and techniques. I can see so many instances where boro repair techniques could be applied. I am not trying to do a traditional restoration of this crazy quilt. This quilt in fact was never completed by Ida Belle. It does not have a binding or a quilt back- it was never quilted or tied or embroidered (something tells me-mainly the types of materials used that Ida never intended to embroider it or embellish her quilt). Perhaps she died before finishing it. The fact that it exists in a fairly decent condition is that it was never used since it was never actually finished. It exists as a quilt top only.
My list of “goals” currently is as follows:

-repair Ida Belle to a condition where it can be lightly used
-use materials I have on hand (as I believe would be Ida’s way)
-apply hand stitching and repair techniques from Ann’s class as well as my knowledge of boro repairs observed in pieces I have collected

-apply a backing and a binding
-steadily work on it as I can-don’t abandon the project!

I may add others as I go but that’s it at the moment. In another twist, I was cleaning up my work table for the Saturday workshop and sorted some scraps of vintage Japanese indigo fabrics. Another project emerged alongside. I became a little obsessed and worked late into the night. It seems that Japanese vintage textiles and crazy quilting are quite like peanut butter and jam.

I chose a piece of egasuri (kasuri with an image or picture woven into it) as a central piece to this block- bird images being quite popular in crazy quilting. I did not use the traditional method of crazy quilt piecing (surprised? haha) but opted to leave all woven selvedges intact as I honor the selvedge whenever possible. I used tattered bits and repaired them using boro techniques- but using some very old red silk in a way that reminds me a bit of the Japanese porcelain repair work called kintsugi. I used hand dyed cotton sashiko thread for the decorative featherstitch (practice needed!) across each joined patch (still a WIP). So now that I have one block near completion, I guess I’ll have to start another. This first block is 18″ x 18″ so I imagine I will do either 6 or 9 for a smallish lap type quilt. Who knows?

One last thing. I’ve started taking photos of all the oothecae I come across in the yard as I do fall clean up work. It helps me remember where they are when it’s time to watch them hatch around February (I’m guessing…). So far I’ve found 6 or so. all in different places. Each egg case can contain 50-200 eggs of the praying mantis! We had so many this past summer.

Zakka and the beauty of learning

Originally, zakka referred to uncategorized or common tools and things one would use in everyday life. Nowadays, it refers to a much broader category of items- generally useful and beautiful things that improve your life or bring you joy.

I added a few new things to the shop under the category Zakka.

I really do get a lot of joy from making these pieces. I love to figure out what cloth I will use, how I will lay out the design and fabrics including the stitched pieces. As I work with each piece I can often associate where I collected each bit of fabric and reminisce as I sew. Each is done one at a time and without any formal pattern- I just work it all out as I go. Sometimes I need to redo something to improve the end result and I even like that part of it because I learn something new each time. The beauty of learning…
Here’s a little video of the wallet piece…

If you want to try your hand at making one of these, RIchard always has a nice selection of various textiles to enhance your project in his etsy shop. Plus other wonderful one of a kind objects!

intermission

a placeholder of sorts while I decide what to make from it
a pause, to breath, to notice the ebb and flow of the tides
to hear my own heartbeat.
there is some indigo dyeing in the studio this week
and of course some moons.

a few of my favorite scraps

and here is a little something to wonder about-

“You’re only given a little spark of madness.  You mustn’t lose it.”
~Robin Williams

mata-ne!

Communicating practice

A new year. I hope it finds you well!

Recently, I’ve been busy doing organizational work for the upcoming Silk Study Tour to Japan.  I don’t think I mentioned it here, but if you are on the Shiborigirl newsletter email list you read that after being almost full, the tour lost a few folks upon my return from the Houston show. Life throws you a curve and we adjust. Those who had to change their plans will be missed but vow to join us on a future adventure (2021). They will follow along online and be travelers in spirit.  I put out a new newsletter and we regained most of what we lost in terms of participants.  There are still a couple of spots open with a few folks still considering joining us.

If you are interested, here is the link  with all the information.  If you have questions, just email me.  Tour departs May 14, 2019. It’s gonna be another good one!

I have been also been preparing for the new workshop at the Japanese American National Museum.  This one is filled with a waiting list but if you want to read the description, you can go here. (I expect we will do it again.)  I also proposed a version of this class (due to limitations of time and facility) at this years Quilt festival in Houston.  We will see if the class is chosen for that venue.  I am really passionate about educating folks on understanding the difference between a fabric company putting out a line of “boro printed” fabrics and really knowing the history of such textiles.  I figured that by making things with all recycled fabrics is a start.  Spreading the word. It’s one thing to talk about it here on the blog and quite another to put fabric, thread and needle in the hands of someone for the purpose of education and perhaps a little thought of mottainai.  In any case, here are some pics of what I’ve been up to…(click thumbnails to enlarge)

It’s been an education to make these pieces and like anything else, a practice. I still need to put the cording on the bag but have it all dyed.   After finishing the bag, I was inspired to do a larger piece since the scraps I prepared for the class were so enticing. I tore a piece of linen off one of the old linen pieces I bought in Houston and dyed it dark indigo blue. I marked the horizontal stitching lines onto it and arranged the scraps.  Then I spent about 13 hours just stitching. It all felt good in my hands as I rocked the needle back and forth. I really learned and appreciated not just the cloth and the thread, but the use of the sashiko adjustable ring thimble with plate. It takes some practice and over the many hours of stitching, I grew to love the ingenuity of it.  Have you tried one? I do love a good thimble and have several varieties but had not spent a significant enough amount of time with this type. I plan to get even better with more practice.

That’s the thing isn’t it? Practice. As I worked on this long piece, a communication between myself, the materials and tools set in. It’s a simple running stitch-nothing fancy. But as the needle pierced each scrap my hand felt the resistance, the thickness, the density of the weave. Do we even notice this these days?  Many of the scraps were from cloth hand woven long ago, most softened by age and use. Most fabric today is made with machine sewing in mind.  The hand of it made stiff with printing inks and chemical finishing. It’s not friendly for sewing by hand. The tight weave of many modern quilting fabrics facilitates the printing of crisp patterns but resists the piercing of the hand rocked needle. I can really lose myself in the old cloth, wondering about it’s cloth story as I sew.

There is a lot to wonder about.

 

 

the sacred stitch, revisited

I came back to this post, originally published in December of 2011 because of a new comment from Linda who had visited it two years after it published. Five years late, she reports she is well and still kicking!
It gave me an opportunity to reflect on a few things and wonder how I felt about not only what I had written, but also about all the lovely and thoughtful comments by you, the readers.  I find I’m good with all of it and pleased to see how many of the comments came from folks I still interact with today. I see how many of you have persisted, endured, grown, and created over the intervening (7!) years.  Sashiko is more popular than ever these days and I’m pleased to say that it is the hand stitching method that won out over the machine on this one.
Out of curiosity, I searched for the sashiko machine online and found a forum where people were talking about their experience with it and it seems that it was pretty finicky with a high price and without good customer support. It seems the machine is still being made for home sewers and can often be found “on sale” for $1499 (as opposed to the original $2000).

Originally, I thought I would just republish the post with today’s date but then realized that editing the date would take it out of it’s space-time continuum and I don’t want to mess with the gravity of such things.

You just have to go to the post link yourself. You might be interested in re-reading it or maybe you never read it the first time. Don’t skimp on reading the comments.

Today, Toby watches the silkworms while I clean out the frass.

 

the sacred stitch: sashiko -hand vs machine

“Create the look of traditional, hand-work stitching passed down through generations on the Sashiko Machine. Replicate this distinctive and celebrated stitch and add a hand-stitched touch to any project with a machine that is truly the first of its kind.”

is it just me or does anyone else feel the irony of this advertising pitch? am i alone in feeling that i no longer belong in this world?

somehow, replicating the look of celebrated traditional handwork by purchasing a $2000 machine to reproduce a facsimile just doesn’t work for me. if i want to make something that has the appearance of hand stitching, then i will hand stitch it. machine stitching looks like machine stitching. regardless of stitch length.

i’m sure that there are many fine uses for a sachiko (long stitch) type sewing machine. i could probably invent a few of them myself. but let’s leave sashiko to the hand stitchers. there is an inherent beauty and wisdom in sashiko that cannot be replicated by machine- no matter how you flower up the marketing.

of course if you aren’t willing to invest the time to study, practice, and observe what traditional sashiko has to offer then you will never know- not all things are meant to be diminished for the sake of speed and profit. i hope that anyone purchasing a sashiko machine for making sashiko has been able to experience the real thing just to know the difference. because we do.

for a little history of sashiko you can go here.

there are many traditional and contemporary interpretations of sashiko. and of course, sashiko’s early roots can be found in beloved boro. order the book here.

and then of course there is jude’s work. can you imagine it done by machine? i can’t.

for more images of sashiko, try google images.

i think natalie said it perfectly :

“really, sashiko is a walking meditation with thread.”

i don’t think you are going to get that with a sashiko machine.

and if you were wondering, shibori has utilized some sashiko designs:

this left me wondering, which came first- the shibori design or the sashiko design. guess i’ll have to do a little more research on that.