Tag Archives: seeds

Hopeful…楽観的 -らっかんてき

Always during this time of year I begin to get the urge to raise silkworms. Recent walks in the neighborhood encourage me when I see mulberry trees leafing out with fresh tender greens. What silkie could resist?

Reading an account of rice farming and poverty in early 1900’s Japan from one of my favorite books “Memories of Silk and Straw” I saw this, adding further to my yearning…

Watching and caring for small creatures such as silkworms is very calming-at least to me. Seeing them eat, grow, and transform is a reminder of so many things. It makes me a little sad that the local schools no longer do this even though they often have mulberry trees on their campuses, originally planted there for this very purpose.

The neighbor kids are home a lot more now so perhaps they might be interested.

I have eggs in cold storage in my fridge which I saved from my last rearing dated July 2018. A bit old and who knows if they are still viable? I took out one set and will test to see if they will hatch. If not, I may order a small amount of eggs just for fun.

Growing up in Japan in the mid ‘60’s we lived in a house owned by a very wealthy Japanese family. It was located high on a bluff which overlooked the port area of Yokohama. As a child we went on field trips to the Yokohama Silk Center and came home with a small box containing one silk cocoon, one small square of silk, one bit of reeled silk. We regularly visited a nearby famous garden (Sankeien).

Later, much later, say 40 years later, I came to realize that the wealth of the owners of that house we lived in was most likely afforded to the family by the main industry of the time-silk. All wealth in Yokohama and in many other areas of japan was driven by silk trade.

That garden we regularly visited was built and owned by a wealthy silk merchant who many decades later donated the property to the city of Yokohama. It had been their family residence. Only in the past ten years did I learn that one of my early schoolmates was a granddaughter of this family and grew up playing and roaming the private sections of this grand place and it was through her connection that special field trips there were arranged.

The Yokohama Silk Center still exists and I make an effort to go again each time I visit.

So yes, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today and hoping some of the silkworms will hatch. I’ve put them in a warm spot, with some humidity and hoping for the best in this current corona cocoon.

Be well everyone…

‘Tis the Season- Solstice

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

I was reminded of this song (by Joseph Brackett in 1848) when I was on Facebook this morning and Maura posted some photos of Christmas making at a mental hospital in Calcutta, India.  They were making holiday cheer from colored paper- the paper chains being my personal favorite. They were sharing some sweet treats and gifts thanks in part to Mustard Seeds Kolkata.  The photos immediately gave rise to the first line of that song. (Judy Collins has a nice version of it here.)

I post this today as we turn the corner on the shortest day of the year to see the days grow longer. Thankfully, for there is much to be done ahead of us.  Simplicity might just be one of the answers don’t you think?  In that simplicity perhaps we can become freer, turning, turning and in the end, delight in the coming ’round right.

I think Joseph Bracket was onto something here.  Of course we are all familiar with the Aaron Copland version of this in Appalachian Spring.  Another favorite. And speaking of Spring….

It seems a good day to plant another kind of seed.  A sweet friend gifted me some of her native California milkweed seeds. (thanks Colleen!).  Meanwhile, outside in the garden I think the last monarchs are finishing their meals and heading for their transformations.

A seed is like an idea- it needs planting and nourishing, sunlight, warmth, and sometimes protection. I will never forget my visit to Luther Burbank’s historical home in Santa Rosa. I posted about it here in December of 2012 and have gone back to this post many times. Take special note of his “seed vault”.

Luther Burbank's seed vault

Luther Burbank’s seed vault

As we move into the coming year, I think there will be some need for “seed protectors” in our communities. I wonder what you want to protect? A few things come to my mind…

Life, health, and human dignity are a few of the things that come immediately to my mind.  This will take a community of protectors.

On a personal level, I want to protect wonder, compassion, beauty, love and peace.

I will find these things in small corners.  They will be found in the piercing of a needle through cloth with hand dyed thread. I will find them in the tip of a brush where it meets with paper.  I will always find them in the small and large details of Nature where ever I am. I will find them in the people I surround myself with, the actions I take, the words I hear, write and speak.
I will find wonder, compassion, beauty, love and peace -and protect it.
Yes, I will.

Happy Solstice!


seeds, seedlings, seeded

Back to seeds

The beauty of seeds is that they can become.  What?  Something of beauty perhaps. Many seeds are beautiful themselves. Today I was noticing the seeds in the yard.

I will save some of the sunflower and poppy seeds. That sunflower plant had over 70 flower heads all at once. There are so many.  The birds love them too and we share them.  The poppies were so successful this year and gave much delight to all who saw them.  And so easy.  I really didn’t have to do anything at all except cast them out at the right time. Nature did the rest.  Next year, if you drive by you’ll know the house for all the poppies.  The seed heads for both the sunflowers and poppies are in the drying and maturing stage. Some will just drop on their own and surprise me next year. Faithful volunteers.

Yesterday, I went to present myself and my “career”  for Career Day at a South LA Elementary school.  First, I want to say that the kids were great.  They are like little sponges that soak things up.  They were enthusiastic.   Turns out- the school does have two mulberry trees on its campus.  Just no memory of why.  I think I can solve that. Next year, I will get some silkworms started early- just when the mulberry leafs out.  Plant some silk seeds and water them into fertile ground there.  As for explaining my “career” to the kids-it was challenging, funny, and informative.  I only had 30 minutes with each of the 4 classes. Most of the time was spent talking about silk and silkworms.  I brought a tray of them-still so tiny. We cut open the cocoons and saw the pupae inside. I passed around a hank of reeled filament silk, mawata, yarn, kibisu and more.  I showed them the cocoon frames-both straw and cardboard. They all took home a cocoon and a square of silk. Three classes were 3rd graders and one was 4th grade. Trevor had 4th and 5th graders and did 5 sessions. His kids learned to play a couple of rhythms with straws at their desks with him playing bells. This K-5 has no dedicated art or instrumental music teacher.

Unfortunately, I must report that the silkworms are not thriving.  This is the latest I have ever started them. I really wanted them for the career day event and was taking a bit of a chance.   Although there is green mulberry leaf here it is not new and succulent. It is just too dry. We had rain earlier this season but has been very dry for over a month now. El Nino did not arrive in the south this year as predicted. Moving on…sadly.

But fortunately, my friend Nobue Higashi in Annaka, Japan is having a very successful cocoon rearing season. I recently watched this NHK short video on a visit to her place there.  I couldn’t find one video of the entire episode and this one repeats but you can see the portion of the show in which they visit her.

A long hot dry summer is ahead. Water will continue to be precious.
so many poppy seeds

There are a few openings left for the indigo and shibori workshop on June 18 & 19. Contact the Japanese American National Museum to sign up. I will have some indigo seeds to share as well.

demonstrated at the workshop


she’s come undyed…

it’s an undyeing of sorts.

pom skins in the dyepot

pom skins in the dyepot

and before-

5 year old pom tree

5 year old pom tree

in between- (and after removing the edible aril or seeds)

-after winemaking

-after winemaking


thinking about natural dyes.  right now pomegranate and indigo. test dyeing when i really need to be dyeing for orders…

indigo and pom on old silk

indigo and pom on old silk

silk threads

silk threads



but this is how i manage order amid chaos. maintain meaning within the seemingly meaningless. honor a value system that was already ages old before i was ever here.

or anywhere at all.


living in the wind’s shadow

sometimes the time after a show is my favorite time.  the busy preparation time is over, the workshops given, information imparted, items sold, people met, much talking, boxes returned, unpacked, put away.  and best of all,  bills paid for the coming month from proceeds of the show.

this is the time when i can “live in the shadow of the wind”. a small space in time of seeming protection from outside forces.

i am working still, of course.  but more at my own pace.  and moving at one’s own pace, one can linger here and there. wonder about a thing or two. even plant a few seeds between dyepots.

saving seed

last year i had saved some tomato seeds from a plant that grew along the driveway. it was particularly productive with an early , moderately sized flavorful crop.  i dried them on a piece of paper toweling just because it seemed practical at the time.  now that i am planting them, i just had to snip the paper towel into bits and plant it right along with the attached seeds.

and the cores of the ribbon rolls i had been saving worked great.  also planted were えだまめ、ししと、おちゃ、みずな。(that would be edamame (soybeans),shishito (sweet peppers great for grilling),mizuna (greens),and tea.)


i am working at reviewing some of my offerings and changing up a few things.  trying out some new ideas on arashi.  stitching lots of silk.  dyeing indigo. the vat continues and yesterday i started a new  indigo fermentation soup.  i’ve decided to leave the madder alone for now.  too many things going on in one small workspace leads to confusion and mediocrity.  i have enough going on at the moment. but the madder out back along the fence continues to grow…madly!

i do want to say thank you to all the wonderful folks who came out to the Sew Expo show in Puyallup.  i was very pleasantly surprised by this show.  it is a bit different from the other shows i have been doing in that many of the attendees are garment sewers.  i like that.  there were even some young middle schoolers who were learning to sew for themselves (thanks to the 4H programs there) and were eager to show me their projects.  i noticed that some of the items that didn’t sell at the houston show were the first to go at this show!  interesting.  i was pleased because i really do want to make more of those items and next year i will be tailoring my fare to suit this customer even more.

and buddy, the new pup stayed on top of things in the office while i was gone.

and buddy, the new pup stayed on top of things in the office while i was gone.

now- i’m off to do some work on the Japan Silk Study Tour and to get to work on a boatload of silk shibori ribbon. the wind’s shadow is fading fast…


planting seeds and wondering into the new year

seeds.  i’ve written about seeds a number of times this past year. and things related to seeds.  seeds are the beginning of things. they contain the wonderful possibility of life,  sustenance, beauty and even of freedom.   i’ve always been a seed saver.  when i was a kid it was fun to collect seeds to play with-to make things with. i remember having great fun collecting nasturtium seeds- so plentiful and easy to gather.  all sizes, shapes and colors.  string them,  glue them, count them, eat them, plant them.  seeds.

edible nigella seeds from the summer garden.

edible nigella seeds from the summer garden.

a couple of months ago i had the good fortune to be in Santa Clara for a family wedding and came across the Luther Burbank  home and gardens.  if you are ever in Santa Clara try to make time to stop by (the docent tour was also fantastic). I was so intrigued by this man- i bought this book –A Gardener Touched with Genius and have been reading it off and on…so interesting! The place is beautiful, gardens diverse and the house is quaint and wonderfully restored.  but my favorite thing was this:

Luther Burbank's seed vault

Luther Burbank’s seed vault

this is how he thought of his seeds.  precious. so much so that they were kept in a vault. there also was a small shed with a little window from which he sold his seeds to neighbors and to the public. a walk around the neighborhood reveals that many of the yards still contain plants grown from his seeds. charming!  he also had an experimental farm at nearby Sebastopol. i hope to visit it sometime this year.  this video really speaks to who he was:

now i have mentioned once or twice before that silk moth eggs are called seeds by the Japanese.  and they do look like seeds.  i have a fair collection myself in the butter compartment of the fridge. i wonder if and when i will have a chance to raise silkworms this year?

silkworm eggs-seeds

silkworm eggs-seeds

of course i will grow indigo again, in fact it is already growing! seeds that dropped while collecting the flower stems have already sprouted in this mild climate of ours.  we had some nice soft rain that coaxed them…  i gave away most of my extra indigo seeds -i like to send them out into the hands of those who take the indigo workshops. i wonder how many will plant them?

sometimes seeds are dropped- sprout and grow! we don't always know how or where they will bloom

sometimes seeds are dropped- sprout and grow! we don’t always know how or where they will bloom

I am also growing something new this year- madder.  i will be experimenting with it. with combining  madder and indigo.  i thought it might be about time to add a second color to the natural dyescape of my studio.  i’m not one to try anything and everything- i like to delve into things fairly deep and that means taking my time with it and not rushing.  madder grows rather slowly and it will take  couple of years for it to mature to the point where it can be harvested.  honestly, i wonder if i will even get to that point with it.  but i have some madder root here now that i have purchased and watching some grow will only add to my knowledge base.  i was intrigued by madder several years ago when on the silk study tour we visited a natural dyer who showed me his experiments with it and some madder he had grown. he planted a seed in me that started me wondering.  it’s taken a while to germinate… i wonder what new things will come of this.

Natural Dyeing Master Youjiro Takezawa shows us his madder root from the garden (Mr.Takezawa passed away 2 years ago. His wife succeeded his studio)4-388 Umedamachi Kiryu city, Gunma japan japan,silk

Natural Dyeing Master Youjiro Takezawa shows us his madder root from the garden (Mr.Takezawa passed away 2 years ago. His wife succeeded his studio)
4-388 Umedamachi Kiryu city, Gunma japan japan,silk

seeds are a good way of spreading wonder i think.  that is what i intend to continue with this year. spreading wonder  and planting seeds in small ways.  there’s a lot to wonder about. may the ground be fertile!

happy new year!

it’s compleaticated…

yes, i just made up that word.  it seems to fit things so well right now.

see, i told you-compleaticated.

i’m still taking signups for the in-studio arashi workshop.  i’m starting to think it is a difficult time of year to do this class.  my calendar and yours might not mesh.  holidays and all- not to mention the $.  ah yes…$.

but nontheless, i am am having an arashi obsession these days- more than most. there are a whole bunch of pieces on the poles waiting their turn to be overdyed and steamed and dried.  i can’t wait to get them off and see what they say to me.  the previous pieces were the test/prototype pieces.  they told me what needed to be done next.  that is how i prefer to work. to listen, to practice. looking inward and not out of my realm.

but the poles had to wait and yesterday boxes arrived from WA , were unpacked, sorted, and repacked for TX.  the indigo workshop is filled and yesterday the fabric packs for it were assembled-

i put a lot of thought into these workshop kits.  a lot of time.  i select fabrics that will teach you to pay attention to them and allow you to leave the workshop wondering…what if?

i am looking forward to seeing new faces and meeting up with old friends. katrina, maggie, virginia, jennifer, and more.

speaking of friends, i made some new friends in the workshop in Longbranch.  it was great fun and while the workshop was focused on shibori techniques on silk with the colorhue dyes, i couldn’t *resist* bringing some indigo which was enjoyed by all.  while i was there, i had the absolute thrill of meeting up with an old friend i haven’t seen or communicated with until recently.  we met up and visited our old homes. we originally lived in Gig Harbor until we moved to Japan in ’65 and we hadn’t seen each other since the 3rd grade.

can you find me?

-and here we are at the same place (her old house) just about 50 years later. What a trip.  So fun sharing memories.  At the same time, I missed the Yo-Hi (school chums from Japan!) reunion back in SoCal but will make up for that later.  On FB we are connecting.  AND, schoolgirl friends from St. Maur in Yokohama are reconnecting as well.  We are truly international. Plans are in the making.

And just an update on another subject. The textile studio in Canada recently sent me a note telling me they had removed the classes in question and additionally asked the member to resign.  I want to thank them for making a decision to join us in being part of the solution to what I see as a march to mediocrity in concert with deception and fraud.  Thank you very much! Now we can move past this whole mess.


I think it’s time to harvest the indigo seeds.  Seeds are always a good place to begin.  The day before yesterday it was raining rainbows… rainbows to the west, double rainbows in the east. And buckets and buckets of rain. Imagine rainbow raindrops…splashing down, coloring the world with hope and intention! What could possibly grow from THAT?

seeds from the apple krina and i picked and ate from the old apple tree in the donkey pasture where we used to play.  i wonder….

life…it’s compleaticated.

What if progress means something else?

Recently, I have been doing some reading and becoming familiar with the terms anthropocene and holocene eras as discussed in the recent issue of the Hedgehog Review. The current Summer issue, entitled Sustain-Ability poses such questions.

These are the sorts of things that I wonder about while I am working. The concept of thriving between scarcity and abundance. Of what sustainability means in these modern times.

These are seeds (ideas) that grow. And ideas plus action on those ideas make for change and growth. Like with seeds, the addition of water and nutrients yields a harvest.   Understanding history is essential, trajectory can be planned and altered I think.

But I need to get to the seed (heart, center, beginning).  Perhaps it’s a day for mandalas.

Yes, I think so.

novice mandala on silk organza


sowing seeds

Almost everything begins from a seed.  Today I collected seeds from the garden-edible seeds. The flowers of the nigella plant look like this:

nigella flowers

I originally collected these seeds in Santa Cruz at Nat’s house. She doesn’t live there anymore but is moving again and maybe next year she can plant some of the seeds I have collected.  They are very easy to grow. And lovely.

The seed pods form and are as interesting as the flowers- shibori striped even!

nigella pods

The pods ripen and begin to dry, each pod opening into a star shaped pattern to spill forth its bounty of very black seeds-a single seed springs forth a plant of many flowers, pods and seeds. Such is the nature of harvest’s bounty.

nigella seeds

and close up- they are marvelous looking. and tiny.

seed detail

They are edible and taste like tropical fruit! very delicate…Maura says to add them to potatoes with a bit of tumeric like a stir fry. Apparently common in India.  I was attracted to them for their interesting seed pods and blue flowers and only later discovered what they were and that they were edible.

-but back to sowing seeds…. I’m paying more attention to my harvests this time of year.  Thinking of future harvests and the seeds I sow today. Much patience is required. And some planning.

The garden is a perfect metaphor for my work I think. I have been sowing many kinds of seeds this year. The indigo, for example, began as a seed and has grown into this-

indigo harvest-so far, 2 cuttings. one more to go.

Even the silkworm eggs are called “seeds” by the Japanese. I have been practicing my mawata making with the cocoons. and dyeing some of them-

mawata from my own cocoons, dyed

Some of them I have been using to integrate felting into the shibori ribbon and flower work. It is working out well.  Some new things are on the horizon.  Ideas can be seeds too. Sowing ideas.

I received several emails today that had me thinking in various directions. More on that later. Tomorrow even. Intentions are to keep the blog more up to date. In shorter posts more likely, as there is a lot of work to be done.