Tag Archives: silkworms

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

 

encouraging wonder

I’m raising some silkworms again.  As a reminder. Of why. And how. And who I am.

I’m raising them from seed (eggs) and purchased 3 types- white, green, and pink cocoons. Previously, I have only raised white and yellow cocoons.

I have been wanting to do another (smaller than last time-1000) batch and now have 200 or so of each of the above. It seemed the perfect time as I was recently asked to step in to do a “career day” in a South LA Elementary school that was lacking parents who could come and do presentations.  SO, Trevor, Phil and I will all go and do our thing next Tuesday.  I wonder if parents really want their kids to be musicians, dyers or sericulturists…
At least we will be entertaining and make them wonder.

Here is the beginning-

 

a perfect storm & a little sayonara sale…

Even though I have a million things to do, I have to write this post! This morning I came across this video on youtube that answered a couple of my questions regarding processing my indigo- at least one approach.  And there is a good explanation of three sorts of indigo producing plants, how they differ and how to grow them.  It ends with a demo of processing the plant and collecting the indigo:

growing and processing indigo

Then, a lightbulb went off in my head…why was I putting the silkworm castings in the vegetable garden when I could oh so easily put them in the indigo patch where they would up the nitrogen level thereby producing more blue naturally?

A  perfect indigo silk circle.

Yesterday there was some fun interaction on the FB studio page regarding frass where I came to discover May Berenbaum…I’d love to meet her someday.  Here, she writes about frass. and here is an interesting podcast interview she did with scientific american.

frass

And for a little Sayonara Sale…typically in Japan, when one moves, one has a sayonara sale. That’s just the way they do it there. Also, a sayonara sale is a great place to pick up stuff you need when furnishing a new apartment. Check out the sayonara sale ads in the Tokyo craigslist. Garage sale- Japanese style.

Well I’m not moving in the classical sense but I thought it would be fun to have a sayonara sale prior to leaving to Japan. And besides, who couldn’t use a little extra yen on a 10 day trip to Japan? Not to mention keeping the bills paid up while I’m gone. Count me in-and maybe you too if you have been thinking about buying some scrumptious silk shibori ribbon. Here’s what I have to offer:

-packs of 6 one yard cuts of six different colors of pleated silk shibori ribbon. Dyer’s choice as far as the colors go but what color wouldn’t you want? Sayonara sale through Friday night only with the last order to ship Saturday. 6 yards for $60- in the shop now.

~and speaking of perfect circles…jude is gathering stones.

just dreaming…of indigo and Japan

Recent ribbon dyeing has kept me away from the indigo (but also keeping the bills paid-thank you!) but while I have been wrapping and dyeing, the indigo has been growing! It’s about a foot tall now.

Which leads me to wondering..as usual.  What if I harvested this indigo and set about composting it?  How will I compost it?  Apparently, it takes 100 days according to Rowland Ricketts.  He has completed construction of a composting shed (so cool!) but I have no such shed at my disposal nor will there be one.  But in usual Shibori Girl form, I will figure something out.  Perhaps in  a sort of Heath Robinson sort of way…

I understand that the floor of the shed is made of sand, rice hulls, and clay in order to draw moisture away from the composting indigo.  I imagine the shed maintains an even temperature and humidity and the floor draws a stable temp from the ground.  The shed provides protection from sunlight, rain, and wind- not to mention bugs and such things…I will learn more of what is required.

Now how to create such an environment here in the yard… I am wondering.

Also wondering- what if I were to dry the indigo leaves and just dump them into a fermentation vat?  I wonder where (not if!) this has been done before.

As always,  I may need to return to my source- Japan.  And it just so happens I am leaving on Monday for just such a trip.  To finalize details and make a few visits, see a few folks, and have a few meetings for the 2013 Silk Study Tour.  I have a lot on my plate!  Fortunately, I will see Sato-san as she is having an exhibition in Tokyo while I am there.  Before she started dyeing indigo she worked up north for several years for an indigo farmer.  I think she will have some answers to some of my questions and it will be so very good to see her again!  I will also meet a new sericulture farmer, a new natural dye master, test out a new ryokan, visit the Yokohama Silk Museum and meet with it’s former Director.  In Tokyo, I will be hosted by Makoto san who’s wife is a long time friend from Austin who always has a fantastic collection of Japanese and vintage fabrics at the Houston Quilt Festival each year.  I will also meet up with Masae whose family specialized in kanoko shibori for 4 generations out of Narumi, as well as with her friend Watanabe san and hope to hear more about the artist shop we visited last time.

A day at a temple sale, just to browse and do some wandering- good for the soul.  And back just in time to post the Indigo Mandala class!

Also looking to collect a few artifacts to be loaned for the upcoming Silk Exhibit at Quilt Festival this year-Experience Silk, Then and Now.  Did I mention this before?

The exhibit will include exceptional silk works from teachers, artists and authors prominent in the textile/quilt  world.  It is also out our aim to show silk “from moth to cloth”, featuring historical silk pieces, as well as educational displays of silk production.  The exhibit is in conjunction with the Silk Experience festival classes/lectures, sponsored by Quilts, Inc., and the Special Exhibits coordinators. The prime organizers of the exhibit include Maggie Backman, Glennis Dolce and Katrina Walker and a host of other Silk Experience volunteers.

In many ways we intend this silk exhibit to be a collaboration and partnership in the continuing goal of education, creativity, and commerce.


And, the silkworms are getting crazy-big-fat and healthy!! Have lined up my silkworm sitters who are excited to have them again.  They might even be starting to spin when I return! Did I mention Mawata Madness here already?  Come and work with some of my very own cocoons- from my very own 2nd generation! It’s the weird things that excite me…

Gotta go-out of fresh mulberry and the cats need feeding…

mata ne!

 

of service

being of service

with all the stories in the news these days about people in need, corporate excesses, dysfunctional government, abuse of power, and more- i am reminded each time i serve “the tiny masters” how important it is for those who have the power (ie money,control, and mulberry leaves) to have compassion and make sure that the gap is not too wide.

each time i clear the frass from the trays of caterpillars there are those who, for whatever reasons have not made it to the top of the pile and need a little extra help to continue on. that might mean i move them by hand, give them a little more time, and save the tenderest leaf tips for them. sometimes, no matter what i do a few don’t make it but in the end i know i made the effort. and in the very end, most will spin a cocoon.

each time i raise a batch of silkworms, i realize how dependent they are on me to collect fresh leaves each day for them, to keep their trays cleared of frass and worm poop, to keep them at the correct temperature and humidity. their very lives depend on all of it. and if i succeed, they will spin large lovely cocoons in return for my efforts.