Tag Archives: textiles

Amami Oshima

continuing tradition…

Wednesday’s post was long enough so I didn’t add specific information about the side trip I’m taking after the Silk Study Tour to Japan ends. Prompted by one of the tour participants who is researching the mud dyeing traditions of various cultures and locales, I was inspired to go and see this for myself and add to my Japanese textile knowledge. I will spend 4 days there learning and exploring the textiles of Amami Oshima.
Amami Oshima (oshima means island in Japanese) is the northernmost island in the Okinawan archipelago.

it is part of the Ryuku Islands

While the Ryuku Islands (and Okinawa) are well known for their Indigo dyeing and beautiful weavings using tropical plant fibers, Amami Oshima is known for its tradition of plant and mud dyeing on silk, often supplemented with indigo. Its beautiful and intricate weavings using the previously bound and dyed warp and weft threads are called Oshima Tsumugi.
This link has a good description of the process and terms.
Japan seems like it is filled with endless opportunities to learn and discover so many textile traditions and this is one I have not previously explored.
Interestingly, I realize I have already collected a small sampling of these textiles! I’ve seen them here and there in Japan and picked some up when the price was not too steep just to study and enjoy them. A sampling:

A recent video shows more of the process and the issues facing the economics behind weaving this very time consuming textile.
There is also a lot of indigo dyeing that occurs in the Ryukyu Islands perhaps in part due to its tropical and mild climate as well as the weaving of choice bast fibers, especially on Okinawa. I expect I will also see some of that on Amami Oshima as well.
I also read where they produce a special type of sake there using sugar cane…will have to try it!

So the fabric collections I will be putting together for you includes one selection that will be collected only from Amami Oshima and I wanted to explain a little bit more about what that was all about. You can see the various collections that can be ordered here in the shop.

I look forward to sharing my Amami Oshima adventures here on the blog in early June.

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.

 

 

Mottainai!

I didn’t want to add this to the last post on the Houston show since it’s a bit of a “Debbie Downer” (apologies to all Debbie’s out there), but I discovered something that I found very disappointing/disturbing (once again) at the show.  I walked the wholesale market on Sunday as I had to wait a couple of hours for the Ed office to open.

On the show floor, I saw that Moda is now producing, for February delivery, a line of fabrics called “Boro”. Now those of you regular readers of this blog probably know how I feel about this. We had a similar discussion when they came out with their “Shibori” fabric line. But this one is even MORE disturbing to me.  Is that possible? Why yes, yes it is.

Why is it that everything has to be bastardized for profit?  You might find my mindset a bit harsh but boro -really??  So now we are going to take the Japanese historical tradition of using scrap cloth to make utilitarian items for daily use and commercialize it to the point of PRINTING scanned images of boro on cotton sheeting for quilters to use in boro-esque quilt projects?  Are we really going there? And for quilters– who in general, have more scrap fabrics than any God of your choice!

I am really appalled at this.  Do they even understand the history of these fabrics? They wax poetically in their catalog about boro, but there is a certain dissonance I find disturbing. Boro was created out of poverty, a lack of having textiles for everyday needs. A certain need to use all that was at hand- to not waste.  Mottainai! Do not waste the resources you have! The ways that people in Japan found to creatively reuse what they did have is remarkable and noteworthy.  To take this and create a line of printed “boro” quilt fabrics just really is the height of irreverent insincerity in my opinion. It’s nothing more than the use of a term seen as a trend for profit. It’s actually quite the opposite of boro, which translates to tattered, ragged, torn or scrap fabrics.

We can celebrate boro by using what we already have, by stitching together the fabrics of our lives. We can study the boro fabrics so lovingly stitched by those who truly were stitching to survive cold winters in northern Japan. We can honor their resourcefulness by adopting the spirit of Mottainai in our everyday lives. Let’s do that instead.

Post-show recovery

It’s over and I’m home.  A long 10 days of constant action and responsibilities. Classes, setup, teardown, travel and the lugging of more stuff than I want to remember.  Until next year!

A few highlights included classes that went smoothly, a great booth setup, and seeing so many customers and students from throughout the years. Also had some crazy weather and flooding! Note to self: pack boots next year! (I did pack umbrellas and a raincoat!)

I got to meet Deb McClintock of the blog NATURAL DYEING IN THE TEXAS HILL COUNTRY.  I have enjoyed her adventures in natural dyeing for some time now.  She also grows and dyes with indigo, madder and pomegranate (among other things). Thanks for taking the time to stop by Deb! Got to visit with Judith Montano a bit- she is so busy teaching every year at Festival she hardly gets down to the show floor.   I have admired her book Elegant Stitches for many years- have a copy of the original edition from way back and love how her work has transitioned from crazy quilting into the lovely landscapes she does now. Had a little time with Brooke from Hannah Silks- we go way back. So far back that neither one of us can any longer remember how long ago!  Was saddened to hear that her mom Hannah had passed away- she was the Hannah behind the silk.

It was a pleasure to see and meet up with folks who appreciate the techniques and materials behind the textiles.  I really enjoy the vintage dealers most I think (Carola Pfau of Textile Treasures, June Colburn, Carol Saber and others).  Their knowledge of the textiles they sell is priceless. These textiles teach us so much. What do the textiles of today teach us?  I wonder. A customer came to talk to me about what she had seen at the show.  She felt that the prizewinning quilts were lacking something. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it at first.  They were detailed, precise, painstakingly designed, impressive in scale, pleasing to look at…yet, something was missing.  Our conversation turned to the missing element- the fact that so much of the quilting done these days and especially for big quilt prizes is technology and consumer driven. Ever more sophisticated machines, tools and fabrics dominate.  In some of these pieces it causes them to feel sterile, almost as if they weren’t make by hand.  But yet they are. Such precision in cutting, stitching, and profusion of color and design made available by the limitless palette of modern fabrics takes away something I think. Comparing the vintage quilts in the show with their newer cousins one causes one to wonder about all this. I know I am speaking blasphemy when I say this.  One can wonder can’t one?

Today the show boxes arrived and were unpacked and I will send out emails to catch up a bit.  I needed a few days to recover (I forgot to mention the visit to the Urgent Doc in Houston did I?) and regain my balance, literally.  Perhaps some leftover items will appear in the shop by the end of next week…

There’s an upcoming workshop at the JANM to prepare for (sold out) and orders to start on in addition to a few custom orders placed at the show. Time to get busy…

People at the show were already excited about the 2017 Silk Study Tour to Japan and wanted to write me checks  but I am not ready for that just yet.  Hirata San and I are working out the new itinerary already and will have it up by January 30.  This time we will do 12 nights and include Kyoto!  What fun.  To be informed of these details please sign yourself up for my Constant Contact newsletter in the sidebar and make sure to check Silk Study Tour as an area of interest.

And in Freer news… I have added the Silk Shibori Ribbon Poinsettia Brooch PDF which includes links to the two videos on how to make this holiday piece.  I have also added a PDF to the simple shibori fringed flower.  This is easily made with small scraps you may have around. Please enjoy.

Here are a few shots from the show- big thanks to Donna and Virginia for helping me get through it all- you both were integral to the whole.  Also thanks to Katrina Walker and the whole Silk Experience team of teachers and Quilts Ed staff for doing a great job at Quilt Festival. It was very much appreciated.

ha! the “new” boro

Speaking of trends…without any real understanding of the thought behind it.  But let’s be cool, let’s be hip. Let’s make believe boro!

made in China, Indonesia, or Vietnam apparently.  Remember when these were made in the US and didn’t cost $100+?

Japanese vintage boro huh?

After having been to the Amuse Boro Museum last month this sort of thing really leaves me cold. If you go there and feel the energy of those pieces, of the passage of time, the hardships, the heart and everything else they engender, I doubt you would be making a joke of it all by making faux shoes like these.  These shoes seem to be the anti-boro.

Seems sacrilegious to me.  Boro my ass.

 

weaving motifs into cloth (and life)

There are certain motifs that have always captured my attention.  Of course you know the moon is one of these motifs but the other two that captivate me are water and cloud imagery.  Who hasn’t laid back and watched the clouds move across the sky, felt the sun come and go across our skin…listened to the waves, a nearby stream, a roaring river or waterfall…seen the moon rise and fall?  I like that these motifs are universal and shared across the globe regardless of where or who you are.  It reminds me of life’s beauty, and our connectedness to each other. These things give me perspective.

I think this is why these nature based motifs have been given so much regard in design over time and space.  Often each motif is imbued with a special meaning or symbology. I enjoy studying all the meanings behind the motifs and the cultures which bestowed these interpretaions.

I recently was very taken with old silk which had these images woven into the design.  I purchased a couple of rolls of these silks from second hand shops recently with a few things in mind.  First, to study them and then to create something out of them.

japanese vintage silk damask -indigo dyed

japanese vintage silk damask -indigo dyed

Aside from the cloud and water motifs, this one has bamboo, maple leaves and what looks to be cherry blossoms.  Sort of covers it all!  Originally, this sort of fabric was used for nagajuban -the ankle length under kimono which used the softest and finest silks worn next to the skin.  The weight and design complexity of this silk suggests that it was to be used in a nagajuban worn for a very formal occasion. It has a beautiful hand and a lovely drape.

I saw moons in it of course…

silk moons for the supermoon

silk moons for the supermoon

flowers on the moon-indigo and silk

flowers on the moon-indigo and silk

I used a piece of this fabric for a nice indigo dyed scarf with diagonal ends and hand stitched hems- ombre dyed on one side. I think I will add an interesting bead to the two points…

indigo scarf

I finally completed a little shop update that includes the following items- enjoy! Most items ship free with any other item.  Now back to the studio to finish up a couple orders that need to go out asap!