It’s been more than three months since the last time I updated the blog. I feel terrible not to update this periodically. I love writing from my childhood and I keep writing journals even though I have some long period that I had not written in the past. Well, I usually write in my native language which is Japanese. So it is challenging for me to write a blog in English. I appreciate that people read this blog looks like three grader’s composition. However, I believe that there are people out there who are curious about my studio and my work. Improving English skill is one of many things that I would like to do. I know I can use this opportunity to practice it so I decide to write once in two weeks now on no matter what. It’s never too late to have New Year resolution, right? I will write this blog as our studio record/ my weaving project record.
One month has passed in 2015 and I have already been blessed in so many ways despite a big life change. My older son Asa enjoys his college life in Hampshire, Amherst, MA. Now my younger son Nori flew to Japan on Jan. 6th planning to stay there for a half year. He enrolled to Tokyo Shure, an alternative school in Tokyo where I used to work before the marriage.
I was lucky that I didn’t have to worry about Empty Nest Syndrome because I had a big show opening on Jan. 15th “Harmony/?” at Worcester Center for Crafts. There are 6 tapestries and 6 wearable items in the show along with Sumiyo’s painting and ceramics and Tomo’s glass work. Thanks to many supporters, the opening reception went wonderfully. It was a huge turn out. Sumiyo, Tomo and I were overwhelmed by it. The show runs through Feb. 28th. If you have not seen it, please come to visit. I really appreciate your sincere feedback.
In 2015 I started a new program called “the Study Group” for people who have a loom at home and want to work on same assignments together. This is my long year dream. It is a 6 months program for one cycle. In this way we all can study and experiences of 6 assignments (1 assignment for a month) together. Some members have been our studio members for more than 6 years, some have been more than 4 years and some are relatively new. It doesn’t matter. The first assignment was weaving with one color. Oh, what a interesting fact that no one had similar interpretation. Everyone had a story for the work or two. We will show our results at our studio exhibition in July. The most important part of this group is having each other who support everyone’s own journey and learning process.
At last, I finally put the curtains at windows of the studio. My previous intern Alana helped weaving materials two years ago and Annie recently sewn strips. Now the studio looks more cozy. Outside of the window is a huge snow storm now…Stay warm and safe.
Recently the newsletter of SAORI Canada-US Association has come out. I submitted the story of Lonnie Edelen who is my former student. He was an intelligent teenager who used to have day dreams often. I mean during a class he often started a conversation about something which made me surprise. The topics must have been about animals, doctor who, universe and so on. He kindly explained what he was talking about so I could catch up what he was thinking. He eventually started sharing his experience at school and at home. One of the sweet memories that I have with him is that his conversation with two classmates, Felix and Marcel. They would not have met each other in this world except a SAORI studio because they all have very different back grounds and living styles. However, they cared each other and got involved the conversation about sewing. Lonnie has made a bow tie which he wore at the graduation, I believe. So I was very happy that he agreed to write about his SAORI story for the newsletter. Here it is.
SAORI Story By Lonnie Edelen (August 2014)
My name is Lonnie Edelen, and I am practitioner of SAORI weaving. My SAORI voyage started in Worcester at an art fair called “Start on the Street”. Walking with my family I saw a tent, and in this tent I saw an Asian woman (who I later learn is Japanese and is named, please let me spell this right, Mihoko Wakabayashi). In the front of the tent was a table piled high with woven goods. In the back of the tent were two looms that she was letting kids test out. I, being always curious, asked if I could try. She said yes. I sat down, and she showed me the basics. About forty-five minutes later my family realized this is one spot I was not likely to move from any time soon. I stayed there for the rest of the day. Sometimes a line would form behind me, and then Mihoko would politely ask me to get up and let other kids have a turn. I would get up and go stand in one of the back corners of the tent and wait. I waited for the line to cycle through and the tent to clear out. Then I would sit back down and start again. At the end of the day I went home and looking back found that I really enjoyed myself.
A few weeks later, after school one day I asked my mom if she could sign me up for weaving lessons at the SAORI Worcester Weaving Studio. She called and a guy picked up. (I later learn that the guy’s name was Nat.)
Mom: Yes this is Molly Edelen I was wondering if I could sign my son up for the beginners weaving course?
Guy: Well, are you sure? You could bring him in one day to see if this is something he’d like to do.
Mom: Well, he was with Mihoko all day at Start on the Street.
Guy: Oh! Your Lonnie’s mom! Sure we can get him signed up.
I began on my SAORI journey the next week, not realizing that it would last far longer than the six weeks of the beginners’ lessons. I was one of those people, who because of a lack of confidence felt this insistent, and illogical need to win or get things right, but when I sat down to weave the need went away and has not come back. I think the reason that I don’t feel a need to win in SAORI is because there is no way to win, the end result is not the objective. It is my belief that the real goal of SAORI lies in the process. I feel it is the nature of the SAORI style to create an atmosphere that encourages a free flowing state of mind. I have now gained enough self confidence to realize that the insistent, and illogical need to win or be right only diminishes my existence.
I not only went back for the next course, but I insisted on a project that Mihoko warned me would take a really long time to complete and she was concerned that I might get bored before I had completed it. Well, I didn’t get bored and I made a full length coat that I still wear. What is great about weaving is that it is a meditative activity and after doing it for a while I am able to get in to a rhythm and it’s like I don’t even notice time going by on progress being made until I stop for a break.
Another of the biggest reasons I won’t ever get bored with weaving is the seemingly endless possibilities, of course these possibilities can make it hard to decide what to do next. Then again, I am convinced that if I keep doing this for the rest of my life I’ll never stop learning new techniques. It is for this reason more then any other that I’ll never get tired of SAORI weaving.
I’ve made many and varied items in my time using the SAORI style of weaving. Among the things I’ve made are: scarves, shawls, table runners, place mats, napkins, purses, card holders, mobius scarves, and wall hangings. Of all those I enjoy making the wall hangings the most. I’ve also used a great variety of yarns in my work including: cotton, linen, hemp, nettle, wool, mohair, chenille, bamboo, and silk. I do my best to avoid using synthetic fibers. Personally I think the natural ones feel much nicer to weave with, and they will eventually break down and nourish the soil which will then feed the plants and animals from which natural fibers come. Synthetic fibers, on the other hand will be filling our landfills forever.
Four years after beginning my SAORI weaving journey, in my senior year in high school, I was thinking that I’d like to take a break from formal education. I also knew people were beginning to think of graduation gifts and I wanted to avoid getting a bunch of nicknacks, or worse THE PEN! Knowing that my family would soon be moving to rural WV where there would not be a studio to go to keep weaving, I asked if everybody could pool their resources and get me a SAORI loom so that I could keep weaving. I talked with Mihoko and my family about starting a weaving business and everyone was really supportive.
I am currently living with my family on 7 acres in the backwoods of Hardy County, West Virginia. My weaving business, called Backwoods Weaving is just over one year old and growing. I am in a juried cooperative called Lost River Artisans Cooperative and I have items on consignment at both their outlet and the Lost River Trading Post, in Wardensville, WV. At the trading post I do demonstrations at least once a month. I have experimented with styles and ideas, yet I keep going back to the basics of SAORI, so I am working to become a registered SAORI weaving studio. I also have had many inquiries about teaching others to weave so I am applying to Akiko Jo for this privilege. I sometimes dream of having a van and setting up a traveling SAORI studio, a van with several looms and lots of yarns, so that I can share the joy of this type of weaving throughout rural WV.
I am entering my sixth year of weaving, and I always tell people that I am never bored and though I’ve been out of school for over a year, I haven’t worked a day yet. Weaving on my SAORI loom knowing that “I am not a machine,” remembering that Sa comes from the word Sai and means that everything has its own dignity, and ori means weaving, I feel that all is as it should be. And never have I gotten tired of telling this story when asked, “So how did you get started doing this?”
You can reach Lonnie Edelen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Basic Course is 6 2hour classes. Most people take one class in a week and finish the basic course in 6 weeks. Some come intensively like taking few classes in a week so they can complete the course in a couple of weeks. Every courses of my studio doesn’t have a starting date. People can sign up and start their class any time all year around. I usually suggest people to come once in a week at least specially at the beginning of learning. Otherwise they won’t remember what they learned at the last class.
People make a scarf size piece (8 inches wide & 6 feet long) in the basic course unless they have a specific work in their mind. I teach from scratch even for 6-years-old or 78-years-old. The students learn how to wind and set up their own warp thread, how to weave, techniques and tricks, and how to tie the fringes to finish the piece. Some weave so quickly. Some take a long time to choose color they use. Some weave very carefully. Some just go to town from the start.
In this summer I had 2 young men who took the basic course. This time was a second time for both of them to take the 6 class course. So they had a project in their mind, a bag. It’s amazing to me how well the young brain works. Also, I was impressed by their powerful concentration as well. They were not taking the classes together although they were in a same class once in Saturday morning.
Class 1: They wound warp and started sleying into a reed.
Class 2: They finished sleying and threading to the harness. They completed setting up the warp on a loom.
Class 3: They wove.
Class 4: They finished weaving. They brought the fabric home and washed.
Class 5: They brought the fabric back to the studio. They learned how to use a sewing machine. They sewed and cut the fabric, applied interfacing, and started putting things together.
Class 6: They made handles/a strap and putting all together to complete a bag.
I have been developing patterns that people can sew easily over years. I learned so much from teaching. Both Arthur and Jacob enjoyed learning how to use a sewing machine. They were so careful to make one step a time. I am so proud of them. Looking at their satisfied faces, I thought I should make a textile camp for kids (and adults ) in near future. This kind of experience gives any one so much pleasure and understanding how things are made. And they can enjoy the finished work in daily life.
Since I was a member of the conference committee and planned this with the host Denise Prince (HanDen Studio) and Sakaiseikisangyo Co. (Kenzo and Akiko Jo), I was a bit nervous before. I don’t have any pictures of the fashion show at the opening night. I was busy doing MC and organizing the show. People seemed understood about SAORI style of fashion show. Audience became models and models went back to seats to be audience. There were many wonderful variety of clothing. It was a great praise for me to receive words from Kenzo and Masako saying that they saw huge growth compared to the previous conference two years ago. It is true that there were many creative patterns and weaving. Several patterns were no sewing and no cutting.
I lead two workshop on the weekend. One was making a hat without sewing. I was really not sure since I have not made this hat for a long time. So I talked to teachers from Japan and Misuzu agreed to help me for that. I was so glad that she was there to give us tips to adjust each fabric to make shapes.
This pattern is very popular in Japan for more than decades. Many people in Japan make this hats to donate to cancer patients who loose hair for the chemo therapy and Misuzu is one of those people. She donates at least 100 hat in a year and she has been doing this for several years by now. She wove fabric for hats and some of her students help to make it to hats by pulling threads, tying knots and braiding.
Everyone who made hats looked so happy. Some wore the hat throughout the rest of the conference!
Another workshop I lead was about the construction of SAORI clothing. Actually until Kathleen Keenan (SAORI SRQ) asked me for the workshop at her studio last January, I didn’t realize that it helped people so much to understand the written pattern in the books. Using receipt paper tape is the way I learned originally in Kyoto SAORI studio. I have been using this way all the time and have shown to my students at my classes. However, I didn’t think this could be a workshop for those who have never sewn or who are not comfortable sewing yet. When I showed paper patterns at SAORI SRQ, ladies mentioned that it would be more helpful if they made the paper patterns with me. That’s how this idea came to me. I had many positive comments from the participants. Again, I didn’t have time to take pictures during this workshop. Hope I will have some later (Hanley was taking some.). Now I have more idea how to make the workshop better. It is my joy to help people understand something. I am open to any feedback, too.
The post conference is Kenzo and Masako’s show. They allowed enough time for the participants to do hands on both on the looms and the sewing machines. That was incredibly well received.
I was so grateful to make new friends who have learned SAORI at other studios and occasions. I thought about the first conference in 2006 that my exhusband and I hosted. At that time about a dozen people whom we invited came. The small interests grew and spread out as SAORI movement and it made me so rewarding.
As an organizer, I have several things we could have done differently. However, I enjoyed the entire week full of excitements and friendship.
I am so glad that I have completed this piece before the SAORI conference so I can wear it for the fashion show next week. Every time I lead my Japan tour to visit several SAORI studios in Japan or I attend SAORI gatherings, I work hard to make new garments for myself so I won’t end up wearing same clothing in pictures. It’s a good challenge for me to make new clothing to showcase teachers and friends among SAORI weavers.
I chose several different textured white yarn and a space dyed yarn (blue and white) for warp. As soon as I started weaving, I felt that I needed something new. I took the reed off completely from the warp. I used a long ruler for beating. I remembered that Kenzo had showed me how to use cloth pins to bunch up heddles in order to make warp threads’ movement. I took a handful wooden cloth pins and pinch heddles together with them.
I also needed to put some pins on harness frames so heddles won’t slide back to where they were. Then after a while, I move those pins to different sections. That’s why this fabric shows the similar effect as the one we get with a comb reed. However, I prefer this way. At first it was a pain in the neck to put the ruler to beat a weft each shed I made. But eventually it became a part of weaving rhythm and I was not bothered by it at all.
“Don’t make yardage for clothing. Always weave a tapestry. Then, when it’s done, think how to make clothing out of the piece.” The words of Masako Kida came to me. She is the last direct student of Misao and a renowned SAORI cloth making expert. ” I am not making beautiful piece. I am doing SAORI. I am weaving differences between hand weaving and machine weaving.” SO I started making holes. I made five holes which vary sizes in the middle and I made four more holes at the end .
I knew I didn’t want to use any patterns from books or newsletters. I wanted to make my own. I wrapped the fabric around me in front of a mirror, stretched arms, moved the end of fabric over the shoulder, and found one thing. ” I want to use a hole as a armhole.” I cut a section even though I didn’t decide the whole design yet. However, I knew without stepping forward I could not get the whole design from my own experience.
To my surprise, it took a very short time to come to the idea which I liked very much. I wish I can get ideas like this all the time……
I drove down to Kensington, Maryland on June 8th to give a lecture and demonstration in Virginia the next day. Diana Guenther was generous enough to be my host for a few days, though we had never met before. She kindly gave me a tour of Dragonfly Fibers and the Yarn Spot. I enjoyed both stores and their respective owners were wonderful.
I was re-introduced to this dye called Color Hue when I visited Sarasota, FL back in January. Since then I have been playing with it and loving it so much. It is a non-toxic, permanent, and easy to dye without heat.
On April 26th the first time to use this dye was held at the studio. People chosen silk or rayon warp which were already wound for a scarf size. (100ends x 2.5 meter long). First, we tied the warp with plastic packaging cords to cover some area that we didn’t want the color in.
Then make an individual color dye bath in a plastic zip-lock bag, put the warp in to make the yarn soaked completely and gently rub yarn until all the dye was sucked up to see the water gets clear. It is just like acid dye with wool. The water in the zip-lock bag got completely clear (in case for rayon there are some color left).
Then untie the cords and apply different color there or over-dye the whole warp in to new color.
Since we don’t have a sink at the studio, people should rinse them at home later.
It gave us an immediate graphical result. We applied additional colors using a spray bottle to target the area we wanted the color to be. We used a silk fabric to wipe out the table to suck all the drips of dye which would be used for Sakiori.
We learned the color gets lighter when it gets dried. Our learning has just started. Hope to study this dye monthly…. Look for another workshop in June!
SAORI Weaver SRQ is a new studio in Sarasota, FL. It opened last November by Kathleen Keenan who has been a traditional weaver and got trained at my studio. She used to teach at Artist Guild in Falmouth, MA and moved down to FL last year.
She set up 5 intensive workshop and a day with my presentation followed by SAORI kai. It was amazing 6 days. 2 full day weaving with pre-set warp, a cloth making construction workshop followed by a visit Ringling Museum, a full day of cloth making and a dying workshop.
First of all, because Kathleen and all 7 attendees were wonderful, all the workshop went very well. They were very open minded people who had art/weaving backgrounds and/or teaching experiences. Some of them were fiber artists and most of them knew each other which made this intensive learning possible.
The clothing workshop was the most challenging day. There were many dramas. Some could not figure out what they would like to make out of the pieces, some realized the initial plan would not work and some got stuck in the middle of creating. It was great to have each other to encourage and suggest new possibilities. Some completed the projects and some didn’t. However, at the end everyone smiled. At least everyone had plans that they knew they could finish it up.
I enjoyed a dying workshop because Betsy introduced fascinating dye called Color Hue. I told how to tie-dye SAORI way at first. And we put dye in a clear plastic bag, put yarn without washing (we dyed silk warp) and squeeze the bag to let yarn absorb dye color. Untie the plastic cords and add new color to white parts. I kept experimenting with this dye at home now hoping to share this at my studio soon.
Thank you, Kathleen for your generous hospitality. Of course the sunset at Siesta Bay Beach was one memorable scene on this trip!
Weaving at home on a borrowed 4 harness jack loom taught me how spoiled I am. Like Ann’s “teachers”–pieces of experimental weaving–but the experience coming from somewhere perhaps more unexpected. First, that cute little Le Clerc 40cm loom was far less gazelle-like than the SAORI looms I’m used to but still provided the magic that weaving generally does–whoa! I made fabric outta strings!!I kept finding myself stomping on the ground to switch the harness even though it was hand operated. I was thinking how nice it would be to quietly concentrate on what I was making but honestly I felt a bit too caught up in my own ideas or seeking out a plan in contrast to what I feel is the dangerous mistake of applying limits to what you assess yourself to be. I’ll see people’s work who I admire artistically (or even cosmically) and be entirely befuddled by their finesse at creating something glorious with so little intention. Things just come forth with a blank state of mind. But when weaving in a group you get the ultra forte of increased awareness and fluid inspiration. It rules! With this scarf, i had really only myself and my materials to put in and it felt surprisingly different! I wove in strands of plastic pearls and am finishing the fringe off in groupings of friendship bracelets! –Annie
I hope everyone had a great holiday season. I had a really fun New Year’s Eve. I took my staff Annie to First Night Worcester which I go every year. Despite the cold we had a great time with listening to a teenage singer, watching fireworks and seeing the incredible “Mind Reading” performance. Then I finished up cooking in the morning of New Year Day to have people to celebrate New Year with the traditional Japanese “Osechi” meal together. Since my family used to make this dish every year, I learned to do it. I felt grateful to have good friends and family to celebrate New Year this way together.
In my kitchen which is also a dining space I had a rug that I had woven in the end of 2013.
I bought the”Core Spun Rug Yarn” at Fiber Festival of New England back in Nov. having this project in mind. Although I was not sure how much yarn I would need, I got 3 bright color wool/mohair yarn(100 yards each), 2 gray wool yarn (75 yards each) and 1 brown wool (75 yards). I ended up using them all.
I set up 7 meter warp and full width (60 cm), used 6/2 and 8/s cotton for warp and used a 2 dents/cm reed. I had to use a stick shuttle to wind the thick core spun yarn. It was dynamic movement to make the progress easily.
I often had to tighten the warp because I wanted to the weaving tight as possible. Then I needed to take some woven portion out of the cloth roller when I started second panels because the roller got so thick and could not take all the fabric there. I wove 3 panels (60cm width and 2 meter long each) with the same warp and sew them together by hand with sweater stitches.
I am pretty happy with the finished rug. The colors are so bright to give me energy during this cold miserable winter. The warmth protect our feet. And I learned my washing machine can take this thick rug and it was not a problem. I washed in cold water for a couple of minutes, rinse it for a couple of minutes, spin it and air dry. It’s so confy! You are welcome to sit at my dining table to check this out anytime!