I was so happy that I successfully grew a small butch of indigo plants in my tiny yard this year. This was third time that I attempted. Indigo required a lot of water. I asked my friends to be indigo sitters while I was traveling in Japan in May. When I came home, I kept making sure to water them every other days.
In mid Sep. I decided to dye with the flesh leaves. I picked leaves which were three times the weight of the silk scarf I was going to dye.
The scarf was about 20 grams and the leaves were 60-70 grams. I put them in the blender with 700 ml room temperature water and mix them for a minute.
It came out just like foamy mattcha tea. Looked so delicious! I used a laundry net to drain the dye water into a bowl and put a silk scarf gently into the bowl.
I was mixing the scarf by hands in the bowl so it would dyed evenly. My hands got dyed, too. lol
Two minutes later…
Five minutes, ten minutes and fifteen minutes passed…
Rinsing the scarf changing water three or four times in a sink, the color remained and appeared brightly.
The color had changed so dramatically in front of my eyes that I was touched deeply by the magic of Indigo nature. I am sincerely grateful for all the science and crafts that people had discovered to pass on generations.
I will plan to plant more seeds next year to share this experience with all the studio members! Indigo rocks!!!
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.
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 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!
Recently I finished a winter coat. For this coat I created weft by putting 15 strands yarn together. When I got sick of looking at very fine wool yarn on shelves that nobody had been using at the studio, I got an idea to use them somehow. I pulled ends of each yarn and wind on an empty cone by hand. When a yarn run out, I tied the end of new cone. Sometime the color had changed.
When I wind the yarn on a bobbin ( I used a large shuttle and a long bobbin.), I cooperated with the twisting technique that Kenzo taught me in this summer. It is a technique that you gave a twist before winding a bobbin by holding yarn in certain angle from the bobbin at the bobbin winder. The pattern shows at the front panel of the coat where red and blue appears on the left. I thought all the colors come together on a black warp. I made it big for sale. The charm point is buttons. They are made by my friend Ingrid Hathaway who is a local potter. I love the combination of those buttons and mulch color coat. The hardest thing is pricing. I usually put the price that my labor is under the minimum rage at a fast food chain store. Oh, well. Someday, I hope to be paid at standard labor range. At least someone gets a warm wool coat that makes me happy!
I have 2 younger sisters in Japan. We are three girls growing up surrounded by mom’s home cooking and handmade items. It’s been our dream to have an exhibition together to show our work in public to share our favorite things to do in our busy lives. The very first exhibition had taken place in Yokohama for four days at the end of July. Yokohama is a big city near Tokyo where we grew up and my youngest sister and my mom still live.
My middle sister, Chiho went to a cooking school after she had worked for a business company for five years. Baking became her specialty. She had worked at a famous bakery for a while. Now she lives in Sapporo, Hokkaido which is the north island of Japan with her husband and three children. She has been involved in early education while she has been baking cakes for a cafe once in a week. She uses safe ingredients such as wheat, eggs, and sugar from local farm.
My youngest sister, Maho has been knitting since she was 9 years old. She had worked at a craft shop for a while. Later in her life she was interested in traditional Chinese Knotting and got certified in Taiwan. Recently she has been teaching Chinese knotting at a local community center to mothers who have small children and teaches elderly people as well.
The name of the exhibition MiChiMa is from first sound of our names. We were used to be called “MiChiMa sisters” by friends’ families so they could remember our names in order.
We rented a small gallery which was a perfect size for us. Fortunately during these four days many of our old and new friends visited us. Three of us and our mom barely had time to have a bite for lunch in a tiny kitchen taking turns. There were some people I had not met for 30 years! My dad’s co-workers, our friends from elementary school, middle school, high school, our co-workers, friends from neighbors, daghter’s kindergarten and so on. We were all busy with catching up each other’ s lives, talking about our memories, showing and explaining our work. Poor Chiho had to bake cakes every nights after supper for next day’s show although she had prepared (frozen) as much as possible.
However, it was a huge success because we had many visitors and sold many work. Unexpectedly many people told us that the show gave them good energy and made them think what they would like to do in their lives. My three nieces had helped us in their way. Our mom must have been so proud of her daughters. What we realized was that her and our dad (passed away more than 20 years ago.) did always let us do whatever we wanted to do. They were always encouraging us. They never forced us do anything and didn’t say what we should do. That’s why we were allowed to explore what we were interested in all these years. I am so grateful for that. And I hoped this show was not just for us to show our work but also a wonderful opportunity for many people to get together and had a great time.
Oh, I had made a tunic and a vest for my sisters. Those are extra work I did for this show but it was worth it!
I will have an exhibition in Japan with my young sisters. This is something we have been talking about as a one of our dream for a while. My youngest sister is a great knitter however what she got certified is a traditional Chinese knotting, it looks like a kind of macrame. And my middles sister is a great baker. I found a small gallery near my mom’s home. In July 26th-29th we display our creation and sell them for four days and hope to see our friends there.
Now yes, I must have my work for the exhibition. In 2 weeks I need to work massively which I don’t mind at all as long as there are anything else I have to do. Naturally it’s not the case I have to perform at Asian Festival, make a plan for the Japan tour and organize schedule and situation while I am not here. I am getting better to be a present moment without being panicked.
Anyway, these are my latest work I want to share here.
This warp was done as circle warping. It’s all cotton and it’s woven very loosely. When I realized I made “a mistake”, I twisted the shoulder part besides fixing it. It usually works better.
And this piece is also all cotton except elastic yarn. It started just like a tapestry and I thought I needed something spark. Then I wove elastic yarn.
The dress is a very simple pattern. It’s a shape T dress with a boarder neckline. I love to work with the unexpected results. There are not many good elastic yarn available around so I am planning to buy a lot when I get Japan this summer. You don’t need a lot of them to make fabric shrinkable but you don’t want to worry if they are not enough. I heard that Kenzo is investing a new elastic yarn which is very easy to work with. I am looking forward to finding out about it!
I have been collecting old kimono from Japan since I love the idea to make something out of them. It is a great recycling. Worn-out kimono is perfect material to tear up to make strips for weaving. Sakiori means rag rug weaving in English although people make all kind of items from the woven fabric.
Most kimono I have are used in daily life and they are not specially beautiful. However, some of linings are silk fabric so I don’t want to waste them either.
What I wove are not really special. But I’m proud of my idea to use 2 obihimo (sash ties) for the handle for the tote bag.
My secret of easy sewing is using 2 kinds of interfacing. I didn’t put any lining. I applied regular little stiff white lining first. Then after I sew the handles I applied thin navy interfacing which I bought in Japan.
Here I combined cotton kimono fabric with sakiori fabric for the pocketbook. I even put nice adjustment metal parts to it.
This idea has been in my thought for a longtime. I am a member of a small group in Japan called “000 Global Vision” which is driven by my friend who is an alternative educator. Our main purpose is living to be aware of connecting with all lives which create this universe. It’s a kind of mindfulness living.
He has been organizing “Rainbow Camps” all over the world offering an opportunity for children to make their own decisions what to do during the camp instead of let them choose from choices that adults prepare in advance. In the camp children learn how to compromise with others, gain self esteem and confidence and learn skills to make decisions in a group. It’s based on the trust on all human beings even they are young for their ability to own their learning. He also had been making a big sand whale at beach in HI blessing all lives on the earth.
Anyway, I wanted to make something combine “rainbow” and a ‘whale’. Rainbow to me is a celebration for all races and believes, hopes and faith in something we don’t see.
I am planning to make a series of the “rainbow whales’ this spring.
This is what I am working on now. I did “a circle warping”. Instead of winding warp back and forth between the pegs on a warping frame, I wound warp creating a sort of a circle around the pegs.
The reason to do warping in this way is to get Ikat effect using spaced dyed yarn. Matching colors of warp with spaced dyed (variegated) yarn requires to wind warp in a same direction. So I wound warp around. When I didn’t get the color I liked to match, I wrapped the yarn around the peg until I got the color to start another round. Sometimes I had to wound a lot to get the matching color. In this way I didn’t need to dye my own warp to have this Ikat effect. Lazy Me! I needed to pay attention to make a right threading cross each around though. I cut only one place. Other than that, it was same to do all the rest.
I learned this recently from a veteran teacher in Japan. I found his post on Facebook and asked about it.
The warp I used was cotton slub yarn. The texture and colors are so interesting. I am thinking to make a summer top from this piece. Let’s see.