Since we all arrived on different days, most of us met in the lobby of a hotel in Tokyo. Which was more or less on the other side of town. Underestimating the Japanese inability to speak English and overestimating my own sense of direction, I wandered around more or less in circles on my search for Tokyo Station. It was easier the day before when I arrived and just took the most direct route to the hostel. 45 minutes later (I did even then see interesting parts of Tokyo‘s banking quarter which were not supposed to be on my direct route) I arrived there and that was it. But the next day I felt adventurous and thought I could just walk to Shinjuku Station next to which we were supposed to meet. And it would have been possible only I lost my way so many times on the way to Tokyo Station that what took me 45 minutes the day before took me more than 1.5 hours the next day. And yes, I have Google maps and I had a physical map as well. Google maps shows only Kanji (the Chinese-Japanese characters) and doesn‘t seem to be quite sure about directions either when it comes to navigation and my physical map only showed Romanji (our letter system). Yes, Tokyo has his main streets labeled with both writing systems. But I got lost in the maze of small backstreets with no Romanji street signs. A very, very nice policeman (with less than basic English) put me back on my track and then I just took a taxi (whose driver didn’t speak English either) to Shinjuku Station and arrived just in time after an odyssey of almost 3 hours.
wikipedia commons pic of shinjuku station yamamoto line - I was too confused to take any pictures
Like with so many big cities it seems almost unbelievable how rural it can become only a few kilometers outside the wider city boundaries. And Fujino is rural.
this is how bamboo sprouts - I was constantly amazed at this wonder
Wonderfully so with those lush green steep hills, bamboo forests, tea terraces and the scattered farm houses.Walking up the steep hill to Bryan’s house you are greeted by two large indigo vats in ceramic pots that are standing right and left to his main entrance. We would use these vats every day over the course of the next 10 days.
The first thing Bryan did was to get us introduced into the chemistry of the indigo vats, how to judge the vat’s health, feed it with what it might need and how to use it.
Since not all of us had experience in dyeing with indigo out first exercise was over dyeing several skeins of cotton yarn. Indigo has the wonderful property of making everything look much nicer. Even weird beige colours and ghastly turquoises. Bryan owns an old industrial knitting machine with which he produces long tubes of knitted fabric. And those over dyed yarns were meant for this knitting machine. At the end of the workshop each of us got her piece of knitted fabric. It might just be enough to a sleeveless t-shirt, I’m still pondering. (Which will take me a while like always.)
knitted fabric from our first cotton skeins. Slightly striped with darker, lighter and mottled indigo skeins
With the over dyeing of the skeins, Bryan established a kind of base line for his students. From where he could move on. With out next task we moved to the large and wide field of shibori.I had some experience with basic shibori stitching in the past. During Glennis’ workshops I folded those mandalas and stitched the dragon fly. More or less successful.
folded triangles stitched and dyed
At Bryan’s I was introduced to the high ART of Shibori. The many variations, the time and effort one can invest in one piece and the nice little tricks in dyeing it. I didn’t put that much time into Shibori though because of all the many other textile techniques I was offered.
96 year old Ogata san visitig us, making Udon noodles and dyeing shibori in between
Ogata san in front of her shibori pieces
one of Mini's shibori pieces which took her the better part of two weeks to prepare
Especially Katazome.Katazome is the Japanese craft of stencelling a resist on fabric. Something I really wanted to learn now for quite a while. We have a similar technique in Germany called Blaudruck. But unlike Katazome this is done by printing the resist with wood block prints onto the fabric before dyeing it with indigo (in our case it was mostly done with woad and naturally we wouldn’t use rice paste but some wheat flour paste but that’s just local flavour). Because of the wood blocks local patterns usually are much smaller and live mostly from the repeat.
one of my katazome pieces
a vintage stencil
Katagami are larger and the patterns can be much more elaborate depending on the provenance. Kaki Shibugami, the special stencil paper is made from paper glued together by fermented unripe persimmon juice high in tannin content and then smoked over a wood fire for several days. It is almost impossible to get outside of Japan (and if only to exhorbitant prices) and since unripe not sweet kaki are not available at my place (or anywhere near) I will have to find another method to produce something similar useful.
my little shifuku pouch
you can see the silk netting that is glued to one side to protect the stencils from falling apart
Right now I’m thinking of walnut or oak tannin or simply boiled lineseed oil as it is used as base coat in paintings. If all fails I will have to resort to plastic stencil paper. Not my favourite but better than buying the original stuff from Japan (or someplace else). Again, something I have to ponder about.After shibori we got out our homework. He had send us some shibugami to cut our own stencils at home.
And now he showed us how to make the resist paste (although we ended up using ready to use resist paste everything else would have ended in very complicated logistics with 9 people), how to prepare the stencils and the fabric and how to apply the paste onto the stencil and the fabric. And he brought us to a katazome master whose workshop we could visit and use for some smaller stencil experiments. Especially his fermentation indigo vats were very interesting.
Mini's katazome. Resisted, dried, dyed, resisted again, dried, dyed and I lost count if there werde more stages involved
a katazome piece consisting only of tiny dots
the above after dyeing
From Katazome we moved on to Kumihimo and Weaving. (Not that we didn't still do all the other things as well. Bryan's workshop is more like a textile bootcamp with little sleep and more craft possibilities than you can imagine. At one point I was so overwhelmed by all the possibilities I just stood a little dazed in the hall doing nothing until my head cleared. At least food and entertainment is really nice.)
Right from the start I was hooked on kumihimo. So much that I ordered my own Marudai (the stand you use for braiding) over the internet at home. Luckily for me I already have the bobbins. A craft shop closed several years ago and sold them for a bargain. And I like them for fixing broken warp threads. The Marudai, made by a local wood turner from local wood, arrived on wednesday and it is so beautiful. And in use already.
Our little bits of weaving (about half a yard each) were done on a very old traditional Japanese loom. She was called – very endearingly – The Beast by all of us outsized gaijin women. And she had tended to bitch around a bit eating warp threads by the dozen if you were not careful. But we succeeded in weaving our piece without any long term damages.
And I was introduced to another bit of weaving. One of us was so nice to show Bryan how to warp and thread his 4 shaft loom. As I understood it the loom was a rather new acquisition and he and her were not quite on good terms yet. Luckily I had the chance to take more than a peek and learn so much for my own 4 shaft darling. Thank you for the opportunity.
And all the while we dyed on, learned to sew little pouches called shifiku, visited the Folkart Museum in Tokyo, learned how to behave in an Onsen (my first time) and learned how much all parts of Japanese culture are interlaced into each other.
Japan was a rather isolated country for more than a millenium. Just imagine a country whose basic garment design didn’t change for 1300 years. (Look at how people clothed themselves in the 6th century Europe and then in the 10th or the 11th, the 12th or during rokkoko, baroque, regency ….?) And now imagine those 1300 years only wearing one kind of clothing. A more or less practical one and one on whose fabric amount taxes were paid. A basic piece of clothing that had only the chance to subtle changes. Much like the whole society. Imagine a country with a continuing line of crafts and craftspeople, without the suppression of the church, without cultural setbacks and lost inventions, lost knowledge and without permanent waves of mass migration from one end of the continent to the other, without constant invading forces that brought their own culture with them and without next to none external influences. And you get a culture which had so much time to get so intricately interlaced that from subtle non-verbal communication to flower arrangements to tea ceremonies from pottery to fabrics everything is connected. This realisation hit me at one point. How close knit the Japanese culture (at least up to WW2) was. How little was left to accident and choice. And how different it was to ours. European culture is basically the antithesis to Japanese culture.
Even in early days celtic rulers (I’m talking about him, 500 BC) in what today is Southern Germany were buried with Greek pottery and amber from the Baltic Sea. Trade later reached as far as China (Silk Road) and all over the world. There were so many different oppressing, suppressing and encouraging influences over the millennia. And how impossible it is to compare both cultures. (And I am talking only about Japanese and the European hotpot, ignoring the fact that there are so many other cultures out there either almost or actually extinct or still existing, ignoring whole continents of culture and societies just for the sake of literary flow.)
I am completely fascinated and feel like I am on the first steps of a new road. Embarking on a journey, one that might lead me nowhere or to a lot of interesting places. Who knows.
momo (back) and geiger (front) in the entrance hall
Another travel companion left my needles. A nice tote. I love backpacks but I haven't had a nice one which suits my needs for a long time now. And my red velvet bag is way too heavy in itself, so I needwanted a new one.
honestly, I love the crewel embroidery but I wouldn't be caught dead with a sofa cushion like that on my sofa. Especially not with my four legged friends on the same sofa.
But as a tote it's grand.
It was embroidered (not by me) on a sturdy. densely woven burlap oder linen. I added a cotton layer behind the embroidery so that I would have a nice inner pocket and protection for the embroidery threads.
I still have my katazome stencils to cut. Bryan sent us wonderful shibugami (stencil paper) but I can't decide on the motive. I's drawn about 10 and now I have to decide. And soon. I'll be off end of next week.
I'm going to Japan end of month. To Bryan Whitehead and his Indigo Textile Workshop. This will be a first in a lot of things for me. I never flew before let alone some long distance flight and of course, I've never been to Japan before. It seems a lot of people in my vicinity already had this experience (long distance flights and/or Japan) and so they gave me a lot of nice hints and tips.
One thing all mentioned was that it gets really cold on long distance flights and that I should wear something loose and in layers. So I went to the stash where I still had this linen doubleweave.
in times like these time off is hard to come by. BUT we managed. DH and I went to Eindhoven's Phantasium event to a concert of our favourite band Abney Park.
And it was wonderful. Abney Park is even better life. It was their first concert on the continent. They are from the Seattle area and up until now they were only performing in Britain. Driving nearly 1500 km only for a concert is a luxury we don't have. But 380 km is quite another thing. Our best friend watched the dogs for us (I do so much love him for that favour) and we stayed in a hotel for the night. My first stay in a hotel btw.
The way I travelled so far war either a rented holiday home (since we have the dogs) or youth hostels or some other weird way to spend the night, tents and rented caravans. (I think the weirdest lodging was a social project in London. Old houses were transformed into hostels and you were kind of shanghaied at Victoria Station. There were tough looking guys distributing flyers and they drove you off in small cars with too many passengers and the one next to the door had to actually hold it close. It proved quite safe and legit and really cheap. Not much comfort but 8 GBP for a night in London? I don't expect much and would never dream of complaining.)
Abney Park's musicians are whole-blood performers. And they brought so much fun to the stage, it was incredible. DH and I sang and danced the whole time. We had the time of our lives. Those two days were just as good as a fortnight holiday. Even without the sea ;o)
While watching several dye pots over the last days, I was making stuff. The first new and really cool and useful finished object is: A Tool Roll.
closed it looks like this
And then you unroll it and there is so much place for all the usefull little tools I like to carry around.
and my most favourite tool: The Third Hand
and a small book of needles
in the cigar boxes are knitting needles, crochet needles and some wooden needles for nalbinding and other small stuff
and some stitching
I used rather pale shibori/indigo dyed fabrics, the purple binding is logwood dyed cotton and some walnut dyed cotton for the little pockets. Unrolled it is 63 cm long and 27 cm wide (24" x 10"). In case of emergency, you can use it as a slightly bumpy neck roll as well ;o)
Next on the list are: a pair of trousers (already in the first stages, I need to turn the felled seams now, add the waistband and dye it), a long arm shirt (this one has a bit of a history already and might take another while), two sleeveless shirts. All the while the dye pots simmer and I guard them.
Right now, I'm teaching a Sustainability workshop in the Online Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (OLG). We are now celebrating our 10th anniversary and I am a member now for about 5 years. I'm teaching workshops in the OLG almost from the beginning. Its a sharing thing. Knowledgeable members share what they know and can. I like it very much, even if it blocks a month almost every year. I'm memer in the Worksshop coordination team as well and so it happens that we have one month left and I come up with a workshop idea. This is my second this year. It's calles "Sustainability in Textile Crafts" and threefolded. 1. I provide participants with information on our fibres. Where they come from and how they fit into an ecological and social fairness thought. 2. together with the other members we come up with things we can do better. Ideas with what to do with scraps like thrums for example (for non-weavers: thrums are the waste inches or yards from warps on floor looms). And 3. we all make a project from our stash. And only from our stash. No buying something to complete it (though swapping is "allowed"), only stash. Very cool, I can tell you. And so, as a kind of by-product of the workshop, I am working on another shirt:
one of my typical men's shirts. Great fabric, nice size and ugly cuffs and collar. Not to mention the breast pocket. Anyway. Collar, cuffs and plastic buttons removed. Buttonholes strengthened with Jude's nice buttonhole idea from Cloth to Boro 2 and now I'm beginning to patch over ugly spots.
This one will get buttons from the start, since it is rather warm (very soft herringbone twill cotton) and planned for fall wear.
I think, I will become more active over here after this month's workshop. The indigo class is finished, most of the texts for the OLG workshop are written so now I can slowly and my dye shop is slowly falling into winter hibernation. So I think (hope) I will be able to sew more for myself now.
Like some strips, for example ;o)
another one is already in the making.
Oh, and then there was an annoucement:
If anyone from my German/French readers is living in the west of Germany and interested in a fibre/textile event in Strasbourg on the 2nd week of Octobre, I will be showing the 1-2-3-indigo-vat there. The detailed programme is not finished yet, but I will be there from Octobre 9th to 13th.
Strasbourg, Maison Mimir, Festival du texile - Les arts du Fil
I'm back from teaching a 3 day-workshop at a friend's studio 400 km north of here. My friend is a felter and natural dyer and wanted to offer more natural dyeing workshops in here studio to diversify her portfolio and asked me at the beginning of the year to teach one.
In one of my earlier lives I was a teacher in adult education. First at university, later at a school for the reintegration of (mostly long-term) unemployed people. In another life, I was also a stage actress and director. But stage fright in both lives never left me, on the contrary, it grew so big and it became so scary that I had to give up both jobs. Getting back to teaching a life workshop was a bit of a risky game but I had to try. (I taught some online workshops over the last few years, mostly in the online guild of weavers spinners and dyers, but that's not the same as standing in front of the participants.)
And it was so much fun. No stage fright at all, I was exhilarated and the participants were wonderful and the weather was great and ... in short, I am a happy camper again and quite confident to get back on that horse.And no, I won't get back into acting again, this is for other people.
Let's see what we did these 3 days ;o)
all different colours
We dyed linen, ramie and cotton fabrics and yarns with onion skins (red and yellow/brown), madder, cochineal, oak bark, oak leaved, walnut, and later with logwood and rhamnus berries and we bundled flowers.
bundled flowers in steeping bath.
And the result:
flower prints from the bundles
tagetes, hibiscus, carrot green, coreopsis and dahlias
the green of tagetes heads leave blueish spots
The disadvantage of a 3 day workshop is time. You don't have enough time to take it slow. So you always tell the participants they should take their time at home and let those bundles sit and steep for a week or longer.
oak bark and a happy teacher
At least oak bark shows some very nice results even after only 3 days.
linen and cotton yarns for stitching
onion skin, madder, cochineal and walnut
samples and a ombre dyed linen shirt in onion skin and madder root
We dyed lots of samples, made some nice experiments with ironwater (iron acteate) combined with lemon jiuce and we even painted with logwood.
painting with thickened logwood the yellow spots are from lemon juice
fixing the colour in a steam pot
just logwood and lemon juice
old clothes in new colours
The participants went home with some old clothes in new colours.
some cochineal samples
and a happy teacher
And since I am very courageous right now, my next workshop will begin next monday. This time, indigo dyeing ;o)
well, we're back. And yes, I would love to go back to the Ocean in a wink.
The winter garden was a treat and a really nice place to stitch. No wonder with this view:
It's amazing how much you can sew, knit, spin and stitch in just 2 weeks, even with three hours at the beach each day, doing your own cooking and such.
I finished my quilt with the natural dyed patches.
It took me about a year.
begun March 2011 in La Rochelle (during Isend 2011) and finished May 2012 in Plouhinec. A very french quilt, so to say ;o)
Stardust gained a new part (which will make more sense in times to come, I suppose)
But the first thing I had to do when I arrived was mending my jeans. It was a classic triangle tear at the backside and happened on my journey to France. In the spirit of Jude's class, it was mended and got a patch.
The patch came from my Contemporary Boro project:
A hemp shirt, I picked up at some flea market some time ago. I removed the cuffs, the collar and the unfortunate breast pockets (one of which helped out at the jeans). Some weird coconut buttons produced stains on the button facing and the arms as I dyed it in indigo.
And this is stage one of the transformation into something wearable
I covered the collar, put some small rectangular patches on the stains on the button facing and cut off the arms (I prefer 3/4 arms) and faced them with some indigo fabric.
Now there are still the stains on the right arm. No idea what to do about them.
There was some knitting as well.
stripy socks for me from some Regia yarn I had in my stash for years now.
One of my own yarns. Logwood on white. The hank was called 'Lila Liebe' ('Lilac Love') and when DH saw me cast on and knit some rows, he asked me if he could get them. So they were made for him with love.
And some long socks for me. I love to wear boots, so I need socks with long legs (about 10"). Yarn from my own dyeing.
No pictures from the spinning. Some nice naturally brown and sage organic cotton on the Indian takhli and a Mali bead spindle.