Japan Tour 2018 – Day 9 – Our last day in Yonezawa. We had an appointment to visit Nonohanazome Studio, the weaving and natural dyeing studio of Goichi Suwa. After tea with him and his mother we toured his factory. Here we are at the end of our visit. Mr Suwa is holding the gifts Cathy and I presented him. His showroom had many rolls of kimono cloth made from a variety of fibers as well as silk that were dyed with natural dyes. He has two weaving rooms—one for hand weaving which had a jacquard loom going making plain weave on an ikat warp. Another weaver was weaving natural dyed strips of cloth for heavier sakiori cloth for an obi. The other room had around 3-4 power looms. The dobby loom was making loud rhythmic clacking sounds which I love to hear. I took a video mainly for that sound but got nice pictures of a middle aged woman bending over and watching carefully to be sure the width stayed perfect and periodically she would stop the machine to mover her measuring tape just like we do.
Here Mr. Suwa is showing us his indigo vats. This one was only 2weeks old and not ready yet. He makes new vats 3 times a year. He brought out a big bottle of sake to show us that it is an ingredient that adds sugar to the vat. He uses the “sukumo” (spelling) method for making his indigo. Japanese who specialize in indigo are famous for their rich colors and shades. We saw an alter above the vats which I’ve heard is common around indigo vats.
Here was a big pot boiling with these twigs to make dye. He dyes with the twigs from flowering cherry trees cut just before the blossoms bloom. He gets these from trees that have fallen under the weight of winter snow. I said I’d try it in San Francisco because we have cherry blossoms too but then remembered we don’t have the snow! He gave me some twigs to dye with when I get home. I’m still going to keep an eye out for cherry tree trimmings to cook up for dye.
Here is the pot boiling away for a red dye. Cherry gives pink. A new to me dye for red is a plant called Akane. I will learn about it when I come back to Japan in June for the Shibori Symposium.
These come from safflower flowers. This area of Japan is famous for benebana (spelling) the name for dyeing with safflowers. When I come to the International Shibori Symposium in this area next month we will go to a field of flowers and pick them for the dye. That’s the reason for having the symposium in hot July in Japan. I’ve seen these little patties which I assume are made somehow from the flowers for the dye. All to be learned.
This is the end of a kimono length with the label that tells that the fabric is woven from yarn made from fiddle head ferns! Last week we saw people drying little pieces of these on mats on the road and driveways. Yesterday we ate small pieces on our soba. Editors note for Day 8: The process of ikat using boards is called itijime. The owner of the studio is Mr. Sato.