Our guide took us to visit Kubota-san in Kyoto, a stencil dyer. We had a lovely time visiting after seeing his studio where they were printing a kimono-length piece of cloth. When I gave him a silk handkerchief I dyed after folding it an interesting way and then doing arashi-shibori (pole dyeing) in my indigo vat. He was pleased and immediately put it into his pocket! I had been worried that it wasn’t useful, just a unique piece of silk!
This is the way Japanese often wrap things. I realized I had a little collection and displayed them in the window of our gift shop. I use them often when carrying things. The big one is really useful for carrying things to a pot luck. I also am using it now while carrying my work back and forth from the studio. I think I bought them when I just liked the cloth. Often the cloth is two-faced—that is, woven with two different colors or patterns on a single piece of cloth. Most are crepe—they stretch so nicely to tie.
They are easy to tie this way. You just set the object diagonally on the cloth and tie the opposite corners in a knot. The knotted ends form the handle for carrying. I have seen several books with different ways to wrap things with a furoshiki—even a wine bottle!
My first one is the big one given to me when we visited a stencil dyer long ago—in 1967. I’ve never found that dyer on all the trips I’ve made after that.
At a flea market I found the tiny ones—couldn’t bargain the seller down! One we bought at a sale in a department store. I’d seen one for a hundred dollars in a special natural dye shop. At the sale I got it for a “song” after pawing my way through a pile of furoshikis along with other women looking for bargains.
Many years ago I took a class in damask and learned about satins and I focused on warp face and weft face and color. I don’t know why I thought I needed 11 yards, but I made the warp that long. I would say it was about 15” wide. The warp was blue and grey out of 20/2 pearl cotton. The threading was 2 blocks and then I played with how colors mixed and looked next to each other. I still have a large stash of a lot of colors and shades of sewing thread which I used for wefts.
Since I was playing, sometimes the “right side” was on top and sometimes the “wrong side”. Of course there was no repeat!
When I showed it to my students one day Antione Alexander said he could make a coat out of it. The next week he had a muslin and the next week the completed coat! WOW! Later I had a seamstress put in interfacing and a lining. I wore it to the symphony a few weeks ago and have gotten nice compliments every time I wear it. I really feel I lucked out! I think he did a great job.
After each trip I seem to need to patch worn places and last time, a 3-corner tear. (I learned the name for that kind of tear in 4-H as a kid). When we took this photo, I realized that I’d sewn one of the pockets shut!! Another job to do before the next trip. Here is the current version after the trip to Japan in May. It felt so good when I put it on for the photos–nice and clean. At the end of a trip it is limp from sweat and constant wearing every day! I love it because of the pockets: for my camera, purse, train tickets, hotel key pad and pen. This is a Safekeeper vest made by Marion Gartler in Seattle. She brought them to Berkeley for a trunk show a few years ago.
When I saw this applique wall hanging in a show last fall, I fell in love with the sewing cabinet. It was made by Hiroko Watanabe.
On the second day in Okinawa I found “my” sewing cabinet in a tiny, crowded antique shop. I figured I’d have to carry it all around for three weeks but discovered it fit into my suitcase. (Taking up space I needed for other things.)
I knew it needed some kind of clip because of the way it was shown in the hanging. It took some searching, but I found it in the sewing notions area in a department store. Sewing shops didn’t carry them because “no one uses them or sews anymore.” All the kimonos I’ve seen are hand sewn using the clip to tension the cloth while sewing. It really works and I love it. I made the pin cushion as soon as I got home.
Day 23. Some thoughts about traveling in Japan. Go while you are physically fit. Don’t wait until you can’t get around. All the bathtubs in our hotels were very deep– at least up to my knees so lifting your legs into the tub just for a shower could be challenging. Lots and lots of steps on the subways too.
Take a tour this fall with my tour leader, Yoshiko Wada. It will be wonderful. She knows so many places and interesting artisans. There is a trip coming up in the fall. Go to: slowfiberstudios.com/tours/Japan-2017.
Day 22. A cosmopolitan day in Tokyo. In the morning we went to the Shibuya district to look for interesting contemporary shops and up-to-date people watching. I was shocked at the crowds we saw when we got out of the subway. All these people were waiting for the light to change so they could cross the street. We ducked into the Seibu department store to get away from the hordes of people and to cool off. There were nice contemporary and designer clothes to look at. I got a nice linen blouse.
We left these Shibuya crowds and headed for our favorite tea shop for lunch. It was too crowded so we headed for our favorite lunch place and the wait was worse so we went across the alley to another place and had a great lunch in the Omonte-Santo district.
Then we spent the afternoon in the Nihombashi district in the Takashimaya department store. On an upper floor were maybe a dozen craftsmen (and their wives) demonstrating their craft and selling their goods. This weaver was weaving weft ikat fabric and had lovely things. I treated myself to a tote bag with a crane on it done in weft ikat. In another area was a weaver of fabric for contemporary clothing. I bought a simple jacket for myself. My friend at home asked me to buy her something that I would like. We were lucky there was another jacket just like it so I got one for my friend who lives across the hall from me.
Then home to our hotel in the Shiba district for a “last night” sake. It was sad to think of leaving a country we love so much. Then to our room to eat a lovely take-out dinner complete with a delicious bing cherry tart. Then the job of packing began. We leave Tuesday morning and will get into San Francisco Tuesday afternoon.
This is gold leaf on paper cut into strips for wefts for obi weaving. For the paper warp loom in my previous post I think the paper was cut in a similar way and put on the loom before the strips were detached from the paper at the margins. The gold leaf can be patterned or plain.
Here is an example of Boro–patching with scraps of fabric done in the cold-winter area of Hokkaido. There were quotes I liked from the labels. “The beauty of practically”. “Lovingly mended with diverse cotton fabrics”. “Only property owners had a control over even small fabric scraps. Possession of those scraps proved one’s social status and wealth”. There were cloths used when giving birth that had been around for generations. They were boiled before the birth to kill any lice!
Next we went to the big Mitsukoshi department store and spent the entire afternoon there. First we encountered a flower arranging exhibit as we were heading to the kimono department. There were many arrangements to be seen but tickets were required to see the masters’ arrangements.
Day 19. TOKYO!!
On our first day we went to one of our most favorite areas. There are several Issey Miyaki shops each featuring a different theme. Pleats Please is one another features bags another the folded fashions plus a mens and a women’s shop. A walk up and down the street is always on our list along with great places for lunch and “tea” which means dessert.
Day 18. One the same day that we went to Arimatsu we came back to our hotel in Nagoya and napped for an hour then took s train to the town of Gifu to see the amazing cormorant fishing. I saw it 50 years ago but a distance away from a bridge. I’ve never forgotten the experience.
These photos I took from post cards and pamphlets. I don’t know if I got any good pictures or not. I tried videos, too but I’ll have to see when I get home if anything turned out. It was exciting to see all of this up close from our boat.
There were quite a few of these boats that went out to watch the fishermen with the cormorants. It was really lovely and quiet after it got dark. You could hear the whistle or clicking of the fishermen and that’s all.
The inside of our boat. We didn’t have very many in our boat so it was easy to move around in our places to take pictures. We sat on tatami mats which made it special. Plastic bags were provided for our shoes.
Day 17. We went to Nagoya for two nights so that we could take a train to the town if Arimatsu which is known for its many shibori (tie dye) artisans. Almost every place was closed on Wednesday the day we went but we did see a little evidence that shibori was important. This sign was in many places that were closed. A few (enough) shops were open and were found lots of shibori things.
This ethnographic museum was spectacular. The building was too big to get in one photo. The previous photo was of the special exhibits building. The exhibit was about beads of the world. It was huge an fascinating and beautifully presented.
Rolls and rolls of fabrics. Most booths had a specialty. I bought mostly small one-meter fragments of old silk fabrics taken from old kimonos. Everything fit in my suitcase up to the brim. What I will do after the flea market in Tokyo I don’t know.
Day 14. Leaving Okinawa for Kyoto. The architecture in all of Okinawa was so ugly to my eye. This was outside the front door of our hotel. We realized that everything had been bombed during the war and this is what has been built since. The people and the textiles more than made up however.
Beautiful beautiful Kyoto. We walked along some residential streets on our first day in Kyoto and I loved seeing the beauty here. This is what I seek out in Japan. This is an old style building with the second floor being very low. It would have been where the servants lived. The slits for windows upstairs were for collecting crickets we were told. They they would have been kept in small cages. I remember seeing the cages at Cost Plus when we came to San Francisco in the 60s.
Day 13 – Ikat weft thread in a shuttle in Ishigaki. The weft thread has the dark and white areas that an ikat thread would have after dyeing and removing the ties. The special thing here is how the weft is in the shuttle. The weft “bundle” is made similar to winding a kite stick. The tool it is wound on looks a bit like a mechanical pencil or pen but there is a split at one end so you can anchor and start to wind the beginning of the weft thread around that end. (The weft thread will come out of the center of the bundle when inside the shuttle). The thread is just wound around the pencil-like tool a few times then it is wound like a kite stick around the tool. In my books you can see that I wind my warps on a stick that I call a kite stick in the way a kite stick is wound instead of chaining the warp. A bamboo stick holds the weft bundle in place and the thread comes off like any bobbin.
She was winding the weft thread on the tool too fast for me to get a good photo of the end where the weft was anchored and started. Here the weaver is winding the thread around a few times before beginning the “kite stick” technique. (Winding a kite stick is very much like winding on a nitty noddy.)
To keep the pattern exact the cloth is stretched to the width in the reed with the bamboo stick here. Also notice that the edge of the cloth isn’t perfectly straight. That’s because when the ikat weft thread is being woven it has to be slid either to the left or right so it lines up perfectly. The weft loops at the edge shows where the thread had been moved so it will line up. I bought a hanging with just a small amount of weft ikat and I love seeing the straight edges except where there are small weft loops sticking out where the weft ikat pattern is woven.
Day 12 Ishigaki Island, Okinawa. We took a taxi to the Minsa Textile Institute & Minsa Craft Center and were met with lovely yarns drying outside the entrance. It is a large shop with a little museum upstairs. We spent quite a long time there. The weavers were winding huge warps onto beams to be put into looms when an order was placed for that color and design. There were tens of warp beams on the shelves to be woven as needed. We weren’t allowed to show photos of the process or the things in the shop. The shop was very attractive with contemporary colors and designs using traditional techniques woven on this island. Too bad I can’t show photos. Minsa technique means narrow weaving for obi for men and women. This shop used the warp faced technique with wider warps for lovely products to sell. Some examples were placemats, pillow covers, small coasters and lots of bags of all sizes. Everything was beautifully made.
Skeins drying after being dyed. The ones with the white plastic sticking out were ones that had been tied before dying. The area with the ties resisted the dye and will remain undyed. The cloth woven with these specially dyed threads in patterns is what is called “ikat”. Ikat is pronounced “e-cot”. See the next photo for a closer look.
In the afternoon we visited a small weaving studio where the patterned “ikat” cloth was woven on looms with the pattern warp on a reel device that fit onto the back of the loom. This I had never seen before. Instead of tying the pattern threads they were painted on the warp threads while the warp was on tension on this reel device. This meant that the patterns lined up perfectly and didn’t need adjusting like we had been seeing before on the other islands. The next photos will show closer looks.
This is what the woven cloth looks like. Besides the warp threads being patterned the weft threads are patterned as well by tying the ikat threads and then dyeing them. We call it double ikat when both warps and wefts are dyed in these ways. The warps are the vertical threads and the wefts are the horizontal threads.
Day 11. Ishigaki Island, Okinawa. The tradition in this area is of weaving narrow cloth called Mensa. The warps are very dense so the cloth is totally warp face. There is a stripe with two warp ikat patterns. The traditional textile has a”four-square” and a “5-square” pattern that stand for eternal love. This photo shows the 4-square design. The 5-square design is in the cloth,too, but not shown in this part of the cloth. This is s woman’s obi. A sash for the men is about 4″ wide; the women’s is bout 6″ wide. I love this piece because all the rest of the patterning comes from the arrangements of dark and light colors in the warp. They are woven on two shaft looms in plain weave; over one and under one.
At the end of a hot and humid day we tried the traditional Okinawan sweet treat: zenzai. It is made of red kidney beans sweetened with raw sugar and covered with shaved ice. We almost ordered one for each of the four of us but thankfully we were advised that one would be enough for all–and it definitely was. It was refreshing but I like soft ice cream better and that is found all over.
This is what I hoped to see and it was hanging to dry after being dyed with indigo. This woven thick piece is how the tiny white patterns are made. In the photo all the places where there is weaving resisted the indigo blue dye and remain white when this thick mat is unwoven. The unwoven threads with the tiny white areas are then put on the loom and the real cloth is woven.
marmarweaves commented: This is pretty unbelievable, if you had not seen it and shown it, it would be more than one could imagine. Astonishing. Thanks Peggy for taking us along.
Here is a close up of the edge of the piece woven and ready to dye. Bundles of threads are woven. Where the threads float is where the dye will sink in. Where they are woven will be too tight and won’t allow the dye to penetrate causing the small white patterns.
Day 9. Miyako Island. We had time to drive around before the shops opened today, Mother’s Day. We saw many butterflies on a little sandy walk to the beach. This island is proud of its beaches. A butterfly museum we were seeking closed but it was thrilling to see so many out in nature–and photographable with my stop motion setting on my new camera.
Cathy settling the bill with the shop owner at a really nice shop with lots of Miyako Island textiles. It was great that she sold pieces cut from old kimonos or lengths of fabrics. Tomorrow we will visit a workshop and we hope to see how they ikat such tiny patterns. I’m betting I can guess how it’s done in principle but we’ll have to see.
Day 8. Chibana Village Okinawa. At the Chibana Hanaori Cooperative they also wove cloth with extra warp threads to create patterns with threads floating on the surface. This complicated but beautiful cloth also had some ikat designs where the tied and dyed threads are woven in the cloth along with areas where the threads ride on the surface of the cloth.
In this area the shafts on the loom are lifted to create the patterns on the top of the cloth with this hook. In the previous studio they pulled down the shafts with their toe or foot to make the patterns.
For this pattern extra threads were laid in as the weaving progressed. We call this inlay technique. The left side if the photo is the right dide of the cloth and the right side shows the back side. See the next photo.
The warp beams are square but they are round with the warp wound on them. There is a square “sleeve” made of wood that goes on the beam before the warp is wound on. I don’t know why. The photo shows that one warp is the foundation thread and the other for the pattern.
Day 7 Public Market in Naha Okinawa. This seafood market is famous in Naha. You make tour selections then go upstairs where the food has been prepared and you sit down and eat it. This fish caught our eye among many odd looking products of the sea.
Day 5 Naha Okinawa. This is glorious cloth woven by Michiko Uehara an artist/weaver who has exhibited in New York as well as in Japan. She reels the silk threads off the cocoons herself and weaves the most sheer cloth I’ve ever seen. This piece is double woven as a tube.
One piece was woven both warp and weft with threads that came from single cocoons. Always several if not 10 or so are reeled off at once to form fine threads. I held the cloth and was amazed that is was light as a feather. What you see here are the warp threads. If you look closely you can glimpse the cloth.
One of Michiko’s daughters is a potter and made these tiny containers for the tea in the tea ceremony. These are what I’ve been so interested in. Michiko herself wove her fine silks for the bags for the containers made by a contemporary potter in a joint exhibition.