Day 3 Kolkata (Calcutta) a textile workshop. In one area women were gathered together stitching threads for making Shibori fabric like this. It’s loosely related to tie dyeing. Stitches are made and the threads gathered up tight before the fabric is dyed. Where the stitching is the dye cannot penetrate. In other words the dye is resisted by the tightly squeezed cloth.
Another shibori design from the sample swatches.
Here are the women stitching.
What a mess it looked like but the design was carefully stitched out. We didn’t see who pulled up the stitches. I’ll bet the same women did. However it might take people with strong hands to do that job.
Some of the women showing us their work.
A close up to show the stitches.
** Editors note **
After two days of Peggy missing in action in India (no WiFi) I got this desperate email sent I think on her guide’s cell phone:
“No wifi for several nights. Hard to keep track of each day’s stuff. Got wifi from guide now in Along. Hot humid. Stand up toilet seat. Elephant working with driver and load. Roads worse than ever seen. Dry but ruts and rocks and mud slides. Four wheel drive in lowest gear for six hour drive. Running now with sweat. Off to see a market. In boonies.”
Now just tonight I’ve received 27 photos on Instagram one of them titled “Day 6”. I’ll try to unjumble them and will post a few shortly.
AND it’s Peggy’s birthday tomorrow!
Calcutta. Hand tying fringe at the workshop.
Every knot exactly right.
Embroidery area at the workshop.
Interesting that this is man’s work. Note their postures.
Another area clamped wooden pieces on folded cloth to resist the dye for interesting patterns.
Clamp resist dyed fabric.
A beautiful Marin sunrise saw me off to Calcutta (spelled with a K).
It’s obvious we are on a plane to India. I was thrilled to see all the beautiful saris on the plane. Such gorgeous textiles to take in and enjoy.
If it’s not a sari it can be a beautiful textile. So interesting to see how the women wear their fabrics.
More airport dress.
More airport dress. I know I’m in India.
Even on the streets and in hot weather. I think the sari must be comfortable.
Even the men appreciate nice textiles. We just met him before setting out for the airport for our next stop. I wonder if he is our guide.
I’m off on my next trip to a special part of India called Arunachal Pradesh and then on to Bhutan. I’ll try to send daily posts and pictures as I’ve done on other trips. However, the WiFi may be not as dependable. You can become a subscriber to my blog and receive the posts in your email if you like. See how to do that on my home page in the upper right corner of the page. Of course this is a textile trip and I think we’ll have fantastic scenery. There will be many winding roads and mountains. I hope the monsoon rains don’t change our plans. The map shows the road trip path of our itinerary. There is a gap in it because the map didn’t show any roads at that point.
Here is a live Google Map link so you can follow me along on my trip: MAP of MY India & Bhutan Trip
When Pat Keily sent me his question, I gave him my thoughts but non suited his problem with floating shafts with multiple tie-ups. Here is what he wrote for this guest post to explain the problem and his happy solution. Thanks for contributing this tip, Pat!
“I have a 67-year-old LeClerc Nilus 36-inch, 10 treadle loom that has given me fits. The problem has been floating frames on multiple tie-ups. For some reason still unbeknownst to me, depressing a treadle would cause one or more frames to “float” an inch or so off the bottom. I was finally able to determine the cause and solution by googling the right key words. The problem is caused by the weight of the treadles (but why depressing a treadle would cause this is beyond me) lifting the jack. The solution is to install springs that keep the treadles from weighing down the frames. After searching for the right size springs and seeing they would cost over $50, my wife came up with a much better idea. We went to the Dollar Store and bought clasp-free hair bands for 10 cents each (pack of ten for a dollar). I bought 20 eye screws, installed ten in the end of the treadles and ten on a hardwood strip that I attached to the loom (Pat told me that he opened the “eyes” with two pairs of pliers). I slipped the hair band (fancy rubber bands) onto the eye screws and my floating frames floated right out of my life!”
In Japan, one always gives a gift when visiting someone. When we visited an artisan or maker, we always gave our more “important” gifts.
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.
Here is how the clamp on my sewing cabinet works. I have needed to make patches on my travel vest after each trip. The clamp acts like a third hand and is really a help to stitch along. I began using it right after my recent Japan trip. the Japanese word for patching things is boro.
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 paper tape for sore spots on your feet and toes. This is the best thing. Hikers told me about it. Wrap any tender spots before they get really sore. Be sure to get “paper tape “.
Every hotel had plenty of outlets for charging electronic devices and batteries. All had WiFi as well.
Hotels had electric tea kettles and instant coffee. Very few coffee shops had decaf coffee. I brought instant decaf from Starbucks at home.
You will need to take off your shoes very often when visiting artisans. Shoehorns are usually available. Also take business cards. I made some with Japanese on one side and English on the other.
Department stores have great food courts in the basement levels and bakeries. We often took food home to our hotel for dinners. Breakfast could be with take out or Starbucks.
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.
Day 21. A walk after dinner in our neighborhood. After a tiring and hot day at a flea market a two hour train outside of Tokyo we took a stroll and marveled at the architecture.
This building offers a free smoking place.
The building in the middle will soon be over shadowed by the one behind it under construction.
The building under construction has drapes pulled back. I assume that they were closed in the winter and now are pulled back for the summer. It is a huge project.
This one is covered with plants. The truck going by hides that there is a lowly Family Mart on the street level (like a Seven Eleven).
Tokyo Tower and the moon.
Tokyo Tower and its reflection. What a nice way to end another fine day. Tonight is “get serious packing night”. It’s our next to the last night. We are hoping to come back next spring.
Day 20. Asakusa gate was where we began our day in Tokyo–to say it was crowded is a huge understatement. We headed for the Amuse Museum near the big temple to see the new Boro Exhibit.
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.
It was a mob scene around the flower exhibition and a long line of women waiting to pay for accessories that were for sale.
Finally we got through the crowd to the kimono department where spent probably well over an hour at the special exhibit and demonstrations.
There was this fascinating smallish table loom set up to make fancy brocade fabric for small purses.
The warp was made of paper strip!
Here was the intricate pattern being woven. All done by picking up threads row by row.
Here was a small bag on display and for sake using the paper warp brocade fabric. Beautiful.
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.
The subway stop for this favorite area of ours.
There is a whole lot of crazy architecture along the street with the Issey Miyaki shops.
Our absolute favorite lunch place. Get there early to avoid a wait.
Our absolute favorite dessert place. Notice the line of people waiting to get in. The half hour wait was worth it.
Our absolute favorite dessert.
Gorgeous peonys were everywhere in the flower shop in front of the tea shop. We noticed that they also served food besides lovely teas and desserts.
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.
This time we took a boat to see the fishing and the boats came right up beside us.
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.
A woman in a shop was tying designs on a T shirt. She was too fast to catch. I should have taken a video.
A lovely scene in Arimatsu.
A woman was filling the spaces in a dried plant seed pod with tiny tiny scraps of shibori fabric. They were charming but unbelievable. I admired them and she gave them to me as a present. So nice.
There were several photographers shooting the traditional old buildings which are really old and beautifully preserved here.
A view along the Main Street where all the preserved houses are.
Day 16. A day trip to Osaka to see two wonderful museums.
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.
Across a huge rose garden in full bloom was this Mingei museum ( Japanese folk art). This is the aesthetic I really love. It was a hot day and many people had their umbrellas up.
Back in Kyoto we’ve seen lots of beautiful flowers. This pot of tall amaryllis in a tiny restaurant took my breath away.
A cute little shop in Kyoto.
Sign outside the handkerchief bakery. It’s so much fun walking around Kyoto.
Day 15. Another wonderful day in Kyoto and we relaxed after a tiring day with a free drink at the hotel.
Cathy after 3 hours at the flea market on Sunday.
The flea market was really crowded on a hot day.
This booth of textiles was a mess but most were more organized. We had to check out every one–probably 100 or so.
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.
This is a Starbucks where we thought we’d rest up. It was jammed but it felt good to sit down and watch the people.
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.
A more modern style with a taller second floor next door to the old style house.
Outside a doorway on our walk. The natural rock made a nice bench.
Many doorways had pretty flowers. Never mind the red box.
Our goal was to visit a famous gold leaf artist, Mr. Yasushi Noguchi. It will take a whole other post to tell about our wonderful visit.
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.
This shows where the ikat warp threads are joined with the white foundation warp behind the heddles on the loom shown in yesterday’s post.
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.
A close look at the threads tied for ikat cloth. When they are put on the loom the tied will be removed and the yarns will be beige and white.
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.
Here is the warp with the pattern painted on it.
There are two warps on the loom. The patterned one and a white one which is the main part of the cloth. The two are integrated in the heddles and woven together.
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.
This is the tool used to “paint” the pattern on the warps.
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.
Traditional Mensa narrow obi. I saw a picture with both men and women wearing this narrow “belt”. This is the traditional color but now many colors are available.
Traditionally the wefts were beaten in with a sword. Now the looms use a beater to do the job. With warp face cloth getting a clear shed and beating in the wefts are issues to consider.
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.