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.
Day 10. Tiny Patterns Woven at Miyako Traditional Crafts Research Center. It was impossible to imagine these patterns were tied and dyed (ikat) until we saw how it was done.
Imagine whole kimonos woven with such fine patterns! It was thrilling to see how it was done.
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 you can see the mat being unwoven and the threads have white areas where they were originally woven to resist the blue dye.
Here the threads are on the loom about to be woven into cloth for a kimono.
Here is a pattern piece ready for the dye pot. You can see the pattern that will eventually be woven into cloth.
On the loom if a thread isn’t exactly lined up it has to be tightened or loosen to be in the right place. The weaver watches carefully with every row.
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.
Another butterfly. Only a few really were in focus.
I was thrilled to see that this photo turned out.
This was the walk down to the beach.
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.
Outside the textile shop. It is near the airport and so close to our hotel that we walked “home”. I bought a lot of pieces of cloth that were irresistible.
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.
This is the back side if the previous cloth. The threads not on the “right side” float on the back 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.
Here the yellow thread is the starting point of an inlay design.
The warp beams on the looms were square.
A photo of Part of the weaving studio.
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 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.
Another silk woven by Michiko Uehara. She dropped it from the sir and it simply floated down. She showed us maybe 20 large pieces–each one more thrilling than the last.
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.
We also went to Haebaru Village to see kasuri cloth being tied, dyed, and woven. Here a man is painting the lines on the threads instead of tying and then dyeing them.
Here two sets of fine warp threads are being put into the reed.
These are warp threads that have been starched before weaving. The warp looked like straw.
Day 4. We flew to Kume Island for the day and visited a spectacular place where they make traditional cloth from raising the silk worms, reeling the silk off the cocoons, tying and dyeing the warp and weft threads and weaving. It is the Kumejoma Tsumugi Museum.
Here are baby silk worms being taken care of I can’t remember why the women were taking off the worms and putting them in the boxes. I think they were in the process of feeding them. They eat a lot of fresh mulberry leaves and will grow to the size of a thumb.
Here the women are unwinding the silk thread from the cocoons. You can see how many cocoons are making a single silk thread.
Here the tied and dyed warp threads are being adjusted so the pattern will be exactly lined up for each and every thread. The little bobbin is putting a bit of extra tension on a warp to keep the thread lined up.
This is a small area showing how the dyed threads come together in the woven cloth. This tiny motif is precise and woven by one of the experts.
I took a workshop with Yoshiko Wada’s Slow Fiber Studios in Berkeley, California recently. We learned to fold cloth in origami-like ways and then we did arashi shibori (pole wrapping shibori) with the cloth and got these lovely simple patterns. The teacher was Chris Palmer and his book is called Shadow folds: Surprisingly Easy-to-Make Geometric Designs in Fabric by Jeffrey Rutzky and Chris K. Palmer. I folded and dyed 11” silk squares I got already hemmed from Dharma Trading Company. This was my first attempt at arashi shibori and I used my own indigo vat. I am proud of the results for such a novice. They can be used singly or as a group as pieces for the wall or gifts. I took small pieces I’ve dyed and made little collage compositions and mounted them on squares of dark indigo linen I got in India a few years ago. We went to see the Matisse and Diebenkorn show yesterday and I decided to call these pieces “My Little Diebenkorns”! They can be used singly or in a group, too. I have put similar pieces in CD cases to present them! They also could be little coasters or gifts.
Finally! I wove a record of 7 1/2 inches the other day–in a 2-hour session. I think most of the repairs are done now and I can weave along. You can see how it is going on the video.
Here is a close up of the cloth with only one broken thread repair–hooray! I think I am finally on my way now. I make the repairs with colored sewing thread so I can see what I’m doing. Usually those threads will continue until the end of the warp so it will be a bit of a surprise to see what it looks like off the loom. I have about a yard done so far with the previous sessions averaging an inch or so each because of all the repairs that needed to be done. For each repair, I have to find the missing heddle and route the repair thread in the exact position where the broken thread was. I join the sewing thread to the silk one and weight it at the back of the loom. See a previous post of my set-up to weight the threads and keep them in order–keeping them in order is crucial so I have a cross on the stand where the weighted threads are.
Each composition is made up of fabrics that were in the same dye pot. The differences in the tones are due to the different fabrics I put into the pot. I love these subtle “colors”. The yellows were from woad plants. The browns were from green persimmons over dyed with indigo. I especially find myself liking things that have almost no color at all. One of these is from oak galls. I can’t remember all the specifics but I like to put dyed fabrics in a bath of iron water to “sadden” the color.
Over the holidays I dyed a lot in my very first indigo vat. Lots and lots of dips were necessary to get the different shades. I always used a variety of silks and cottons in each dye bath to get a variety of close tones. I’m thrilled with the results and all the “colors” I could get just by using different cloths. Then I did similar experiments with saffron, henna and turmeric. It has been fun seeing what I could get. My next post will show some of the art pieces I made using these small pieces.
I’m excited to announce that my first Kindle book (booklet) is now available on Amazon. It is in response to My Top Ten List of the most popular of my weaving tips. The most viewed tip was for Hemstitching! Almost 34,000 people have viewed this tip in the 5 years that my new website has been up. That amazes me and thrills me.
Hemstitching is a way to begin and end weaving on the loom without having to sew hems or knot fringes later, after the cloth has been taken off. For years I thought I couldn’t do it but when I was taught it I’ve loved the technique.
I’ve updated the material in the Kindle book and added a gallery of variations from old embroidery books. What makes my instructions special is that there are 9 step-by-step illustrations and text whereas most weaving sources only show one illustration and no text. There are directions for hemstitching at the beginning of your weaving and also at the end.
It is available for download on Amazon for $2.99. Of course it can be viewed on all Kindle readers and on most smart phones, tablets, and computers if you install the free Kindle reading app on your device.
You can buy the book from Amazon here: Peggy’s Weaving Tips: Hemstitching. I’d love it if you would give it a good review. If this is successful I’ll publish more Kindle booklets of weaving tip collections.
I’m weaving 125 fine threads per inch so I can weave another ruffle (see my gallery) which I will shibori dye with indigo. Then the ruffle will disappear and appear in the dyed and un-dyed areas. [click any photo to enlarge]
I’m trying to weave with finer-than-ever silk threads. I should have starched them first but didn’t because I didn’t realize it would be necessary. That would have made the threads stronger. There are 125 threads per inch and I made more threading errors than I’ve ever made in my life. I have spent hours correcting these almost invisible threads and have lost a few and a few have broken –there are 16 threads to date that are hanging off the back of my loom and I expect I’ll have more as I weave along. Here is a close up of the weaving and one broken thread pinned in. (I’ve been mending the threads with sewing thread so I can see them.) I used this stand which I’d used when I was weaving velvet to rig up a way to keep all the threads from tangling. Knowing that the only thread that can’t tangle is one under tension this is what I did. I took the threads as they came from the warp beam and made a cross to keep them in order.
Here is a close-up of the cross I made to keep the threads in order. To further keep them in order they went through this grid.
Here is how I tensioned the threads. These are fish net shuttles I used when weaving velvet.
While in Kyushu Island south of the main island of Japan near the town of Karume is a distinguished master craftsman kasuri dyer. Kasuri is a form of ikat and can be warp-wise or weft-wise. The threads are dyed in a pattern then put on the loom and woven. Here is a photo of Shoji Yamamura tying threads to make a pattern. Then the threads are dyed with indigo for the traditional blue and white kasuri fabrics we know. We bought one of his gorgeous pieces–a length of cloth for a kimono with the idea of splitting up the piece when we got home.
On a Saturday afternoon the three of us met to divide the fabric–over 15 yards.
Here one third has been cut off and we are about to cut off the second piece.
This is my piece and I love it more each day as it hangs on my wall.
This is the end piece– it’s the signature of the weaver and is woven at the beginning of the length of cloth. Note that the unwoven area shows the ikat pattern that was tied in the threads. Also notable is the dyeing of the warp stripes–a specialty of this artist.
Day 21. Our last day. The town of Miyazu is known for this natural sight.
We took a cable car up a mountain to get the famous view of the spit of land. Besides that view the town of Miyazu is known for its winner of the Ig Nobel Prize where it was studied to see if things looked different if you bend over and look between your legs. There were several locations provided for viewing and it was a hoot to see people bent over like this. When our Japanese friends tried to tell me about it ahead of time I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about! But this was the thing to do in Miyazu for sure.
This person had to hang on!
Lots of people took this in whether or not they did the bending thing.
We didn’t bend over but we were very amused…and it was cold up on the mountain.
Day 20 a visit to the village Kami-Seya outside of the town of Miyazu outside of Kyoto. Kami mean upper and we were at the top of these steps at a former school where people came for a workshop to learn to weave with wisteria.
This is what the wild wisteria vines look like. I had no idea they are so thick. Of course certain vines are better suited for the fibers and a certain part of the vine is used. The preparation is hugely time consuming.
The first step in preparation for the thin threads used for weaving. Each step results in finer and softer threads.
One of the steps is to smooth and separate the fibers in running water. A lot of time was taken for this step I thought.
Here the students were learning how to knot the fibers to make a continuous thread.
Here is a spool of thread. I’m not sure if it is for the warp or weft. From the look of the woven cloth both warp and weft threads may be prepared in the same way. These students have been coming to learn once a month to learn all the stages. The first one was In the spring to cut the vines when they are soft. It was a wonderful experience for our next to the last day in Japan.
Day 19. I found the little bags for the tea in the tea ceremony at a very special beta shop with tea bowls and other supplies. I am thrilled to have 3. It is interesting to me how they are made. I also learned how to tie the cord.
The tea shop. It is well known and does web orders. The name is Sazen.
We went to the Dazaifu temple where the children of certain ages were honored or prayed for. Lots of kids getting there outfits put together by parents.
A glimpse of the crowds at the temple.
A huge chrysanthemum exhibit at the shrine. Types I’ve never seen. A good day.
Day 18 Part Two. Here is weft ikat being woven on a power loom. I was intrigued with the stick shuttles used in the fly shuttles See more photos of the shuttles that follow.
The stick shuttles wound with the tie dyed threads waiting to be put into a fly shuttle on a power loom. We saw them being wound –many at once maybe 10 at a time and all alike.
The stick shuttle with the weft thread in the fly shuttle being woven on the loom. I couldn’t imagine how the thread came off the shuttle so fast. When the looms were turned on the shuttles zoomed across the warp threads as they were being woven. Maybe this photo is a repeat but you can tell I was intrigued .
Here are 20 stick shuttles on the machine that wound them. A woman set up the shuttles and turned the crank.
Here is a hand tied and hand woven kasuri or ikat fabric by Mr Shoji Yamamura the distinguished kasuri master near Karume. See the next photos to see the dyed threads. In this cloth both the warp threads and the weft threads are tie dyed then matched perfectly when woven. This takes a lot of planning and skill. The light patterns are where only the weft threads were tie dyed.
Threads that were tied dyed. That means where the threads were tied together they resisted the indigo dye and remained white. That is what we call ikat. The Japanese indigo and white fabrics we call kasuri.
The threads for a warp dyed by the master, Shoji Yamamura.
Day 18. A day around Karume a town famous for blue and white kasuri dyeing. We were greeted by Shoji Yamamura the distinguished master craftsman. He showed us his beautiful kimonos and workshop.
He showed us how the pattern is made for tie dyeing the weft on this special board.
This is a pattern he would use to mark the design on one long weft thread. Then that pattern thread would be used to tie all the wefts.
This is another pattern and the woven cloth on the loom.
Here we are very happy after a wonderful morning.
We visited a factory using old looms to weave weft ikat or kasuri. Mr. Shigehori Maruyama showed us around. The name of the company is Marugame. Seeing kasuri machine woven and machine tied—and machine untied was interesting.
The tie dyed weft threads are wound on special stick shuttles that can be woven by a fly shuttle. This was amazing to see. I’m not sure just how the stick shuttles unwound so fast with the fly shuttle.
This is a close look at part of the machine that does the tying for the tie dyed weft threads. 12 bundles of weft threads are being tied at once. The spools spin around the threads. Then stop and the machine advances the threads then the next sections are tied. It is very fast.
Day 17. We visited a factory where they weave a special type of obi outside of Fukuoka. We were served tea first and saw lovely pieces. They are known as Hakata obis. Hakata is a part of the city of Fukuoka.
Here the president of the Hakata Ori factory, Mr Kazuyuki Kuroki was showing his special obi with areas you could see through. I have a macro lense I can attach to my iPhone so we all could see that those areas were a gauze weave we call Leno.
This is a traditional obi. The designs in the stripes have significant meanings. This pattern is about a child being loved by parents. This is a typical Hakata obi.
Making a warp. The fabric is all warp face. That means only the warp shows.
A cloth bring woven on one of the many old power looms. The sound of all the looms weaving was wonderful.
This loom was special for weaving the wavy lines. It has a special fan reed that is moved up and down. These have interested me for a long time so it was fantastic to see one in use.
Day 16. A Day in Okawachiyama. Another town known for porcelain. Long ago the feudal lord Nabeshima took the best potters from Arita village to the valley where he lived to make porcelain for him and to send to the Shogun as his tax payment rather than sending rice. Now we know it as Nabeshima ware. Notable is the painting done on the ceramics and also for celadon porcelain. From my vantage point I could see 4 chimneys for kilns. If you zoom in you can see two. The valley with its surrounding mountains was picture-perfect.
Walking in Okawachiyama. This narrow street was lined with pottery shops. This is a taste of the mountain scenery from the valley with the town.
A studio where they were painting on the pottery.
A display of the hairs used in the brushes for painting the pottery. Some of the examples here were eye brows from horses, goats, pigs, and raccoons. An especially spikey one is from the belly of a deer. One of the bushy ones is from the tail of a chipmunk. Our guide told us that somewhere in Japan there is a shrine or monument honoring all the animals sacrificed for all the artists’ brushes.
At a modern pottery the manager opened the door of the huge kiln.
The inside of the kiln. Note the tracks in the floor.
This would be loaded with pottery to be fired then rolled into the big kiln. A very modern operation we thought.
Types of celadon glaze. The special blue color was prized and a specialty here. The different colors seemed to be due to different firing techniques. A piece of the rock for this glaze is shown here.
Day 15 Part Two. A few examples of Amari ware. I was too occupied to remember to show what Amari ware looks like so this is a tiny example I found in a photograph.
An old climbing or step kiln. The segments go up a hill. The fires are stoked at the bottom and through the holes on the side. A more modern one is in the next photo.
A climbing or step kiln. It was interesting to learn some of the techniques involved. For example the different temperatures as you go higher in the kiln and where they would put pieces in to be fired again.
We had a good dinner of Ramon at the train station. The cooks were happy and the food was good.
These kids were out celebrating Halloween at the Ramon shop.
Day 15. A Day in Arita to see Imari porcelains. This museum has a lot of the history of making Imari ware and very old pieces.
The white area is the clay for porcelain.
Another photo inside the mine.
A shrine to honor the Korean potters who started making porcelain in the town of Arita.
At the shrine commemorating the Korean potters who founded Imari ware as in every shrine there is a cord attached to a bell above. People come and make a wish and shake the cord to wake up the gods to grant their wishes.
I’m making my wish at the shrine for the Korean founding potters.
Day 14. Pottery in Karatsu. We saw contemporary and traditional pottery by some well known masters. The artist is 14th generation master: Tarouemon Nakazato.
This tiny pot is a container for special tea for the tea ceremony. Its little bag is made of antique fabric. Each bag is made to order to go with the pot it will hold. I hope to go to a tea ceremony supplies shop and find out more about the little bags and maybe learn how to tie the cord. The artist is the one who made the big black pot: 14th generation Tarouemon Nakazato.
Aya Nakazato is a well known master potter we met at her gallery. She is a wife in the family of famous potters.
This is Takashi Nakazato. We took a taxi to his lovely compound in the country. He showed us the kiln he built and explained a lot about how a step kiln functions. He goes to Aspen twice a year to teach.
Here the master potter is looking to the kiln to show us if there are any pots loaded inside. There weren’t any in this section.
Looking inside the kiln to see the pots loaded inside. Traditionally the kiln was fired for 8 days. This newer kiln only takes 5 days of firing.
Day 13. Visiting Karatsu, a town known for making pottery. My hotel room. Everyone had individual rooms. I’m glad I didn’t have my big suitcase with me. We will see pottery tomorrow.
The tiny bathroom in our hotel. Japanese toilets are really complicated and accommodating. The lid flips up automatically when you approach and we are surprised when the seat isn’t heated. Sound effects come on sometimes when you sit down. I haven’t tried any of the other treatments available. But it is awfully nice to be able to sit down and always find toilet paper when traveling in Japan.
After a soba dinner we came across a group playing flute and drum music. They were practicing for a festival parade coming up in a few days.