Surprise! A Shirt that is Made of Silk


I became intrigued with my new shirt and started going down a silk “rabbit hole”. Then I wondered if I had already written about it. I found I’ve made 25 silk posts already! Here is a link to “Raw Silk or Noil?”  from August 8, 2022. HERE I went down the rabbit hole about silk in 2022! There are a lot of interesting silk subjects. Put silk in the search box on my home page.

I bought this jacket at a flea market in Tokyo last fall. The price was right: $3.00 it had been in a heap, but after I took it home and washed it, I was very happy with the look.

At home, a non-textile friend saw it and asked what the fabric was. I hadn’t paid any attention to that (I’m surprised!) and said cotton? She said it looked like raw silk. That alone embarrassed me so I began to think she might be right.

It was obvious that the fabric had a lot of slubs. I had heard of dupioni silk where the silk is reeled from double cocoons. I was hoping that my fabric was that, but alas, it sure didn’t look like what I read when I looked it up in A Silk Worker’s Notebook by Cheryl Kolander. “ It is regular, in the main, but every so often large slubs from where the two cocoons were joined are brought up into the yarn. Fabric woven from it is considered very subdued and elegant in a robust sort of way.”

So, I looked up raw silk and noticed a box titled “Raw Silk”. And I quote: “Unbleached, cultivated silk noil fabric is very popular under the name “raw silk”.

Noil silk. It has very short fibers left after the longer staple silk has been combed out. It consists of smooth fibers 1” and shorter, mixed with little tangled balls of fiber. The flecks are  also the crumbled remains of the chrysalis, that horn-like envelope that encloses the transforming silk caterpillar inside the cocoon. (Also, from Kolander.)

The jacket has the drape and feel of a medium weight cotton shirt. AND it is officially silk noil, not raw silk. The warp—cotton??

Japanese packages: Horn Bag or Furoshiki??

The horn bag has 2 seams and some tricky folds. The furoshiki is much simpler so I thought people could try it if they wanted something easier. It is a simple square. You just tie the corners together, like a hobo bag.

This post gives the pattern and instructions for the horn bagin 19 illustrations.

In my last post I showed this bag for presenting gifts. Here are the interesting folds and seams similar to origami that make the bag. There are 2 seams to sew and small hems around the raw edges to sew down.

NOTE: I HIGHLY RECOMMEND MAKING A PAPER SAMPLE before working with cloth. The folds are tricky. I found it enormously helpful to mark letters and lines on the paper pattern. They were often valuable  as I was working along. I cut up a grocery bag for my sample.

Length: 4 times the width PLUS ½” to allow for the 2 seams and  the folded raw edges.
Width: ¼ the length plus ½” for seams and the folded  raw edges.
My sample measured 16 ½ inches x 4 ½”.

Step 1
Turn under ¼” to the WRONG SIDE and iron on all sides for hems and seams. DO NOT sew anything yet.

Step 2
Fold the length in half and half again for 4 sections each ¼ of the length. Iron so you can see the creases easily. On my paper sample I marked those creases on the wrong side.

Number the sections: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Step 3
In section 1, Make a diagonal fold AS SHOWN. I marked the line with dashes and marked it  A. On the other side of the fold, I put a small a.

Fold A is done.

Step 4
Make Fold B in section 2. All the folds will be diagonals.

Folds A and B completed. Note the orientation. A & B should be perpendicular to one another. Fold B is on the bottom and A is actually going to be one of the handles.

Step 5
Make Fold C.

Step 6
Make Fold D for the fourth fold. Don’t worry too much if it isn’t exact.

Here  is how it should look after the 4 folds are done. (This is a repeat of the previous photo.)

Step 7
Fold E. This one makes the other handle. To do this, flip the whole thing over to the other side and see where to fold E. Magically, it turns itself inside to form the other handle.

Step 8
Sew the first of two seams. The arrow shows which pieces will be joined. See detail in the next Photo.

Open up the folds to sew a narrow seam as shown. Keep track of the edges which are to be sewn together as you turn everything inside out. Note: I made a little cut where the sewing begins to separate this seam from the turned-down raw edge.

Step 9
Now turn everything over to see the arrow where the second seam will be  made to join those pieces together. As with the first seam you will need to turn the piece inside out to actually sew the seam. See the next photo.

Sew the seam.

Step 10
Sew down all the remaining raw edges where you ironed them down.

Here is one side of the finished bag.

The other side – and you are finished!!

Another Life Saver: The Snitch Knot

This knot absolutely saved me the other day when working on a student’s loom. I had to untie all the ties to the treadles and the knots were OLD, frayed, and dusty. Because the previous owner had tied proper snitch knots, I could undo the knots without breaking a fingernail or swearing.

A snitch knot is very handy and is especially good for tying heavy cords that can be adjusted. A common use is to tie treadles to lams—the snitch knot saves fingernails and frustration when adjusting is needed. The knot has a simple concept: it’s made in two parts. A loop is made into a lark’s head knot, and another cord’s two tails are put into the lark’s head knot and tied like the first part of a shoelace knot. The shoelace knot can’t pull out of the lark’s head’s grasp when tension is put on the cords. But when tension is slack, the shoelace knot’s cords can slide inside the lark’s head’s grip to adjust the overall length of the cord. It takes time to prepare the cords, but they can be used over and over again. A loop is needed for each knot and two tails of another cord.

To make a snitch knot when tying up treadles:
Make sure that the cords’ anchoring knots in the lams or treadles are big enough so they never pull through the holes in the wood. I prefer to put the tails on the lams and the loops on the treadles. That’s because if the loops are attached to the lams above, they can cause trouble by “looping” themselves onto unwanted treadles. However, if the tails dangle from the lams, they can’t hook onto anything.

Step 1
Make a lark’s head in the loop by folding it back on itself.

The beginning of a Shoelace Knot
Step 2
Pass the tails through the lark’s head loop and tie the first part of a shoelace knot with the tails. Don’t add the second part of square or granny knot—it’s strong enough if you’ve tied it with both ends taking the stress of the knot equally.

Step 3
To adjust it, pull on one of the tails of the shoelace knot and the knot is easily undone even if it has been under tension for years. Then slide the tails in the lark’s head loop to shorten or lengthen the cords. Then tighten the shoelace knot. It’s faster to shorten so start with the cords too long and shorten as needed.

To untie a snitch knot: Pull on one tail to loosen the shoelace knot. Then undo that knot and slide the tails out of the lark’s head.

A Japanese Bag Perfect for Gift Giving

Gifts and their packages are important in Japan. For years I’ve used square cloths called furoshiki with the corners tied like a hobo’s bag. I have several from pretty small (10” square) to huge ones about a yard square.  One day two Japanese textile friends met me in my Tokyo hotel room, and we exchanged gifts of course.

Nice cloth or paper is also important. This trip to Japan I remembered that paying for anything and everything will take time and patience. The fabric here is the silk lining of a kimono that one of my friends took apart.

Here is the shape of the finished bag. I often saw them in the shops with the “handles” all tied up and had thought they were made with square fabric like I was used to. So, this shape intrigued me. The ends would be tied in a knot providing handles for the bag.

We spent a good bit of time tearing up paper to get the right starting shape and proportion. The length should be 4 times the width. The creases in the paper show where it should be folded.

Here is the finished sample.

Afterwards we had a soba noodle lunch in the hotel’s Japanese restaurant looking out at a lovely garden.

Oh no! I Cut a Mono Filament Thread: Mending my piece for China with Jim’s Fisherman’s Knot

When I was getting my piece ready to send to China, I cut one of the threads holding a string of swatches! On top of that, the thread was made of monofilament or slippery fish line. I had to reconnect the thread without extra thread for a knot and besides, it couldn’t show. It was one of the purple strings beside the black one.

I don’t think I’ve ever used this knot before but I’m sure glad that I remembered it when I needed it. The knot is Jim’s Fisherman’s knot which I learned from my mentor, Jim Ahrens. It’s for tying very slippery threads together. I put it in my book, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps, available now in print after being only available as a PD for many years.

How to tie this life-saving-knot-for-me is the subject of a post from quite a while ago. The post gives full directions and hints. The link to the post is HERE.

A Visit to a Contemporary Oriental Carpet Studio/Factory

We visited an Oriental carpet business in Yonezawa where we saw pile carpets being made and a studio with amazing carpets and historical photos.  They make hand knotted and not-hand-knotted carpets. This was our first view when entering the factory. It is a hand knotted carpet on the loom. Notice all the cones of dyed yarns for the many shades and colors needed for this carpet.

On the left beside the loom are the current colors of yarn needed for this area being knotted and the skeins so each yarn can be pulled out when the end is pulled to the loom to make a knot.

To make the knots each yarn is composed of several yarns.

Here is the color card with all the colors needed for this small carpet.

Six workers are hand knotting a huge carpet. All are working on the same row of knots. Then the one on the left will begin weaving in a weft thread and by the time that weft reaches the right-hand weaver she will have completed her section of knots and is ready to finish the row of plain weave (over one warp thread and under the next.) There will be one or two of these over one, under one weft threads woven in between each row of knots.

To make one knot, the weaver pulls the end of the group of threads from the ball above her, makes the knot, then cuts the yarn with the knife in her right hand. Later, these pile yarns will be cut so all the pile is even (or perhaps sculpted).

Color cards show that the exact color of a pile yarn will be that of the cut ends of the yarns, not the color of the length of the yarn itself.

You can tell if a carpet is hand knotted by looking at the back side. You can see the back sides of the individual knots.

The knots themselves are not actually what we think of as knots. There are two types of knots used for pile carpets. This is probably the knot used. It’s called the Symmetrical knot. Notice the 2 rows of plain weave between the rows of knots. I had a student once who forgot these rows and all the knots fell apart when she was finished!

This is called the Asymmetrical knot. It is used to my knowledge for finer knots so they can be closer together.

The carpet will be trimmed so it is flat or even encised.

Other pile carpets made at this factory are not hand knotted. A person holds a piece of equipment like a hand drill that pokes the yarns from the back through to the front side. The person works row by row holding the equipment perpendicular to the warp.

The back of the not-hand-knotted carpet needs a glued-on mesh to keep the yarns stable so they don’t come out since no knos are made and no rows of weaveing between the knots.

Shifu: Weaving with Paper


Now that I’m back home I have time to make more proper posts with photos of my 2 ½ weeks in Japan. We were extremely busy and went to a lot of interesting places. We visited an artist in Yamazawa who weaves with paper, and we had a chance to make some paper weft thread and weave it into cloth.

Here is a hanging made of paper hanging in the studio. I took the photo because it seemed like a really good idea to make a wall hanging without using a lot of weft or weaving time.

Old account books are popular for making thread for weaving. I’ve collected some myself over the years, hoping to make some shifu cloth myself. This time I mean it!

Here is a spool of the paper weft. The black marks (and maybe a red one or two) are from the notes written on the account books. People didn’t pay for each purchase but had a page in the merchant’s account book and paid up periodically. They were available on my past trips in flea markets.

How the treads were made.
We cut the paper into strips about 1/8 wide in such a way as to make very long strings. The cutting didn’t go clear to the edges of the paper, sort of like a paper lantern. We stretched out the cut paper and where the paper hadn’t been cut, it made a little bump where the paper was stretched. (See the book below.)Then we twisted it off the point of a spinning device. Formerly, I twisted it off the point of a bobbin winder.

Then came the weaving.
For several others, it was their first weaving experience, and they were thrilled beyond belief.

There is a special look of the cloth—little bumps or irregularities where the uncut paper was twisted.  Unless it’s very professionally made you can tell a shifu cloth by those little bumps.

This is the book I plan to use to make my own shifu. It goes into detail about cutting and also about what papers are good. In my  first class I took years ago we used old paper dress patterns.

Here’s a photo from the book that shows the irregularities indicating it is woven with shifu paper wefts.

A beautiful walk

A gorgeous walk in the Oirase gorge along the river near the city of Aomori. We are still in the north in Japan. Check the map in a previous post. The Japanese call the fall colors of the trees as “God’s brocade” or something close. I loved that because the tree color was just beginning and it looked like a brocade.

A walk along the river with waterfalls.

Falls and trees.

This was a gorgeous hike in the woods by the river..

“Two days of eating and traveling…” – Part Two

Two days of eating and traveling after breakfast in Kyoto ryokan and flying way north to Hokkaido for a lunch of much meat and big Ainu museum. Then the Shinkansen train back to Honshu, the main island of Japan. A huge wind and rainstorm really hit all the way to Temple Fugenin hot springs for the night.  PS. the drink was made with honeysuckle juice and was delicious.

Two days of eating and traveling…

Two days of eating and traveling after breakfast in Kyoto ryokan and flying way north to Hokkaido for a lunch of much meat and big Ainu museum. Then the Shinkansen train back to Honshu, the main island of Japan. A huge wind and rainstorm really hit all the way to Temple Fugenin hot springs for the night.  PS. the drink was made with honeysuckle juice and was delicious.

Pre Japan 2023 Tour Day

We caught a fleeting glimpse of Mt Fuji on the last leg of our flight from Tokyo to Nagoya.

We visited Tokonome a town famous for pottery. And had oolong tea with Seige Ito.  And we admired his gorgeous small tea pots. He is pouring hot water to cool it a bit to warm the tea cups in this photo.

Our hotel is inside Nagoya’s old radio tower on the levels lit up in this night photograph. The moon was full and lots of people and families were out enjoying the evening and relief from the 90 degree day.

I’m Off to Japan: My Art is Going to China!

I’m off to Japan on a tour with my precious friend and tour leader, Yoshiko Wada, founder of the World Shibori Network Foundation.

Here’s A Ring of Silks before shipping to China.

All nestled safely in a large box.

It is a large box. Off to be loaded in the car.

Waiting to be weighed and labeled. And I’m saying Goodbye!

Good News! My work got into the BoND Exhibition in Hangzhou, China

In the post last June, I showed the silk swatches I dyed along with the dilemma of how to present them to enter a show in China. You can see it HERE

A Ring of Silks
I did get into the show! That means sending it to China! The title of the show is “Contemporary Art and Design Exhibition: Natural Dyes and Colors of Nations”. I assumed my pieces were the colors of old China. It will be in November at the Chinese National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China.  My ring began as a hoola hoop!

Every piece started out as white. I used different white silks to get many shades in one dye pot. The dyes are the result of my experiments when researching old European dyes from a book, The Colorful Past. I was looking for natural dyes that might have been used in early China.

I made 48 separate dye baths for the project, each one using a different dye recipe or variation. There was a total of 720 samples.
A sack of bran, a handful of sumac, and three buckets of clear rainwater, are examples given in the old recipes. I had to estimate the size of “a handful” then estimate what weight that would be for sumac.

 I used a contemporary dye book , The Art and Science of Natural Dyes, by Boutrop and Ellis to help with the vague descriptions and proportions in the old recipes.

Hello Hemstitching!

Every time I want to do hemstitching, I have to look up how to do it. It’s easy, but for years I never tried it because I thought it was too hard. Now, I can open up Kindle on my iPhone and see the directions whenever I need to.

However, I remember making a headscarf in 4-H as one of my first projects. The first material I used was a dark blue cotton—rather fine—and it was impossible for a 10-year-old to pull out the tiny threads, let alone do the stitching. So, Mother took me shopping again and I chose a yellow coarse (and stiff) linen. I could see those threads!  If you can imagine a stiff linen headscarf you will see that it didn’t work as a closefitting headscarf, but I don’t remember the judge complaining when it came time for the county fair in Ohio.

I wanted to revisit hemstitching for this post, so I used the SEARCH function on my website homepage and found this post from 6 years ago. That was when I made my eBook about hemstitching. Click HERE to see the post and an easy method for hemstitching.

How to Cut Off a Sample: the 2-stick Heading Revisited – Plus I can’t resist: more flower photography

Since this is a weaving blog, I realized that I should make sure to post some important weaving information. The 2-stick heading came up when a weaver asked me for advice about the sett (epi) for her project she was planning. I couldn’t totally decide and recommended one but said to make a sample first and see how it draped, etc. after washing/finishing. By using the 2-stick heading she would not waste precious warp by tying on again. This is explained in Weaving for Beginners on pages 134-136. To see the full post from April 9, 2020, click HERE

Now, for the flowers:
I saw a lecture on photographing flowers recently.

You don’t have to show the whole flower!

Looking back at posts by searching for photography, I see I’ve been interested in the centers of flowers for some time.

I thought it was a new idea just lately to photograph the centers.

I bought a few bunches of tall poppies and spent the week watching them “age”.

That led to more photos. Here one petal is gone.

Looking a little closer at the center.

This one didn’t want to drop her skirt. Her neighbor dropped everything.

I think this stage is as beautiful in its own way as the full open flower.

Summer at My Farmer’s Market

My all-time summer purchases are fruit for breakfast. Peaches—the sweetest, apricots, plums. Cherries, too but they were gone today.

But this summer I’ve been getting flowers and photographing them. Here are zinnias which I love as you can see. (These two bunches were $10 apiece! So, enjoy those you can plant.)

The colors are what I love the most, I guess.

Since photographing them, I’m noticing the lovely details of the flowers.

The centers vary so much just as the petal colors.

I looked for marigolds because I think I can make dye or paint after they are done.

This variety I thought so interesting.

A simple yellow one.

Another single red one.

Another single flower.

I tried participating in a sale


I don’t often enter group shows. People ask why and I guess it comes to I don’t like to be rejected. But what I often say is that my work somehow doesn’t fit into group shows and doesn’t look good. Also, I don’t have the tech skills to enter such as the pixels, etc. I’ve never kept up with the show scene as well. I succumbed last week to a small sale at the World Shibori Network’s garden event because real textile people show up and I always have had a great time.

I put together this table and rack of my art scrolls I made during the pandemic. I took backgrounds and special textiles I made or collected and matched them up to support each other. I had a few scarves included that were left over from my big sale last year. All around the San Francisco Bay Area it was a scorcher day, but in Berkeley under a shade tree it was delightful, and I was proud of the table I put together. However, this was not the place for art sales I learned. From 10am to 4pm I made only 4 sales! People preferred things to wear or jewelry instead. I learned a lesson that taking something to a show does take work, but it also creates wear and tear on the items. By now I’ve put away almost everything I brought back—another consideration I hadn’t made for allowing time.

I showed the box I made a while ago and people were interested, and I enjoyed chatting with people as well as the other sellers. I also showed my little pouches I made. I got the idea in Japan when I saw them as part of the Japanese Tea Ceremony. So, I made my own with collages of fabric I had dyed and kumihimo  cords I made. In the tea ceremony they would have a little pot inside where the precious green tea powder was kept. The special knot used was to know if anyone had stollen any tea, because they wouldn’t be able to re-tie the knot!

My First Eco Prints

Some of my weaving friends had a play day and this is a detail of my first of 2 silk scarves.

Here is the first scarf. I am pleased with my first attempt. We used silk blanks from a shop called Dharma Trading Co. They do a big on-line business with blanks and white T-shirts, and other garments for tie-dye, etc.

This is my second scarf made the same day. I feel a little guilty that I only used plants that people knew would come out well. I didn’t take any chances. Being my first tries, was experiment enough.

My Dilemma That’s Not a Real Dilemma: Or Is it a Quandary?

I dyed these silks with natural dyes a couple of years ago. Now I want to make a hanging with them. I think I want to integrate this group of silks with the ones in the next photo. I want to enter this year’s BoND exhibition in China. My deadline is August 31.

I dyed this group of silks around the same time. I’m thinking that the combination of the two groups will be my pallet. That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.

I had 35 different white silk fabrics that I cut into swatches so each dye pot had 35 shades or tones when the fabrics came out of the pot. Here are the fabrics before dyeing. I think one turned out not to be silk—“he” always showed up .