Off Again: to Japan

Here are all the places we plan to visit together. I am going again with my friend Cathy Cerny. She has done all the planning just like in many previous trips. I counted 9 hotels in 21 days so we’ll be moving right along. I hope I can do a post every day! – Click photos to enlarge –

Our first trip is a flight to Amami Island to the town of Oshima. (it is way south and off my map.) We want to see a particular type of ikat called orijimi. The resist is done on a loom forming a mat with the ikat warps or wefts to be woven in. Then the mat is unwoven to reveal the resisted places (dots) where the warps on the original weaving resisted the dye. The dye is also a special mud dye from the area. Oshima fabrics are expensive and have been imitated. We will look at the selvedges to see the tiny white dots to be sure we are getting the true orijimi technique. A friend and expert sent me this precious fragment so we would know what to look for.

A Grand Rug from Morocco

A friend asked me how this big rug she bought in Morocco was made. I noticed right away that away away that where there were white areas on the front, the back was black and vise versa. That told me probably the technique was weft twining.

Another sign was the edges. Each “weft” yarn was cut and stuck out at the edges where the black and white patterning existed.

There were some areas that were not twined but woven. The orange area in the bottom border is a good example. Also where there were totally white or black narrow stripes and no “pattern. I could see at the edges there were regular selvedges showing that the wefts were woven in with a shuttle.

Here is the size of this beautiful rug. A Treasure Trove of Information

Here are a few photos about another loom built by Jim Ahrens: his 40-shaft dobby loom which he built during the second world war in the 40’s. These are just to whet your appetite for the information you’ll find on My apprentice, Vera Totos and I made the site because it was important to show how Jim’s looms worked.

This is part of a chain I used to weave the music notes for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star several years ago. Over time some pegs have been removed.

Here is the backside of the dobby chain and some of the dobby mechanism. You can see it took a lot of bars for the first phrase of the tune.

Part of the mechanism has a cord with a knot for each of the 40 shafts. When a peg hits the mechanism it pushes the corresponding cord so it can’t go throought the hole, thus moving that shaft.

Here is a photo near the beginning of our restoration of the loom. Lots and lots of cords and knots!!

Shibori Beautifully Explained in CBS Video

This was forwarded to me by Yoshiko Wada–my textile guru who I adore. I’ve been on several of her trips to Japan and taken wonderful workshops at her studio in Berkeley. Slow Fibers Studio is her website. Her trips anywhere are fabulous and she is enormously knowledgeable about so many things and people where ever she goes. She gives classes on many of the techniques you see on the video. I took one by this master in Japan in the town of Arimatsu where the video is located. The town is a lovely town with traditional Japanese architecture everywhere. It is south  of Nagoya. Nagoya itself has a fantastic museum: the Toyota Museum–Toyota first was a loom manufacturing company and there are wonderful old and modern looms working on display. There also is a huge and wonderful automobile section.

Getting the 40-Shaft Dobby Working

Getting the 40-shaft mechanical dobby going. Jim Ahrens built this loom in the 40’s. Beside the dobby shafts are 4 more made for a ground weave. You can see a small practice warp ready to see that the dobby mechanism works after replacing all the cords. A big project.

Here are the dobby bars I pegged for a design some years ago next to the mechanism. There is a single wide treadle to activate the dobby which is what makes the sheds. Next week we should see if all the adjustments and knots work like they should.

Here is a close up of the bars and pegs. Each bar represents one shed or row of weaving. The pegs tell the dooby which shafts to lift and lower to make the sheds.

The big pedal operates the dobby. The 4 regular pedals are meant to operate a ground weave which we aren’t using for our trial. Each press of the big pedal changes the shed (dobby bar with pegs).

For the trial only 4 shafts will be used.

Here are the completed 4 shafts with their individual weights at the bottom of each shaft. The cords for the remainder of the shafts are bunched up out of the way.

A Gorgeous Silk Moire Blouse

I found this in a boutique in Shanghai. I loved it for the fine silk that just seemed to float—especially in the back. The boutique is called Heyan’er and there is also one in Beijing. We met the designer/owner: He Haiyan.  I discovered the wonderful moire patterns in the fabric after I got home!

Here is what it looks like in normal life. I discovered the moire patterns while I was ironing it.  What a shock it was and I knew it had to be two layers of cloth but I couldn’t separate them. I said to myself, “You really get to know something when you are ironing it.” Then I spritzed it with a bit of water to iron out some of the folds from the suitcase. Then I saw the tiny dots regularly spaced all over the cloth—tying TWO layers together to work as a single fabric. They don’t show unless you know to look for them.

The blouse requires something underneath so I took home this innocent looking tank top. (It was $70 – a shock when I figured the exchange rate but it was needed and was just right). Guess what?? When Ironed it I discovered it was a bit heavier but still double cloth with tiny tie downs!  Another luxurious fabric indeed. I wore it all day yesterday and I felt wonderful—and it barely had any wrinkles!

China Tour 2019 – Day 20

A special restaurant out of the town of Kunming. Can you guess what it is like?

This guy was chosen from the tank four our lunch.

Into the pot on the table it went.

The fish cooked under the cone. The cover came off when the fish was done.

The last to get eaten was th head which our local friend relished. The tail was eagerly taken by another of our Chinese friends. This type of restaurant is called a “fish stone pot”.

After all the fish was eaten vegetables, tofu, and local mushrooms went into the broth to finish off a tasty meal. I was stuffed.

China Tour 2019 – Day 19

A back strap loom with the finest hand spun warp. The threads are single not doubled as usual for strength during weaving. Very fine thread. We saw the woman spinning it from wool fleece.  [click photos to enlarge]

Isn’t this a wonderful bamboo stick for holding the heddles? I wanted to buy one but the weavers husband said I could make it myself.

China Tour 2019 – Day 18

This little group was spinning along the road as we drove by. What they were doing was putting extra twist in synthetic yarn which had become popular. We are in Butuo County in the mountains for a few days. Interesting to see some ethnic dress especially hats and head gear along with Western clothes. This was our first sight of weaving stuff being done. [click photos to enlarge]

In the little spinning group was this grandma stitching two layers of wool fabric together. It was beautiful. She also had a toddler under her eye. I discovered that most of the young spinners had babies on their backs.

The stitching the grandma was doing. Later we saw someone in a shop stitching the cloth together with a sewing machine.

My favorite spinner had a baby under the shawl on her back I discovered when we were about to leave.

This little guy was hanging around the spinners. He and his sister were playing at weaving with two sticks holding a few “warp” threads. It was clear they were learning by being around their mothers from the beginning.

Grandpa modeling his pants.

China Tour 2019 – Day 17

We are In the town of Xichang pronounced something like she Chang in SW China in the Yi Minority Autonomous Prefecture to see the Yi textiles and culture. Today we went to the market and saw lots of unusual food displayed beautifully. I thought the squashes with a few blossoms were handsome.

Furry tofu caught my attention.

This man was unwrapping individual cherries. They were wrapped separately before ripe to keep the birds from destroying the crop.
These were said to be the juiciest and best tomatoes. They looked great. I hope we get to eat some.

It looked like French fries catching the drippings under these ducks. Look carefully to see the cleaver at the ready.


China Tour 2019 – Day 16

My treasure. from the Yi people of China. This is a case for needles. One uses a safety pin to attach it to the clothes.  [click photos to enlarge]

Close up of the needle case part.

Two needle cases opened so you can put I. The needle. Closed you pull it down to enclose the needle.

Detail of decoration the needle case is attached to Off quickly for another day of shopping.

China Tour 2019 – Day 15

Last day in Hangzhou. I went to sit with my piece in the show for the last time before a busy day. I’m going to go through the day briefly. Each place could be its own post.

We took a mini bus for the day’s events. First stop was to a Chinese medicine facility. People brought in their prescriptions to be filled. Odd looking things were in cases for sale as well. It was in an old building with old character.

Nearby was a Chinese medicine museum with lots of history and old exhibits. This guy was impressive.

Then we drove to the art academy where we were treated to box lunches by the art professor who was in charge of the exhibition. He said nice things about my piece.

We were taken on a walking tour of the fantastic campus. The architect is a famous Japanese man and the campus won the top award for architecture. I hope to do a whole post on different different buildings.

The arts and craft building was stupendous. This outer wall is covered in roof tiles that are wired together.

Here is the roof tile wall looking out from the inside.

On the bus passing tea plantations on the way to an enormous temple.

Quite a special place this is.

There were huge carvings in the cliffs on path to the temple.

There are 5 huge temples each with giant statues. I was pretty exhausted and probably didn’t give them the attention they deserved.

Our last stop was at a luxurious tea shop in a tourist inn within walking distance from the temple. There might have been 20 dishes on the menu. After that we rode back to the hotel to pack up for our last night. We got up at 3:45 am to get our bus to the airport. Whew!!

China Tour 2019 – Day 13

Our finished projects in the “ash resist workshop “. We didn’t use any ash. “Ash” is the English translation for the word for the type a paste we used on our stencils. The paste was made of soybean powder and quick lime mixed with water. Here we are with our translator. At first I thought she was saying rust but finally we figured out she was saying rice. She did a fine job though. [click photos to enlarge]

Here I am cutting my stencil. I chose a simple one that I thought I could do.

The teacher is beginning to put the paste on my stencil.

My cloth is soaking in water before dying in the indigo dye.

The cloth comes out green right out of the indigo vat. In the air it turns blue.

Here I am with the teachers. When the cloth was dry after dying we scratched off the paste.

China Tour 2019 – Day 12

The workshop on safflower dying. At the end we had to dry the fabrics before cutting into samples for everyone. [click photos to enlarge]

We all crowded around the teacher. The main color we were looking for was red.

Samples were cut for everyone at the end. We were surprised to be able to get so many colors from the safflowers. Our teacher was an expert.

Orange was the last color to come. By then everyone was in a good mood. It was a wonderful workshop.

Here I am with my translator for the safflower workshop. She did great explaining everything including the changing pH.

Another workshop showed how those glorious colors on old Chinese robes were dyed with natural dyes. The color system was based on 5 colors. Red, blue, yellow, green, and purple.

Here are the colors. Different shades of colors were worn according to the rank of the person.

Translations were awkward. I finally figured out that they were talking about the tops of acorns. What they called them was “the tops of oak tree fruits”. Rhubarb wasn’t as hard as one would think. Smoked plum took awhile to “get”.

China Tour 2019 – Day 10

A spectacular exhibition of contemporary Chinese clothing designs is another great exhibition at the Chinese National Silk Museum in Hangzhou. There might have been 100 outfits just in the contemporary section. An interesting section before the explosion of Chinese culture preceded which was a big contrast. [click photos to enlarge]

Very creative I thought.

Ethnic flair was paired with a very nice contemporary top.


China Tour 2019 – Day 9

I made it to the China National Silk Museum. A complex of modern buildings—I mean several entire buildings devoted to textiles.  The exhibition is getting set up for opening on the 20th. Loom building, high fashion exhibition, other buildings all with great exhibitions and too much to see even though I had all day. [click photos to enlarge]

All these are from the first floor of the Silk Road history exhibit. Beautiful garments and ancient as well as fragments on display. Silk has been documented over 5000years ago. This brown jacket was tie died with tiny dots. I’m only showing in this post the garments I thought beautiful and interesting. No dates: no time to absorb. Just beauty.

Pants with boot protectors. See trim.

Long brown coat. See next image for special detail.

On long brown coat the first button ever found in China!!

Jacket. Shear. So simple with just these few narrow bands.

Beige dress. This was the first thing I saw on the second floor. I had to take a break. Will see about it the next time. I love all the shapes of these garments a lot.  The museum explains the weaving techniques with wonderful explanations and examples. This is a fantastic place!!!!!!

I couldn’t resist two more. Isn’t  the checkerboard great?

Another simple short jacket with an interesting neckline.

Great news from China!

Peggy just got a message that the Chinese National Silk Museum wants to purchase her piece (that’s in their current BoND exhibit) for their permanent collection! The photo above shows the piece installed in the gallery. We will post a video of it soon so you can see visitors experience it as it rotates in the breeze. [click photos to enlarge]

© Landworks Studio

The China National Silk Museum (CNSM), near the West Lake in Hangzhou, is one of the first national-level museums in China and the largest silk museum in the world, covering an area of 50,000 square meters and a building area of 8,000 square meters. It opened in February 26, 1992, and was extensively refurbished in 2015-2016.

China Tour 2019 – Day 8

Peggy’s photos you see here were taken on day 8 but she had terrible connection problems at the start of the middle phase of her tour – the time at the China Silk Museum show. All of the captions were stripped from her Instagram posts. She has found a solution but for now you will see few words and you’ll have to use your imagination.  [click photos to enlarge]

The moon door just inside.

A portion of the garden behind the moon door.

Yoshiko had a lovely dinner for her people tonight. This was the appetizer course. One dish in the main course was jellyfish. Tasted very nice but took some nerve to try it.

China Tour 2019 – Day 7

My finished pig. My teacher helped fine tune but I did most of it. It’s about 5” wide. [click photos to enlarge]

Today we learned how to do a Miao people’s braiding technique. At first our teacher went so fast I was sure I could never do it. But she was patient and I could make the straight and curved patterns. The braiding stand had propitious figures on it for good luck.

Another class today was learning the correct proportions to draw the Buddha. It was challenging especially since we had to draw two of most everything. For example after managing to draw an ear we then had to make another one but mirror image. Same with eyes, etc. The proportions had to be exact as determined long ago.

Yesterday we learned to make half of a traditional Chinese button. What we call a frog.

This is the shop where we had our button lesson. The other people were working on various stitching projects.

This is the pigment shop. Today we learned how time consuming it is to process pigments for painting. It was interesting to learn that several shades can be made from one pigment.

We saw the rug loom shop where there were 6 or 8 huge rug looms. Students were learning by making small pieces—maybe 3 feet square or so. My students made pieces about 3” square! Only a few of the looms were warped and none had anything in progress.

There was a weaving area with different looms. This one sure had an interesting arrangement to lift the shafts. There were some old looms set up to weave cloth for embroidery and some small looms for students to learn on. There were many other workshops but these were ones we had lessons in. There also was pottery, Chinese painting, glass and more I’ve forgotten. Jin Ze Art Centre is a very interesting place, indeed!

China Tour 2019 – Day 6

A bridge without sides made for horses in a calvary long ago just outside the Jin Ze Art Centre. We crossed the bridge on our way to catch a small boat to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the river.  [click photos to enlarge]

The floor of the calvary bridge called the Welcome Bridge. There were many lovely bridges along our hour long boat ride. All had colorful names.

Here we are on top of one of the bridges. I hope you can enlarge it to recognize us.

I like this photo of the guy on the steps. There were so many wonderful scenes on the boat.

Another shot from our little boat. The boatman stood on the back and paddled with a very long paddle. Similar to those in Venice I think.

Reflections everywhere.

Another bridge. There was a lot of commerce on the rivers long ago we were told.

I just liked the rooftop. A lovely lovely morning.

China Tour 2019 – Day 5

A weaver weaving fine silk tapestry at the Jin Ze Art Centre where we are staying 4 nights. [click photos to enlarge]

This was the set up made for our embroidery class. It was daunting I thought immediately.

Here I am trying to work with one hand on top and the other below. It took some practice to get so my left hand below could poke the needle up where I wanted.

I chose to do this picture because it looked a lot easier than the one we were presented with. And I liked it. This was drawn by the head religious man here at the center in honor of the year of the pig.

This is how far I got after 2 hours of concentration. I’m told there will be time to finish it before we leave. It was really interesting that I immediately calmed down when I began stitching. I had had enormous internet trouble and was very upset before.

China Tour 2019 – Day 4

We are staying at Jim Ze Art Centre near Shanghai. It is culturally associated with a Tibetan Buddhist group. Young adults from a village in the mountains come to learn various crafts. Today we saw some of the students of thangka painting. I was impressed by their posture and intensity. They painted completely with tiny dots. [click photos to enlarge]

The art center is beautiful wherever you look. This is a scene that greeted us when we arrived.

A night science walking to our room from dinner.

The archery court st night. There are 13 acres of grounds and we toured only a small part today. Each place you turn is something you can’t believe your eyes.

Cathy is hiding from the camera!

What my bed will look like tonight. It feels quite cozy and comfortable inside the net. More tomorrow.