Shop updates and “summer vacation” in the Kimonomomo Studio

Thomas is on summer vacation from teaching 4th grade, which means he’s taking a very active role in the studio. Last month we had the following conversation:

“How many of these fabrics are listed online right now?” he asked, looking at the wall of vintage kimono and yukata bolts.

I looked up from the floor where I was sorting paperwork for filing my taxes. This was June, mind you. “Um… all the ones to the far left of each shelf.”

“That’s not very many. Can you get the rest listed this month?”

Oh, sure! Why not? “I can work on it. Takes a while to edit all the photos and I need the right light to shoot them, so it’s a bit dicey sometimes.”

“Why don’t you get Leah to do it?”

“She’s out of town for most of the summer, and I like to do the photos myself. I’m picky about color correction.”

He rolled his eyes. “They’re not doing you any good just sitting here. List five a day and you’ll have them all done by the end of the month.”

Like that was ever going to happen. It’s been three weeks and I’ve listed a few more, but there are dozens to go through and I’ve got a pile of items in boxes that haven’t even seen the light of day since they arrived from Japan. Earlier this week I was clearing out piles of Japanese newspapers, bubble wrap, and random recycled packaging in a corner of the studio and found a stash of gorgeous items I’d forgotten about: a hand-painted obi, three more kimono bolts (one is a cotton shijira ori!), and an antique shibori yukata.

I brought the shibori yukata out to the living room to show him, modeled it a bit, and asked “Keep it or cut it?”

“Cut it,” he said without hesitation.

I sniffed one of the sleeves. “Cut it and wash it. This one doesn’t smell so good.”

That evening we sat down to listen to a baseball game and carefully took the yukata apart. I know this disturbs some people, but understand that I only disassemble garments that don’t have much of a future as they are, but will be much loved in the format we quilters most appreciate. That is to say, as clean and pressed flat fabric. If I chose to sell the yukata as-is it would be worn by one person, maybe displayed on a wall or–sadly–folded up and stored in a closet for years on end. I prefer the idea of sharing the visual wealth and spreading it around for many of us to enjoy. I hope you do, too.

At any rate, we put in a good two hours picking out threads and setting the fabric aside for washing. Our team won the game and we got to spend some quality time on the couch together doing something other than watching TV.


The next night I brought out another shibori yukata. “This one’s mine,” he said, taking it from me. When I tried to help by picking apart a seam he glared at me over his glasses. “MINE. Back off.” I do love that man. After the yukata had been disassembled I washed them in the machine with mild soap and hung them to dry a bit before ironing them and rolling them into bolts.


Another perk of having Thomas home for the summer (aside from having an extra pair of hands to get things done) is walking to the grocery store instead of driving.


And then there’s the garden.


He builds raised beds and trellises for our feral tomatoes and squash to grow in, on, and around. Nearly everything in the vegetable garden is a volunteer from last year’s leftovers.


We never know what type of squash we’ll have until they fruit. Looks like a butternut! Lucky me, I love making butternut soup in the fall.


Daisy is mostly blind now, but she loves keeping me company in the garden, sniffing everything, barking at the neighbors, and sitting on the warm, dusty dirt.


So goes our “summer vacation”. For me it’s just another season of Etsy listings, quilt shows, and sashiko guild meetups. Thomas keeps me working hard and I train him up on how to cover the shop while I’m away at shows (AQS Quilt Week in Grand Rapids, MI is coming up next month!).


Upcoming show: Piecemakers Guild Quilt Show, Newark, CA

Wow! Busy weekend ahead. I haven’t even unpacked from my last show in San Luis Obispo, CA and it’s already time for my next show. Last weekend (first weekend of every month) we had the monthly meeting of the South Bay Sashiko Guild in San Jose/Campbell, CA, and now I’m setting up for the Piecemakers Guild Quilt Show at Ohlone College in Newark, CA. Fortunately for me it’s a local show, which means a nice, short commute!

A new item I’ll be offering at the show this weekend will be yukata fabric packs. Candy box assortments of six or eight 1/3 meter pieces of vintage yukata selected for color, texture, and color compatibility for your quilting pleasure. Each piece measures roughly 14″ x 13″. I haven’t offered these in years, no idea why it’s taken me so long to get back to doing them. They really are a treat and I have fun putting them together.


The above sample is from a pack all in blue. The photo really doesn’t do it justice and the colors are so much nicer in person. I’ll have better photos up soon as these will also be listed in the Kimonomomo Etsy shop after this weekend.

I hope to meet some of you in Newark this weekend! It always surprises me when I meet someone at a quilt show or guild event and hear “I’ve been reading your blog…” I spend so much time in the studio working (and occasionally writing) alone that I forget people actually have heard of me.

Product Review: KARISMA Air Fade Pen and Fujix Soie et Silk Thread

karisma_air_pen_test6It’s a product review two-for-one!

I’ve been experimenting with the KARISMA Air Fade Ink pens on silk lately and I’m quite pleased with the results. I have heard that some brands of air fade ink pens will come back if the fabric is laundered, so I decided to use them on fabrics I wasn’t planning to ever wash, just in case.

The first trial was on a vintage tsumugi* silk that I wasn’t worried about ruining as it had plenty of patina and couldn’t be used for much else. karisma_air_pen_test1 *Tsumugi is a type of hand-woven raw silk with untwisted fibers with a texture similar to dupioni or shantung silk. The texture of tsumugi is very dry and nubby, lacking in the smoothness you might associate more with Chinese silks and satins. karisma_air_pen_test2 The fibers soaked up the ink and held on to it for more than a day. During the 24 hour trial period the fabric sat on my work table in regular indoor light, not covered by anything. It faded completely within 48 hours. karisma_air_pen_test3 I used the wide tip pen (top) for this first test and found it was easy to use as it left clear, strong lines.  For my second project I used the fine tip pen (bottom) instead as I needed a delicate touch. karisma_pen_airwide2 karisma_pen_airfine1 The second test came about while standing in my booth at a quilt show. I was looking at a boldly dyed, crinkly, Bingata-style silk chirimen kimono fabric from the mid-20th century and thinking how it might be nice to translate that design into something different… Sometimes it seems like I do more design and product testing at shows than I do in the studio. karisma_air_pen_test4

A piece of plain ivory silk chirimen* with a fine texture and slight translucence made for a decent piece of tracing material. Expecting the air fade pen to last a few hours, I was surprised to find that on the more refined silk it faded much faster. I went over the pen lines several times as I noticed them starting fade.

Using Fujix Soie et hand dyed silk thread (Midnight Blue #519) and a Tulip sashiko needle I outlined the petals of the iris. Needle and thread went through the silk like it was butter. Smooth.


One of the delights of sashiko is not needing to use a hoop. Thread tension was comfortably loose without being sloppy and my stitches were very easy to manage, even as I picked the fabric up and put it down frequently throughout the day. The gentle variegation of the colors used and weight of the thread gave the overall image an added dimension.


I’m very pleased with this combination of materials — KARISMA air fade ink pen, Fujix Soie et silk thread, Tulip Sashiko needles, and vintage kimono silk — and will be planning a few classes around projects like this one for later this year.

*Chirimen is a weave that varies from strongly crimped, loosely spun fibers to finer and more tightly spun fibers. Variations in how the silk is twisted and how fine the warp and weft fibers are will affect the final texture and drape of the fabric.

Tulip Sewing Needles a’plenty

Tulip, a sewing needle manufacturer in Hiroshima, Japan, recently celebrated its 65th anniversary. Founded in 1948 to make fishing needles, the company switched to more crafty consumers in the 1950s when they began exporting crochet hooks and knitting needles. Now well-known for their quilting needles and beading tools, Tulip has refined their product for a market keen on quality materials and elegant packaging.

I’ve been using the sashiko needle set for several months now and I’m very happy with the variety of sizes and how well the needles hold up to frequent use. The Olympus needles I’ve been selling for years are best for beginners or those who prefer a larger needle with a big eye, but the Tulip sashiko needles are finer and have smaller eyes. Now that I’ve been trying a variety of Tulip needles in the studio I can see why they are so popular and keep selling out in my shop.

Here’s a video of Carol Cypher, the USA representative for Tulip, and the woman you’re most likely to talk to at a trade show. She’s a passionate fan of Tulip, and she certainly converted me. Last week when I called to reorder for an upcoming event I asked for six cases of sashiko needles. “Wait,” she said to me over the phone, “did you say six individual packages or six cases?”

“Cases,” I said. “I sell a lot of these needles.”

I currently stock Tulip Piecing Needles, Quilting Needles in various sizes, Sashiko Needles, Appliqué Needles, and Sharp Tip (general use) Needles, and Extra Fine Straight Pins. I’ll be ordering Embroidery Needles and anything else that sold out over the past few days. If you have a request let me know soon so I can have it on hand.

Kimonomomo Shop Updates for late May 2014

In case you missed it on Facebook or Twitter earlier, here some upcoming events I’ll be hosting in the San Francisco, CA Bay Area:

Saturday, May 31: Mini Kimono Workshop – Kimonomomo Studio in Alameda


Sunday, June 1: Bay Area Sashiko Workshop – South Bay/San Jose/Campbell area

And an Etsy Craft Party on Friday, June 6! The theme this year is “Recapture” and participants are encouraged to bring photographs to be embellished. I will have plenty of needles and thread on hand to experiment with.


Video of mechanized silk looms in a Japanese obi factory

It’s not the best footage, but this view of a working Japanese textile mill is entertaining if you enjoy seeing how machinery works, which I do. The sound inside this mill is a lot of clacking and thrumming, not very musical and quite monotonous. However, I enjoy watching the various bits of this and that moving about in what amounts to an amazing symphony of mechanized wonder as shuttles fly and colorful obi emerge from the looms inch by inch.

I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know what you think in the comment section. The footage is from last year and I gave it a quick edit on my computer so it’s not anything special. I promise better films in the future.


How to refill KARISMA Multicolor Pencil

Aleta from HinterlandMama sent me the following email this week:

I have been using my pencil endlessly, but now the white chalk won’t come out when I press the end. I thought I would refill with the leads I bought from you, in case that’s the problem. But try as a might, I can’t get the lead to drop into place from the end (under the eraser). I’m sure there must be a trick to it?
I’ve googled everything I can think of for help with no luck.
Are you able to help me please?
Please, please!

The single color KARISMA pencils are fairly simple to refill; pull out the eraser and drop a few replacement leads in and you’re good to go. I hadn’t tried to refill the 3 color multicolored pencil yet, so I took a closer look to see if I could figure out the problem.

karisma_multi_refill1 I pulled out the eraser and looked inside. The tubes that hold the leads have a small white cap on them to keep the leads from backing up and stopping the pencil from turning, so that wasn’t a good access point. I tried it anyway, pulling off the cap and spring to expose the clear tube inside the leads went into. The process felt messy and odd, but it worked.

Then I remembered seeing something about this in the Japanese product catalog I had hiding somewhere in the studio. AHA! So I had the right idea but approached it from the wrong direction. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

By the time I had it figured out and emailed Aleta back, she’s already done the same thing I had and solved the problem on her own. Never underestimate the ingenuity of a crafty mama, that’s for sure.

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