Paper thoughts

Wow! I got a call yesterday from a reader of Altered Couture magazine. Apparently one of my brilliant customers, Shirley Goff, had an article published within that involved some of my fabrics used in her Basho Coat project. I can’t wait to see it! I will be ordering copies of the magazine to sell in the Etsy shop and will post here when they are available. I will also offer mixed bundles of vintage kimono silks like the ones used in Shirley’s project. I haven’t offered these in several months due to the move and ensuing chaos, but they will definitely be back in stock starting February.

Also coming in February, Japanese shashiko craft books! These have been sold out since the summer when I did several live shows and the books got snapped up pretty quickly. Folkwear patterns have been mostly out of stock for a while too, so I will be bringing back several popular patterns including the kimono and hakama patterns.

folkwear #151 Japanese Hakama

And of course, don’t forget the trunk show this Sunday in Concord, California! Email me for details or to RSVP.

This is why I’m here.

After several weeks of moaning and whining about not being able to find my library of reference books in the dark cavern of my storage unit, I finally dragged myself there and dug through to the very bottom box in the very farthest corner. I kid you not, it was the least accessible place I could imagine and the last place I looked. And there they were, just waiting for me. My beautiful, wonderful books, magazines and mooks (Japanese magazine/books). Volumes 1-6 of Kimono Hime, several books on learning Japanese, gloriously illustrated volumes of shibori, sashiko and kimono books in both Japanese and English, hardbacks and paperbacks and oh, the pictures!

I actually started crying tonight just going through each one again. It’s been nearly four months since I’d seen any of them and the overwhelming emotions I felt just reinforced my understanding of WHY I do this, why I research kimono and kimono-related textiles. And really, it’s something I can’t put into words. It’s… it just is. That’s all. I can’t not do this.

The Japanese artisans who developed such a rich and varied textile tradition over the centuries continue to inspire modern artists, even as their industry slips away from them one generation at a time. Kimono today seem to be on the brink of extinction, a mere postcard from a lost time when clothing could be immortalized in poetic verse in the Tale of Genji. What do we care about what our clothing says about us now? We reach for designer labels, not art. The idea of passing down a garment for our children and grandchildren to wear is crazy in our modern era of fashion.

And yet we do pass the best pieces down. The styles that transcend fads and become classics are the ones we still reach for from our own mothers’ closets. The carefully hoarded gems bought long ago, or recently gleaned from a fortuitous trip to Goodwill or Oxfam. Pieces well constructed of quality material and well preserved by those who know their value. Fashion doesn’t have to be disposable. Let it be recyclable instead.

My inner fashion geek was in full force last month at a business mixer. My eye lit on a hand tailored Italian wool suit jacket a gentleman was sporting and I couldn’t stop myself from asking him about it. Fortunately he had once worked in the fashion industry and was happy to discuss clothing with me for a while. The other gentlemen I had previously been speaking with faded into the background, perhaps sensing that their suits were sending a different message. And they were right; their suits said only “I am a suit” and nothing more. This Italian job said “I am being worn by a gentleman of taste and refinement. I was crafted and tailored by hand for this individual person. I signify refinement.” As it is often said, clothes make the man.

If a simple suit coat makes such a subtle but pronounced statement, imagine what sort of statement an Edo era (1615-1868 ) kimono made. I am salivating as I review each page in my little library, my eyes wide as I remember different styles, dye techniques, stitches, weaves… damn, my eyes are welling up again. I suppose I’m just a passionate person who knows what she likes.  

Being away from my work for too long has been like being a dancer with two broken legs. One step at a time I am finding my footing again, listening to the music and finding the rhythm. It may be a while before I’m in full swing, but I think it’s going to be an exciting journey, even better than before.

If you’re in Ohio…

A friend recently alerted me to this exhibit at Ohio’s Canton Museum of Art which opens on February 9 and runs until April 26, 2009.

Kimono as Art: The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota opens at the Canton Museum of Art on February 9, 2009. This breathtaking exhibit features 40 giant landscape kimono of the Japanese Master who spent much of his lifetime perfecting a lost textile process called Tsujigahana.

The works are by Japanese designer Itchiku Kubota whom I researched for an earlier post. While the museum article lauds him for “perfecting” tsujigahana, it has been pointed out to me by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada and also states in Kubota’s own book Opulence: The Kimonos and Robes of Itchiku Kubota that what he achieved was a modern version of a lost art. His technique is labor intensive and likely as close to the original tsujigahana as we may ever get, but is not recognized in Japan as actual tsujigahana.

Regardless of the semantics, if I were in Ohio, I’d drop everything and go see the exhibit without delay. It looks fascinating. A companion book for the exhibit, Kimono as Art: The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota, was published last year and has now been added to my Amazon wish list.

Because this matters.

Please click on the image to learn more about this important issue.

A little something to keep you warm

Digging through boxes in the garage today I came aross a few more vintage boro blankets I’ve had stashed for nearly two years now. I blogged about our family’s favorite last January, but this one has not been in use as it has only one layer with no backing or batting.


The weave technique used to create the stripes is called zanshi ori, or fabric woven from surplus threads. Considering how valuable cotton was during the 19th century in rural Japan, it was treated with a great deal of respect and no part was wasted, however rough or worn it might be. This boro, or rag quilt, was created from a combination of remaindered thread and recycled fabric pieces of hand spun and dyed indigo cotton.

front detail

front detail

Here you can see some of the slubs and color contrasts in this piece. There is a significant amount of fading, which is to be expected. The back, however, retains much of its original color.

back detail

back detail

Notice the large stitches holding it all together. The thread is thick cotton in shades of blue or brown. Note how the selvedge is white, not indigo. This shows that the fabric was thread dyed, not dip dyed as a finished piece.

More to come! The above photos are from the bottom right corner of the piece in the first photo. If there is another area you’d like to see, let me know.

The early bird gets… to wait.

Since moving in with my family in October I’ve had to adjust to certain changes such as scheduling time in the kitchen, among other things. It’s unsettling for all of us to change our routines for one another, but we manage. Since I’ve let my business drift for the past few months it’s been nagging at me to pick it back up, nurture it, love it again and really DO SOMETHING with it. Fair enough, so I start getting up early.

No good. Getting up early (for me that’s 8 am) means sitting at the kitchen table and waiting half an hour or so for my dad to finish making his breakfast and sorting his things. I’ve been using that time to read as much as I can before I take up my first cup of tea. At least I can get smarter, right?

New and restocked sashiko items are being listed in the Etsy shop right now along with some great vintage kimono and haori. I apologize for the odd photos, I lost a really excellent photo set-up when I moved and I’m having to make do with what I can find here. No more plain white backgrounds, unfortunately.

My first trunk show of the year is coming up and I’m so excited!


And…. we’re back!

After slogging throug the past few months since the move and my mother’s death, it’s time to get back to business. I’m still missing much of my research library (hidden somewhere in the depths of my storage locker), but I’ve really missed working and am excited to be getting down to it again.

On the schedule is a trunk show on February 1st in Contra Costa County, California if you’re in the area, details to come. The sashiko items I regularly carry in the Etsy shop will be updated and restocked next week. I’ll post here as soon as they come in. I’m still working out the kinks in my photo set up, but vintage items including kimono will be up very soon.

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