Fujix Persimmon dyed threads Kakishibu – 柿渋

thread_persimmon_allI’m a huge fan of natural indigo, but sometimes a different color can be refreshing. Kakishibu (柿渋) is a tannin made from shredded and fermented green persimmons. If you’ve ever tasted an unripe persimmon then you are familiar with the astringency it can have! Aside from giving you a puckery mouth, this astringency has some handy uses.

This water-based dye lends water resistance to wood and fiber, and is reported to be antibacterial and an insect repellant as well.

thread_persimmon1.1From soft blonde to deep red and aged wood brown, Kakishibu-dyed fibers will change over time with exposure to the elements. It’s impossible to dye consistent color every time, so even within this collection of threads there will be variation from batch to batch. While this may be undesirable for some projects, when working with vintage fabrics or vintage-look fabrics, it is ideal for expressing a sense of wabi sabi (侘寂).

Colors:
#1 Rikyunezumi(Green Tea Gray)
#2 Chojicha (Clove Brown)
#3 Kakishibu(Astringent Persimmon Brown)
#4 Suzumecha(Sparrow Head Brown)
#5 Kurezome(Dusky Brown)

Important information from the Fujix website:

Note on the use of persimmon ingredient-dyed thread

Even in the same color number, its shade slightly differs from others depend on the lot, as the dyeing process is being made all by hand. It has the peculiar smell to persimmon tannin.To avoid the extreme shade change, refrain from keeping it in the place that gets sunlight directly. If you wash it with a mild alkaline detergent and/or in water which contains a lot of iron, it may turn black. In case it was blackened, putting it in water which is diluted by vinegar or reconstituted lemon juice will bring the color back to some extent. Do not use the detergent which contains bleach, because it will lose the colors. Please pay special attention to handle as the persimmon ingredient dyeing is weak against rubbing and its color may stain to others.

Sashiko boro quilt

quilt_blueboro1If you’ve seen me at a show or come to the Kimonomomo studio in the last few months, you’ve probably seen the quilt I’ve been working on. Pieced from Alexander Henry, Moda, Olympus, and Kona Bay prints, plus a few 19th century katazome cottons, it’s coming together nicely.

Piecing took two days using a 1959 Singer sewing machine. The batting is bamboo, which is thin, light, and amazing. Sashiko through two layers of fabric and batting? Not with anything other than bamboo. It’s held together well with just a bit of basting, hasn’t shifted at all, and is smooth to sew through with my thick sashiko needles and thread.

Several of the fabrics in the quilt have since sold out, but I do have a few of them left in stock, and a few that are similar but not the exact same colors used. This simple blue and off-white Moda print is the backing, which is great for hiding any odd stitches because the design is so visually distracting, yet at the same time very subtle. moda kasuri blue

I’ve incorporated a few antique katazome pieces as well. They are mostly homespun and naturally dyed with indigo in the 19th century. You might think such antiques would be delicate things, but no. They hold up like iron.
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The thin turquoise threads are the basting threads. I was in a hurry when I put them in and they are pretty sloppy. At the time I didn’t know how well the bamboo batting was going to work out, and that it wouldn’t slip around at all, so that was a fortunate discovery!

Much of the time I’m following along a design, not giving it too much fuss. I do a lot of the sashiko while I’m in my booth at a quilt show, in my hotel room in the evenings after a show day, or sitting on my living room sofa with the dogs. I didn’t want to plot out complicated designs that would involve counting, but I did want to go for an interesting texture. Working through one square at a time, I’ve found a look for each fabric that I’m happy with. Some are rows of straight lines and nothing else, but some have some real character. quilt_blueboro3 quilt_blueboro2

quilt_blueboro5This set of straight lines evolved on the last day of a 4-day show in Phoenix, Arizona this February. I was tired and looking forward to my flight home, but facing a full afternoon of packing up the booth. The straight lines were a sign of frustration, but I love them. They feel wonderful, and they inspired me to include more simple lines into the quilt. I have switched it up a bit by using different shades of blue, from darkest indigo to lighter sky blues, and some Hida variegated blue here and there. I’ve got a mix of Olympus and Hida threads in this quilt, and I find both easy and pleasant to use.

Daisy approves.
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Want to make a quilt like this one? Here are links to the items I have in stock:

Batting - Winline organic bamboo
Fabrics - search for Moda “Kasuri”, Alexander Henry “Hamada Stripe” and “Genmai Teacup”, Olympus “Family Crests” is here. I will have more antique katazome in stock soon.

Sashiko needles and thimbles

Sashiko thread

Washing shibori yukata cotton

Textile junkies love color and texture, and shibori has both in spades. When it comes to using these fabrics and not just collecting them (as my mother so often did), we take a step back and ask, “What is going to happen if I wash this? What if I don’t wash it? Will washing make it bleed, stretch, fade, or lose the loveliness I’ve fallen in love with?”

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I was having just such a conversation with my dogs this afternoon while unrolling a vintage shibori bolt. Daisy inspected the fabric, sniffing it, stepping on it, sitting on it, and generally finding it quite nice. Cindy ignored it, as she does everything else that doesn’t smell like food.

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The end of the bolt was stained and stretched already, making it a good candidate for experimentation. It was odd-shaped and unable to lie flat, but I liked the design! Butterflies are a harbinger for spring, and I saw a Monarch butterfly in our garden this morning–quite rare in our urban area–so I’m in a butterfly mood these days.

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Before washing

Unstretched the fabric measures 11″ x 30″ (28cm x 76.5cm). Stretched it measures 14″ x 35″ (36cm x 89cm).

During washing

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I used cold water and mild laundry soap in a small plastic tub. While I did not see any dye bleed, I did see a lot of dirt. Assuming this bolt had been in storage for a while before it came to me, there was probably a significant amount of dust in there. No funky smells (mold, dye, etc.) or other weirdness noted.

Drying

Typically I hang vintage Japanese textiles to dry and then press them with an iron while the fabric is still damp. However, in the interest of research and finding out exactly how cotton shibori will fare under different circumstances, I tossed the fabric in the dryer with a clean, dry towel and walked away. Much more liberating than my usual multi-step technique!

Daisy modeling the warm fabric fresh from the dryer.

Daisy modeling the warm fabric fresh from the dryer.

After 20 minutes in the dryer on a regular setting the fabric emerged looking just like it did before washing. No shrinkage to note, and plenty of pointy shibori texture still evident.

Pressing

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I set my iron on high heat/high steam, turned the fabric face down on the ironing board, gave it a spritz of water, and went to it. The result? Much of the texture flattened out, but the fabric retained much of the shibori character I had hoped to keep. The points are no longer as pronounced as they had been, but the design is easier to see and the geometry is beautifully apparent.

Measurements: 14″ x 34″ (36cm x 86cm) unstretched, up to 35″ (89cm) length when stretched.

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It could certainly be pressed even more to eliminate the texture, but I’d rather not. At this point I feel confident in using this piece as part of a quilt, knowing that it will change a bit with each future washing, but that’s part of shibori’s beauty; its ability to evolve.

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Kumo, bai, and ori nui shibori

If you would like a piece of this shibori for your own projects, you can find it here along with others in the Kimonomomo Etsy shop.

Before and After

Before and After

Kogin – yet another diversion to keep my hands happy

You know, because I obviously have WAY too much free time.

Koginzashi こぎん刺し (or according to various online translations, “concentrated silver stab”) is a regional stitch technique that evolved out of its plain but fascinating older sister, sashiko刺し子. By carefully counting the warp and weft threads of a piece of cloth, a pattern could be devised to protect the wearer both physically (for warmth and heavy-duty wear) and spiritually, including designs to ward against bad fortune.

Origin: Tsugaru region, Aomori Prefecture, late 17th/early 18th century

In the Edo era, when farmers and peasants were not permitted to wear cotton as it was reserved for the samurai class, they resorted to readily available linen and other bast fibers to stay warm. Fortunately these bast fibers grow well in the northern regions where cotton could not be grown. Unfortunately they aren’t as effective at retaining heat as cotton, so the use of extra thread sewn in such a way along the weft of the fabric as to appear woven in made the clothing much warmer and softer. Many older pieces are done with white thread on indigo dyed fabric, producing striking geometric images primarily based on diamond shapes.

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Working with an Olympus kogin kit for a pincushion, I found myself struggling with the instructions and had to start over a few times. Once I got the general concept, it was really quite simple and enjoyable. The kit comes with everything you need to start, including fabric, a pack of polyester batting to stuff the pincushion, a needle, and more than enough thread. Instructions are in Japanese, but I have an English translation if you need it. It’s not the best translation, but it does help.

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I unpacked the kit and added two books on the subject. Those first three stitches took me 10 minutes to figure out. I hope what follows will help you to better understand kogin and save you a few headaches. The books shown here are available through various online sources including Etsy and Kinokuniya. If you search for “kogin” or “こぎん刺し” by copying and pasting that into your browser, you will find some very inspiring images and books.

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The Olympus kit was somewhat cryptic in that it said to start in the middle of the project. Not just the middle line, mind you, but in the center of that middle line. Why? As I went along it all made sense. The fabric is not marked, as it is in the Olympus sashiko kits. Here the instructions say to cut the small rectangle of included fabric in half and fold one square into quarters. The creases will show you where the center is, and I have marked that with lines in the photo here. The first stitch covers three warp threads, and moves to the left. Note that to the right the little pyramid is missing its bottom stitches because we haven’t gotten there yet. If you start in the middle of everything, it helps the rest of the pattern fall into place very neatly.
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From the back you can see the tail of the first stitch. It is suggested that you leave 10cm of thread there, but once I finished the kit I wondered if I could have left half of the starting thread. It really didn’t take much thread at all to do the top half of the design. As it is, you will need that long tail to complete the line later, so make it 10cm (4″) or longer if you like. I backstitch instead of making knots, so extra thread for backstitching is always appreciated.

Once you come to the end of the row, you go up a weft thread and move to the right, continuing the design. After a few rows it becomes easier to anticipate where the next stitch will be, and then you’ll find an easy pace. At least I did. 15 minutes of frustration became a pleasant hour or so of stitching, and the result was quite rewarding.
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The pattern in the kit is very sweet, but I had seen something a little more interesting in one of the books I had on hand, so I went ahead and added a border as an afterthought.
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Several kogin kits and supplies have recently been added to the Kimonomomo Etsy shop, and I hope you will find a new diversion for yourself there. More thread colors will be added as soon as I edit the photos, and more kits are coming from Japan later this month. If you have requests, please let me know.

Kimonomomo Shop Updates for March 2014

February blew through the studio, bringing with it two shows (AQS Phoenix AZ & San Mateo, CA), many orders, and several new projects. Between keeping up with the shop and the garden–a lack of rain here meant daily watering so our winter vegetables wouldn’t die–I fell behind on my writing. To catch up, here is a little synopsis.

AQS Phoenix, AZ

AQS Phoenix, AZ

This was the first AQS Quilt Week to be hosted in Phoenix, AZ, and it was fun. Thanks to next year’s Super Bowl, Quilt Week with be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which I am looking forward to as I prefer it to Arizona. Sorry Phoenix, your convention center is impressive, but I have very fond memories of New Mexico.

Eiko from Birch Fabrics

Eiko from Birch Fabrics

Organic cotton is awesome. The more you know about the cotton industry, the more you want to use organic fabrics, and these do not disappoint. In mid-February the Eiko collection from Birch Fabrics arrived and I immediately started piecing a new quilt with it! These fabrics came through the pre-wash and dry cycle with minimal fraying (YAY!) and feel even softer than they did on the bolt, which is saying something. I have 11 different fabrics from the collection available in the Kimonomomo Etsy shop, and I encourage you to check them out. Make something fun for summer!

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My fiancée Thomas lent a hand on day 3 of the Quilt, Craft, & Sewing Expo in San Mateo, CA. If you were there the first two days of the show you met Leah, my new assistant. No photos of her yet, but we’ll get there.

"Can i haz sits?"

“Can i haz sits?”

Daisy likes sashiko. And quilts.

Daisy likes sashiko. And quilts.

Daisy dog, fresh from the groomer, decided my current project was nap-worthy. She’s mostly blind due to damage to her eyes from before Thomas adopted her several years ago, but she is a sweetheart who loves to give kisses and push other dogs out of the way in the dog-push-dog world of grabbing attention and affection. She’s small and doesn’t shed, so she’s welcome to a quilt-top nap now and then.

Thick thread, tiny stitches. Yes, it can be done!

Thick thread, tiny stitches. Yes, it can be done!

The sashiko quilt has been coming along very well. For those who are curious how I can stitch through three layers and not break my needle, I’ve been using Winline organic bamboo batting which is light and holds up amazingly well. I have a roll of it in the studio for future projects and kits and would like to carry it in my shop as a regular item, so let me know if you’re interested in trying it out. I’m also now a diehard fan of using a thimble for all my sashiko projects. I’d considered thimbles optional for years, but now that I’ve mastered the appropriate handhold for a long sashiko needle, it’s the only way I sew.

Coming up this month we have two meetings of the Bay Area Sashiko Workshop, one in the San Jose area and one in Alameda, CA, details to come. Voices in Cloth 2014, the annual show for the East Bay Heritage Quilters, will be my next show in late March, and I’m excited to see all the quilts, including two amazing raffle quilts!

Swimming in Sateen, and a bit of Tsujigahana

Kona Bay Fabrics have offered Japanese cotton sateens for many years now, but I’ve not ordered any until this month. Why oh why did I wait so long? These are gorgeous! Photos don’t do them justice.

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The metallic gold is beautifully incorporated into the print, which means it doesn’t stand out as much as it does on most fabrics and it blends well with the overall design while adding shimmer.

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The colors… oh, the colors! So delicate.

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Crisp lines and soft edges mix and mingle. Flowers large and small flow effortlessly among each other.

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Several of the fabrics feature the delicate crinkles indicative of tsujigahana. Similar to shibori (tie dye) but far more complex, this technique was popular centuries ago, then fell out of favor. Since that time one artist has managed to revive this artform and elevate it to something entirely new. Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003) created a vast body of art that is housed in a stunning museum near Mt. Fuji. The kimono he created during his lifetime (and a few that are still being created according to his design by his apprentices) are in a rotating exhibit in a single, large, purpose-built room with plenty of natural light.

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I was fortunate to visit this museum last spring, but as photography is not allowed inside, all I have to show for it is a book and some postcards. I highly suggest viewing the museum website for a view of the collection.

If you are tired of winter’s color palette and look forward to the softer pastels of spring blossoms, give the sateens a try and let me know what you think.

Vintage Katazome Comes Clean

katazome3 Meiji era katazome cottons have a special place in my heart. I started collecting them years ago, back when I could barely afford to, and now it’s become something of a joy and an obsession. The fine dots and designs that remind me of having henna painted on my hands when I was 12 years old (long story, lovely memory), and that deeply soothing shade of almost midnight blue just makes me happy.

Last night I took apart a futon cover that was in fairly good condition with no bad odors, tears, or odd stains, and figured it might be a good idea to clean it before offering the fabric for sale. Four panels wide, the stitching was done with thick, indigo dyed cotton thread which snapped nicely as I pulled the panels apart. It was a good kind of give, with little resistance, however I’m sure that it would have held together just fine had I not coaxed it to separate.

I filled a sink with cool water and a dash of Dr. Bronner’s castille soap, swished it around to agitate a bit, then put the panel in and started squeezing the soapy water through. Almost immediately the water turned a light brown, then darker… so dark I couldn’t see the bottom of the sink. I drained the murky water, rinsed the panel, then filled the sink with soapy water again. More brown murk, this time with some gray. I was watching for indigo dye bleed, but all I got was muck. Rinse, fill sink with more soapy water, wash for a third time. STILL more brownish-gray murk, but not as much as before. Rinse, hang to dry near an open window.

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An hour later the fabric was still damp but ready for ironing. I like ironing Japanese cottons while still damp because it means I don’t have to wet it again with a spray bottle. The problem with fabrics that do bleed is they will transfer to the ironing board cover, but that was not an issue with this panel. Old as it is, I’m certain it was washed often enough to have passed on any fugitive dye long ago. What it did have was decades of accumulated dust and dirt in it, and (I shudder to think) probably some dead skin from its previous owner, if it had not been washed since it was last used. Most of us prefer to purchase new bedding rather than used, and it’s probably because we know what goes on in that bedding. The lack of noticeable odor when I received the fabric was a good indication that it had likely been laundered at some point, but the murky water made me think it had been stored for a very long time. Bits of white fluff still clung to the back where the batting (feels like silk mawata) had attached itself like velcro.

Comparing the washed fabric alongside the unwashed fabric that night, my tired eyes could hardly see a difference. The colors were perhaps a touch brighter, the fabric perhaps a little softer, or was it my imagination? The next morning I took the washed and unwashed panels outside to view them in full sunlight. Oh! Yes, there definitely was a difference. Maybe not as pronounced as I would have liked, but the ivory-white was cleaner and brighter, without the beige overtones the unwashed fabric had. Success! I picked the rest of the futonji (futongawa? I’m still learning the difference) apart and went to work on cleaning each panel.

katazome4 The square piece shown here measures 13″ x 13″ (33cm x 33cm) and will make a beautiful pillow cover. I will have these listed in the KimonoMomo Etsy shop soon, along with the larger 13″ x 65″ (33cm x 164cm) panels. This is the first of several indigo katazome fabrics I’ll be listing, and I hope you will find one that inspires you to make something uniquely yours.

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Postcard from Ginza, Tokyo

It’s been a whirlwind of a tour here in Japan. From the picturesque mountain countryside of Gunma, to a lakeside hotel in view of Mt. Fuji, to the packed city streets of Tokyo, every day has been an adventure.

I’ve been shopping at used kimono stores over the past few days, finding many treasures and selecting pieces for the shop, but yesterday was a special treat. Our friend and guide Megumi san took us to see new kimono shops and introduced us to the owners. We visited department stores, small shops in malls, and one very special high-end boutique, where we saw some exceptional pieces.

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I’ve been selling used kimono since 2005, starting off with just the fabric bolts and eventually learning how to wear kimono and dress myself and others. The geometry of the garment is fairly simple; complexity comes in the execution of it. From design and embellishment to the wearing and accessorizing of it, a kimono can be as timeless as a Chanel suit or as tacky as a polyester leisure suit. A quality kimono is evident from a distance, but not by shouting. It expresses itself with a subtle but distinct voice. And it isn’t cheap.

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Many of us who buy used kimono are accustomed to spending $100 or less for silk, and even less than that for cotton yukata. When new, a quality silk kimono can cost thousands of dollars, and yukata may cost hundreds. For example, the yukata in the above image are roughly US$320 apiece, and that was at a mid-range mall boutique. At a high end shop they may cost significantly more, depending on the material, weave, and artist.

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Customer service is reflected in the price, too. At a bargain shop you may find busy ladies dressing their customers, matching up kimono and obi with obijime, zori, and other accessories. The space is cramped, the shelves crowded with layers of colorful chirimen, kasuri, meisen, ro, etc. the prices are decent and the quality is fair. These shops are fun and affordable for many young women who are learning to wear kimono and building a wardrobe. Higher upmarket you’ll find mall shops with clean and tidy displays of kimono waiting to be custom tailored, and bolts of silk waiting patiently in drawers and on shelves. Some stand-alone boutiques offer new and used kimono in an elegant setting, with sales people who will shadow the customer through the shop, offering suggestions and advice with patience and grace.

At the high end… That’s where things get really special. I’ll talk more about that later.

Kona Bay’s Hana Bashi Collection by Nobu Fujiyama

HANA-04-BLUEKona Bay Fabrics is known for their wide selection of Japanese-themed fabrics, and two prints from Hana Bashi, the lastest collection from designer Nobu Fujiyama, are now in stock, ready for your spring projects. The colors are a bit darker than they appear on the images, and the metallic gold details are far nicer than they appear in a flat image. The blue swirls and waves will look gorgeous in summer projects, and the chrysanthemums will look great for autumn. The cool blues round out an elegant winter look, making this a four-season fabric.

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I find the swirls especially appealing as they lend a feeling of movement. Rippling water with tiny chrysanthemums and leaves dance across sun-splashed tones of blue or teal. You can click on the images to see them in my shop.

I’ve also included the blue version in a fat quarter trio with two of Kona Bay’s Ginkgo Tonals (“sand” and “jute”). I think the grouping looks fresh, light, clean, and elegant. The group of three fat quarters is $7.50 plus shipping in the KimonoMomo Etsy shop. I offer several trios of fat quarters, and would be happy to make a custom listing just for you with any prints I have in stock. Just ask! 

Kona Bay FQ set

Shop news and updates for April, 2013

I have no idea what happened to March. It was here, then it was gone.

April seems a little more grounded, rooted, and thriving. The shop is buzzing with sales (use the code SPRING at checkout for 15% off until May 1, 2013) and sashiko items have been flying out the door. Going through my stock this week I found notes and inventory lists from 2010, a year or so after I first starting selling sashiko supplies. Over the years I’ve taught myself sashiko, taught classes, written articles for Stitch Magazine, blogged about vintage pieces I found interesting, repaired my favorite pair of jeans with stray bits of sashiko thread, and generally allowed sashiko to take over a happy portion of my life.

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*How has sashiko affected your life? Do you go crazy for colors, or do you seek out unusual fabrics for embellishing? Are you still getting by using embroidery floss for your projects? Post your experience here and I’ll pick my favorite for the sashiko sample pack above including needles, thread, and Wagara fabric. Deadline is Sunday, May 5, 2013. 

Tell your friends to get in on the giveaway! The bigger the response I have to these little freebies, the more of them I’ll do in the future. I’m heading to Japan in May and will be picking up loads of new goodies to share.