Playing with Texture: Japanese Dobby Cottons

Buddhas in beige

Dobby cottons are fun to play with, but most quilters outside of Japan may be unfamiliar with these highly textured fabrics. What exactly does “dobby” mean, anyway?

Dobby looms entered into the weaving scene in the mid-19th century and the origin of the term comes from “draw boy”, usually a young helper who would pull strings to move warp threads on a large floor loom up or down as desired, thus enabling the weaver to create fabrics with added texture.

From Wikipedia:

On a treadle loom, each foot-operated treadle is connected by a linkage called a tie-up to one or more shafts. More than one treadle can operate a single shaft. The tie-up consists of cords or similar mechanical linkages tying the treadles to the lams that actually lift or lower the shaft.

On treadle operated looms, the number of sheds is limited by the number of treadles available. An eight-shaft loom can create 254 different sheds. There are actually 256 possibilities which is 2 to the eighth power, but having all threads up or all threads down is not very useful. Most eight-shaft floor looms have only ten to twelve treadles due to space limitations. This limits the weaver to ten to twelve distinct sheds. It is possible to use both feet to get more sheds, but this is rarely done in practice. It is even possible to change tie-ups in the middle of weaving a cloth but this is a tedious process, so this too is rarely done.

With a dobby loom, all 254 possibilities are available at any time. This vastly increases the number of cloth designs available to the weaver. The advantage of a dobby loom becomes even more pronounced on looms with 12 shafts (4094 possible sheds), 16 shafts (65,534 possible sheds), or more. It reaches its peak on a Jacquard loom in which each thread is individually controlled.

kobayashi_purplefloral_dobby1 kobayashi_purplefloral_dobby4

 

Using a treadle loom is tricky at first. I’ve only ever dabbled a bit with one myself, but it seems akin to learning how to play one of those big church organs… the type with multiple floor pedals, pull stops, and a full keyboard. Modern dobby looms are computer controlled, so a human only needs to program it, get it going, and check to make sure nothing goes wonky during the weaving process.

Hokkoh teatime dobby cotton

hokkoh_teatime_black4

 

Some of the dobby fabrics in my shop have a sort of irregular, slubby texture, while others have a distinctly geometric texture. I like how light plays off these differences in what would otherwise be a pretty, but flat fabric.

What can you use dobby fabrics for? Many are heavier weight than quilting cottons but lighter than canvas or Oxford cotton, while others may be lightweight, breathable, and made for summer use. Dobbies can be used for clothing, quilting, bags, upholstery (with reservations–I’m not sure some would hold up to heavy use), curtains, and other crafts.

For example, I have this dragon fabric in six different shades, and I’m working on a set of throw pillows!

hokkoh_dragons_blue1

 

New in the shop: Sashiko Southwest

"Protecting Beauty" from Sashiko Southwest

“Protecting Beauty” from Sashiko Southwest

Joyce Perz of Sashiko Southwest is an artist with a vision. She enjoys the classic style of Japanese sashiko, but living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she is exposed to Southwest Native American tribal art in all its beautiful geometry. In combining the two she has created a collection of beautiful hybrid designs.

I had the pleasure of meeting Joyce while I was working at AQS Quilt Week Albuquerque in January of this year. Her personality and energy were inspiring, and I was excited to see her kits fly off the display in my booth during show.

Printed on Kona cotton with a wash-out ink, these kits are similar to the widely available Olympus kits many of us are already familiar with, but with a playful flair and unique take on both Native American art and traditional Japanese design.

sashikosouthwest_Fish-in-the-River

“Fish in the River” from Sashiko Southwest

While these look great with white thread on dark blue cotton, you could spice one up with a change of thread color, or use it as a centerpiece in a larger project.

Sashiko-Southwest-rugs-mini

These little kits make inexpensive, easy weekend projects, or bring one along to do while you’re waiting for an appointment (that’s how I get a lot of my sashiko done!). No hoop needed, just fabric, needle, thread, and maybe a sashiko thimble.

I have several designs available in the Kimonomomo Etsy shop right now and available at quilt shows (check the schedule to the right), or you can order directly from Joyce at SashikoSouthwest.com.

 

New Kona Bay fabrics in the Kimonomomo Etsy shop

Nobu Fujiyama. NOBU FUJIYAMA. sigh. So pretty. The entire Serene collection is just gorgeous. And yes, I have all of these in stock right now, even though they don’t all show in the Etsy shop yet. Patience!

kb_serene_panel_blue kb_serene_colorstory_blue1 kb_serene_colorstory_blue2

kb_serene_panel_red
kb_serene_colorstory_red1 kb_serene_colorstory_red2

 

Baseball and Sashiko

I’m teaching a few sashiko classes this fall, so I’ve been working on demonstration pieces to share with the students. I was working on one of them last night while Thomas and I listened to a baseball game on the radio. We cut off our cable TV a few months back to save money and our sanity, and the benefits have also included more time working together in the living room in the evenings. I’d say it’s been good for our relationship. :-)

This was made using pieces of vintage yukata cotton and Hida variegated sashiko thread #201 in the photo below.

IMG_5384-1

 

Want to take the class? Live in the greater SF Bay Area? Check it out on Eventbrite. 

New in the Kimonomomo shop: a rainbow of vintage yukata bolts

Summertime is yukata season, and in the Kimonomomo studio that means getting the dozens of yukata bolts I’ve had hiding on the shelf (some for years) out into the sunshine where I can photograph them in the best light. Here are a few of my favorites, old and new.

Click on the images to view and purchase these fabrics in my Etsy shop. 

This one is a firecracker of a floral. Mixing shadows and light, it pops with bright colors and whispers with sketched lines. yu_indigo_274963.1

A bit of ice and fire, with a punch of flower power. These blue and red flowers almost look like sea anemones.

yu_redwhiteblue_flower2

Bold bamboo with a background of… even more bamboo. This one is soft and drapes beautifully. I’ve been thinking of some projects I could do with it (which is why I held on to it for so long), but I think it was getting impatient just waiting for me to make up my mind.

yu_big_bamboo5

Want a little variety? Try making a quilt with these 8 packs of yukata fabrics. Each piece measures on average 13″ long by 14″ wide and the pieces are grouped by theme and color to help you on your way to making a gorgeous quilt or other project.

yu_8pack_indigo_florals2

indigo floral yukata prints – 8 pack

pastel floral yukata prints – 8 pack

This last one is possibly my all-time favorite, at least until the next amazing print comes along! There are so many gorgeous ones to choose from, but I could work with this one all day and not get tired of it.

yu_fav_indigo_peony1

I hope you find some new favorites of your own from among these and the others I have available right now. Visitors to the studio can dig through the dozens of others available, plus many kimono silk bolts and a wall of wide quilt cotton bolts.

We’ll be working on our next video this week while Thomas has a little time left before school starts, and I have a tiny bit of time before my next show. See you soon!

 

 

Mother’s Day Coupon Code!

There are so many new fabrics in the shop to play with, and I’m a mother, so… coupons codes for you! Use the code MOTHERSDAY14 at checkout for 15% off your purchase at my Kimonomomo Etsy shop from now until midnight on Mother’s Day, which is May 11, 2014 in the USA. Share the code, share the love!

Here’s a peek at what’s new in the shop right now, with plenty more to come:

Daiwabo Japanese cotton taupes

daiwabo_taupe_fat_quarters

 

New Sashiko kits from Olympus

mt_fuji_sashiko

 

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa and other Hokusai prints

si_hokusai_wave1

 

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.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 346 other followers

%d bloggers like this: