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).

#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.

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.


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.


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.


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.
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.

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.

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!


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!

Preparing costumes for Dickens Fair 2014

I’m a little bit of a costuming nerd. Maybe an intermediate nerd. What started with historically accurate Halloween costumes in grade school turned into working at Renaissance Faire in high school, and Victorian costuming for Dickens Christmas Fair soon after that. Having a mother who could plan and sew a costume with a bit of research helped, and I inherited her sewing machines, fabric, and books along with some clever costuming mojo.

I dragged my kids to Medieval, Renaissance, Victorian, and Civil War events over the years. My daughter loved it, later wearing my old costumes and looking fabulous in them. My son, not so much. He still refuses to even talk about it. This morning he informed me that he hates safety pins.

Trying out the new petticoat with old corset and hoop skirt. There are safety pins involved. Lots of safety pins.

Trying out the new petticoat with old corset and hoop skirt (2013). There are safety pins involved. Lots of safety pins.

Thomas isn’t much of a fan, either, but I did talk him into going to a Victorian ball with me last year, and we had planned to attend Dickens Fair in San Francisco. Unfortunately those plans derailed when I ended up in the Emergency Room of a local hospital instead. But hey ho! things worked out in the end.

skirt_daisy_cindy Last night I took out my old costume and tried it on over my jeans and a t-shirt, then pulled it all off to take some measurements and see what needed to be fixed on the skirt and petticoats. While my back was turned, the girls decided to take a nap.

dickens2The green velvet skirt front is from my very first Renaissance Faire costume… circa 1987. It’s been creatively reused a few times since then. The back part is a large square of plaid Pendleton wool (similar to this one), possibly as old as the velvet, that had been in my mother’s stash until she died. The wool is gorgeous stuff and flows beautifully when I dance. Not that I get to dance much. Thomas doesn’t like dancing.

Yes, I’m teasing you, dear. Prove me wrong.

Today I’m fabricating some ruffles from plain black scrap kimono silk, because I can’t costume without throwing in SOMETHING kimono-related. And guess what I’m using for a small bum roll/mini bustle? And obi makura, of course. One of those little tie-on pillows that holds up the taiko drum shape of an obi. If I don’t find a reasonably Victorian handbag to use, I might even make one from some old obi fabric, but I’m afraid that might clash with the otherwise Scottish theme of the costume.

Well, maybe. We’ll see.

Hida Sashiko Thread

I’ve been selling sashiko thread in my shop since 2008, and it’s always been Olympus thread, nothing else. I knew of other brands, but Olympus has been a dependable brand for me, and I’ve been very happy to have it in stock and use it in my classes and projects.

Earlier this year discovered Hida Sashiko thread and I am hooked. The depth and variety of colors is quite impressive and the quality of the thread is very high. However, due to an agreement I’ve made with the company, I cannot sell the thread in my online shop. I can, however, sell it at shows and in my classes and workshops–anytime I’m face-to-face with my customers, as the company has requested. Hida Sashiko is a company of sashiko professionals who are passionate about their traditional craft, and they would prefer to limit online access to their products for the time being.

To give you an idea of the color differences between Olympus white (#1 & 101) and off-white (#2 & 102) thread and Hida white threads #10, 11, and 12, here is a photo with each lined up according to shade.


Perhaps not the greatest photo, but it does show how much of a difference there is between the more familiar Olympus off-white 100m skein, Olympus bright white 40m skein, and everything in between. Hida #10 is an unbleached cotton, my favorite color to use with deep indigo and especially the antique indigo katazome cottons that will be appearing soon in the shop. Hida #11 is a buttery white, clean but with mild yellow tones. Hida #12 is a crisp, bright white, but not as visually flat as the Olympus bright white 40m skein.

Another difference I’m sure you’ve noticed is the size of the skeins. Olympus comes in 40 meter and 100 meter skiens, and Hida comes in 50 meter (not shown) and 145 meter skeins. I find that when starting out with sashiko it’s nice to have an inexpensive, smaller skein to start with, so many of my customers go with Olympus until they get a feel for sashiko. Once they’re feeling more comfortable with the size of the needle and thread, they move up to the Hida. There is a cost difference, which is to be expected as Hida is a higher quality product manufactured on a smaller scale than Olympus, but it is worth it. The Olympus 100m skien on the far left currently retails for US$7 in my shop, and the Hida 145m skeins in solid colors retail for US$13.50.

One of my best-selling Olympus colors has always been a light spring green. Hida has a similar shade of green, plus many more. While Olympus offers two solid shades of green, Hida has seven.


I stock all 50+ colors of Hida thread including variegated thread and a limited number of botanically-dyed threads. I have them available at all open studio days, East Bay Sashiko Workshop Meetups, live shows, and classes. If you are already familiar with Hida thread and need to stock up, contact me directly to set up an order. I will be posting a list of upcoming shows very soon, including AQS Quilt Week in Phoenix, Arizona in February, 2014.

Unpacking the pretties and piecing them together

I’ve been back from Houston for a week, worked 2.5 days at another show, and now I’m settling into the happy work of sorting fabrics in the studio. My show stock arrived a few days ago and is still being unpacked. Thomas and I discussed the new shelving units he will build for me, and what to do with our current (inadequate) shelving situation in the meantime. Boxes arrive from Japan every few days as I stock and restock cottons, silks, sashiko supplies, and notions, and I am already far behind on photographing all the new fabrics that arrived last month. My Etsy store shows over 200 items in stock, but it’s easily double that now. All I need to do is get everything photographed, edited, and listed.

wagara_quilt1A quilt I started last month is coming along nicely. Using a combination of Moda’s Kasuri line with Wagara fabrics from Olympus, Gemai Teacup in blue and sepia from Alexander Henry, and several antique indigo katazome pieces, the whole thing is machine pieced and will be hand quilted using sashiko. I’ve avoided hand quilting for years, but it has turned out very easy and pretty fabulous.

I’ll be focused on catching up with orders and item listings, so keep an eye on the shop to see what’s new and exciting. There will be plenty of new items for the holiday season, including some gorgeous new kimono silk scarves.

Houston International Quilt Market and Festival 2013

I survived!

hqmarket14After finding out at the very last minute that I had been accepted for Festival, I packed up the majority of my stock and shipped it out to Houston in mid-October. Then I did the East Bay Mini Maker Faire at the Park Day School in Oakland, California, and packed up what was left from that show and hauled it all with me in two large suitcases to Houston. From the airport to the hotel, then off to Quilt Market (the wholesale portion of the show), I didn’t skip a beat. That was Saturday; by Monday I was exhausted and had ordered several dozen new bolts of fabric and sashiko supplies from Japan. The last booth I visited was offering Daiwabo yarn-dyed cotton taupes. I was doomed.

hqmarket_pepperAt Market I had the pleasure of meeting Pepper Cory, a quilter and author who has done some beautiful sashiko work in traditional Japanese designs using non-Japanese materials. She and I discussed her preference for using English-made needles for sashiko, as well as perle #8 thread. I’ve been using Olympus needles and thread since 2008, and have only recently branched out into using other threads such as Hida (available by request) and supplies from other Japanese companies such as Tulip, Kinkame, and Clover. Talking with other sashiko stitchers, I’m finding a broad variety of preferences for either Japanese or Western tools and supplies.

Back home again, I’m working on plans for upcoming sashiko classes and events, so of course my mind would head of in another direction… back to Japanese goldwork embroidery, which I haven’t done in a year. The last piece was for the Winter Gifts issue of Stitch Magazine, 2012. Maybe it’s the impending holiday season that is inspiring me to do something sparkly again. The last project was on smooth blue habutai silk. I think this next one should be on rich red chirimen.

Nouveau Boro

sashikoboro_verb1I’ve brought samples of my sashiko work to various quilt guilds and fabric shops, offering to teach a class or do a talk on the vintage pieces in my collection. So far the responses have varied from the rare “We’d love to have you, how much do you charge?” to the far more common “We already have a sashiko teacher,” which is typically the end of the discussion. Sometimes the stars align just so and the right words get to the right ears and I make a connection.

After showing some of my samples at a meeting of the East Bay Modern Quilt Guild in Oakland, CA recently, I expressed my frustration in trying to find a shop to host me for a sashiko class. Situated as we are on the eastern shore of the Pacific Rim in an area rich with Asian art and culture, it’s hard not to stumble onto a sashiko teacher at every other quilt shop. And yet… From across the room Kristine Vejar, the owner of the shop hosting our guild meeting, replied to my comment with the wonderful words “I don’t have a sashiko teacher for the shop.”

sashikoboro_verb2 She does, however, have her own indigo vat with home-grown indigo brewing in it. Kristine had also started a project with pieces of shibori she had dyed right there in the shop, but had reached a point with the quilt where she felt stuck. Standing there listening to her talk about it a few days after the guild meeting, I ran my fingers over the unfinished quilt while thinking of all the fun things I could do with it. “Why don’t you take it home and finish it?” she asked, handing me a bundle of extra bits and pieces in varying shades of blue.

With instructions to treat her unfinished quilt top as if it was yardage and to chop it up and resew it as I pleased, I set to work. The cutting table was cleared of clutter and out came the rotary cutter. I set up an ironing board in one part of the studio, one of Mom’s old Singers in another. Stepping over two sleeping dogs as I went back and forth from table to sewing machine to ironing board, I saw the fabric gradually taking shape into something new.

verb_boro3Boro that isn’t made from rags isn’t truly boro, but the word itself has taken on a fresh meaning over the past few years as boro has become vogue among collectors of Asian and textile art. While touring the Amuse Museum in Tokyo last month, I had the opportunity to view and even touch pieces of true boro, rags that had be patched and pieced together until they returned to the threads they were woven from. The boro we make today is for entertainment and our own edification, not for survival as it once was. Does that make one more of an artform than another?

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.


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

Karinui Comparisons, part 2

In part 1 I disassembled an inexpensive kurotomesode (high formal women’s kimono) and gave you a peek at the inner workings, so to speak. This time we’ll be looking at a more expensive kimono and seeing how different the two can be.

Part 2: The Hot Date

Unlike the pretty, fast, and easy Cheap Date, this kimono has some hidden charms and plenty of class. This is another kurotomesode, solid black with five white circles reserved for family crests and a colorful design along the bottom hem. On the surface it appears similar the previous kimono, but that’s about to change. karinui_151551 First, this one has a woven design, not just a dyed one. This is not terribly common, so already she stands out among the crowd. The woven details are charming, especially when you consider that no one would be down on hands and knees looking at the hem of this kimono while it is worn in public. At least I hope not. That would be rude. karinui_1515.1Heian era scene shows a garden, boats on the water, a daimyo‘s procession his castle. karinui_1515.10 Click on any of the images to see a closer view. karinui_1515.11 Subltle woven details shift to bold red waves splashed with gold. karinui_1515.13 Look at the amazing detail on the horse and rider! Keep in mind this detail is less than two inches tall. karinui_1515.7 And here is what it looks like from the back. karinui_1515.8 Delicate brush strokes in pink accentuate a peaceful sky above the woven scenery. karinui_1515.12

A bit of design overlap.karinui_1515.4 One of the things about this kimono that makes it a work of art is how even the inner lining is dyed to match the outer. This is more typical in kimono of a century ago or older, but it is not done as often in today’s formal kimono. karinui_1515.9 All of the woven designs go to the selvedge, but there are a few exceptions with the dyed parts. Not all, but some. karinui_1515.6

Again, unlike the previous kimono, most of the hand dyework is selvedge-to-selvedge, including the metallic gold splash accents.  karinui_1515.5 This crest circle was reserved for filling in later, and covered by a scrap of white silk to keep it clean and protected until a customer has chosen the kimono and sent it out for the crest to be applied by hand. karinui_1515.3 Basting threads tearing apart with the greatest of ease. karinui_1515.2 Stamp noting the fabric is 100% silk and 12.3 meters (13.45 yards) long. karinui_1515.15 All rolled up! karinui_1515.16


So what happens now? Both karinui will be used for other projects I have in mind. Those will be disclosed a little later this year after I’ve had a chance to sit down with needle and thread. If you have any questions or would like to know more, please leave a comment below.