Kogin Institute, Hirosaki, Aomori, Japan

I visited the Kogin Institute in Hirosaki on January 31, 2017 after visiting the Tokyo Quilt Festival, Takayama, and Osaka. It was a pleasant flight from Osaka to Hirosaki, with the view of snowy mountains most of the way, and many, many empty seats. My companion Toyo looked around the plane, counted the passengers, and…

Why is kimono fabric so narrow?

There is a lot of confusion among Westerners about this issue. We are accustomed to cutting patterns for clothing, quilts, and crafts from 42″-44″ wide bolts, so the idea that a bolt could be so much narrower–12″-15″–seems, well, foreign. Considering the width of a basic backstrap loom, the narrow fabric makes sense. Backstrap looms are easy…

Chugata, Yukata, and Katazome videos part 1 & 2

I’ve been having fun researching and learning more about Chugata (a form of double-sided stencil dyeing) this week, and how it relates to other Japanese dyeing techniques such as katazome. While I’ve had some of these fabrics for years, I hadn’t really dug into their history too much until now. Here are the first two videos…

市松人形 Antique doll kimono – My New Year Challenge – part 3

A little background on what makes a doll an Ichimatsu ningyo… 人形 Ningyo = doll. That’s the easy part. 佐野川 市松 Sanogawa Ichimatsu (1722-1762) What have come to be called Ichimatsu dolls were first produced in the Kampô and Hôreki eras (1741 – 1764), the faces designed to resemble Sanogawa Ichimatsu, a Kabuki actor who was famous for…

Antique doll kimono – My New Year Challenge – part 2

In the West we tend to think of kimono as a static garment, always one style, one type of construction. Over the past decade I have handled a wide variety of vintage kimono, mostly from the 20th century, and the style, color, quality of weave, etc. do change the same as our own garments, although perhaps…

Playing with Texture: Japanese Dobby Cottons

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…

Fujix Persimmon dyed threads Kakishibu – 柿渋

I’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…

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…

Vintage Katazome Comes Clean

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…

Kimono Disassembly

I’ll be back to posting the Caterpillar to Kimono series very soon. In the meantime I’ve been taking apart several kimono I picked up on the Japan trip, and it’s been an interesting experience. Back when I first opened KimonoMomo in 2005 I spent a lot of time taking things apart. I am fairly adept at…

From Caterpillar to Kimono: a Journey in Silk, part 2

From careful handwork to heavy machinery, there are many ways to unreel a silk cocoon. Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo, is famous for silk production. In the 19th century Japan produced far more of the world’s silk than it does today (China has taken the title of world silk producer, much as it has taken…

From Caterpillar to Kimono: a Journey in Silk, part 1

My brain is still on Tokyo time. I sit at the breakfast table with my tea and toast and contemplate the day ahead; only it’s almost noon and I’m still not really awake. Most nights I’m up until 1:00 or 2:00 AM, but I’m struggling to get back on a schedule the rest of the…