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…

Karinui Comparisons, part 1

I am a fan of karinui, those incomplete kimono that require expert tailoring skills to make wearable. Why? Because when it comes to disassembling a kimono, it doesn’t get any easier than tearing apart basted-together karinui. When purchased new, kimono are made to order. The weave, design, dyes, and family crests (depending on the formality…

Shakespearean showstoppers

On my trip to London in November 2012, I took the tour at the new Rose Theatre in Southwark, right on the Thames. It is a beautiful tour showcasing the amazing craftsmanship and dedication that went into building this replica of the original Rose. After making a total ass of myself by throwing in several…

Another tabletop Singer? Of course I’ll take it.

Rambling around the Alameda Point Antiques Faire this winter, I found this lovely Singer standing front and center of an antiques booth. She was a bit raggedy, but the dealer insisted that she would run just fine. I took a gamble that he was an honest man, especially after I noticed the throat plate was…

Octopus or Jewel?

Flipping through reference books while looking for examples of goldwork embroidery, I stumbled onto a page in Flowers, Dragons, & Pine Trees that made me pause, somewhat concerned, and turn the book upside-down. The image, plate 77 on page 234, is credited as an indigo dyed Kasuri Futonji from the 19th or 20th century. From the text,…

A Danish textile, and updates for spring

February was a busy month, and between four different conferences (only two of which had anything to do with textiles), I didn’t get around to posting. To make up for the time I took off, I will be posting more frequently about the amazing textiles I viewed last month, and trying out my skills at…

Defining styles: Arabesque

I had one of those slap-upside-the-head moments a few days ago while reading through a magazine on mid-century architecture. Looking at a page of beautiful gardens, there was an ornament described as being “Arabesque” and resembling something distinctly Arabic in design. Entirely logical, you might say, but to me, “Arabesque” has always meant either a…

Book Review: Flowers, Dragons, & Pine Trees

Flowers, Dragons, & Pine Trees: Asian Textiles in the Spencer Museum of Art by Mary M. Dusenbury, Hudson Hills Press, 2004 This is a hefty, coffee table-sized book filled with color photos, maps, and a wide selection of textile items from the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri. The…

Sashiko Furoshiki

Wandering around the San Francisco Design District last week, I found this gorgeous HUGE furoshiki at Tansu Design. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my tape measure on me so I couldn’t tell you the exact measurements, but yes, that is a sofa it is draped across. I’d estimate the size to be roughly 4 feet in…

Meiji Ningyo Restoration, part V

A very welcome email arrived in my box early Friday morning from Anne Weaver: I will speak for the little guy.  He is now being made whole again by filling the missing surfaces of his body.  The clothing is the biggest challenge due to years of dirt and aging.  His face is in the early…

Meiji Ningyo Restoration, part II

Loading the doll and his glass case into the back seat of my car, I wedged the case in between some blankets and a sleeping teenager. Another teenager, surly and tired from waiting in the car while I’d chatted with the shop assistant and owner, looked over from the front seat. “Can we go now?”…