Friday, 1 May 2015

Silkworms Hatched

I forgot to put the silkworm eggs I bred last August in the refrigerator. I left them in my closet and when I walked in yesterday I found three thousand baby silkworms on a shelf looking for food.

The mulberry is barely leafing and it is a bit cool to start silk farming, especially with guests at the house. But they hatched and I will look after them. Busy days ahead.

The indigo is already growing and there is a wonderful nest near the front door.

Beautiful days.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Katazome Japanese Paste Resist Simple Demonstration

Ella was a bit loud in background.....most guys today that woman prize today are just silly gigolos...

pasting stencil video (two minutes):

After being dipped in indigo it looked like this.

Edita found this gorgeous old piece of stencilled fabric in Kyoto. You can see soot and soy milk were used to get the grey and soot and iron oxide were painted on for the reddish accents. The background is indigo.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Great Three Days With Australians at the House.

I had an email last year asking if twenty three Australian textile teachers could  come and study at my house.

I am not sure how I allowed myself to be convinced that it was possible to have that many people stay at the house but somehow the day arrived and so did they.

Strong willed and full of laughter and good will. We had great food, music, weather, baths, campfires, indigo sessions and Japanese textile discussions. A very special special time. Thank you ladies.

They should be boarding their plane now back to Australia.

Best to you all from Hiro and Bryan.

(click to see the pictures)

Saturday, 4 April 2015

What to do when visiting Japan. Akemi Cohn visit. Spring Woprkshops

I didn't know that the Japanese government was publishing these books about Japan.  There is an issue on Japanese textiles. You can find an article on some Canadian silk farmer on page 28 of this month's issue.

I've been here so long I am sort of lost at what advice to give travellers to Japan. These books seem to have some good ideas.

The spring ten-day workshops are underway.

Group one left a few days back. The weather was perfect. Everyone got along well. A lot of creativity and kindnesses exchanged. The food was overwhelming with Hiro in the kitchen and on barbecue duty.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you Karen, Sonia, Susanne, Rosey, Edita, Shree, Jean, Nathalie. The house is lonely without you.

We were all honoured to have master stencil maker/dyer Akemi Cohn to drop by for a day and help with netting the stencil homework. She was in Japan for a visit and made the journey out to the house to help. Check out Akemi's work here: Akemi's Website

Here are just a few of the things that came out of the indigo vat during this early spring workshop. Amazing work so early in spring.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Combining a Difficult Palette of Warp Threads

Putting together a beautiful warp is one of the more enjoyable steps in the long process from the silk moth egg to silk cocoon to cloth.  (Much more enjoyable than weeding an overgrown-rainy-season-mosquito-infested mulberry field on sweltering humid days in July.

 I had some beautiful reeled double cocoon thread sitting in a box from years back. Elizabeth wanted to see a Japanese loom warped. (Should have known better to work under a deadline.) I dyed the thread with madder, gardenia pods, indigo and oak bark individually and over each other. The colours were fresh and spring-like. The problem was forcing them together in a reasonable warp.

Looked pretty daunting & nightmarish.

It warped like this and I figured it would manageable. After World War Two the women in my area would weave with whatever thread they could get their hands on. Bright colours were welcome to brighten spirits. The contrasting colours were put together and the sheer will of the weaver somehow made them work together. I figured this might be the case with these colours. Natural dyes almost always work well enough together. 

Elizabeth painstakingly wove eight colours in the weft for a few meters. Her sheer will made it work. Far less patient and with almost no free time to weave I will weave up the remaining seven meters with a red weft and dye the whole thing with madder when it is finished. The texture of the threads is sublime. The colours just couldn't be forced to sing. It will make a gorgeous red lining for a hanten jacket this autumn when over-dyed deep red. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Easiest Silk Cocoon to Thread Technique.

The easiest way to make a thread from a cocoon is to 'mostly melt' the natural glue that holds the cocoon together and just pull the cocoon into a thread. Make a pH solution of 9  from ash or slaked lime then place cocoons in a laundry bag. Submerse them in the water at 90 degrees centigrade for an hour while occasionally stirring the cocoons in the bag.

Rinse very well.  Left with a high pH the silk will  frazzle over a few hours. In other words, neutralize the silk by gently washing with warm water as soon as the cocoons have collapsed.

simplest silk thread video. 58 seconds.

Here is Elizabeth well over her initial disgust at the whole de-bugging steps.

I've been teaching Elizabeth several silk thread making techniques. The Japanese words for these are pretty obscure and hard to remember so she coins the words in English as we go along. This technique became known as the "squid technique." Easy to remember and reference.

The work is a tad gross and time consuming so we worked on a manageable  50 cocoons at a time. 
After pulling them into threads we hung them up to dry. They harden as there is still a lot of natural glue in them. Once tied together and plied they can be de-gummed properly to make them softer and shinier.

Elizabeth proved herself to be a natural at reeling high quality ten cocoon thread. Almost no slubs to be found. (There is still some snow on the ground.)

We took the fresh reeled silk to a village not far away that used to specialize in throwing silk since the Edo period. I tried to give her the rudiments of throwing (twisting or plying) in a few hours. There are a few old throwing machines at the studio that are somewhat operational.

There are some old photographs on the wall showing life in the village 90 years ago where throwing silk was the main activity thousands of worker's life centered. 

Changing the gears in the throwing machines determines how many spins per meter.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Cocoons to Thread

These 3500 little specks of black pepper are actually baby silkworms born last spring at the house.

Twenty-five days later they were spinning cocoons. (Click to enlarge.)

Cocoons from last spring ready to be processed into thread.

It takes time to process the cocoons into thread. Time was precious the past seven months and reeling  and spinning silk never made it to the priority list. The cocoons were kept in a fridge and once in a while a few hundred were taken out and reeled. 

Reeled silk is when the ends of the thread is found and the cocoons are unravelled using a zaguri. 

Here is the mystery of finding the end of the 1500 meter thread that makes up the cocoon.

Elizabeth from Kentucky, (whom I met in Vancouver at the Maiwa Symposium) is at the house for two weeks learning how to make different kinds of threads from silk cocoons. We started with the reeling ten cocoons at a time. Five to seven of these strands will be played together to make kimono warp threads. We will be working on decreasing the mountains of cocoons on the second floor.

Momo that lovely Minx is guarding the reeled silk.