Friday, 10 August 2012

Indigo Shibori Kimono/Cleaning Old Textiles

The new rhythm of the Tuesday class is for a student to find some old cloth at a weekend antique market and bring it to class and ask me what to do with it. Their eyes are getting so much better. Takeshima san hit a market last weekend. In understated Japanese style, a cloth bag appeared and the treasures came out one by one.  We found ourselves all casually sitting in the floor in the entrance of the house, lotus blooming outside. Ogata san already at work at the indigo. First she showed us a kimono she had dyed a few weeks back and sewn recently. The material was originally a roll of somewhat ugly colored light purple sturdy gauze-like Aizu Momen. Perhaps 30 years old? A weave from the now unfortunately infamous area in Fukushima.

We looked at it months ago and were not that confident in what to do with it. It was a risk to use a shibori technique that would take hundreds of hours as I couldn't be certain how the cloth would dye. There is no way to know how some materials will take the indigo. The purple might cause some trouble as well. Takeshima san herself is bold and cute and straightforward. The pattern had to match her own whimsical tough demur and like a chord progression riff with a catchy hook she pulled it off with grace.


She took a few dollar roll (2000 yen?) of old cotton and managed to just get it right in deciding on an appropriate way to dye it. I thought katazome pattern would be a lot of work and the potential results a little dicey on that particular weave. It all came together perfectly.

Then a few more mouth watering treasures appeared. Diamonds in the rough. They were dark and discolored rolls of silk and linen. The first step was to bring a huge pot of water to a boil. Add some slaked line to up the pH to melt any sizing glue, add some dish soap to remove any oil and add some regular laundry soap to clump together all the muck taken off the material so it doesn't adhere back on to the cloth. Boil it for a few hours, then put the cloth through a cycle in the washing machine. Then boil it again to make sure the cloth is really clean.

She spent too much money in a fever at the market and I was more than happy to buy half of two of her purchases. Look at them! What will the world be like when we can't get this stuff anymore? No one makes it any more. You know that feeling of desperation and elation combined? So much poetry and information in these pieces. Woven into every shuttle pass with every hand made thread made from what was immediately available in their lives. From a  time when everything wasn't Made in Fucking China.



The ultimate goal is to be weaving these textiles ourselves. Weaving with limited resources, like a box of cocoons and some old wooden reelers and looms. I think they will all move more in this direction but the fascination now is getting and starting to read these old textiles and time travel back technologically, emotionally and economically (and I hope they get the idea of what politically and sociologically) was happening to a time when everything wasn't lit up so brightly. A time with a few quiet shadows around.

The striped material is almost unrecognizable from the dirty, smelly brown material that looked as if it had been nailed to a barn door for thirty years. Now that it is fresh and vibrant as only linen can be, I will leave it as it is. I'll saddle stitch up the edges and make a light linen shoulder blanket for the campfire on spring and autumn evenings. I'll stencil dye the plain linen weave and figure out a way to use it with respect. (Perhaps it will be there in a future exhibition in Florence Italy. :))

10 comments:

  1. the kimono or is it a yukata? is brilliant!
    the fabrics too.let'a all hope the chinese get bored and find other things to do and stop the cheap product bombing.
    firenze??? don't want to miss that show!

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    1. Because of the color and pattern and heavier material, although it is cotton I think it classifies as a kimono. Good take on the Chinese factories..... we wish. Really, what kind of nightmare consumer scenarios are we in for in the future? It boggles me to the bones.

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  2. what wonderful treasures! i absolutely adore takeshima san's giant katazome polka dots!!

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    1. She stitched and shiboried them individually! She got the balance just right.

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    2. oh my! absolutely breathtakingly amazing!

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  3. what i love here is the fantastic contrast between the lovely BIG dots and the earthiness of the "plain" fabrics and how they are related.

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  4. the kimono is unusual and stunning on her. wish I could go on the shopping trips, so rewarding to find an old treasure - and then bring it back to life.

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  5. This was the real charm of it....a cheap but valuable old piece of cloth brought back to a better life.

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  6. Replies
    1. Non vedo l'ora. Sto pensando di tutti i giorni!

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