Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Woofing in Japan

Quite a few email show up in my inbox from travellers in Japan who want to come out and take a look at the indigo farm etc. Timing is often bad. But occasionally I can use a hand cutting indigo or dyeing thread etc. (Sometimes cleaning the mountainside, washing windows and weeding the garden.)

There is a backlog of thread that needs dyeing and indigo that needs harvesting. Luck sent me plenty of help the past few weeks.

Art students and product engineers and anthropologists ..... you are all so enthusiastic and smiley....contrasted with this grumpy old cynical farmer.

So if you are travelling around in Japan, drop me line and I may be able to put you to work for a day or so. Roof and rice on me.














Whiteboots has taken a liking to the indigo process. Guarding the dried indigo.











Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Today we held Ogata san's 98th birthday party at the house.

For many years I have held a weaving/indigo/shibori/stencil class at the house for Japanese on Tuesdays. Ogata san was one of the first students. She started studying 12 years ago.  (She was 87.)

We are all old friends now. It moves me to see that all these people have each other in their lives because of my scrappy Tuesday textile classes.

Who starts studying textiles when they are 87 years old?

Jeeeesh.

We all love and treasure her. She has had a few falls and breaks over the years and bounces back. She still gardens. She comes on Tuesdays with something from her garden and cooks for us. She comes to the ten-day workshops in spring and autumn and makes hand made udon noodles for us. 

She has been stitching a yukata shibori piece for months. Today I spent a few hours at the indigo vat with her dyeing it. She can dye it but needs some help squeezing out the 14 meters of cloth. When we started to cut the stitches open we gulped....it looked like it had been over dyed  in the indigo and we lost all the pattern. She must have spent several hundred hours stitching and pulling and lining the folds up. (For nothing..... we thought for about 30 minutes.) She good naturally laughed it off. But once it was unstitched and opened and ran through the washing machine the excess indigo washed off and the pattern appeared. (The stitching idea was mine so the buck stopped right on me. I heaved a sigh of relief.)


Hiro baked her a cake. Yamaguchi san made candles for the cake that read, "97". She quickly corrected us and we added a single candle beside those to make it 98! 


I dyed jacket material for her with a crane and turtle motif. (Cranes live 1000 years and turtles live 10 000 years.) I worked on a few of them and she watched me out of the corner of her eye over the past few months. I finished dyeing one and the colour contrast was too strong for her skin colour and the motifs were too strong as well. I started over again and the results were ok but not that exciting. Takeshima san sewed the jacket up for her and we gave it to her this morning. She was moved and happy with it but asked me..."Where is that brighter gorgeous one you were working on????"


(I should have known better..she is a LEO!!!!!)


The yukata material turned out beautiful and she will sew the yukata over the winter months and wear it to her 99th birthday party next summer!





Aiko modelled it in a kimono shape. Looks like a masterpiece!


A beautiful water lily bloomed this morning just for Ogata san and she noticed it right as she stepped out of the van.







Monday, 5 September 2016



Julie was a feral cat who showed up outside the house two springs ago.  Slowly we gained her trust and could pet her and she would sit on our laps and eat dried fish.

It was time to get her fixed but it was too late. She was very pregnant. She had four sweet kittens this spring and we kept "Whiteboots".
Adorable.

A month back  the dreaded appointment was made and it was time to catch Julie and take her to the vet before she got pregnant again.

She was lured into catch proximity with a dried fish and picked up by the back of the neck. She never minded this in the past as it usually lead to a tummy rub and a few more dried fish. But when it was time to put her in the pet carry cage she went wild and bit and clawed.  Her teeth went right through the heavy gloves. I dropped her and then lunged to grab her.  She bit some more and scratched some more. She got away a second time and she ran right into the carry cage and the door was closed on her.

There was blood everywhere. 30 deep deep gashes on my hands and forearms. Bone deep bites on my thumb and fingers. As I drove her to the vet a realized I was having severe chest pains. Right over my heart.

Oh oh...it is all over.

Heart attack.

The vet saw the agony and I gasped...chest...pain...arghhhh.

"Are you having trouble breathing???"

No..... A few presses and he said..."It looks like you have severely pulled your left chest muscle and may have cracked a rib when you grabbed Julie."

Over three weeks have past and I averaged two hours sleep a night because of the pain.
Today was the first almost pain free day.

 Computer work was fine as long as there was no laughing, coughing or sneezing...

Things did get done. Slowly and with a grimace.


Indigo got harvested and dried in the sun. My old knit machine is running smoothly. A lot of thread got dyed and coned and knitted up in the last few weeks during and between typhoons.

Autumn is not quite here yet. The autumn insects chirp in the evenings.

There is still enough punch in the sun to dye with persimmon tannin.


Silk thread for kumihimo braiding soaking up ultra-violet rays to turn the persimmon tannin golden brown. 


The indigo is starting to flower.


Harvesting indigo below the house. It was the third harvest of the year from the same plants. There is a mountain of dried leaves waiting for January to start the fermentation process.


A lot of cotton thread has been through the indigo vats this year.


Greens and grey from oak leaves as well.


Coning....... it takes time.


Beautiful Indigo Dyed Coned Mercerized Cotton Thread.


My old knitter is from Brooklyn 1959. 

video

The indigo knits are gorgeous and they will be t-shirts before Christmas. 





Whiteboots may get a little indigo cat sweater for Christmas.