Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Sad Days

I have been hibernating the past few months.

There was record cold streak here in the mountains.

I didn't mind it. Of course, this old house is freezing in the winter. Pipes freeze. Toilets freeze. The outdoor bath is heaven once you are in it. It is getting undressed and into the shower and slipping on ice on the wooden floor in your bare feet.

But it makes you feel alive!

The new year has not been without textile adventures. I've gone to Japanese kimono sewing classes once a week for the past few months. It is said that you cannot call yourself a kimono maker until you have sewn 100 of them. Not 98 or even 99 but 100.

 I am on hanten jacket 20 something.....still a few more to go. I'm taking meticulous notes and photographs for........a book I started writing on the subject. Shooting for 2020...

I set up the big Finnish loom with some gorgeous handspun alpaca yarn I picked up in Victoria, BC last June. Indigo Carole sent me some gorgeous Scottish yarn that is working itself into the weft.

Many thanks.

I usually weave things that show the beauty of the yarn/thread. Plain weave or an occasional twill.

Not this time.

Having spent some time in Europe in the winter I felt nostalgic for something old and religious. I decided to weave some gothic crosses blankets. Listening to some Doestovski chapters on monastery life in Russia and Dark Nights of the Soul by St. John of the Cross while I weave away in the cold silence. Pets around the heaters keeping me quiet company while Hiro is in Brazil to escape the cold.

It is a shadow weave with 8 harnesses. The peddling sequence is 52 steps for one pattern. I made a few boo boos the first few repeats but seem to have it correct now.

I visited my friend in the hospital almost every day the past few months. He was born in this old silk farmhouse 79 years ago. Many of you who have come to visit or study here have met him. He would come by almost every morning to visit. We cleaned up the mountain underbrush. Kept the tea terraces in good form. Picked yuzu oranges together. Dug bamboo shoots in the spring. He was born into a silk farming family and silk farmed a good part of his life. He was a charcoal maker as well.

His old farmhouse was full of silk farming and kimono weaving equipment.

"Use it or burn it."

And he showed me over the years what many of those odd-looking tools were for. He smiled when I had a tattoo of one of his old silk farming trays drawn on my forearm.

He let me live in this house 24 years ago. It is a very conservative village. No one would think of lending a house to a long-haired broken-Japanese speaking (at that time) Canadian guy with a scruffy beard and a scruffy dog.

He did.

Just for the fun of it.

Open-hearted and helpful.

He was patient, resourceful and affectionate.  A cheerful homebody.

He wasn't quarrelsome or greedy.

Always watching the foibles of the often close-minded villagers with a wry smile.

Never any ill-will to anyone.

He spent all his life in these few square kilometers.

A sparkle in his eyes.

Thanks to him hundreds of people from around the world have had the opportunity to stay in an old farmhouse in the mountains of Japan and have some context for the textile history and techniques they come to study from me. Celia sent her thanks to him a few weeks ago.

I explained to him in the hospital that a red-head beauty from Holland wanted to thank him for helping her life. I think he understood.

I sat with him yesterday and told him about the last of the snow melting. How much my dental work was costing.  Hiro was back from Brazil. The monkeys ran up the side of the mountain and joined me for a jog.

He passed away a few hours later.

I will miss you Kiyotaka Sugimoto.


  1. hibernating and attending friendship. good work. sending a hug your way.

  2. sorry to hear of Sugimoto-san's passing. He will live on in the skills he taught you, I remember when he visited your very first workshop group - just to check us out. the shadow weave looks great, I told Tracy you were using her alpaca, I am spinning her alpaca/silk blend,sitting by the fire. Happy to hear Hiro is home.

  3. you will pass his spirt on to others. hugs.

  4. actually wrong tense: you ARE passing his spirit on to others.

  5. sending good wishes and hugs

  6. I am blessed to have learned from his legacy that he so generously and open-heartedly passed on to you.