Eucalyptus-dyed Frankensocks

This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

These socks may look a little familiar.  L: cast on at a train station; R: cast on, on a train, backdrop of my new jeans–post soon about making them!   I had part of a hank of commercial merino/silk yarn and the first part went on an earlier set of Frankensocks. This time I weighed out and divided the remainder with a view to knitting it all into sock legs and then added handspun Suffolk feet also dyed in eucalyptus, to a stunning shade of orange that can only mean I had cleaned my dye pot assiduously (I refer to washing soda and boiling water).

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Grafting a toe any minute, on a different train.  These socks felt like they went on forever, because I’ve had an illness that went on and on, and darlings–I didn’t feel up to knitting!  There is no point saying this at work, but seriously–no counting, no cabling and mostly just no knitting. And, they are quite large as socks go.

The legs are long, so I went with calf shaping.  Women have calf muscles, my friends!

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I began the reinforcing stitch for the heel toward the bottom of the leg.

The foot is decidedly rugged by comparison with the leg (and I do enjoy the variegation in the dye).  And there you have them, in all their glory. This morning they went to the post office and on to their new home!

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Last of the spring guerilla gardening?

The last of autumn’s cuttings went into one of my favourite patches. I now have only correa alba cuttings left and I am not convinced they have established good enough roots to set them out into the wild yet.

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This patch was my first, and it looks great.  But, there is an invasive grass coming up there that is seeding. So I pulled as much as I could and tried to rogue the rest (yanking off the flowering heads to reduce the seeds that will be produced).  One of the large saltbushes had died so I took that out too, and started to wonder how to remove my pile of green material! I planted rock roses here–cistus–and now I ave looked them up I find they are not actually native (well, they are native to the Mediterranean!)  There were cistus growing here when I first moved into the area but they died long ago.

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My friends close by couldn’t help me out with my pile of weeds this time.  Along came a couple of women, one farewelling the other to a nearby train.  I asked if the fareweller if she lived nearby and if so, whether she would mind if I filled her green waste bin.  I must have been having a bold morning.

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She told me where she lived–not that close!  And then offered to come and pick it up in her car if I’d pull it into a pile.  I checked whether she really wanted to do that and she said she appreciated what I was doing and we are both part of one community.  I love meeting people who feel this way, while I’m out and about doing guerilla gardening.  It helps my hopefulness a good deal.  Twenty minutes later I had broken all the saltbush into small sticks and finished panting, and she arrived in her car and we filled up the back with weeds and dead bush.

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Here is some of the bigger picture–everything apart from the tree planted by my friends and I. And of course, this isn’t really the end of the spring planting, because I’m putting seeds into pots as soon as I can free them up.  A friend gifted me two containers of seed she saved over and above whet she could use to add to my own collection.  So I made some tags from a yoghurt tub… and wrote on them with a pencil, and put some more seed in ready for autumn planting-out…

 

 

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Silk cot quilt

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Back before March, maybe even last year!  I took out a silk cot quilt kit I bought from Beautiful Silks remnants section and dyed the silk cover.  I’ll be honest with you, Marian (the fabulous proprietor at Beautiful Silks) persuaded me to buy this kit and I didn’t know where it would go.  Then the moment for me to give it to one pregnant friend passed without it being finished.

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I was very happy with how the dyeing turned out.

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I was intimidated by the next steps.  It was just too beautiful.  Silk is just a bit too precious for me to relax about. In about March, still not sure where it would go, I decided to add the silk batting and stitch the quilt edges together.  Then I safety–pinned and tacked the quilt layers together before losing my nerve again.

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Then it emerged that my daughter was expecting!  She wanted to wait until after the third month before being really confident that it would, as she put it, “stick”.  And when that date passed and all was well with the foetus, I started to think about this quilt again.  I didn’t know how to quilt it, and to be honest, I like the patchwork part of making quilts but not the quilting part.  I’ve never made a whole cloth quilt. Finally I decided to stop waiting for it to be perfect and just stitch.

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Suddenly I made my peace with this cone of thread that really wasn’t what I had thought I was buying on some previous mail order, and chose a needle. I finished the stitching after we arrived to visit my daughter, now visibly pregnant and beginning to multiply plans for her life as a parent.  She did rather seem to love it, wonky stitching and all, to judge by all the stroking and patting and cheek-placing–and we’ll have to see how it stands up to the rigours of an actual baby.  Or perhaps it will end up as a new mother’s comforter!

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Yet more spring guerilla gardening

Last week I went out and planted in a space where the council has planted and even put in a watering system, but some plants have died and not been replaced. I filled in some gaps…

Earlier in the week I went out and planted these little treasures in a spot where the conditions are harder both because there are still a few big eucalypts–hooray!  and because the train authority is responsible for this patch and clearly doesn’t invest as much as the Council in setting up plants for success. Many of the original plantings could not manage and died so I’ve been planting into the gaps.

While I was working here in a light drizzle, a man came out with his dog and had a chat–there seems to be an artists’ co-operative in an old industrial building here.  He’d been putting on a play at a Burning Man festival (in Australia though–news to me) and spoke enthusiastically about the festival’s gift economy, building community and such.  He clearly approved of my efforts and offered the plants in the raised bed that is the entire front garden of their place as a resource.  There is a plant in there that I’d like to try dyeing with so at last I got to ask about it….

These new plantings are tiny.  But last year’s are coming along…

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And those that have had even more years are growing well, protecting the bigger plants from being parked on and working with the mulch to keep weeds (and poison) down.

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A bit of weeding and rubbish picking, and home again…

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Handspinning

There has been a return of my Royal Show entries. I was so unwell when I spun some of them, and had no option but to submit things already dyed rather than dye to purpose, that I was surprised to win any prize at all on these grounds–and then, there are much better spinners than me!

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I applied cochineal to some of the Suffolk previously dyed with indigo in places, and to the Ryeland. The hen is a Royal Show reference–and the colour in the photo above and right is a better reflection of the cochineal than the one below…

Some time back, I decided to use up of some fibres that had been purchased years ago with specific uses in mind that no longer seem interesting to me. First, Perendale curls that I had used to create lockspun yarns.  After all the sock yarn spinning I’ve done in the last six months, this was massive!  I also spun up small quantities of commercially dyed merino roving but don’t seem to have taken pictures of it.

I found I also had some eucalyptus dyed batts and some carded local wool I’d prepared some time ago, and as serious fibre prep has felt beyond me in the last while, I spun them too.

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I progressed on through roving in the stash to some oatmeal BFL dyed by The Thylacine and acquired from a destash a few years ago.  The braids were so spectacular!  I tried to maintain some of the colour changes.  And I also discovered I had some Australian grown Cormo from the Tonne of Wool–most of mine went to a fine spinning competition at my Guild, but I found a little bag of odds and ends of Cormo roving and it was buttery, velvety, exquisitely soft.  Also, so white I didn’t get a great photo of it!

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Drawing down the stash, or, more Boomerang Bags

The stash of fabrics that will never become clothing has dwindled very much in the Boomerang Bags period, my friends–this time, some metres of an open weave black fabric became many handles and a few bags. The little ?indigo? patch featured here appeared on the Guild trading table the other night with a little label about how it had been resist dyed with pegs.  Cute as a button!

This fabric was a gift from a person I used to work with many, many years ago.  It had years of use covering a small table and hanging on the wall, but had been tucked away for some years. Now it will be out in the world again in all its glory.

I had evidently patched together leftovers of my last Boomerang Bags episode, (and not only for linings–lots of these bags have jeans pockets from jeans that are no more, patched together with other scraps into linings).  So there are some bags with a black front and a patchwork back, or vice versa.

And then–the motherlode of wide wale corduroy.  This had a $2 tag on it from the Salvos.  I think I had a long period of wistfully looking back to a specific pair of corduroy pants I had near the end of High School and beyond–I remember them as chocolate brown and with a paperbag waist.  I felt like a sensation in them for some years. Eventually someone told me how bold she thought I was I was to wear them–or perhaps the green pair that replaced them in the early 1980s, with, ahem, secondhand suede winklepickers–on a first date with a mutual friend who was stylish and, well, judgmental. At first I was surprised and delighted, if puzzled, to be judged bold. Then I realised I was really being told that I had worn a very unflattering outfit to a first date, and with a style queen.  Sigh.  As it happens the outfit did not kill the date and we went on to have a relationship in which I received quite some instruction on how to dress!

Anyway–I am entirely unsure how I come to have so much wide wale corduroy in my possession, unless it was a wistful longing for my younger self feeling like a million dollars and able even to consider a corduroy paperbag waist as a style statement. But now it is all gone–all the maroon and two different shades of black of it. I do wish I hadn’t given away those suede winklepickers though!

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Nijojo Castle, Kyoto

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Nijojo Mae (Castle) is a World Heritage Site in Kyoto.  As it happened, it was walking distance from the place we were staying, so it was my first stop in my walking tour of Kyoto. I live in a country where people have been living for thousands and thousands of years. Yet they lived lightly on the land, and in ways that shared resources far more equally than the historical powers of Asia and Europe.  So, to me, it is always amazing to be in a bus travelling along a big street in a modern city and encounter a massive monument dating back hundreds of years (in this case, to the 1600s). This watchtower (above) stands on one corner of the Nijojo Mae.

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The Castle has a long and complex history both in terms of the flows of power that led to its creation and subsequent modifications, and of the nature of its buildings. It has two immense circles of fortification–two moats, two circles of earthen walls with supporting structures of wood and stone.

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In addition, it has beautiful and extensive gardens, some of which would have been for practical use–cherry groves and other fruiting trees–as well as pleasure- and beauty-gardens.

Even the gates were astonishing and beautiful. I spent hours wandering around the outer area of the mae and then more time inside, and being a little lost at times.  As usual, I founds myself fascinated by the scenery and the buildings but also focused on the very small things. Trees sprouting with other plants.  Gingko trees hundreds of years old–and vast in size, much bigger than an I had ever seen. Roof end-tiles. Staking and rope-typing strategies for coaxing wisteria into becoming tree-shaped. Moss and lichens and fungi.

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Even buildings with apparently everyday uses were beautiful to my eye–this is an earthen rice storehouse.

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How important it must have been to keep rice safe in any year, let alone one in which a siege was possible.

The inner moat had a sloping wall and there were koi (carp) swimming in the moat. Carp are a pest species in Australia.  It was so interesting to see them where they belong, have profound cultural and aesthetic meaning and are venerated.

Eventually I decided I needed some downtime and found a teahouse in one of the very splendid formal gardens, where I had an extraordinary dish of fruit with ice cream and bean paste and saw other people eating ‘snow mountain’, which seemed to be shaved ice with syrup poured over it, served in a  bowl with a bamboo grate in the bottom, to prevent the whole thing descending into a puddle. There were at least fans in the tea house on this 39C day!

While I was wandering, to my surprise my phone rang, and it was my sister-out-law.  I’d posted her a bag I made before we left Australia and it had arrived on her birthday (which I have to admit was a complete accident, and had I tried to arrange it, surely it would have arrived a day before or a day after!)

I was entirely struck, looking at these gardens–by their beauty and by the care that had been lavished on them, in some cases over hundreds of years.  There were explanatory signs about specific trees and their lineages.  There were accounts of the restoration of buildings and gardens after natural disaster, fire or conflict.  But I was also struck by the evidence that they were organised by principles that I have read about but do not understand in any deep way.  That they arise from a different attitude to nature and plants, to history and scenery, than any I have ever inhabited. So–a place of mystery in the company of others’ cultures and traditions.

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I kept finding myself checking my own assumptions about the cultures from which I’ve arisen.  In a place that is so fully fortified it speaks to an expectation of conflict and even war everywhere you turn, there were carvings of peacocks and butterflies that seemed to me so different to anything that might have been associated with warriors in Anglo Australian history. That had me remembering the Wars of the Roses and the association of warring families or tribes in English history with plants and even with flowers.

Near the end of my journey around Nijojo Mae, after I spent a lot of time watching an eagle or hawk gliding over the castle right in the heart of Kyoto, I came upon a tree that had descended from those exposed to the atom bomb, planted here so that it might be remembered in hope of peace.

 

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Misuyabari: the hidden needle shop of Kyoto

In my attempts to research where I should go in Kyoto, I found an intriguing blog post about visiting a needle shop.  A needle shop?  I was fascinated, sitting at my computer at home and reading about this place.

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There was more than one blog post about this place.  And how hard it was to find.  I attempted the search after a few days in Kyoto in which I had begun to understand the several pedestrian malls in the downtown area and had become, frankly, quite fascinated by the Nishiki Food Markets, which is set on a pedestrian mall.  I walked there every day for about five days in a row at one stage, progressively decoding what some of the things for sale were, trying more of them and always returning to a particular mochi stall. But I digress. In my first few days I discovered that Google Maps is quite helpful in Japan, where the conventions for explaining how to find a place or building are different to those I am familiar with. Google maps made light work of finding the secret needle shop of Kyoto. But it was still amazing to walk down a bustling pedestrian mall, find a walkway down the side of a very pink shop (like a dollar shop really), walk down it, through a doorway, and out into a courtyard.

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Surely there are prosaic, weedy courtyards somewhere in Kyoto.  This wasn’t one of them.

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Nestled into it was a small wooden building dwarfed by its bigger modern surroundings.

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Stepping stones led up to the door of the Misuyabari needle shop.

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It was tiny! Most of the room was taken up by this display of needles, snips, scissors, and all kinds of notions with miniature objects modelled onto them– tiny sculptures, literally on pinheads. (This is the reason for the magnifying glass you see on the counter).

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There was also a selection of sewing boxes and mending kits, all exquisitely crafted.

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In the end I bought one of these small mending kits… I feel sure it will be the perfect gift at some future moment. And a pack of needles, of course. They came with a brochure about the needle shop and the history of needles in Japan.  I spent a lot of time poring over it later with Google translate, which renders Japanese into English in a most poetic way but does allow some insight!

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I feel it isn’t every day that a tourist can have an experience that is part magical mystery tour, part practical implement acquisition, and part whimsical cuteness.  Highly recommended, and especially as you really must visit the food markets nearby!

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Waste and avoiding waste at home 1

I tend to think that people who read this blog are already doing whatever they can think of on this issue.  But I find that there are stages, not always in sequence, in the matter of waste.  I learn new things about what I am using and doing. I find out about strategies that had not occurred to me (like those learned in Japan).  I go back to things I used to do. I establish a different level of comfort or dislodge a piece of entitlement. And sometimes a new conversation opens up at home, at work, or more widely–in the case of Australia, The War on Waste has opened new conversations.

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So my best jeans went through in the knee and I decided to patch a bit more thoughtfully, as they are my best jeans, and I have so many fit for the garden already! Here is the patch on the inside.  I had kept my grandma’s pinking shears for well over a decade even though I couldn’t free them up.  I had one more attempt and shazam!  I have mended jeans and functional pinking shears (the new sewing machine oil did it)! So the patch has pinked edges.

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Here is my stitching grid (yes, an ordinary drawing pencil in pale pink).  Since visiting Japan, I’ve read more about sashiko (sometimes called Japanese folk embroidery–but to summarise, running stitch made into a higher art form) and realised the simpler thing would have been to just trace a grid of lines.  This worked though! Much more attractive than my previous utilitarian approach, in fact I had a confusing conversation with a gentleman who thought I’d done this just for decoration recently. I had to break the news it was actually mending, not distressed denim–but we shared some puzzlement bout distressed denim as we clearly both wear our jeans out.

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This morning, I went for a pre-work walk and took some years’ worth of our dead batteries (including rechargeables) to a recycling station at the Clarence Park Community Centre. They also accept electrical goods and mobile phones for recycling.  Community Centres are just SO GOOD. Our local Food Co-op at Clarence Park Community Centre has an excellent range of foods including eggs, honey, flours, seeds, grains, nuts, driend fruits, pulses. It is run by lovely volunteers, and has been running with a view to reducing waste and keeping food affordable for many, many years.  National list of bulk food co-ops here.

On the way back, a friend stopped on their bike and asked what I was doing in that spot–and they said Goodwood library also take batteries for recycling.  We went on our separate ways and I collected dye leaves on the way home, and they passed me again and stopped to say it had improved their day to see me and remember there are other people who also care for the earth. Aww! (That was the trigger for this post).  So there were hugs and there was love and then off they rode and off I walked.

Needless to say there has been more spring guerilla gardening, and I always pick up rubbish while I’m at it.

We already do lots of the simpler things like refusing straws (I started on that in the 1980s); taking our own bags to the shop, packing fruit and vegetables without extra bags, reusing plastic bags, recycling, composting, worm farming and such.  But we’ve stepped up to seeing if we can bring less plastic into the house, difficult as that is given the way industry and commerce are now arranged.  I’ve been stopping off at Drake’s Foodland Panorama which has a huge bulk section and is on my bus route home from work. I take pre-loved ziplock bags from earlier purchases with me and refill them. It’s not especially cheap  but it’s accessible and involves no new packaging. When coming home from my parents’ house, I’ve been doing the same thing with a Coles that has a smaller bulk section (each Coles I’ve seen a bulk section in has a different selection). But in Adelaide, the bulk place to go apart from your local co-op or Farmer’s Market is the Central Market.  Needless to say the Markets sell fruit, vegetables, pre-made foods and all manner of other foods. No one turns a hair when I buy bread with my own bags and this is expected by many stallholders. (Random picture of a rosella peeping out of a nesting box–look carefully!).

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The Honey Shop at the Market sells all kinds of unpackaged soaps, tea herbs, ingredients for making your own cosmetics and massage oils, plus bulk oils, cleansers (dishes, bathrooms, clothing, you), shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser–and of course honey. They’ve been doing it ever since I first went to the markets in about 1983. There is also the upmarket and relatively expensive Goodies and Grains which has a huge selection. (Random picture of home made sourdough with whole barley rising).

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Then there is the much cheaper Tardis of bulk shopping The House of Health (every time I go there I discover more things I thought were not available in Adelaide–like sourdough starter–as well as more things I don’t understand, like freeze dried vegetable powder).  You have to be prepared to dance in a very small space here but I can get virtually everything we use for breadmaking, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, FODMAP friendly granola making and more.

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Then there’s hankies.  I’m one of those who never went over to using paper tissues.  But now I make my own and share the love.  These were a small amount of double gauze I just could not resist, bought new and sized for smaller friends who have smaller pockets (and smaller noses!) And then there is this stack: an entire fitted cotton bedsheet worn through–soft and lovely for hankies–and gifted to me by a friend. Then I made some more from a vintage paisley green lawn from Joyce’s stash but I gifted them away before taking a photo.  And some others from fine lovely cotton from Beautiful Silks’ remnants section. What have you decided to do to reduce waste at your place lately?

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Nishijin Textile Centre and Aizenkobo Indigo Studio

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The Lonely Planet Guide did not make the Nishijin Textile Centre sound especially alluring, and nor did some of the promotional materials.  I decided to go anyway.

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There were some amazing fabrics and garments on display. The display itself was relatively small, though lovely–but the Centre was very popular–and clearly not because of the single room of displays upstairs which I had all to myself.  The main attraction seemed to be the souvenir shop, which was full of tourists from all round the world the day I was there. It had a wide range of items made with and decorated in beautiful Japanese fabrics.  There was also a working Jacquard loom, with a weaver demonstrating its operation on the main floor of the building, and with some explanatory signage about the long history of interaction between China and Japan in the matter of weaving.

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I took just two photos inside the building before seeing the signs banning photography and desisting.

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After the Nishijin Textile Centre I went to the Archaeological Museum, just a short walk away.  It was a small but impressive place, apparently run by a small group of enthusiasts.  Signs were mostly translated into English, which was a boon to me, so I spent a long time reading all I could.  I had already been to Nijojo Mae Castle at this point, and so had questions I was trying to answer.  The translations here were informative about the archaeology of Kyoto, but they did also suggest some of the ways Japanese and English differ.  I puzzled for quite a while over a ceramic object labelled as a “pillow”, wondering how something so small could be a pillow for anyone.  Eventually I realised this might be a literal translation of what in English would be a stopper or a lid for a jar or jug.

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Next I went to the Aizenkobo Indigo Studio, where master indigo dyer Kenichi Utsuki lives and works. It turned out that I had arrived at a time when he was not dyeing.  Rather, I arrived and was the only customer in the studio. Kenichi Utsuki showed me hos beautiful dyeing and the studio, complete with high end fashion garments and special orders hanging on racks. Friends, I was overcome with shyness at having the master dyer (and his wife) attending only to me, and deeply awkward about my lack of Japanese.  I tried to explain that I understood that he was an internationally famous dyer and that his work was complex, built on an extensive Japanese tradition (using only Japanese indigo and fermentation methods)–I am not sure that I succeeded in communicating this.  But I did spend quite some time with Kenichi Utsuki listening to him about his lifetime’s work and leafing though his photo albums, looking around in awe.  Even the house itself was rather amazing and had been in his family for generations. I could not bring myself to ask if I could take photos and so I have only the front door to show you and you will have to follow the link to see more.  I came home with a beautiful furoshiki and some sashiko thread dyed virtually black-blue.

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Afterward I walked for a long distance.  In Kyoto I was forever thinking that I wouldn’t walk as far as yesterday and would just catch a bus because of the heat.  but then I was constantly overcome by wanting to see something lying ahead, or wondering what was around the corner.  I was forever passing beautiful plants and unfamiliar styles of building. So I just had to keep walking and looking!

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