Tag Archives: silk

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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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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A little more knitting in Japan

In addition to the sock, I took some fat, soft handspun to convert into beanies in Japan, in case I needed a change of knitting pace.

The beanies were a hotel knitting project. There had been floods and an earthquake before we arrived, and Kyoto sweltered through an uncharacteristic heatwave while we were there: 39C or more virtually every day. This was knitting for air conditioning!

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These are made from some naturally coloured Western Australian Polwarth roving Joyce left. It was sumptuous to spin and lovely to knit.

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These are knit from hand spun, eucalyptus dyed wool. And some more Polwarth! I can’t shake the feeling there was a third orange-brown hat but if so, I did not take a picture. But I have certainly made a head start on next winter’s beanies…

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Shibori in Kyoto

Needless to say, while I was in Japan I was seeking interesting textiles and I discovered the Kyoto Shibori Museum.

It was not a large public institution. It seemed more like the passion of a group of public spirited individuals and practitioners. On arrival I was offered a damp hand towel (which was a relief in the heat and made me a safer person if I touched anything!) I was shown a video about shibori in Japan, its history and techniques. Then I was allocated a guide who accompanied me around the exhibits and into the shop where items made by the people who run the museum are for sale, including bolts of indigo dyed shibori fabrics. My guid came from a family of shibori dyers and there were photos of his family, and some of his grandparents’ tools on display in the museum. I wish I could show you photos but–it was not clear that photographs were allowed and this was one of the early places I went in Kyoto. I was just too shy to ask, and too uncertain of whether communication had been achieved because, let it be said–my Japanese is extremely limited, and politeness Japanese style is very different to the customs I have grown up with. Sometimes I had an impression of agreement that just wasn’t borne out in action. I struggled to understand. I did not wish to offend.  But I was informed and amazed and there were many beautiful and interesting things to be seen. Also, having a guide all to my non-Japanese speaking self was deeply embarrassing to me! The museum offers shibori experiences for a fee (where you dye a small item) and with pre-booking.

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I also came across a high fashion shibori shop: Katayama Bunzaburo.

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My friend and I bought scraps of their fabrics which were for sale crushed into cellophane bags, and I bought some traditional cotton fabric woven in Japan that was inexplicably (and quite cheaply) for sale here too. But the shibori was the main feature and it was extraordinary.  Some of it was more sculptural than a dyeing effect, and there were quite a few lamps showing off the shaping that shibori can create.

There were some very beautiful, elegant garments for sale but I’m afraid between the partial English of our hosts and our scraps of Japanese; their enthusiasm for having me try things on and my efforts to mime how beautiful the garments were but honestly, not made for a  heffalump of my proportions–I quite forgot to take any photos!

Here was shibori as scarves, wraps, jewellery. In silks and in synthetic fibres. And the people running the shop were able to show how to wear these pieces in numerous different gorgeous ways.  They were so kind and generous. Finally my friend’s 60th birthday present was found and purchased!  And, the final triumph of the shop: a display piece in their little courtyard which I think I understood was called “Jellyfish”–as tall as I am and quite awesome to behold.

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Japan: String and yarn

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Japan with my beloved, who had a fortnight long work commitment in Kyoto.  I took annual leave and went for the ride.

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If I’d had the chance to choose where to go, I might have chosen Kyoto. It is a historical wonder even in Japan.  It was not bombed and has retained ancient sites of global significance.  It is one of the textile centres of Japan from historical times into the present.  And it is beautiful.  I had less opportunity to prepare than I would have liked because of my own work commitments.  But I did what I could and since I have not been much of a traveler, I expected to wander about with my mouth open in awe.  Only my attempts to be polite prevented this, and I’m hoping to write a series of posts about this experience, in which some topics will be bigger and some will be smaller, because I was fascinated by small things no less than big ones.

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On our last day in Japan, we went the shrine sale at To-Ji Temple, which is a famous flea market and antiques market. There is a lot to say about this amazing event! But I’m going to begin with the string seller.  There is a link at the end of the post to the very interesting www site for Aoni Textiles given to me by the man in this picture.

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Just quietly, Kyoto was sweltering through record heat the entire time we were there.  Australians know what 39C feels like, and it was at least 39C every day we were there. We had the sad experience of sharing the hottest day Kyoto has ever had.  I hope their media is not like ours and that it was saying CLIMATE CHANGE.  Being in Kyoto did make me think that the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in Kyoto surely at least in part because in Kyoto there is much to be lost and therefore much to be gained by concerted international climate action.  Anyway–the man in this picture is hot! And he is selling “string”.

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By the time we found this stall, I’d been to the Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts with our friend (who shared one of the weeks we were there), in which string is an entirely different category to thread that would be used, for example, for weaving garments.  It seemed to encompass things I would think of as rope (for industrial use) as well as things I would think of as strapping or narrow weaving.  But of a quality unknown in most contexts where any of these things are used where I live.  This was (mostly) not string in any sense I have known it. Some of what was on sale here was extremely fine and came with example knitted lace garments. Some was robust and quite thick. Some was plied, quite a bit was singles (not plied). While I don’t doubt the complexity of translation is part of it, and so is my ignorance, I think string is treated with more respect in Japan. I have not seen such quantities of rope made from natural fibres since I was a child, and perhaps not then.

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Some of the fibres on sale seemed to me to be one of the lesser known silks. The cocoons (if indeed I have understood what I was looking at) in the bowl at bottom left in the image above were huge by comparison with those for regular old silkworms, and the yarns made from them were relatively thick and coarse.

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This might be hemp or ramie fibre (and just look at the way it comes wound, with a waist on the “ball”–something I’ve never seen before). After some time with the three of us muddling our way through conversation and speculation, the stall owner put down his fan and pulled out a guide to the fibres he was selling that confirmed some were ramie, some hemp, some banana fibre (but not as I have previously known it), some pineapple leaf fibre–and there was more I was unable to understand, and the pressure of time and heat and the enormity of the flea market. The bunches of strappy materials visible hanging from the canopy in the first image were mostly hemp which I assume was being sold for other people to spin or use for basketry and other crafts/purposes.  But perhaps this is all my imagination!

Should you wish to see more, the www site can be found here. As I write it is in Japanese, and Google translate helps a little but in a poetic rather than an entirely informative way. It is richly illustrated and there are some amazing videos.  There is also an inactive button/link that makes me think they intend to translate into English but haven’t quite got there yet.  So if, like me, you speak English but not Japanese–maybe more will be revealed in the future!

 

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Tuffsock knitting: BFL/Texel/Silk

Dearest readers, there I was full of good intentions for more regular posting when I was struck down by illness!  Fret not–I am recovering, but all too slowly for a restless individual such as myself.  In the meantime, I am going to try finishing off outstanding posts and sharing them with you, now that I have a little more brain and a little less cotton wool between the ears…

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 (which you can now follow on instagram, a rather sweet feature).

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Here is a post at a mystery location (undoubtedly somewhere where waiting was leavened by knitting and idly thinking of the friend for whom these socks are destined).

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This looks more like travelling to or from a work engagement by public transport…

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I reached the final toe just as we were about to leave for Japan so I made a tactical decision to leave these at home and start another pair to maximise knitting relative to weight carried.

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Here is grafting going on, on the train. Out of focus.

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The whimsical cables have not lost their charm (for me at least).

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The subtle bands of colour created by the spinning are rather sweet I think–when I bought the roving I did not imagine it being so homogenised by the spinning, a sign that I was a naive spinner at the time!

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And for a clearer sense of the actual colour:

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Tuffsock spinning

Dear friends, it has been a long while!  I’ve been travelling and I have a lot to write about. I’ve had a big change in my paid work too, and it will mean I have more mental space and physical time for making and blogging, I hope.  In the meantime, here is an update on the state of the tuffsock spinning project.

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.

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A little while back, a new vendor came to my Guild meeting.  She brought braids of many different breeds, including some that are not readily available in Australia and many that are endangered.  Well.  Buying imported wool is not a decision I am going to try to defend.  But I was so curious to try Southdown–and the Suffolk was entirely different to the local Kangaroo Island Suffolk I have been spinning.  And I can only say that after all these years spinning I still have periods in which I think ‘preparing fibre that has been grown with no thought at all for a handspinner is not worth the effort!’ and others when I think: ‘local fleece is the only fleece I should ever spin!’  If you want consistency, my friends, go and read another blog, because you’re not going to find it here!  I took these two braids home.

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The Suffolk and silk blend spun up like a dream and I would not have guessed this was the same breed as the local Suffolk.  Variability within breeds is only to be expected, but clearly the local sheep has been bred for meat, with its fleece being made into carpet if anything.  Perhaps the UK Suffolk is still being bred for fleece quality.  There may well be such Suffolks in Australia, if I knew where to find them. On the other hand, machine processing and the addition of silk have made the UK Suffolk less springy and bouncy than the local breed, which may mean it will be less durable at the same time as it is unequivocally finer and longer in staple.

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The Southdown was also lovely to spin. So now I have two new experiment yarns in the tuffsock department, ready to knit.  or perhaps to dye…

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Rinse and repeat

If these socks look familiar, its because a beloved friend brought me two skeins of lovely wool naturally dyed by Aurinkokehra. I knit a pair of socks from the first skein not so long ago and in the end, could not resist knitting another.  I’ve repeated the calf shaping, reinforcing stitches,  and the cotton and silk reinforcing thread.  The result is equally delightful.  There is something about yarn that changes colour as you knit that I really enjoy.  Such a well chosen gift for me!  These socks contain no nylon and no superwash–so I guess that they might be #tuffsocksnaturally but the yarn is certainly not my handspun.

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Plant dyed silk stitching threads

A little while back, I decanted some silk stitching thread that had been steeping in dye for a year or two or three–using India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store preservation dyeing method.

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  1. hibiscus flowers
  2. daylilies
  3. woad seeds (mature and immature)
  4. unidentified wattle seed pods from the tram line
  5. dried coreopsis flowers, citrus peel water
  6. avocado peel (fresh), bicarbonate of soda
  7. mock orange leaves (Murraya paniculata)

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These jars have been sitting out in the rain and the sun, and I’m rather impressed by how well pencil on cardboard has lasted, never mention how the woad dyed wool, eucalyptus dyed yarn and handmade leaf string typing label to jar lasted.  I have already begun applying thread to some of those little jobs that just need doing…

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Of Aprons and Alchemy

Some years ago, I made an apron at an India Flint workshop.  It’s an ingenious design India has created which starts with a shirt with a collar and ends with a coverall with straps that cross over at the back.  This model also has some stitched-on panels creating a generous length at the back.

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I brought this garment home to dye it, and it would be fair to say that I never loved the outcome (friends who were consulted recently liked it more than I did).  And, it had some large holes for which I was responsible and which I had a lot of [bad] feelings about having created.  In short, this garment has been in the naughty corner (the place garments go to wait when I have been naughty) for some extended time.  But then, India put up an online course called The Alchemist’s Apron.   It is further supported by an online community of eager stitchers and dyers from all round the world on facebook.  I was lucky enough to be gifted an enrolment (Thank you India!)–and this turned out to be the trigger for getting the apron out of the naughty corner and into my hands again.

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First step, give it a wash and soften it up a bit (soy mordant no doubt was responsible for starching it a little).  Second step, mending. Mending is an evening occupation for me, thus the mood lighting… I have learned some things about mending since these holes appeared and decided to use several different strategies.

Some mends went over the hem (they were the most discouraging). These round-ish mends I especially like.

Once that was done, a second pass through the soy mordanting process, a wander around my neighbourhood by bicycle collecting leaves, and a bundle up with home made string (hems and seams left from cutting up and recycling clothing, in this case).

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I do love eucalyptus.

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The mends still stand out but I think that is OK, because #visiblemending!  I had chosen linen patching and cotton thread, which did rather guarantee they would stand out as the patches are mostly in the added border at the back of the apron which is cut from a recycled op shop raw silk pant suit a friend gave me.

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I like the new apron much more!

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And here is the back view… with the button placket still sporting buttons.  It’s a bit glorious now, I think. Do you have things waiting in the naughty corner?  How do they get there, and more importantly, what motivates you to get them out again?

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