Tuesday, December 22, 2009


My poor blog has been sadly neglected of late. I had surgery to fuse the dip joint of my index finger on my right hand and am currently a leftie. No sewing, shibori, beading, knitting or any other of the things that bring me joy for the next six weeks. I have been really depressed about it, but I know in the long run I will get back to what I love and it will be without pain. I am studying up on arthritis and how to care for my hands. I am planning lots of projects in my head, but I am so fearful of losing them while unable to put them on paper. I find myself turning to typed notes using as many descriptive words as possible but it is not the same as capturing the pictures in my head. My dear hubby has been watching over my kakishibui to let off the excess gases so it does not explode. It is still fermenting away and hopefully I can do a test swatch in February. I am going to (if my hand is ready) stitch up a little bracelet using my plan for my niece's dress to test out the colors and technique.

I ran across another shibori book at JoAnns Fabrics---Mandy Southan's Shibori Designs and Techniqes. Some lovely work to study in this book. I also found a Japanes book on Amazon Japan that is now in my wishlist!

Friday, November 20, 2009


Head on over to Spoonflower and check out the awesome designs in their calendar contest. One of my art teacher colleagues has a lovely entry called Peace Pixie 2010 Some of my experiments are at this link. I have had to put off some of my art to rest my hand, so I dug out the big crochet hook and the big knitting needles and have been cranking out some scarves. It was fun using up my stash of yarn and doing some immediate gratification work! Pics to come some. I worked with no pattern and just played with what my muse was sending me. It was really fun,

Friday, November 13, 2009

An artist's hands

When you are an artist that uses their hands, what do you do when you have injured your dominate hand? I have apparently worn out all the cartilage in my right index finger joint nearest the tip. Osteo arthritis and a little early on the start according to the hand doc. He wants to shave down the bones at the joint to remove the spurs that have been forming, clean up the loose bits caused by bone rubbing against bone, and then fuse the joint at an angle so I can still use it for my art. He could fuse it in the straight position and it would look prettier but I want it to work better. So it seems a fifteen degree angle it is.

How important an artists hands are. I knew they were getting sore sometimes but I kept working thinking it was just like over exercising. I will get therapy on my hand after they take the pins out. The therapists is supposed to go over how to take better care of my hands when I am working. I will be unable to do anything with my right hand for a few weeks and then a few weeks more before I can start back with my stitching.

Maybe that will give me time to do some left handed blogging?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Last year I had the privilege of working with a great group of students for after-school art. I had ten students total. It was a mixture of 6th, 7th and 8th graders. We spent the first couple of weeks experimenting with different ways to create pattern on cloth. We did some good old hippy tie dye, some itajime (folding and clamping), marbling, rubbings with paintstiks, thickened dye, potato dextrin resist, and sponge painting. It was messy and fun! What to do with all these samples? A pojagi banner seemed a great solution.

We were able to buy some books on pojagi from Amazon Japan.



We followed the great illustrations to figure out the steps for creating our pojagi banner even though the text was in Japanese. We did do our stitching with a sewing machine instead of by hand however as we were rushed by a deadline to finish. The students had a hard time with making straight seams, but who says it had to be perfect? It has lots of character and the students can look at it and they know which pieces of fabric are theirs and which parts they sewed together. Originally we wanted to hang it where it would be lit from behind, but as with most schools there was no money in the budget for anything like that.

I am hoping to get a grant to go to Japan on a fiber tour and maybe will find a shop that has some of the fabric they traditionally use for Pojagi. Pojagi is actually a Korean technique but seems to be gaining some popularity with Japanese crafters.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Stitch Magazine is out!

Quilting Arts Stitch Magazine is out and my hints and tips for sewing with Japanese pattern books is in it! I hope sewing enthusiasts find it helpful and lose some fear over using foreign patterns. The world is full of great designers and with the internet they are available for all of us to enjoy.
It was really great working with the people at Stitch. Elaine Lipson wrote the feature I {heart} Japan and I got to know her by e-mails back and forth and a few phone calls. Elaine has a great blog, Red Thread Studio. Which brings me to my next subject as I found out about it by following her blog now.

Have you seen Spoonflower.com? I hadn't, but I have been reading Elaine's blog and checking out the great links she keeps posting. I am quite the fiber junkie, and I think Spoonflower may be addictive! I sat and made design after design the other night. Check out one of my faves based on an old brain diagram here. You can play with different tile/repeat options, scale your design to different sizes, change around the colors and more. It really is fun. I have ordered a test swatch (only $5 plus another $1 for shipping) to see how the colors turn out and find out the feel of the printed fabric. I am going to go back and just explore the other great work on there and find some faves to follow. I even took a sample of my shibori and uploaded it to play around with here.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Japanese Hat Pattern Book part II

Continuing from my previous post, (link), this Japanese hat pattern book also has a chart showing some of the variations possible by combining different brim and crown styles. I decided to work with #14 which uses brim "A" and crown "B."

For a hat, you need a top crown, side crown and brim pattern. I have a big head (maybe it is all that hair?) and according to the measurements the size L would barely fit. I did not bother altering this pattern as I was not making the hat for me. It is important to remember to add a little for ease when measuring for your hat. Put a finger under the tape measure when checking your size to allow for a little fitting ease. Don't confuse the ease added to the pattern for seam allowances being included in the pattern. After finishing my hat, I found that although I could get it on my head, it was not a comfortable fit. I really need it to be about a 1/2 inch bigger. Making smaller seams will make the crown bigger around but not the brim opening. It is better to alter the pattern to change the size than to try playing with seam allowances. If you are not sure about it, use some cheap muslin for your first attempt. Making mistakes and figuring them out is a great way to learn.

Seam Tracers I ordered from Clotilde. They come in 1/4 inch and 5/8 inch. I use these where it is easiest to, but sometimes there is no substitute for using a ruler and marking the seam allowances.

My first step in preparing my pattern is to trace the pieces I need onto tracing paper. If you have a lightbox or sunny window it will be helpful. I trace them exactly as they are and translate the markings as I go. You will need to recognize symbols for front, back, center, on the fold, side, grain of fabric, and names of the parts. If you have problems with this, do an online search for Japanese sewing terms.

The above pic shows a pattern piece in progress.

The side crown and brim on this hat call for some changes to the basic pattern. The side crown is split and the brim is added onto in the front and tapered in the back. Following the charts for each hat is important to achieve the looks in the book. Once you have gone through this process, you will get ideas for your own variations. I make the changes on the tracing paper, taping on more paper as needed. A ruler and tape measure with centimeters on them are a big help with this part. If you have a flexible curve, it can also come in handy.

Using the Seam Tracer can take some practice. If you angle it too much, you will not have a true 5/8 inch seam allowance. I prefer to use tagboard for my patterns (call it a quirk), but you can use tissue paper, freezer paper, or paper made especially for patterns.

If something looks wonky, I check it with my ruler and correct it in red (school teacher in me has to come out sometimes.) I also trace over all of my lines with a Sharpie. Yes, yet another step but when I get done making my pattern I know it. I also like to go ahead and make any pieces it calls for cutting on the fold into full size pieces. I feel this makes it easier to make the best use of your fabric.

After getting all the pieces marked, I cut them out and mark them with post it notes. I like to put them on each pattern piece to label what needs to be cut from what and how many. As each is cut, the post it note comes off.

Below are my fabric choices for hat #14. I found I had enough fabric for two hats so I decided to
switch the fabrics around for two different looks. And it is almost as easy to make two as one!

After cutting the pattern out of the fashion fabric, the parts need to be interfaced. Depending on the weight and drape of the fabric, it may be better to use two layers of fusible interfacing instead of one. A really heavy interfacing may be too stiff and create wrinkles in my experience.

Colorway #1


Sewing in progress, clipping curves, grading seams, and don't forget to press. A pressing ham and or a seam roll make this easier. It allows you to shape the curves of the hat as you press.

Gros-grain ribbon sewn on the inside helps hide the seam for attaching the brim and gives the hat a more finished appearance.

And these hats are packable! I think that is a big plus over other hats. The brim can be worn up or down, you can topstitch or not, add some ribbon trim, some buttons---whatever suits your fancy. I like to add pins to hats so I can change the look around. Making fabric flowers is a great way to use up those little bits of leftover fabric.

When my styrofoam head got to looking ratty, I tore up some wrapping paper into pieces and used some acrylic gel medium to cover it. I think it may be time to cover the other one!

Hat #14 finished in two variations. You can see how the drape of the fabric also changes the look of the hat.

I just found a link for a free hat pattern from Simplicity. It is a similar style if you want to try your hand at hatmaking without investing anything more than some fabric. Happy hatmaking!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kakishibui Update

My Kakishibui (persimmon dye) is fermenting its little heart out. I am having to let off excess gas from it every day. I had forgotten to check it one day and the plastic gas can I have it stored in had bloated out so big I was almost afraid to go near it. I let off some of it using the safety valve and then opened the lid a little bit. The gases from the fermentation process are rather stinky!

My project using this has an extended deadline now. While at first this was a little disappointing, I now see the plus side---more time to experiment to make sure I get it right. I hope this means I will be able to use my first homegrown indigo crop with the kakishibui. My one year deadline has become a two year deadline. Wow! How often do you get that? Maybe this will make it Really Really Slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww Fiber.

I want to give a shout out to Elaine Lipson and her wonderful blog, Red Thread Studio, that got me started on this Slow Fiber idea. She is a great writer and her website will send you on some great fiber adventures. http://lainie.typepad.com/

Japanese Hat Pattern Book

I bought this book off of Amazon Japan. It has some really beautiful hats in it, and it also has step by step instructions. Yes the instructions are in Japanese, but the pictures to illustrate the steps are so clear it is not a problem. If you already know how to sew you should have no problem using patterns from this book. The ISBN # is ISBN978-4-579-10800-8 I paid about $16 for it. I bought several books at once to make the most of shipping. The amount you pay in US dollars will be based on the exchange rate on the day the order is processed. You can check the exchange rate online. As best as I can guess, the title of the book is "Hats in Spring & Summer, Fall & Winter." The author is Yumiko Itoyama. I hope that will help you find this book if you are interested in it.

As you can see in the above picture, this book explains how to determine sizing and how the angle of the brim is designed. If you are interested in designing your own hat patterns, studying the illustrations would be helpful.

The picture above shows how to measure to determine which size to use and you can also see the pattern sheet on the right. The pattern sheets are in the back of the book and should be carefully cut from the book. I like to keep my books that come with these kind of pattern pieces in large ziploc bags with pattern pieces and any other notes I have made.

The picture above shows the pattern sheet and I have warped it so it can't just be enlarged and used. No cheating peeps, you gotta buy the book! You can see that multiple sizes are on one sheet. If you need to make a smaller or larger size, studying how the pattern was altered for Small, Medium and Large will be helpful. Since these are hats, some rules for altering patterns will work a little differently. If you make seams smaller to enlarge the size, it will make the head opening smaller not larger--think like a sleeve or neck opening. If you are not sure, make a muslin or use some $1 a yard fabric to test it out.

The above pictures shows the directions for a few of the hats in the book. Some hats require you to add or subtract from the pattern to create different looks. The book has clear diagrams showing how much in centimeters to change the pattern. After playing around with this, I had some creative ideas for my own variations.

I found a measuring tape that had centimeters on the back to use with my sewing from Japanese pattern books. One way to check on whether or not seam allowances are included on the pattern or need to be added is to do the measuring. If it is a loose fitting garment, you may need to figure in the ease that has been allowed.

I will show step by step how I made one of the hats from this book in another post to come soon.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


My kakishibui seems to be fermenting. I checked the container yesterday and found it to be a bit bloated out. I pressed down on the cap and quite a bit of fumes rushed out--much like letting the air out of a tire. I see that I will need to check it a little more often. It is really hard for me to fight the urge to peek at it to see if it is turning color. Patience is a part of "slow fiber" and patience is something I want so badly to get better at. I have been working on several designs using the kakishibui and indigo dye. Some are on paper now and some are still floating around in my head. I am also interested in burning the edges of the silk but have not had time to research that yet. I am hoping that what I am creating will not be to avant garde for my neice to model.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sew Japan--where to find books

My obsession with things Japanese extends to sewing. I just happen to be in love with the Japanese aesthetic. I think my disordered mind finds the simplicity and uncluttered designs to be peaceful, calming, and like something that is operating on a heightened sense of reality. Is that what zen is?

I found this link very interesting http://zenhabits.net/2009/09/how-simplicity-can-help-creativity-briefly/ as I have felt a bit overwhelmed of late with so many new ideas and projects rolling out at work and for my own little art world. Balance, the push and pull that keeps things on an even keel is so very appealing to me but sometimes seems so out of reach.

Japanese sewing books have designs that, while trendy, are classic enough to last from season to season. One pattern, with a few variations, can give you many different looks. I do not read any Japanese--no, I take that back, I now do know the symbols for several common sewing terms! My point though is that when I bought my first Japanese book, I did not worry about the language problem. I bought my first book from an Etsy seller and the pics they included showed that the book had awesome diagrams. Anyone can read a picture, and if the book is over something you are familiar with you can start to figure things out.

If you have been drooling over some projects using Japanese patterns you have seen posted out there in blogland you should take the plunge. Many bloggers are kind enough to post links to places to purchase books and to post ISBN numbers to make the books easier to find.

If you are lucky enough to live in a larger city or near a city with a large Japanese population, you my find a local Japanese grocer also carries books and magazines with sewing patterns. If you are like me, you will have to find online resources. Etsy http://www.etsy.com/ has several sellers that not only sell Japanese books and magazines, but Japanese sewing supplies and fabrics as well. The great thing about Etsy sellers is that they post lots of pics of the inside of the book and give you great information. For example, it helps to know if the book has full size patterns included, the size ranges of the patterns, and to preview pics of some of the projects. Another great thing about Etsy is that you can convo the seller for more information if you have any questions. I have bought from several different Etsy sellers and have never had a bad experience. Some sellers also sell on ebay.

If you feel brave, you can order books from Amazon Japan http://www.amazon.co.jp/ or Yes Asia http://www.yesasia.com/us/en/home.html I really like Amazon Japan because of their "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section. I discovered some great books because of that section. Look for the "In English" link to make it a little easier. Also, if you have the Google toolbar it can translate a page for you.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Juicing Persimmons for Kakishibui

It is best to juice the persimmons while they are green and at peak levels of tannin. The tannin is what will help the dye to "stick" to the cloth. And anyone who has handled persimmons, ripe or not, will tell you the critters are sticky as all get out! After ripening they will turn a very pretty dusky orange color and where I come from they get made into a baked pudding.

Wow I look old in this picture....speaking of needing to dye something.....

As you can see, the American variety of persimmon is not very big. It takes quite a few to make a gallon of juice. I found that it took four gallons of fresh persimmons to make one gallon of juice. I had to cut them in half and pop out the big seeds. Unripe persimmons are hard and I ended up getting a blister on my hand from trying to cut them.

Let the juicing begin! I have no idea how anyone could do this without using a juicer. I cut the persimmons, took out what seeds I could and popped them in. I did have to stop and clean the blades and the lid out quite a few times and the fibrous bits were quite sticky. My skin on my hands was getting very wrinkly towards the end of my juicing session.

Lovely green persimmon juice! Now it goes into a plastic vented gas can and I let it ferment for about a year. That gives me some time to do planning and prep work. I also hope to grow some indigo to use on the same project. I really love the contrast of the persimmon and indigo dye.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Today is the beginning of what will be a year long project. I am collecting green persimmons from my parents persimmon pudding contest prize winning trees to make my own kakishibui. I have a storage can with vent so it hopefully will not blow up as the persimmon juice ferments over the next year. Nothing so exciting as something that could explode if not done correctly!

Kakishibui is actually made with the oriental variety of persimmon which is a larger fruit than our north american variety. However, there are sources for obtaining the traditional juice online. If you click the link above, you can read all about kakishibui and this page does an excellent job of explaining it http://www.kakishibui.com/about.html Chris Conrad's site is very informative and they even offer workshops. You must look at the gallery for some inspiration on how to use this wonderful dye. I especially like the kakishibui and indigo together.

My hometown has a Persimmon Festival every year. My grandmother, father, mother and older brother have all won in the Persimmon Pudding contest using ripe persimmons from the trees I am gathering from today. Lets hope it brings me the good fortune it has brought them and I end up with a lovely work of wearable art.

To read more about the Persimmon Festival you can go their official website http://www.persimmonfestival.org/ but it looks like a lot of the links aren't working today. Hopefully they are getting it update as the festival is only a few weeks away.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Busy Times

It has been back to school time and I have not been able to get much done for my own personal art fix. It really does take about a month to get settled back into the routine and find time to squeeze out for my own work. I am working on a series on sewing with Japanese sewing patterns to start posting. Trying to figure out what needs to be photographed and how to do it correctly as well as how much detail to go into is taking me a bit of time. I am not the photographer of the family, but my dear hubby is trying to teach me some pointers. We went to Turkey Run State Park to celebrate his birthday and I did get this picture that I am proud of:

Monday, August 03, 2009

Indigo Harvest Pics--long post

Fresh Indigo Ready for Harvesting

Rowland Ricketts cuts the indigo close to the ground. New shoots are sprouting up at the base of the plants for the second harvest--or the plant may be allowed to go to seed for next year's planting.

A scythe is used to cut the indigo. The scythe has a serrated blade to cut through the stems.

Volunteers helping with the first Indiana harvest for Rickett's Indigo carry bundles of cut indigo to the area where they will be laid out to dry in the sun.

Rowland spreads out cut indigo to dry in the sun.

The leaves turn dark blue as they begin to dry.

Drying indigo.

Indigo drying in the Indiana sun.
The leaves dry and turn quicker than the thick stems.

The dried indigo is put into a pile for winnowing--separating the stems from the leaves. The winnowing is done by stomping on the indigo pile to crush the leaves off of the stems.

After stomping, the stems are removed from the blue indigo.

The dried indigo is gathered and stored in bags until it can be composted.
To learn more about the process Rowland and Chinami Ricketts follow, please visit their website.
Rowland and Chinami are very generous in sharing their knowledge with others as well as being some of the nicest people you will ever meet. It was really a privilege to visit their farm and help with the indigo harvest. I will post some video clips as soon as I get those edited.