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.

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 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 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 or Yes Asia 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 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 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: