Fabric is incredible. Never ceases to amaze me, teach me, tell me stories.
One of today’s revelation began with this hemp, purple kasuri (ikat) hemp from a very old kimono.
I have been pulling a lot of stuff out recently in a never ending attempt to pare down, get rid of some of the stuff I have accumulatd over the years. There is a lot of fabric. I was photographing and measuring this piece, etc etc , to eventually get it up on Etsy when I noticed something very interesting.
I have had lots of these machine-woven kasuri-like fabrics. Kasuri, also known as ikat in Indonesia, is a painstaking process of dyeing the threads b4hand so as to affect patterns and motifs in the woven fabric. Just found out on wikipedia that kasuri (Japanese-style ikat) is weft ikat. The weft is resist dyed first to create the pattern (in other versions, the warp is resist dyed).
Well, i assumed that this was more of the same, fake ikat. But then I got to looking closer. At first, I noticed by looking at the “coins” in the pattern, and the chords, that the pattern was minutely different in each coin or chord. When they are printed or woven using programs, every minute detail in the repeating pattern is identical. These ones were highly variable.
Then I got to looking at the selvidge, the edges of the fabric. Completely uneven, as you can see in the photo below. And then my inkling started coming to light. No, it couldn’t be….Looked closely at the weaving in the fabric. Not exactly delicate, almost deliberate….Is that a tie-off? Looks like where the string broke and they added a new string in there…..has the fatness of two strings just for a bit there….nubby hemp….but a stable, seasoned hand, for sure…no lack of skill….
But, I got to thinking about where the fabric came from, the old inn, a place which I salvaged in the spring. And remembered how all the fabrics which came out of there were of the utmost quality. (this lady had TASTE and these people had YEN!) And my inkling grew to a feeling!
This is handloomed~! This is homespun!! This is incredible!!
I look at the fabric and think, there’s no WAY I could ever pull something like this off! It must have driven the weaver plumb batty! And there is a whole kimonos worth, altogether over 10 meters. I sat and thought. Imagine weaving a whole bolt of this stuff!!
There’s no way. If I were to weave the bolt and had to put a price on it, the thing would be about $100,000! There’s no way a “modern person” (in their right mind) would even consider…yes, I know, some folks still do weave….but it’s hard to imagine, to putr a face to it and imagine someone doing this as a menas to make a kimono, let alone as a means to make money.
Have we changed that much in the 100 or so years since this fabric was woven? I’m afraid that we really have……and it could be dismaying…..but I’m sure we’re not completely beyond repair. I am quite sure of that!
At first, the objects seem quite mundane, quite one-dimensional. Fabric. So what? How much fabric do we have in the world? It’s become too commonplace, somewhat trite almost. So easy to disregard, like it’s a given part of the landscape.
But look a little deeper and things seem to expand, grow dimensionally, in stature and in import. What was once a point is now a plane, next a cosmos! Did something come from nothing?! Or was it the change in viewpoint, change of perspective, change in merely the attitude of the observer,which seems to have changed the very object itself?
Can see both uneven edges and the sort of “approximate” placement of the rows of color for the pattern.
There’s a link to ths fabric being sold on Etsy!! Go get it b4 someone does first!
Tie-dye is random by nature, right? But I am Mr. Anal, trying to show that it CAN be controlled. Mr. Control Freak. I WILL make happen what I want!!
Today, i was cleaning up some old partially-dyed/abandoned peices and i ran across this pair of half-length Thai fisherman’s pants, which were dyed a mottled green with areas of white left in. The green was quite light, and I thought it looked like it could be altered with some bleach and made lighter, thereby facilitating over-dyeing. So, being the lazy dude i am, I turned on the washer, threw her in and sprinkled some “kitchen bleach” over it. turned it over and sprinkled more. I was expecting the bleach to disperse in the water and bleach this baby out a bit more all-around.
And there’s the irony. I put a ton of effort and planning into each peice. This one wasn’t even supposed to be being dyed!! It was being prepared to dye, one step b4! And i get results that I love and probably couldn’t duplicate if I tried, total random success…..makes me wonder if I should stop all that planning and conceptualizing and just whing it like this everytime!! hahahahaha You never know…..
Well, I went back to the states earlier in the year for the workshop with Glennis in February and whatnot. I first arrived in New York and eventually found my way upstate , to the Capital District, where I am originally from. I had only been in the states a week or so, but found myself feeling somewhat fuzzy, so-to-speak, a bit out of sorts, hard to concentrate.
And when I am feeling stressed , I turn to dyeing to calm down. And I had what I needed with me, all except the plastic syringe with which i apply dye. So I was in search of syringes, quick, available syringes. I had ordered lots to Glennis’ place via Dharma Trading, and would be there in a week or two. But when you’ve gotta have it, you’ve gottahave it. Let’s say I was desperate…..
So, thinking I might find them at a local hardware/farm supply shop (for squirting stuff into animals etc), I stopped by the local Agway on rt. 50 between my parents places.
Well, I was wearing my “noragi”, which are Japanese peasant pants. My friend Ritarou makes these pants, his version normally completely from old Japanese indigo cotton fabrics. But we are making these ones which combine the old with the new, so to speak. His old cotton fabrics with my dyed psychedelic fabrics. Because of the construction of these pants , they get a second glance even here in Japan. The crotch area is merely a swath of cloth, not unlike a diaper. Old-timers here in Japan grin and say that these are the pants they associate with loin-cloths (old-style underwear), and they blush and giggle.( In fact, wearing said loincloths is hugely popular nowadays in Japan amongst various groups, hippies and natural folk and whatnot. ) When my mom saw these pants, she sarcastically congratulated me on producing pants from before the modern convenience we know as the zipper had been invented. Thanx mom….
And my head was wrapped with a tie-dye towel. Again, I guess you could say it is Japanese -style. Many working folk wrap their heads in towels thin and thick while working here, including people working in rice fields, gardens, and all sorts of construction and whatnot. And I am used to wrapping my head, especially since I usually shave the sides clean, winter or not. And when I shave my head in the winter, it is COLD!!!! And so I have to wrap it afterwards or freeze! So, my head was wrapped. And I believe I was wearing a t-shirt with Tibetan Buddhist images on it, kinda shocking big images.
So I walk into Agway. All three or four employees were gathered up front near the door and the registr, talking, it seems, as I walked in. All expressions went very blank as all naturally avoided eye contact (like scared dogs). I walked up to one woman, an older woman, and said “excuse me , I’m looking for syringes.” and everyone shuddered. At that I added ‘like plastic syringes, the type you might use in cooking or with a pet” to clarify. But the woman never smiled , and answered in a very uninterested tone “no, we don’t carry anything like that….” In my pure desperation to dye, I pressed “do you know anywhere around here that might carry such a product?” as i looked around at all employees, who were now listening. Again, no smiles, only the judgmental glares. “nope, sorry…..” Couldn’t have been more curt as their glances shot back and forth between each other in alarm. If there had been an emergency button to call the police in a stickup under the cashiers counter or something, it woulda been pushed. They all seemed freaked out……
I walked back out to my car and got in, and there it really sunk in. These people really thought I was looking for a syringe, like something to use drugs with. How bizarre! All I could think was, how bizarre…..
I was kinda half-dazed, thinking, how bizarre….as I drove another mile or so down rt. 50 and saw Checker-somethine-erother Farms on my left and swerved to pull in just in time. Pet food and pet supplies. these yahoos up the street had no ideas for me, but here, close by, was just the type of shop I had asked them to inform me of. There’s service for ya’……….
Walked in, asked the employee for syringes, the type you might use in administering medicine to a pet. She showed me just what i needed right away, bought it and left. Dyed that night.
Found somethging else which has me intrigued at that old ryokan. It’s an indigo-dye felt blanket. Not synthetic felt, but real, steam-shrunk wool felt. Dyed a deep indigo blue. I have never seen something similar before…..
OK, it’s completely moth-eaten. You can imagine how it was folded. I found it in an old storage tansu full of mosquito nets (kaya), way down on the bottom. I have heard b4 that indigo imbues the dyed cloth with some amount of bug protection. I guess wool is wool though, yummy to certain moths despite the indigo!
Why did I take it, you ask? Something in such condition could have no value, you probably think. But to me, not only is this worthwhile for studying the history of textiles and indigo dyeing here in Japan.
But also, I am presently working together with a man named Ritarou who specializes in sashiko, or the reinforcement of fabric using stitches. I have a feeling he will be very happy about my find. And that a winter vest or coat at least can be salvaged from even this bug eaten mess.
First I have to wash and air it , though….
More photos….There’s a tag in the corner. Can’t make out what’s written….
And the edge of the back side is interesting. Have a feeling this is a clue to how it’s made. Almost looks like three layers subsequently deposited one over the other, maybe on a large screen-like sieve….
I have been intrigued recently by apeice of the puzzle which I wasn’t sure about. I know that the local farmers used to grow silk coccoons every year as a “crop” and an important source of yearly income. I have found a good many of the artifacts involved and been able to somewhat peice the process, the story, together. Recently, I had even found this (see photo). It is a giant washi sack used to collect up all the coccoons in for transport from farm to factory. This one has the mark of the Gunze company, a popular underwear company herein Japan even today. The back side says “Ooi Factory”. It is bound for Ooi in Kyushu.
And I had often heard of the country folk using the lower quality, badly formed or otherwise unsellable coccoons to spin string, weave silk and create their own clothing. Basically, homespun and home woven. And so I figured a certain amount of the silk which I was acquiring was said “homespun ” silk. I would find rolls with very uneven selvidges or with more imperfections than most commercially machine-woven fabrics tend to have. And i would wonder….Are these the homespun fabrics?
Today, I had a chance to check while talking with a friend in Mino City nearby. She is an older woman who deals with old fabrics and remakes old kimonos into modern “Western” clothing, and she is where I go to get answers when I overflow with questions.
I brought with me one of the rolls I suspected, and asked her. And sure enuf, she told me it is “uchi-ori”, or home-woven. Slowly , but surely, the whole picture becomes easier to see, easier to imagine. because it is really not so far gone at all, here in Japan, especially here in the country. It’s right underneath the surface, and takes but a scratch to become exposed.
This green, red and white fabric is a recent acquisition from a very old ryokan, or “inn”. The place is over 200 years olsd! The fabric is in two parts, the first part being 720 cms long (that’s like over 8 yards!). A very open plaid pattern, I love the play between the colors in the warp and the weft and the way the overall effect makes it look quite different than just green, red and white.
For more photos of this peice, I will refer you to Etsy, where this peice will eventually be for sale.
I will upload photos of one more homespun fabric I have, a dissembled, laundered and never re-assembled kimono. Ths was the first fabric to get me wondering and suspicious that the homespuns were right there, all around me! Notice that these fabrics usually have simple patterns, stripes and plaids that even the unsophisticated home- weaver can acheive. I love the flavor, the warmth and approachability of the rustic textiles!
Oh, BTW, the green red white silk is for sale over on Etsy. http://www.etsy.com/listing/96750568/homespun-silk-kimono-fabric-over-7
Tried to make this 12 point out to 24 point mandala work. I had this super thin, super fine fabric which I had wanted to try for a while. Tied up a mandala yesterday and went for it. This is what I got. Kind of not what I had hoped for, a fail , in my eyes. Dye penetration sucks. Yeah, I ain’t gonna throw it away but….
First lesson: sometimes you push too hard and don’t get it exactly right.
One thing I found kinda ironic , though. The part which constitutes the fail, the areas of lighter color throughout the mandala, which radiate out from the center, actually look interesting , in a way, like light shining thru the mandala. Basically, the fail is the success….
Friend came to visit and brought me 4 new bundles of cotton tubeknit fabrics yesterday. He works inthe industry and frequently comes across discarded material…Four new cotton tubeknits!! How am I to be expected to concentrate??! Got an exhibition starting in five days….better concentrate…
This is a test mandala on one of the fabrics–a really thick jersey-like knit, not much stretch….