It has been a while since I have posted on this blog. I have been busy sourcing antique and vintage fabrics and dyeing katazome textiles. I have also been working on a new website and blog. Please visit our new website for blog posts on antique Japanese textiles and my new indigo dye projects. We also have a shop where you can purchase fabrics and an experiences page where you can learn about upcoming classes and textile tours. Visit the new website at: www.nsomerstextiles.com
This past weekend I visited with my wonderful friend Cassie Dickson. Cassie lives in Western North Carolina and is an exceptional spinner and weaver. She focuses on the weaving of traditional overshot coverlets, but she also grows her own flax for spinning and weaving and raises silk worms each year. This batch of silk worms hatched late and as such Cassie had already collected cocoons and eggs from most of her silkworms. She offered to give me this box of 20 worms to take home. They have happily been eating mulberry leaves from the yard for the last several days
Newly spun kami-ito, paper thread, on homemade bamboo bobbins. I made this paper thread from beautiful hand made kozo paper from Korea. I first cut the kozo paper into thin strips leaving both ends attached, then left the paper strips under a damp towel overnight, in the morning I rolled the moist paper on concrete blocks, and then spun the thread using a Japanese spinning wheel. This thread still needs to be boiled or steamed to set the twist. This is my first real attempt at making paper thread.
I recently found these two wonderful books on shifu, paper thread making and paper thread weaving. The first book Kigami and Kami-ito is beautifully laid out and the images are inspiring. A Song Of Praise For Shifu is exceptionally full of information about paper making, as well as, the regional variations and history of shifu.
I have been collecting antique daifukucho, or account books. Some of these daifukucho date to the 1840’s and were used by a lumber company, but most of them date to the 1880’s and 1890’s. In the past it was common for these books to be taken apart and the strong kozo paper cut up to make paper thread which would be used as weft threads on a hemp or cotton warp. I bought many of these thinking that I might try my hand at making shifu using antique paper, but each page is like a work of art and I don’t know if I can ever bring myself to use them. You can purchase late 19th century daifukucho through my shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/luckyredbat?ref=hdr_shop_menu
I recently ordered some beautiful hand made kozo paper and tried making kami-ito, paper thread using the books on kami-ito and shifu I mentioned above. I cut the kozo paper into thin strips leaving both ends attached, then I left the paper strips under a damp towel overnight, in the morning I rolled the moist paper on concrete blocks, and then spun the thread using a Japanese spinning wheel.
I recently found this antique Japanese spinning wheel. I had to beg the owner to ship it to me in North Carolina. After tinkering with the spindle I love the way it spins.
I have been inspired recently by African strip woven cotton fabrics, many of which are dyed with indigo. I used my own hand spun cotton to weave a strip 20′ long by 8″ wide. After the strip was woven It was dyed in old indigo to leave an inconsistent pattern on the fabric. The strip was cut into shorter sections and then sewn together with hand spun thread before being over dyed with a strong indigo dye to darken the fabric. The over dying left the fabric with a beautiful mottled color that matches well with the inconsistencies of the hand spun thread.
Over the last month I have been trying to get better at taking fiber from kudzu vines. This was my last attempt and I’m pleased with the results. I gathered the vines from the forest floor where it was easy for me to find vines that were straight and were growing with almost no leaves. I boiled the vines for one hour and then allowed them to rot under a piece of old roofing tin for about 4 or 5 days before stripping the fiber from the vines and washing it with warm water and castile soap. The fiber is a very light golden color and the remaining bark is easily removed.
Kudzu fiber can be purchased from my web shop here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/204322779/raw-kudzu-kuzu-fiber?ref=shop_home_active_1