Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tool of the Week: Needle

Tool of the Week: Needle
Originally uploaded by alsokaizen

The needle, this is perhaps the most basic tool for any one who works with fibers... So when I started this silly little series I was mostly thinking about how it would be a terrific way for me to practice my macro photography (which still requires a good deal of improvement) What I didn’t expect to find myself thinking about was how old most of the tools I use really are (not mine personally but in a historic sense) then in turn how old the practices that I work with are…I wiki-ed needle and (I don’t know how accurate this is) Needles were found just above an ash layer dated to 40,000 years ago at the Kostenki site in Russia. Wow! That’s some serious old there. We are talking about a tool that’s been around since the dawn of civilization essentially unchanged in design, and performing the same function for all that time. I’m suddenly in awe of this little guy…small but mighty, singular in purpose, and designed just about perfectly

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Too Windy

Today I had planned to set up outside and catch up on my photography. I have been trying to get the ETSY store filled with all the products that are just sitting around for lack of decent photos. It was bright and sunny and warm out. I had even managed to get all the other pressing tasks for the weekend finished yesterday. It was also quite breezy. Once I got set up I realized that this was not the day to try this as it was definitely going to be an exercise in frustration. I did get one shot of the sashes I dyed last week though.
Instead I opted to try some discharge shibori that I've been wanting to do. Shibori girl Glennis has posted a wonderful picture from a recent museum visit that served as the inspiration for this bit of trial and error. I love the zigzag of the motif in the original and I wanted to try to do the same thing however I wasn't sure if I would be able to keep the motifs consistently spaced so I decided to use wooden beads bound into the fabric at intervals to keep some consistency.
I started with a long panel of dark brown linen (I think) fabric and bound in the beads. Next I plunked it into a bleach solution.
My first attempt got a bit too blasted out.
the second one came out better, I increased the wraps on the resist and reduced the amount of bleach as well as the length of time in the solution. I like the result although it looks very little like the inspiration at all... its also very difficult to see the pattern as it is being bound so the motif is sort of broken up a bit!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tabla Rasa

Just got all the scarves for my first real wholesale order prewashed and ironed ready for the resist process. I like the way they look with the light behind them, sort of the zen part of the process...pure white expectant but content to wait.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Odds & Ends and the Earth

April and May are dedicated to the element Earth at Project Spectrum. I will be making another Haori (if all goes well). This one with a brown outer fabric and a green interior. I managed to complete the dyeing this week. The green fabric went well, its the smaller piece and I didn't try to do anything too fancy with it.
The brown took two dye baths to complete. Both used Itajime shibori but on the brown I put some folds into the fabric before I pleated and clamped it to give it some more interesting dynamics. After the first dye bath it looked a bit blotchy to me so I went back into the second dye bath with a more simple fold just to fill out the color some more. I'm reasonably satisfied with the end results. I've done this technique before using rice paper to good effect, but paper is easier to fold crisply and clamp securely... I'm thinking about getting some bigger clamps for the larger fabric bundles. a trip to Home Depot is in my future!
I'm picking along at the ginkos its all hand stitching for the moment so I am working on it a bit at a time (a very kaizen project)
I dyed some baby clothes for my ETSY shop
tested some linen fabrics for discharge
dyed my first belly dancing veil

started another sampler with the heat set
and finally had a chance to rake out the back garden, getting my first sunburn of the year in the process.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


More votives... I'm still looking for ways to use the rest of this shibori

These will be listed to my shop in the next couple of days. They look really pretty when they are lit up.

Tool of the Week: Pins

Little infantry men of the fiber world marching along, holding the line. Individually not much to them (except those snipers hiding in the rug, Ouch!) but as a group they are a force to be reckoned with.

All Yet None

heatset sampler pt2
Originally uploaded by alsokaizen

Finished the "sampler" this past weekend. Its sort of a casserole of techniques...mola, applique, quilting, shibori, embroidery... all yet none. I have had a devil of a time getting a good photo of it too, the heat set poly is sort of shimmery and while that makes the texture really dynamic in real life it is easily washed out in photos..I seem to have to choose between the color (pale purple) or the texture.
I've gone back into the piece with decorative stitching on the background/shibori and hand stitching on the appliqued squares using violet and metallic threads.The little squares looked like TV screens to me so I picked the metallic thread to play on it a bit. It has a sort of vibrating effect with all the shimmer and repetitive lines.
I'm really glad I chose to work smaller this time... not feeling so massively invested made it a more playful experience and I think that comes through.
For some reason the REM song "Whats the frequency Kenneth?" kept running through my head when I worked on it...very odd.
I've gotten another idea for a little piece using some of these ideas too.
But in the meantime back to the Ginkos

Friday, April 4, 2008

Heat Set Sampler

While working on the ginkgo this past month I kept coming up with other things I wanted to try with these heat set textures. For once I decided to not embark on another ambitious project but instead to just try something on a small scale. In this case it is an applique- mola- heatset shibori- embroidery thingy, a just for the fun of it sort of project. This is the first half of it. I started with a two tone poly the kind with one color as the weft (silver) and another as the warp (purple) that creates a weird reflect-y sort of fabric. I stitched it in a running stitch to create a pleat on a grid leaving every other square blank. Then I heat set it and pulled it flat(ish) by stitching it to a background. Once stretched I went back in with some squares of a slubby textured poly/cotton in a silvery grey. These squares were cut in the center so the smooth sections of poly showed through the little windows and stitched down. At this point it began to look like little TV sets to me! I'm currently doing some decorative stitching that I will post pics of when its done

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tool of the Week – Sewing Machine

This week I’m featuring a more modern tool, at least in comparison to the last two, the sewing machine. As tools go this one is a serious time saver. I can’t imagine having to do all of my stitching by hand. I have two sewing machines at present. They are basic but that’s really all I need for the work I do. Both of them are Sears Kenmore models. My newer one is only two years old and has more bells and whistles than I will probably ever use. It has a large computerized selection of stitches and quite a few special bits and pieces but my favorite doodad on it is the “needle down” button! In the photo lurking behind this Fancy Dan is the Beast, over 20 years old, made from solid metal, it weighs a ton and is still going strong. That machine accompanied me on my abbreviated college career and everywhere since. It is still plugging away, a bit worse for wear (just like me). When I want finesse it’s the shiny new one I use but if I want to power my way through 4 layers of denim then I free the beast!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Originally uploaded by narablog.com

Slow Cloth – Skill and Possible Mastery
The third principal of Slow Cloth is skill and the possibility of mastery.
I've chosen this beautiful piece of shibori that narablog posted at flickr to demonstrate it. Some of the pieces narablog posts truly boggle the mind. They show the results that are possible with mastery of a process.
Instant foods leave me hungry shortly after I eat them. The same is true of easy crafts. Oh sure if you follow the directions you get a predictable pretty result… but I can’t really say the result is what I’m in it for. I want to create something sublime and individual based in my experiences, not an off the shelf, easily duplicate able doo-dad. True I may be overreaching a bit at this point in my development but what is the point otherwise? If I want an easy fix its cheaper and easier to buy something at Mallmart made in a Chinese prison. Then I can just plunk my butt on the couch and watch Bad Reality TV with my time (and I won’t say I never fall prey to that easy fix). However this would leave me hungry for something more.
There is a definite high that comes with expanding my level of skill in my craft. It is rarely comfortable to get there but wow when I open one of my off the wall experiments, and it worked, that is awesome.
I’ve managed to achieve a certain level of skill in my chosen craft, sometimes a moment of mastery comes too…but it is a dynamic (often humbling) experience. There is always more to learn and that is the point.
Its more about how to experience the journey than the souvenirs you pick up along the way.