Archive for May, 2010

Marigolds and sheep wool
May 28, 2010

If my plans work out,  I will spend the Memorial Day weekend with zinnias and snapdragons,  pansies and alyssum — i.e. I will be planting windowboxes.  My windowboxes are always colorful and chaotic, like the one shown above,  and they always have lots of marigolds to add cheery gold and orange accents.

Last summer,  I read this interesting tip in Plants & Gardens News, published by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (link here):  “Container-grown pot marigold . . . showed increased yields when sheep wool waste was added to the growing medium;  average yields more than doubled when 1.33 percent wool (by weight) was added.”  Sheep raisers and wool spinners may have known this for generations,  but I was glad to learn that composting is getting serious attention from agricultural scientists these days too.

I haven’t had any sheep wool waste lately,  but if you have tried using it,  please share (the information,  that is).  I’d love to know if it works,  although marigolds are such prolific bloomers that it may be hard to tell.  Oh,  the article says that it also works with container-grown valerian.

Have a lovely Memorial Day weekend.

Naoki Nomura’s kimono exhibition in NYC next week!
May 9, 2010

Kimono by Naoki Nomura

(With apologies to Dr. Jung and The Rolling Stones),  synchronicity was on my side.

While writing about chirimen crepe (link), I had become so absorbed in kimono silk (is that a mixed metaphor?) that when the post was finished,  I wanted to see more.  To be more specific,  I wished for a kimono exhibition — and damned if my wish wasn’t granted!


Kimono by Naoki Nomura

Naoki Nomura,  one of the living masters of the Kyo Yuzen style of kimono dyeing,  has an exhibition of his new work opening next week at The Nippon Gallery,  145 W. 57th St., NYC.   See my blog  post here for a brief description of Mr. Nomura’s 2009 exhibition.

This year,  Mr. Nomura’s kimono collection was inspired by scenery described in the Manyoshu, an 8th century work that was described by Dr. Kenneth Yasuda,  in his introduction to Land of the Reed Plains, as being the “oldest,  largest,  and greatest anthology of Japanese poetry,  one which ranks . . . among the masterpieces of world literature.”

There will be 15-18 kimonos,  and obis,  on display.

And if I wasn’t already psyched,  Amie,  a friend who saw Mr. Nomura’s exhibit last year, emailed,  “The kimonos are not Chirimen,  but they are all breathtaking.”  I can’t wait.

The exhibition opens on Thursday, May 13,  and continues until Wednesday,  May 19.  Check the Nippon Gallery’s website here for hours and directions.

2010 Weave of the week #6: Cute in crepe
May 6, 2010

The bunny shown above belongs to a collection of small Japanese fabric animals (this one is about 2″ high) that I have had for years,  but until I photographed it — and literally focused on it — I was surprisingly incurious about the fabric’s extremely crinkly texture.  The bunny’s costume is made of a woven crepe fabric that has so much movement it looks alive (see closeup below).

I did some research and discovered that this fabric is called chirimen (silk) crepe,  and that it has been produced in the Osaka and Kyoto areas of Japan since the 18th century.  It is a kimono fabric that is traditionally woven in silk,  but less expensive rayon and polyster versions are available.  Toys like mine — and accessories — are made from the kimono scraps.

Below is a detail of a fabulously embellished silk crepe kimono that was created by Japanese textile artist Kubota Itchiku (1917-2003) in 1981.  I chose it because of how clearly the crepe texture shows up in the large white areas.

Itchiku Kubota, Chirimen crepe kimono detail.

Mr. Kubota spent his life attempting to revive ancient Japanese textile dyeing techniques,  but ended up developing his own complex form of kimono art.  When he was unable to obtain the old-fashioned silk fabric he sought,  he substituted a thick chirimen crepe,  because,  as Tomoyuke Yamanobe explains,  in Opulence,  The Kimonos and Robes of Itchiku Kubota, ” With chirimen he is able to heighten the effect of wrinkles created in the shibori process and to intensify the impact of his colors and patterns.”  Here is more of the kimono:

Itchiku Kubota, Chirimen crepe kimono, 1981.

There is an Itchiku Kubota museum in Japan,  but the best way to see more of his remarkable work is to search the net.

Speaking of museums,  for more small objects made of chirimen crepe, visit the Chiri-men Craft Museum’s delightful website (link here).  It’s in Japanese,  but click around to find the pictures.

My animals are made of rayon or polyester.  Below is another chirimen crepe bunny,  wearing a wonderful crepe blanket with a rabbit on it,

and here is a third bunny,  looking dignified in a richly colored and patterned cape.

(All of the bunnies were photographed enthroned upon a small cushion made of chirimen crepe.)

Coincidentally, one of my recent blog posts (link here) shows a draft of a typical crepe weave that will produce a fabric that is described by Doris Goerner,  in Woven Structure and Design Part 1, as having an “irregular surface with small broken-up effects.”  But what was more interesting to me is what she says next: “Crêpe ‘effects’ can also be achieved with plain weave and the use of harder twisted yarns containing an equal combination of right and left twist.”

To find out more,  I contacted Takako Ukei, owner of Habu Textiles, in NYC, (link here ) to ask her about yarn for weaving chirimen crepe, and her reply was:

I do carry the silk for chirimen fabric.  It goes under the item numbers NS-7 & NS-8.  Comes in S or Z twist and a cone holds 3400 yds.  Please see below.

When I asked: “Do you know what weave is used to produce chirimen fabric?  Do you recommend an actual crepe weave to get that incredible texture with your yarn,  or will alternating the twists work with tabby and/or twill?”

Her answer was:

Chirimen is not woven in just one set way.  There are many variations of S + Z in many different picks.

Many of the articles that I read mentioned using a much heavier weft yarn,  and alternating  S and Z twists pick and pick, or two and two.  I haven’t experimented myself,  but if you have,  please share your results and I’ll post them.

Here’s a group photo of my three much-loved chirimen-crepe bunnies.  I have other crepe species too,  which I will introduce in future blog posts.  Unfortunately,  Old Japan,  a store owned by my friends Amie and Roku (link here),  and my source of chirimen-crepe animals and many other treasures,  no longer sells them.  Sadly,  the family-owned Kyoto company that made them  has gone out of business,  but from what I read,  interest in chirimen-crepe crafts is growing,  so maybe someone will make more fanciful,  adorable animals when the recession ends.