Monday, November 29, 2010

Tools of the trade: I

I love tools - tools for making things. Tools for cooking, for knitting, for weaving, and even tools just for admiration as they are so beautiful.
Japan is a great place for tools. Fortunate or not, there is a limit on luggage allowance so there is also a limit on how many different tools I could buy.

A few years ago, I visited  the Inagaki Kiryou manual weaving supplies shop. It was established in 1897, on the outskirts of Kyoto in the Nishijin area. I did not have my camera with me. I told all my weaving friends about this place but I felt that my words can not truly describe it properly nor could they describe how I felt when I was there.

They are traditional tools, beautifully made and functional. The owner has limited English. Between that and my knowledge of Kanjii, a bit of sign language, it was enough for us to communicate and to explain what the different things are used for.
(On their website, they do recommend that you have a translator with you as they are not fluent in English.)
He brought out all the selections. When we have picked a shuttle, he brought out all that he had so we could choose the which one we wanted as they all had individual wood grains and colours. The shuttles were made of oak. We could get bamboo or timber bobbins to use with them. (My swedish cardboard bobbins also fit with some of these shuttles.)

There were a lot of things that looked familiar but also a lot that were ( I think) peculiar to Japanese weaving!?

We saw those ceramic weights that I found in Melbourne, and found out what their use is.

They are added to the swift to slow down the speed!
In the ceiling, there were all these old tools hanging there. They have all acquired that mature timber patina and gave the shop this amazing atmoshpere. There were bobbins, shuttles, old bamboo reeds, etc.

One of the really sad things was that as the tool makers retire, unless there is a new generation to take over, there won't be anymore supplies. This is the case for some of his beautiful timber tapestry beaters.

So if you are in Kyoto and you are a weaver, this should definitely be on your itinerary. However, if you can not get there, they have also developed a good website in English and it is worth a look.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saori, Osaka: III

The red building of Saori was visible from afar. Kenzo Jo mentioned that he was impressed by the red barns that he had seen in the United States. When they had the opportunity to establish this new building, he wanted it to be this colour!

Misao Jo is 97 years old and she still goes into the studio to weave each day!

At the Studio, every bit of yarn is put to good use. It changed my way of thinking when I was on that shopping spree. I no longer worried whether I had to buy enough for a 'whole' piece/project. If I saw something interesting, I can just get 10/20g or one ball of knitting yarn. I now have inspired uses for the thrums that I could not bear to throw away, or the few bits left over on a cone.

If people had fnished with a bobbin and had left overs, they were left in a neat arrangement so that it can inspire the next person. It opens my eyes to combinations of textures and colours that I would not have dreamt of before. It was very liberating.

The built-in bobbin can be used in many ways other than winding on yarn. Kenzo Jo and Setsuko both showed us various ways to spin fleece into yarn, to creat fancy yarn, to form loose/tight twists, S and Z twists as you wind the bobbin.


This blue fancy yarn we created on the bobbin reminded me of all the overhead power lines we saw in Kyoto. This way, you don't run out of yarn. You just make as much as you need.


Note: all the photos except the one of the powerlines were taken by Kaz.

Fuse 2010

This is the graduate exhibition of the Diploma of Textile Design RMIT TAFE and some of my friends are finishing this year.

It is at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick until 18 December. If you are in Melbourne, (Australia) and you like textile in any way, please please do try to get there to have a look!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Confessions of a yarnaholic

Is it possible to save the world economy one ball/skein of yarn at a time? I wonder if each knitter, weaver, crafter, etc went out and bought some yarn, what difference would it make.

It sure does feel like that at times. Stocktake sales, art and craft expos and shows, online shops, the temptation is all around and I have had a few moments of weakness lately. In addition, there are all these ideas floating around. New things I want to try but I don't seem to have the right yarn in my stash........
Or should I design my projects around yarns that I have in my stash?

Do you buy yarn with a project in mind or do you buy it just because you like the feel/look of it?

I had a conversation with a friend from Japan recently and she imagines that there are a lot of sheep in Australia and therefore we should have an abundance of choices with woollen yarn. Sadly, I told her that most of the wool/fleece are exported and processed and milled abroad, and that I have to buy 'Australian' yarn from the US or other countries.

So when I went to Avril, I totally lost control. I visited the retail stores, the one in Shinsaibashi, Osaka (level 2 in Daimaru) and the one in Sanjo St, Kyoto. Look at those beautiful cones on the wall. The colours, the textures. I was like a kid in a lolly shop.

At each store, they have displays of Setsuko Torii's designs. You can feel them and try them on. They are beautiful. There are people doing hand knitting workshops, and learning how to weave on knitter's looms.

However, my favourite one is the head office. I roamed along the corridor, shopping for yarn like I am at the supermarket shopping for grocery. Each type of yarn, in various colours neatly stacked on shelves. Large cones and skeins. At the end, the quantity I wanted is wound off onto cones. Usually when I have too much choice, I can't make a decision and I don't buy anything. For some reason, it was the opposite at Avril. I can look at each cone and think of a project for it. My imagination goes wild. I am inspired, I am giddy with excitement. I was there for hours.

I bought a bit of everything: linen, silk, wool and cotton. I bought for weaving on the Saori loom. I bought for a few projects I have seen in the Vav magazine.
Thank you Masumi for your patience with me. Avril truly is my favourite yarn store in the world!
Now I just have to weave, knit and make some beautiful things with my stash!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New addition to the family

Her name is Chibi and she came pre-warped, threaded and sleyed! Yes, and built-in bobbin winder, too.

The setting up took half an hour; from box to ready-to-weave......

But first the P2P piece, I am determined to finish that before starting another weaving project.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saori, Osaka: II

We started by learning various techniques on these beautiful 2-shafts looms. There are so much you can do with 'just' plain weave. It really lets the textures and the colours take center stage. There is emphasis on expression, not too bogged down by how the selvedges look, etc.
This beautiful red sample is woven by Setsuko. She was one of the instructors during our week at the Studio.

This second sample was woven by Kenzo Jo and the first part showed the effects of the various twists in the yarn and the pattern that can be created by that. The yellow and orange parts are the similar technique to the red sample.

I wove 3 pieces in the 5 days. That is probably more than all the weaving I have done this year. This first piece was more of a sampler of all the techniques including clasp weft using 2 and 3 colours, looping, the textures similar to the red sample, insertion of fleece, and the blending of colours.

I think that the big revelation for me is that I can work with colours! I am not sure why but I have always find it extremely hard...... Somehow, at the Studio, with all the cones of yarn in front of me, that fear of colours seem to have diminished slightly. It will be interesting to see if I can keep that momentum with the next pieces that I work on.

This image shows how the piece progressed and the photo was taken with its full loom width of 60cm.

It is a little short for a wrap but works extremely well, doubled up as a short scarf. The softness and the drape is amazing. It is a limitation with images that you can not feel.....

The second piece is a joint effort with Kaz. We both wove on this. I have wondered how to achieve this, especially after the machine knitted pieces with the ruffles.

Again, some highlights from the brave new world of colour.

I think that this will be pushing my blogging skills to the limit as there is so much more textile content from our trip. I will try to keep up while everything is fresh in my mind.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Saori, Osaka: I

Last month, Kaz and I were fortuante enough to spend 5 days at the Saori Studios in Izumi-shi, Osaka. It was a beautiful studio filled with natural light and ventilation.
As you can see, looms were all set up ready to go. Everyday, people turned up just to weave. Experienced and new weavers, young and old, couples and children. It was a pleasure to see how easy it was, no hang ups about threading or sleying. You just pick the colour and type of yarn, wind up a bobbin and off you go.

There was an extensive selection of yarn to choose from. Each cone is colour coded to show fibre: wool, cotton, synthetics, jute, etc. You can blend fibres and colours. The warps were all set up in fine black cotton at 5 ends per cm and they all have 2 shafts.

Everything has its home. Shuttles, bobbins, scissors were all provided for. You literally just need to turn up and start weaving. At the end of the day, tools were returned, warps were re-tied and each loom is ready for the next person. The studio is opened from 9:30 to 5:30 each day, 7 days a week!

We were also fortunate that the condominium across the road was available. Saori has the property to house people who had travelled to weave at the workshop for a very reasonable sum. It is a fully equipped apartment across the road from the Studio.
The most wonderful thing about the apartment are these Saori curtains in each room.

There are 2 bedrooms, a tatami room, kitchen, living and dining area. Each room can sleep up to 2 people. On the second night of our stay, a lady from Okinawa joined us. She was on her way to Tokyo and stopped by to weave for a day. She arrived in the afternoon at about 4pm and started weaving straight away. By dinner time, she had a scarf. The next day, she learnt how to wind a new warp and to set up the loom (threaded and sleyed) from scratch as she had bought a loom to take home the last time she was at Saori.

dining area

living area
It was a wonderful experience. It opened my eyes to a different way to weave and a different way to utilise the finished pieces.
Please look forward to the next installments......