Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Lucky Bags - New Year Sale

I started my 'Solstice thru New Year SALE' on 21st December at www.susanbriscoe.com with some fukubukuro or 'lucky bags'.
Do you know the Japanese New Year sale tradtion of the Lucky Bag? You get a great value discounted selection of goodies, but you can't look inside the bag first - it's a mystery. Lucky bags may be themed by products (stationery, accessories, makeup etc.) and are sold by stores in the New Year sales.  It is a big, BIG New Year tradition in Japan!
My lucky bags are themed by technique (sashiko, kogin etc.) and/or akeyword or phrase, such as 'wintertime', 'golden' or 'Japanese New Year' to give you a clue as to the products and colour themes of each bag.
I've been having fun filling these bags and choosing different themes.  Although my discount is 'officially' 25%, in reality it is a little more for some of the bags, simply because things like a £10 precut of kogin 18 count cotton fabric and four skeins of thread at £3 each add up to slightly more than £20... There are sashiko, kogin and fabric only bags.
The sale ends on 4th January, so I have enough time to finish sending everything out before I go to Japan.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Countdown to Christmas in my internet shop - yukata panels!

I have started the long, long job of listing my cotton yukata fabric panels in my online shop, putting up one new fabric a day as my 'Countdown to Christmas' - an Advent calendar of yukata fabrics - although, I have so many in stock, I can probably keep going well into 2020 with a new fabric a day!  Just like the old fashioned Advent calendars we had in the 1960s and 70s, the new fabric 'picture' I'll 'open' every day is quite at random, and there will be many different patterns and colours listed.

These fabulous chusen hand stencil dyed fabrics are some of my favourite kimono fabrics, as they display such a variety of motifs and patterns, often in quite an innovative way. The wonderful shading effects are unique to this kind of dyeing, where the colours are pooled onto the stencils and pulled through the folded fabric by a vacuum.

Here are the first eight... Although as it it only December 4th today, they aren't all live on the site just yet. 

The dyeing process means these narrow 36 - 39cm wide fabrics have a repeat of 98 - 105cm, and the patterns mirror image alternately. The earliest ones I have are from c1960 and the most recent date from the early 2000s. The fabric has a similar handle to patchwork cottons, are machine washable, and are ideal for patchwork, quilting, home dec and dressmaking projects where a large scale pattern is required.

Chusen dyeing is an expensive process, and these fabrics originally retailed for around £150 and upwards for a bolt.  As I look out for them in sales, I am able to sell the panels for just £12 per piece, less than the original retail price in Japan.  If you order more than one panel of the same fabric, it will come as a continuous length.

Sadly, chusen isn't as fashionable for yukata nowadays as it used to be, and many dyers have switched production to tenugui hand towels, which are having a big revival at the moment. So yukata fabrics like these are becoming harder to find.  I've built up a collection of several hundred bolts over the last few years, and will gradually add them to my site.

Here's a set of quilt blocks I made for a remake of my 'Maru' quilt (above), combining cotton yukata fabrics with tsumugi cotton stripes. By fussy cutting many yukata fabrics, it is possible to get 'plain' fabrics out of some of the background areas where the motifs are more sparse. The smaller cushion panel below was made by improvisational piecing using up the scraps!

The panels are suited to making up as long scroll-like wallhangings, but they also look gorgeous in quilts.  I used them for several projects in my 'Japanese Quilt Inspirations' book. If you are familiar with Kitty Pippen's books, 'Quilting with Japanese Fabrics' and 'Asian Elegance', she used a lot of yukata cottons for her stunning quilts.  Patricia Belyea, in 'East Meets West Quilts', also makes beautiful quilts of yukata cottons, in a more improvisational, contemporary style.

Because these are vintage fabrics, they are not repeatable, and because yukata bolts are rarely more than 11.6m long, they are quite rare fabrics.  I won't be able to get the same ones again (although there are one or two where I have managed to buy duplicate bolts!) so if you see one you like, buy it now!

Friday, 29 November 2019

Yuza Sashiko Guild - first book in English

Reiko Domon posted some photos this morning of the new Yuza Sashiko book, The Magic of Yuza Sashiko, which their guild have just published.  I haven't seen it yet but hope to get my copy soon.  Yuza Sashiko Guild will be bringing copies for sale when they come to the Scottish Quilting Show at SECC in early March and also at Dornoch Fibre Fest, and we are planning a book signing session at Kaleidoscope books in between those events. I will share more info as I have it.  Hopefully I'll get some copies to sell on my website too.

They asked me to write a couple of pages for the book, explaining how I got interested in sashiko and kogin, so I've pasted the text for that below.

Yuza Sashiko - special stitching from Shonai

My links to Yuza Sashiko are down to a lucky chance. I was a Visual Art and Drama graduate from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, with a vague interest in Japanese art and design. It was my dream to go to Japan. When I was accepted onto the JET Program in 1991 to teach English in Japanese schools, I requested to teach in a small town in the north. I had never heard of sashiko - I thought the summers in the north would be cooler! I quickly fell in love with Yuza-machi, a town set in such beautiful countryside.

My hobbies there didn’t include sashiko or quilting, but I bought some of Eiko Yoshida’s sashiko books in the local bookstore. I had one small piece of Yuza sashiko, a gift from my student Kumiko Konno, made by her grandmother. My home was behind Obiya, the town’s biggest textile and kimono store, where I learned how to sew kimono, which I needed for my other hobby - tea ceremony. Through my job and hobbies, I got to know people in my neighborhood. I became interested in Japanese textiles, kimono, patchwork and quilting. Together with our homestay student from the USA, Matt Wandell, I explored places around Yuza-machi. When I returned to the UK, patchwork and quilting became my big hobby.

In the 1990s, communications were not as good as they are today. Keeping in touch was not easy and my Japanese reading and writing is terrible. Fortunately, I had several friends who spoke and wrote English. They kept me in touch with life in Yuza-machi. I was able to return to Japan for the Millennium New Year holiday. I revisited many places, including the town library, the town council and the new Yuza Junior High School. Every office had a beautiful piece of Yuza sashiko on display. I had never seen anything quite like them before, with many small patterns on one piece. Because I loved embroidery and hand sewing, I immediately wanted to learn how to stitch this special sashiko.

It was still the New Year holiday, so on 3rd or 4th January 2000, I had my first big encounter with Yuza sashiko patterns through Mayor Onedira. When I told him I would love to learn Yuza sashiko but didn’t know how, he immediately got out his mobile phone, explained that his friend’s wife taught sashiko, and called Chie Ikeda. Half an hour later, I was at her home, surrounded by the most beautiful pieces of sashiko. I was amazed - it was like a dream! Before I came home, I had another lesson with Ikeda sensei. She was so patient. My first attempt at hitomezashi was full of mistakes and I had to unpick and redo it several times. She gave me a sampler so I could learn more patterns.

In 2001, there was a big cultural exchange visit from Yuza-machi to Stratford-upon-Avon in the UK (they are twin towns), with a mini matsuri festival celebrating the annual traditions of Yuza-machi. Hideo Abe, my friend from Yuza Town Council, contacted me and said that Reiko Domon, my former next-door neighbor, would attend with members of her quilt group Peaceful Heart. I arranged an English tea party with Hathaway Quilters in Stratford where the Japanese quilters did a show and tell of their work. Domon sensei asked me to make two small quilts including sashiko for their exhibition, and the start of our long quilting exchange began. Over the years, I have sent many quilts to their exhibitions, including work by my sashiko students, and they have loaned many to mine.

On my next trip to Yuza-machi in 2002 I met Domon sensei, Ikeda sensei and other sashiko enthusiasts. I made several small pieces of sashiko after my 2000 trip, but now I had more inspirations, understanding how the patterns worked. I started creating sashiko designs for UK quilt magazines and began teaching sashiko while working on my Post Graduate Certificate in Education Post compulsory (a teaching qualification for teaching adults). I also designed kits for Euro Japan Links Ltd.

The first UK Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham was held in August 2003. The president of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles, Janice Gunner, who also works with Japanese textile techniques, suggested an exhibition of Yuza sashiko as part of the quilt show. Domon sensei, Chie sensei and other members of Peaceful Heart (who were becoming sashiko specialists) came to the UK and had the first big sashiko exhibition here. It was a great success, including antique and contemporary sashiko, and ‘make and take’ lessons for visitors too, teaching sashiko ‘from hand to hand’.

I wrote a patchwork bag book in 2003 and I suggested to my editors that we should have a big sashiko book in English. So ‘The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook’ (2005) includes all styles of sashiko. Yuza sashiko stitchers contributed many works. I made small pieces of kogin and Nanbu Hishizashi to illustrate the history chapter, but I didn’t really know the technique, so in 2006, I had my first kogin lesson with Keiko Abe in Yuza-machi, and in 2014, through Izumi Sato’s sister-in-law, I met Yoko Sato in Hirosaki and had another kogin lesson. My kogin obsession resulted in ‘The Ultimate Kogin Collection’ (2019), but my first sashiko love will always be Yuza sashiko.

Yuza Sashiko (Guild) was founded in 2008. They visited the UK in 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2018, each time teaching at one of our larger quilt shows. I arranged for their work to be shown at many quilt shows in the UK, including the quilt challenges ‘Treasures of Yamagata’, ‘Dream of Shonai’ and ‘Maruike-sama (the magical blue pool at Mt Chokai)’, where they have combined sashiko with patchwork and quilting in innovative ways. It is a wonderful thing that a traditional technique can be preserved and transformed, and used as a way of spreading happiness and friendship around the world. Let’s share Yuza Sashiko and stitch together!

Ganbatte kudasai! Work hard!

Friday, 8 November 2019

Kimono through History - at Dalgarven Mill

There is an excellent exhibition of Japanese kimono on at the moment at Dalgarven Mill, Kilwinning, until 15th December. As kimono are so varied in design and it is very rare every to see two identical designs together (even for modern kimono), another person's kimono collection is always a 'must see' for fellow kimono collectors like myself. Before we went, I'd seen a few photos online, but somehow had failed to spot the owner and curator of the exhibition - Sue Selwyn, who was one of my original group of sashiko students at The Studio, Loch Lomond, back in 2013, and we were in the same class for our City and Guilds Patchwork and Quilting Diploma class at Gillian Cooper's studio a few years ago. I knew about her kimono collection, but I didn't know how many she had. Sue has a very good eye for design and, since she began collecting about 10 years ago, has assembled a beautiful collection on numerous trips to Japan.  The exhibition shows mainly the more formal end of kimono, houmongi and up in formality levels, with a focus of yuzen and embroidery. This kimono, with yuzen dyed aoi (hollyhocks) leaves on a very large scale rinzu silk damask, with embroidered details, is early Showa era (1930s).

There is plenty of information about each kimono. Some are displayed on tailor's dummies while some of the more fragile ones were hung at the back of the displays.  Everything was raised on on staging and well lit, so the details are easy to see.  Below, two uchikake, wedding robes - the white one with the cranes and plum blossoms is 1960s while the red one, with peacocks and pine boughs, is 1990s.

Heisei era houmongi (below) with sparkly lurex in the weave and tsujigahana tie dyed decoration.

A beautiful example of meisen dyeing (above).

Late Showa era furisode (left above) and houmongi (right) - the darker furisode has Bingata inspired designs, while the shibori tie dyed houmongi looks like it was originally furisode, but had the sleeves shortened when the original owner married.

Late Showa era red bridal furisode, with machine embroidered designs (below).

The green furisode below is 1960s, while the pink houmongi in front of it is very early Showa era.

The crested houmongi on the left was stunning.

This Heisei era houmongi has quite modern embroidery.

The earliest kimono in the exhibition were late Meiji era.  There were many very fine examples of delicate yuzen dyeing.

Worth a visit if you can get there!

The mill has a large costume collection of its own and a complimentary exhibition of export kimono and kimono influenced robes, with parasols and other accessories made for the Western market, was in another gallery upstairs.   There are also extensive exhibitions of rural life, including room sets, on the upper floors.

This 1/16th scale dolls house was in the kimono gallery. It was completely hand made for the owner and is a modern build, but with great details.

The museum owners have just finished restoring another building on the site, which may be used for other events or as a gallery, and we are talking about having a boro and sashiko exhibition there sometime in 2021. As soon as we have something arranged, I'll let you know!

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Exploring Boro at Greenbank Gardens

Last Saturday, I had a creative day with Renfrewshire Embroiderers' Guild, when we 'Explored Japanese Boro' with new versions of my Mt Fuji boro inspired picture in the morning.  After lunch, some group members got started with a boro bag panel, but for others, the picture had grown a bit bigger! There was some great use of fabric scraps with various colours and textures, with views of Mt Fuji (and maybe a few other moutains) in various seasons, weathers and times of day.  There's a lot more stitching to be added to all these panels, and I'm looking forward to seeing photos of some of the finished works.

This longer panel, which is going to become a bag, reminds me of glimpsing Mt Fuji in the far distance when flying into Narita airport!

Greenbank Gardens is not far from Glasgow and is the site of a neo classical mansion.  I didn't get to see the actual gardens and it was quite a damp and soggy day.

We were in the cosy and comfortable Coach House, to the right of the mansion in this panorama. I'd like to visit again, at a time of year when the gardens would be full of flowers.