freehand

freehand

from a work-in-progress:

When I began to make quilts, in 1987, I wanted to explore blue. A soft patchwork of pale blue prints worked into Ohio stars paired with unbleached cotton; a composition of log-cabin blocks, blue strips and yellow, a tiny square of red in the middle for the fire; red tulips in a haze of forget-me-nots. I began to think of ways to print the surfaces myself, with wax and clamps and strands of tough string. I batiked leaping salmon and then drew thread through the cloth in the mokume shibori technique, pulling it tight and knotting it. The waxed and tied bundles were immersed in a deep blue Procion dye. Before taking them out and rinsing them, I cracked the wax a little to allow dye to penetrate the relief fish. Once I’d removed all the wax, using my mother’s old iron and many pages of newspaper, I liked the results, though the lines of mokume weren’t as wavery as I’d hoped they would be. I had some fabric paint and used a fine brush to detail the salmon with lines of red along the tail and fins. I loved what Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada wrote in Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now:

When the cloth is returned to its two-dimensional form, the design that emerges is the result of the three-dimensional shape, the type of resist, and the amount of pressure exerted by the thread or clamp that secured the piece during the cloth’s exposure to the dye. The cloth sensitively records both the shape and the pressure; it is the “memory” of the shape that remains imprinted in the cloth. This is the essence of shibori.

You do this for the process, what you learn along the way. That waxed dental floss sewn along lines with a basting stitch can be pulled tight for water, that waxing a fish into plain cotton and dipping the cotton in blue gives you a memory of watching coho spawn in the creek near your house, a cycle that has been going on since the last ice age at least. That others have dipped cloth into blue dye and worn the pigment on their hands for weeks afterwards.

maybe we are cloth

pileated

I was sitting at my desk when I saw three pileated woodpeckers fly past my window. They were squawking and I realized I’d been hearing that sound since I woke but it was sort of in the background of other morning noise: the kettle, the news, the cat. So it took a few moments to register. And then I remembered a similar hullabaloo, two years and a week ago, when I was out in the morning, removing the string and banding and clamps from a batch of indigo dye work.

https://theresakishkan.com/2016/06/29/blue-days/

windows.jpg

I’m guessing the young have just left the nest and are learning the territory: which trees are best for ants, how to pick huckleberries and saskatoons. How to use their voices for the best effect. As the world turns, as the days repeat themselves, so does the work. I have a basket of fabric prepared for the dye vat and am hoping to get to it soon.

Two years ago I was dyeing fabric and listening to woodpeckers and anticipating the September birth of Henry. This morning I’m thinking of Edmond, a week old today, and how philosophical he looks in this photograph that arrived last night.

philosopher

In the book I was reading two years ago, Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now, Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada writes that, “The cloth sensitively records both the shape and the pressure; it is the “memory” of the shape that remains imprinted on the cloth.” Maybe we are cloth, we are the very fabric of being, the world recorded on us like blue dye, the sound of woodpeckers echoing in the trees just beyond.

 

So the cloth remembers…

This morning I unwrapped all the fabric I dyed yesterday and washed it, rinsed it twice, and hung it on the clothesline.

clothesline

It’s never quite what I imagine or hope for but I’m always so excited about the results. The darker piece on linen (second from the right), for example. I tied stones from Trail Bay into a sort of diagonal grid for half the length, a technique called kumo, and then simply bound the rest with hemp twine. (It seems to hold best.) I love how the stones left their impression in the linen:

one stone

You can see a bird there, or a snow angel. Or the heart of a flower. I recorded this passage when I read Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada’s extraordinary Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now:

When the cloth is returned to its two-dimensional form, the design that emerges is the result of the three-dimensional shape, the type of resist, and the amount of pressure exerted by the thread or clamp that secured the piece during the cloth’s exposure to the dye. The cloth sensitively records both the shape and the pressure; it is the “memory” of the shape that remains imprinted in the cloth. This is the essence of shibori.

So the cloth remembers but it also interprets that pressure, those shapes. A stone from a beach on the Sechelt Peninsula becomes a bird taking flight, a child in snow.

And maybe my favourite piece? A stained but intact linen tea-cloth from my mother. I used a technique called itajime, where I pleated the cloth and then used wooden blocks of varying sizes to make a resist pattern against the indigo. The larger blocks I tied with hemp string and for the smaller, thinner ones I was able to use some clamps.

windows

Look at the light coming through those windows!

Yesterday I waxed fish onto an old linen sheet and then folded and wrapped the sheet around pvc pipe for the effect called arashi, or storm. When I put the cloth-bound pipe into dye this morning, I realized my dye vat was exhausted and so I had to prepare a fresh batch. I’ll spend the afternoon dipping and turning and by tomorrow morning I’ll know if I have what I’m hoping for: a watery sea with a spiral of salmon turning in its centre.