cloth to cloth

I watched the first two lessons of Cloth to Cloth, that’s the foundation class for contemporary boro. Get used to seeing the word boro for the next few months.  It means ragged and it describes a beautiful and utilitarian way of patching garments that was used in rural Japan in the early 19th century. Raw edges, parallel stitching, patches upon patches. Indigo dyed, hemp and cotton fabric.

I am drawn to the fabric of contemporary, artistic boro. Old denim. Household linens, steeped in the past, and quirky shibori fabrics by contemporary dyers.

I look in my fabric baskets, and despair. I have none of this. Years of Elizabethan costuming have left me with scraps of velvet, silk, and brocade. What about old jeans and good household rag? Sigh. I am still wearing the old jeans, and using the good household rag as it was originally intended. Plenty of things to be patched, but nothing to patch them with. I have an entire bolt of white muslin, but am not equipped to dye it. All my dyes are for silk and wool.

Ragged…ragged…I’m trying to remember where I saw some ragged fabric. In my yarn basket? Yes! One of the few positive memories from Stitches East was a vendor with sari silk ribbon, and scraps of really wild loom waste. I have three balls of the ribbon, which is really cut strips of loom waste, sewn together. I have a baggie full of the wild stuff, all wrinkled and very ragged.

From the fields of Japan to the waste bins of an Indian textile company, in one leap of the imagination. It seems right for a lot of reasons.  Scrap is scrap. I can dye and manipulate silk. I am using up scrap that I have, rather than going out and buying some. I am being frugal.

Watching the next lesson, the actual weaving. Jude Hill is a great instructor. The videos are clear and the text is filled with inspiring photos.

Weaving, cloth into cloth, without really thinking about anything but the technique of placing the strips on the fabric ground.  I am using whatever colours that unwind from the ball of ribbon. I can overdye it if I don’t like it. Remember those magic balls from childhood parties? Unwind and unwind forever to find little trinkets inside. I am finding small stories in the silk as I go, colour memories. The deep red fabric of a favorite blouse, the one with the holes on the shoulder made by Cat Major in a panic…the dark green silk from my bead embroidery term project in Vashti’s class at Parsons…

…what was I thinking? It looks like it belongs back in the weaver’s waste bin. It’s glaringly plaid, and that light green and pale pink are just wrong with the other colours. This is the ugliest cloth I have ever woven. But I am stubborn and I am going to continue on. Every strip needs to be sewn down, and then I can think about the dye pot.

I have some violet dye stock ready made.  Why use violet? I remember using a dash of violet on some bright green yarn. It calmed the color beautifully and created shadows that ranged from grey through indigo to violet. That’s what I want.

Don’t ask me for the recipe for my dye process for silk. I work intuitively. I don’t measure. It goes something like this. Wash the cloth…scrunch it into a ball….squirt with dye…immerse in a cup of vinegar water…microwave until the dye strikes…rinse and repeat.

Much better. It’s not quite as moody as the photo suggests, but it has become a unified cloth. I’ve started calling it my Gypsy Cloth, bright things, tattered and stained.

Wild Blue, my Gypsy muse, would love it.

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