Stories in the cloth


You do know that there is no bamboo basket? Only the shadows stitched on the face of the moon. This cloth has so many stories to tell. May Retreat is like that, the intense stillness makes it possible to hear the tiny whispers of the cloth. Sleeping, stitching, and playing with the cats. I can feel the tension flooding out of my body. Were my stitches flowing this freely a couple of days ago? Could I hear so clearly?

The monk is raking gravel into precise lines and curves. Concentration stills the mind.  There is only the gravel and the rake. See where the cat strolled through last night? Her paws have left their mark…

I blink and the cloth comes back into focus. So many stories in this little piece of silk.



moon, not-moon and black beans

I don’t know the number of hours I’ve spent in meditation, sitting on my cushion. Time spent being. Time spent in that delicious blend of thought and non-thought.  When my mind wanders, it tends toward the practical.  Grocery list, grocery list.  Pat it on the head and send it on its way to follow all those other fragments of thoughts floating between the ears. Sorting laundry, sorting laundry. What kind of thought is that? Dunno, but it is mine and I let it, lovingly, float away.

I have been told that this is the path of enlightenment.  Just sit.

Just stitch. Just weave.

I still need something rhythmic to take the edge off my mind. I can sit for hours if I have a needle or a shuttle in hand. Today’s stitches create the illusion that there is a difference between moon and not-moon.


Surely a sunlit rock is different from the empty space that surrounds it? Only if we wish to create such divisions.  Work of a list-making mind. Moon, space, the bamboo basket and I are all part of the same, beautiful illusion, part of the same mysterious truth.

And what of black beans?  I bought a bag of black beans and a jar of alum at the grocery yesterday. The beans are soaking in a pot of water, and I’ve steeped some silk scraps in alum and water, a simple mordant for dye.  I’ve read that you can get beautiful shades of greyish blues and purples from the humble black bean.  We shall see.

kagome moon


Dark Moon, we hear You call us

Bright Moon, we call Your Name

Crescent Moon, we sing with You

Crescent Moon, we sing with you

Ivo Dominguez, Jr.

In the sky tonight, the moon is waxing, but the cloth insisted that it be a waning moon. You can’t argue with the cloth. It knows about the time for letting go and spilling out. The old bamboo basket is falling to bits; it won’t hold anything more. It reminds us of the beauty of impermanence and the folly of attachment. Nothing endures, not even this moment.

If you understand that this truth is beautiful, and not the least bit sad, then you have spent time on a mountaintop, watching the clouds shift and twist, casting strong shadows over the valley. You have known that happiness is found within.

Don’t ask me.  I am just learning. The hands stitch, and the heart follows. But the cloth knows.

delayed gratification

Here’s the post about my first eco-dye bundle. With a title like that, it’s no surprise that I didn’t get around to posting it on time…

On May day I wrapped up a small eco-dye bundle and left it to sit for a week.


I am quite amazed with the rich color effects that come from

  • an old dry stick
  • a piece of rusty steel rod
  • silver needle tea leaves
  • vinegar
  • black walnut hulls
  • the dregs of a cup of black tea.

I shouldn’t be so surprised that rust and tannin combine in a rick, dark color.  I remember creating some genuinely black silk thread from such a combination.


I’m having such fun with plant dyes. Sometime soon, I will drive out to the countryside and go searching for local plants to make distinctive leaf prints on the fabric, but at the moment I am playing “what if” with a shelf full of stale teas and tisanes. I am creating abstract designs and learning what works and what doesn’t.

This week’s bundle was colorful and quick and quirky.


The ingredients?

  • Adagio Teas’ Blood Orange Tea, a herbal blend of orange peel, hibiscus flowers and rose hips
  • black walnut hulls, finely ground
  • citric acid, like vinegar, but odorless. I mix three teaspoons in a quart of water.

The result?
Yummy pinks and peaches with brown speckles.


The quirks?
I used too much liquid. My previous bundle had a dry old stick in it, which soaked up a lot of liquid. This one sat soggily in the bag, and started growing mold after a couple of days. I had hoped to keep the bundle going for a week, but I unwrapped in the third day so the mold wouldn’t take over.

deploring the lack of good rags

I didn’t grow up in a household where we patched our clothing.  We took good care of things and made a point of donating them to those in need while there was still a lot life left in the garments. It would have been selfish to have worn them out.

There were a couple of boxes of scrap fabric in the attic.  My mother was a creative person, and saved any good size bits that were left over from other projects. Scrap, for me, was short lengths of new fabric.

These are the reasons why boro patching both fascinates me and scares me a little bit. It’s a new way of thinking about fabric and garments. It demands things of me that I’ve never done.

For my project, I won’t be patching over wear and tear. I don’t have any. I will be patching thin fabric to add warmth and weight. I’m tryng to use what’s in the house, but I don’t have the boxes of scrap fabric from that long-ago attic. I don’t even have any good rags under the kitchen sink. There’s the old wash cloth I used to clean up my bicycle, and a small bit of cloth with furniture polish on it. That’s about it.

I’ve read a few accounts of people making rakusu for the Buddhist ceremony of jukai.  The rakusu is a miniature symbolic Buddha’s robe, patched together from bits of cloth.  Some use actual rags, found cloth, discarded cloth, or clothing that belonged to the dead.

Where is that kind of cloth in my life?

I could have picked up a jersey on the sidewalk this morning. But it wasn’t a piece of cloth that I could relate to. It was shiny, new and synthetic, that kind of sport jersey made with little air holes.

Doesn’t anyone lose or discard natural fabrics any more? Doesn’t anyone wear them? Where have all the good rags gone?

Hapazome for May Day

Hapazome – printing with flowers.  Some call it flower pounding, but that conjures an image that is far from the reality of the gentle taps of the hammer upon a sandwich of card stock, silk and blossom.

I had a thought that I might observe the other May Day today, the one with protest marches and general strikes. In a sense, I am.  Although I am not marching because my back has been in spasms today, I am quietly on strike.  No work for hire, no shopping, no banking.

At best, a day for creativity, time spent in the studio. This is the real May Day, the witches’ one.  Some call it Beltaine. It’s the time to turn away from spring and move toward summer, a subtle shift between sprouting and growing. The rain has washed the pollen dust away, but thoughts of fertility linger on the breeze. What is more fertile than the imagination? What evokes May more than bright annual flowers?