June 24, 2011

Silk Study Tour

Japan is still fresh in my mind! The Silk Study Tour I took at the beginning of my trip though seems further away. I spent the first 10 days of my trip with a group of ladies and a gentleman on the tour. I had a good time and met up with my friend Elizabeth Fortes whom I met in one of the online workshops. I now call her my online dating partner. I've also met two other wonderful friends, Janet Wright and Elisabeth Mclaughlin whom I hang out with on the tour. Of course there were 13 other wonderful people on the tour too. 

The tour was action packed with silk related activities. As I'm not a very technically minded person, some of the facts about silk production went straight over my head. As part of the tour we spent a day with a group of talented Japanese ladies doing natural dyeing and another session with an indigo artist Sato-San. We didn't get to dip in Sato-San's indigo vat, but we did have fun shopping at her studio.

Group photo taken at Tomioka Silk Mill. Having a group photo was one of the routines we did on the tour. The lovely lady sitting down was showing us how to reel silk from the cocoons onto a spool the way they used to do in the olden days. Please take time to visit the above link and read how an effort is being made to get the Tomioka Silk Mill listed as a World Heritage site. They need our support. 

A sack of silk cocoons at one of the factories. If I remember correctly they were naturally dyed. To think that silk yarn and fabric come from these cocoons is mind blowing! Each cocoon contains about 1000 meters of yarn.

The Japanese ladies sorting the cocoons for size and inspecting for imperfections before feeding them into the machine for reeling. I do love the look of the pure white cocoons. They are using the cocoons to make all kind of toys, key rings, mobile phone rings, Christmas ornaments etc...!

This is a complicated machine responsible for reeling the silk from the cocoons onto the spools. The process was explained to us in detail. Unfortunately it was too technical for me to share with you here correctly. 

Spools of silk yarn removed from the machine. The yarn is shinny and fine. This is top quality silk. 

These spools were from more modern machines. 

The presentation and a Japanese theme evening. As part of the tour a Japanese theme dinner was put on for us. We got to dress in Yukata provided by the Ryokan (Japanese Inn). The Yukata is the cotton kimono that you can wear anywhere in the Inn. It looks very smart, but be warned to remember your friends by their faces because everyone looks exactly the same wearing one of these! 

The Haori jackets were also provided by the Inn. While everyone else turned up in Yukata we opted to wear these red Haori over our black dresses instead. From left Elizabeth Fortes, Elisabeth Mclaughlin, moi and Janet Wright. I think we looked like we were ready to party! BTW, we called ourselves the 'Silk Sisters'. 

On a different night Elizabeth and I were hosting a party of our own in the room. We decorated the table using the vintage fabric we bought that day. There were always some nuts and Japanese sweets left for us in the room. We really had a fun evening. 

Of course don't forget the sake. This is only a tiny bottle of sake enough for one serve. I think we had green tea provided in the room for the rest of the evening. 

I thought I will share the back of the jacket with you. It was worn by the nice lady who showed us how to reel the silk from the cocoons in the group photo above. She patched her jacket with boro style patches. It looked cool!  

Here is the back of my boro moon jacket. I did get to wear it a few times. I got quite a bit of attention every time I wore it. It was raining that day, hence the umbrella.   

This is a giant silk wall hanging I found in the hotel's foyer. I was told that the silk was naturally dyed. I think some was indigo dyed as well. 

Our visit was mentioned in the local newspaper. I think we were at Tomioka Silk Mill when this photo was taken. Our guide translated into English for us. It was quite a thrill to be recognized by the local press in Japan. 

Thanks for reading about my trip to Japan. I try to fit each topic into one post. I will post the rest of the photos on my Flickr. I will let you know once I've done that. The following posts from my trip will cover shopping, the Shibori festival, Japanese food, natural dyes and I might fit in onsens (Japanese bath) and Japanese hospitality . Hope you enjoy reading my journal of Japan...!


deanna7trees said...

such wonderful adventures you had. love seeing you wear your boro jacket. looks like a very happy group. you learned and saw so many new things in such a short period of time.

ria vogelzang said...

Wow! What a great adventure that was! And so great you were mentioned by the local press!! ;))
Thanks for all the beautiful pictures!!
Love, Ria.

Kim said...

Oh my goodness you got to see so much.
Looks like a terrific hotel......and you made the local news :0). What countries did all the people come from on your tour? How many days did you tour?

I look forward to the next installment of the adventure.

happy Sewing

Lis said...

Oh you know how much I am enjoying reading your journal of your trip. Such wonderful pictures and so much information. I love the idea that you had a party in your room snd you and your silk sisters look great in those haori. I'm going to read about the silk mill now, thanks for the link. Looking forward to the next instalment. Thanks Nat, mate ne, Lis x

Needled Mom said...

What a thrill to see all of those silk cocoons turned into the threads, etc. That was fascinating.

Those jackets are stunning as well. I can see why you would have to remember the faces when everyone is dressed alike.

Thank you so much for sharing the trip with us.

Anonymous said...

I love what you did your jacket Natima, your trip sounds wonderful, you got to experience quite a lot, thanks for the link.

Lynda XXX

Sue-Anne said...

Hi Nat, great post, I have really enjoyed reading all about the silk. Looks like you had a wonderful time away and made some long lasting friendships.

Astrid said...

Wow! What a great post, and I'm sure you had a blast! Loved reading it and seeing the photos!

Simone de Klerk said...

What incredible experience, Nat. So interesting! You must still be dreaming!

AnnieO said...

You are doing some great travel writing! I am interested in everything you are sharing. Thanks especially for all the photos. My grandmother had mulberry trees in her backyard and we kept silkworms for a summer once. She would mail us the leaves!

QuiltSue said...

It sounds like you had a great trip. I love the red jackets by the way.

Michele Pacey said...

It IS so amazing that silk comes from those little cocoons. It's almost unbelievable; look at them ALL! You're so lucky to have seen this up close. Question: Are there insect remains inside the cocoons or do they dig them out at some point in the process?... Obviously, I know nothing...

Very educational post Nat, thank you!

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