Posts Tagged ‘silk’

Today I did a little video of the Yokohama Silk Museum and put it in front of the video from the Koyata sericulture farm. This museum wasn’t an official stop on the tour this time but it will be next time. It’s small but has a good and well ordered display with better than average English signage. Special arrangements were made to bring a small group through here as Jacqueline Fields (author of American Silk 1830-1930) asked to make this a stop and although the museum was closed to install a new show permission was granted and a guide volunteered.
A small group went and I went on my own a few days later.

This is followed by the visit to the sericulture farm. This visit allowed everyone to see the authentic raising of silkworms in a traditional setting. Koyata san graciously allowed us to have a workshop here at his home with the Tama 21 Silk Life group- a group devoted to keeping many of the silk traditions alive in order to bring them forward into future endeavors. These women are highly skilled in sericulture, reeling, spinning, weaving and all sorts of textile traditions. Additionally, we were treated to a wonderful afternoon with even more silk craftsmen and women who shared some of their work with us. It was truly humbling. I mean not only did they make some of the kimono they brought to display, they wove the fabric and dyed them as well. A fantastic display of saganishiki was brought and the maker explained how this was done. Micheal Cook of Wormspit has a nice post on this craft here. ( is there anything Micheal can’t do?)
So, without further ado… the video:

At the farm everyone was able to try their hand at reeling cocoons, spinning raw silk, and making mawata (layered sheets of silk from boiled cocoons). Koyota’s farm produces cocoons for reeling that have not been dried (stifled). They are sent for reeling fresh- just ready to boil immediately before the pupae emerges from the cocoon and spoils the filament. This is somewhat of a rarity as most are stifled so they can be stored. It was said that fresh cocoons produce the finest silk. Another major point of interest at the Koyata farm are the special varieties of silkworms raised here. Many types of cocoons from past eras (like Edo 1603-1867 and Meiji 1868-1912) are no longer commercially available.

In fact, the visit to the Yokohama museum revealed that hybrid varieties became popular in the Taisho period (1913-1926) increasing both quality and quantity of silk production. By 1937 only legally authorized varieties were allowed to be cultivated and most of the others disappeared. Some of the older varieties of silkworms raised here are for the specific purpose and use by craftsmen in the restoration of textiles of those periods for the Shosoin.

edo period cocoons

how many cocoons to make a kimono?

Our visit here really brought history alive for us.

-next blog post will be over on my studio blog and will highlight some of the beauty seen on this trip-including my visit to Sankein in Yokohama where I spent a day haunting my childhood…

the many greens of Sankeien-no wonder i love green

Honestly, I am having some difficulty deciding what to post on this blog. Such an abundance of photos, videos and information.


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oh dear. where to begin? let’s start here:

needless to say, we are living each day more amazed than the next. our group is learning so much- even experts who are among us are seeing things they have only read or written about. part of the fun i am having is watching everyone’s knowledge grow and seeing the information sink in. i can only imagine the places it may lead all of us in the future.

i realize now i perhaps was a bit optimistic about how much time i would have (and underestimated how much it would take) to upload, edit, and write on the go. please forgive any delay and rest assured i will give it the time needed even if it extends beyond the actual physical tour itself. this is, after all, a virtual tour and time is really nonexistent in this realm anyway.

this video is actually from day 2- our visit to the Usui filature mill. this is where silk cocoons are warehoused for reeling into silk fiber. each strand of silk, about the thickness of a human hair, is created from the filaments of 7-9 cocoons. they begin their journey in the sorting room where they are culled and only those that meet specs are sent on ahead. there really is very little waste in this operation. those that don’t meet the specs for reeling are sent along for other end purposes. think willy wonka and the nut sorting room. the rest are off onto the reeling room where they are brushed while floating in hot water to remove the outer waste silk which is twisted into a coarse stiff sericin filled silk fiber called kibisu. from there the cocoons move along to be reeled where one worker can supervise 100 reels with this automatic machinery as opposed to one worker to one reel in earlier days. a 100% increase in productivity. from there the full reels are sent to the drying room where they are automatically rewound into hanks for drying. i will upload video of this step next. not tonight though…it is nearing midnight here and we have a 6:30 am call time. tomorrow we visit the ichiku kubota museum and sato sensei, the indigo dyer.

a few photos…

mata ne
nemutai desu!!

(a couple of notes- sorry for the typos on the video-too tired. also, didn’t mean to add music to the slideshow. too late for me to redo now. just mute it of lower the sound. …..must get some sleep……)

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