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Make loads of clothes with your weaves – start with the Huipil inspired Maya top

Maya Top Handwoven
I think I take my sewing skills for granted. And I image everyone else has the same skills.  But increasingly, because we haven’t had to make our own clothes, we don’t need those skills.  I understand that others have more valuable skills to earn money. But to make your own clothes…that’s a freedom. To weave the cloth for them…even more so. You can save money, value what you make more, choose your fibres,  have less clothes, and have clothes that actually fit you. This year I’ll be taking more about clothing, sewing and how weaving fits in with it all in the Saori way.


This is the Maya top with versions of the huipil overlayed on top.

As a weaver, I’ve always made some clothes from my cloth but I haven’t been as productive in cloth yardage as I am now with the Saori loom. In the ’80s there were many books on clothing from rectangular and narrow widths which are often found in other cultures who use the backstrap loom. One of these is the simple and elegant Huipil. Like the Kimono, the beauty of the clothing is in the design of the cloth rather than the cut. It’s also about not wasting the energy and resources that go into the weaving and making the most out of the cloth without cutting it.

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Farewell Misao Jo sensei


Misao Jo – Saori Founder (1913-2018)

“All flowers are beautiful, even though each individual flower is different in form and color.  Because of this difference, “all are good”.

Because everything has the same life, life cannot be measured by a yardstick.  It is this individuality that makes everything meaningful and the uniqueness of each thread that creates the tapestry of life.”


Sadly Misao Jo, the founder of Saori has passed away peacefully in Osaka at 104 years of age. Saori no Mori have a tribute to her on their site. Her presence will be sorely missed within the world’s Saori communities and beyond. The philosophical concept of Saori was promoted by her work and the way she saw ‘gems’ in everyone and used the skill of handweaving to convey that in a tangible way.  Saori is a very personable and open invitation to weaving and art.  Everyone is invited.  Unlike some previous other visionaries in this area, which felt more exclusive. Read more

2017 – Where did it go?

Cloth fresh of the loomI’ve just seen the finish of the last workshop for 2017. Where did that year go? 

The weekend workshop was intimate and great.  Such different weaves created by the participants.  At one point they were all so engrossed in the task that there was no talking! 

We see lots of weaving words making connections to other aspects of life, such as the tapestry of life, and I thought this article referring to facebook tearing apart the social fabric was an interesting one. Fabric can only be such because each thread intertwines with the others. If you start hacking into a few of them the others start to fray and gradually become consumed by the hole. The construction of fabric implies a dependency and trust that the other threads will work with each other to remain intact. I just hope facebook doesn’t start on the saori fabric too.

Although now, none of us seem to be comfortable being ordinary, it is what most of us are. Well at least me. Our lives can be restricted and luck plays a large part in what is available and possible, often despite your alternate goals and expectations. Social media makes us think that we should be something different, more this or less that and no ordinary moments. I came across this quote recently by Shin’ichi Suzuki (1898-1998), the violin luminary. (BTW,Violin is my other love!)

“The real essence of art turned out to be not something high up and far off: it was right inside my ordinary daily self.”

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For the love of Tools

Weavers and spinners all love their tools. Over time you can collect tools that work and ones that don’t. But there are an increasing number of craft artisans who combine function and beauty in their unique tools for us. 
I write about this in the newest edition of Down Under Textiles. Available from newsagents and magazine sellers, and online.

Saori pattern cutting

Woven garmentI’ve just finished the garment that Masako designed with my fabric in Japan.  There were a couple of moments with it. For one, a double row of fast machine stitching which had to be unpicked on the open weave piece of the garment without cutting the warp or weft threads.  Unpicking can be difficult but I managed it.  Luck in the wind.  I really like the neckline on this piece and the uneven ‘godet’ style slices that form the sides.  When you cut an angled piece from the fabric the bias side will be longer than the straight edge. Masako recommended attaching that edge to the front rather than the back.  The front can do with more flexibility and movement. It’s tricks like these, from experience with how Saori cloth drapes, that are invaluable.

You will notice some small pieces of knop yarn in the front. These were spun on the Saori loom bobbin winder by Terri Bibby from Saori Salt Spring in Canada when I met her in Japan.  I am just so wildly keen on this sort of ‘input’!  Some of my clothing has weaving from the little people in my life in it and also other weavers. It’s a good way to remember  people. This top has to have that Canadian hint in it.

Yes! you can let others weave on the piece you are working on. It breaks down the coveted ownership that we have, at times, over what we create. So get weaving some cloth and ask some little people to do a few rows too.

Getting your feet on the ground

The annual fire hydrant test in Shirawa-go.

Japan has the most majestic scenery.  Up to about 70% of its land is mountainous and natural. So even though there are large populations in the flatter areas where the cities are…the rest is breathtaking.  Seeing the natural scenery in Japan adds to our adventure because the Japanese, even citified people, have a constant reference to this. It’s always pretty life affirming that nature and commanding vistas seem to connect humans. Whoever we are we are united when we see these sights. We’re all enthralled with it – it is part of us.  Read more

Japan – and desperately seeking textiles

takadai braiderThe Japan Textile Tour 2017 with Intentionally Different was another amazing adventure in Japan. Once again we travelled city and countryside, through very long mountain tunnels, alongside tremendous rivers and the mountains of changing autumn leaves. The itinerary and organisation of the tour allowed us to see many textile places in more remote areas and in a short time span.

The tour, after the workshop in Saori no Mori, went to Iga.  This is a town famous for braiding (and Ninja).  Our introduction was by master braider, Hideko Matsuda who is one of 14 takadai braiders in the town. At 70 years of age braiding fills her day and she sits on a high mounted platform on her knees to do the braiding with 60 weighted bobbins.  It’s these small things that we can see in Japan that we might overlook. Within these small braids lies a lot of history and continuing craft practice, even when a braid has come from a factory setting. I gave each of the travellers a mardai card to enter this world in a small way, making a round braid while we were travelling. It’s hard to know when a hands-on offer is right. Double cocoons I was delighted that it was generally well received.  With a hands on offer while travelling we can’t enter a more sophisticated or highly skilled experience because there are differing interests in the group and time constraints.  It takes 12 years to be a designated braider and we just didn’t have the time on tour!  Read more

Japan and Saori no Mori

Draping for saori clothingJapan. Although I’ve been there many times it just reveals more of its many layers in small increments, bit by bit. It is so different and yet so familiar too.  I spent a week at the Saori head office at Saori no Mori and still learnt more about their approach to weaving cloth. It is so enlightening and encouraging. 

A couple of highlights, firstly meeting Terri from Saori Salt Spring after all these years, Laura from Saori Studio LA and Merrilee from Canada. Then a design class with Masako. She is the master designer behind the Saori clothing books and the way she takes your woven cloth and lets it speak about how it should be stitched into a garment is wonderful. It re-enforces the idea that we shouldn’t weave to create this or that particular garment or cloth but to just weave. Leave holes, weave extensions, criss cross and just enjoy the whole process. Keep going with it. Read more