Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

17 Aug 2015

Turning Japanese in Amsterdam

This blog is being brought to you by the letter R and the colour Indigo.

Hi everyone, Ive just got back from Amsterdam after a flying visit to see my friend and to get a tattoo from Salon Serpent. These world famous tattooists, headed up by Angelique are in a cool area called Jacob Van Lennepstraat in Amsterdam Oud West. If you are in the area and looking for food head to De Hallen, an old factory with an enormous food hall housing a multitude of restaurants.

My friend Rosey has lived in Amsterdam for many years on and off, and although she is British she grew up in Japan because her father worked there. This lovely lady who works in fashion, is a leading expert on all things Denim but also has a hobby where she collects vintage Japanese textiles called Boro and has learnt to dye and create Shibori work.  After hearing all about it Im hoping to find a course to go on myself, although it won't be quite the same as the one Rosey went to in Japan for ten days with a world expert.

Rosey lives in a little house in Amsterdam in the old diamond quarter "Diamantbuurt" just of Van Woustraat. The old gem factory is surrounded by streets named after precious stones full of cute houses which were for the factory workers. Despite being an old building on the outside, Rosey has styled the inside with her passions for art, textiles and retro furniture.

We had a good look around a few areas outside of the centre, these being more interesting now they are gentrified. I noticed that theres a great love of house plants in this city and many cool house -plant shops and florists. 

I can see where Judith from Urban Jungle Bloggers got her passion for house plants when you see shops like these.

We also visited an enormous flea market (IJ-Hallen) which is once a month over on the island area called NDSM.NL where the famous Botel (boat hotel) is moored and the restaurants are in old shipping containers, like the one called Pllek.

If you don't drive under the water to get there then you can get the ferry from just behind grand central station. Its a free ferry that takes you to a post apocalyptic world of old abandoned boats and docks with innovative buildings and art/street culture.

And now onto all things Indigo ...

To start with lets me just say what Indigo is. Well, its a plant and a natural dye comes from it. Many countries grow it in abundance particularly Japan, India and Africa. 

When choosing your fabric for dyeing its best to go for natural fibre and boil wash it to remove any chemicals that may barrier against the dye.

The best results are achieved with a large vat, say 9 litres. Obviously natural indigo is the best but synthetic will be the most easily available. The water should be free of chemicals so try to collect rain water for it. Add lime (garden suppliers do this) and the water has to reach a ph of 11.5 so test it with litmus.

Dissolve the Indigo powder in hot water and add it to the vat.  Then add hydro sulphate to remove the oxygen (this goes off quickly so just get little bags). 

Now about adding your design or pattern to the fabric. The technique of Shibori is about sewing through pleated fabric, then the thread pulled tight to create areas of resistance where the dye can't reach. The stitch used is Sashiko, a running stitch.  You can find the patterns for this on the net or from books. 

Another way to create patterns is Katsomi - stencilling. Cut a stencil on special paper, then a muslin is glued over that.  Squeeze the mochi paste through the stencil holes, there are different techniques for this, and most definitely something you need to learn in the flesh.  Alternatively you can draw with the paste using something akin to a piping bag like you are icing a cake. 

Rosey can recommend a few good teachers, there is Bryan Whitehead a Canadian living in Japan, he runs ten day courses like the one Rosey went on. He works in the Fujino area outside Tokyo.  This course is considered very intensive. Bryan grows his own Indigo so you would get the real deal training from him.  

Also there is Clarissa Cochran in Saffron Walden who does simpler half day or weekend courses and Jane Calender whose company Callishibori do courses and supplies.

I really have over simplified here but hope it gives you a flavour for Shibori.

Also in Rosey's collection is something called Boro.  Literally meaning 'ragged', boro is patchworked indigo fabrics on old garments and blankets. Much like the idea of Kantha quilts, the Japanese do not waste anything, so repairing and patchworking holes was part of their ethos.

Below is a sample book of Indigo dyed fabrics, a very old book that was found in a Temple market.

 This is how the book looks from the outside, in the background is a piece of Boro fabric. Due to their age and fragility Boro folk art textiles sell for large sums of money, one well known dealer is called Kimonoboy who specialises in this area.

this is a little rice bag made of patchwork, worn round the waste when workers are in the rice fields

I hope you found this post informative and inspirational, perhaps you will get the bug to hop across to Amsterdam and go off the beaten track a bit too.

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