Japan Indigo Workshop-Stencil Dyeing-Part 1

One morning Bryan gathered the group together and marched us down to the Fujino bus station where we took a bus to the train station and then a train to Hachioji where we took another bus to the home/studio of  Noguchi-san. The eleven of us were a minor curiosity to other riders as we were in a rural part of the country and locals did not often see so many westerners traveling together using the local transportation system.

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At the train station, before boarding the second bus, Bryan directed us to what we would call here the food court, where every kind of Japanese food was available. 90% of the signs  were in Japanese and personnel spoke no English so the two of us opted for salads and a type of chips. Several others were more familiar with the selections and chose differently.

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Mr. Noguchi is a 7th generation katazome or stencil dyer and is a national living treasure. Japan holds its crafts and artists in high esteem and consider many things as art unlike some countries that lump a lot of creativity into the simple category “crafts”. Under the 1950 Law for Protection of Cultural Properties, intangible and tangible cultural areas of high value in terms of Japanese history or art were designated worthing of preserving. The government designates one person in each area as a living treasure once that person has attained a high enough level of mastery to help ensure the continuation of that art. There are currently 59 living treasures in such areas as pottery, textiles, lacquerware and paper making. This bit of history helps to understand what an honor it was to visit Mr. Noguchi.

Seems like this would be a good idea for the U.S. to do as we have certain arts that are specific to our country (granted much of it did originate in other countries but we have put our stamp on them (weaving, quilting, native American beading and certain pottery work and jewelry designs).

There are no signs or advertising to let one know when they have arrived at his studio. Indeed, it is not open to the public and only through Bryan’s carefully cultivated relationship with Mr. Noguchi were we able to visit.

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The above is Bryan, Mr. Noguchi’s daughter in law, Mr. Noguchi and his son who is working as the 8th generation in this family business. The son and his wife share the home with his parents. The daughter in law works outside the home, which is a typical arrangement in Japanese families. There are two grandchildren, a boy and a girl. The boy shows little interest in katazome but the granddaughter may be the 9th generation of this family to continue the business. This continuation of a family business and life is so refreshing and fascinating to many of us from the west.

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In order to prepare us for this learning experience, the day before, Bryan has us pick leaves and flowers from his yard and do some simple stencil dyeing. This gave us the basic concepts of what we were doing and would hopefully keep us from looking like total idiots on our field trip (although as you will see-we all did quite well).

This was some of our work at Bryan’s studio.

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The paste was mixed and ready to spread.

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Before arriving in Japan, Bryan had given us homework assignments; one of which was to cut stencils that we would prepare before going to Noguchi-san’s. Sophie was a last minute student and was working on hers after getting to Bryan’s.

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The table is spread with items from the yard and we are all trying to be very creative, or at least get something recognizable to result.

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After arriving at the studio we were shown the process of applying the stencils and paste to cloth. We each had a piece of cloth to work on. The cloth is the width of kimono cloth and the boards were each the length of a kimono bolt; although our pieces were much smaller. Debbie worked hard applying her stencils just right. We also had a choice of using some of Mr. Naguchi’s inexpensive stencils.

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The paste application was all done in one building, a shed like structure open at one end to the yard where the boards were dried after the paste was applied. The boards Noguchi-san used were very old and sanded/scrubbed down after each use until now they are very thin.

Now that we have you all hyped and ready, we will make you wait until the next posting to see the dye vats and the results of our work. We will give you a glimpse of a couple of the amazing stencils in Noguchi-San’s collection.

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Until next time

Debbie and David

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Japan Indigo Dye Workshop-The Experience continues

Each morning Bryan continued with his lessons in various aspects of culture and art, often getting out pieces of his collections of dyed fabrics, some of which are antiques.

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As part of understanding the nature of indigo, Bryan had us plant this year’s indigo crop.

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Seeds are planted in the trays and when they sprout are planted into the ground.

When harvested, the leaves are stripped and the seeds are saved. The leaves go through a drying and fermenting process and the resulting balls wind up smelling really bad.

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As we mentioned before, we never went hungry and Hiro kept the fresh meals coming. The selection of fresh vegetables was wonderful and so very tasty.

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Dinner was often accompanied by a little sake. Here Hiro is showing Bryan the bottle he brought home. He must have thought we looked like a thirsty group.

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We did have to do more than eat and drink and the next pictures are the result of the classes Bryan taught us. These are the results of various ways of stitching the cloth before dyeing it.

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These are the result of stencil dying. We will do an entire blog post on stenciling.

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Bryan always kept the vats prepared and ready for us. There were ten of us with a lot of projects to dye so the vats had to be checked daily.

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Momo is resting after a hard morning. She and Geiger are rescues from the area near the Fukushima nuclear plant after the tsunami struck the coast.

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Our evening walks were so relaxing and we were able to enjoy scenery totally unlike that of home.

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It was April and the flowers were just coming out and the air smelled so fresh. The low hills and foggy days were so peaceful and the walks made the trip that much more special and memorable

Bryan’s ghost stories made the walks even more fun. This scene of very old grave sites prompted a couple of good ones.

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Bryan and Hiro’s house was furnished in typical Japanese fashion. The fabric cranes represent longevity and good luck.

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We continue the experience in the next blog with the trip to a national treasure stencil dyer,

Debbie and David

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A Weekend Spent Playing in the Indigo Vat

First the big news! Today is the day I will be on the American Patchwork and Quilting radio podcast with Pat Sloan. If you want to listen here is the link.

All People Quilt Podcast

American Patchwork Quilting Pocast episode 310 Debbie Maddy

We had several people wanting to purchase scarves for gifts so we decided to spend the weekend playing in the indigo vat. That is always a very fun time!!

First I got the vat in ship shape order. Love that beautiful flower on top of the liquid!

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We set up our little out door studio….lawn chairs and an umbrella + a fan.

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We decided to just do itajime shibori and arashi so we clamped, squished, wrapped and tied! We even use some children toys to resist the indigo. We dipped and redipped several times to achieve the deep dark blue. This is the first reveal. I love it!

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After a long day plus another short day we revealed everything. We used some new techniques and were rewarded with some unique scarves. They will all be for sale on Thursday if you are interested let us know.

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I will be teaching the indigo dyeing three places so far this year.

August 6, 2016 for the Quilters Guild of Dallas

August 20, 2016 at A Scarlet Thread Quilt Shop in McDonough, Georgia

November 6, 2016 at Art Retreat at the Prairie in Round Top, Texas

Check my itinerary for the links to all of the workshops.

Debbie’s workshop Itinerary

PS: I decided to do a little scrunch dyeing with fiber dyes and this is the result.

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We will continue our posts about our trip to Japan soon.

Until next time,

Debbie and David

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Japan Trip-Indigo Dyeing Workshop-The work begins

Each morning Bryan started the day with a lesson in Japanese art, culture, dyeing and fashion. He referred to his extensive collection of books and reference materials and then gave us that day’s assignment and scheduled the day’s dyeing activities.

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In order to understand the concept of Japanese dyeing, we needed to know that most dyeing developed as a way to color and adorn fabric for kimonos, which means “thing to wear”. It is the representative of polite and formal clothing. A kimono is a t-shaped, straight lined robe worn so that the hem falls to the ankle, with attached collars and long, wide sleeves. It is wrapped around the body, always left side over right and secured by a sash called an obi. Kimonos are traditionally made from a single bolt of fabric called a “tan”, about 14 inches wide and 38 feet long. While we did not make a kimono, we did get to visit a kimono cloth dyer who is also a Japanese national living treasure. We will do an entire posting on our day long visit to this remarkable man.

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Bryan always demonstrated the techniques we would be doing and then we would work on our fabrics.

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David is trying his hand at the folding technique Bryan just demonstrated.

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We never got bored and always had plenty to work on. Even on the days it rained and we could not go outside to play, we worked indoors. Here Caroline read from “The Tao of Pooh” while we worked on one of our stitching projects.

Until next time, 

Debbie and David

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Japan Trip-Fabric Dyeing Workshop-Monday day 3

This is one more picture from the National Garden that we wanted you to see. It is a small bonsai type tree on an island in the pond.

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The arrangement of flowers in the hotel lobby was especially elegant.

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Before we left the hotel, Debbie noticed these dolls in a tourist’s pack. The woman who had them said they were designed by a relative of Jimmy Choo.

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On the way to Fujino the wild cherry  trees were also in bloom.

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Japanese textile outside studio

Bryan Whitehead is a Canadian who has made Japan his home for 28 years and has totally embraced the culture, history and art of it people. He lives in a 150 year old farmhouse that was originally two stories; the top one being dedicated to raising silk worms. Bryan still raises them; albeit on a smaller scale and in just one part of the second floor. When he began teaching and wanted to host the workshops at his home, he built the third floor guest rooms. This is still a typical Japanese farmhouse with the only heat being provided by kerosene heaters on the first floor. One full bathroom is on the first floor and there is a hallway with three water closets, or as the Brits say “loo’s”. The other tub and shower are in a bath house behind the barn; the tub being a hot tub. This is not a workshop for the delicate or the faint hearted. Learn to hold it all night or be ready to negotiate the stairs/ladders up/down two flights. Bathing times were split between evening and morning bathers and we had no conflicts or issues with this. One of the loos is in a room without windows and is called the monkey bathroom, as monkeys occasionally come down out of the hills and sit on the window sills. (None were seen this time as evidently there was enough food in the hills or they did not consider us interesting enough to come and observe).

The house is situated in the foothills of the mountains west of Tokyo and on a clear day one can see Mount Fuji. The scenery was wonderful (especially for us from Texas). Brian grows his own indigo and there are also terraced tea plots in the area.

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At the hotel and again once at the house we had a chance to meet the other students for this 10 day adventure into indigo dyeing. David and Debbie are in the top left, then Min who is from Singapore, Sophie and Caroline from the UK, Claire and Meg from Australia, Mar-Lou from the Netherlands and Shelly and Heather from Canada. We were the only couple there and only Claire and Meg had met before this trip. The international group made for really interesting conversations and lots of learning experiences. It turned out to be a great group and so much fun to be with.

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Bryan observed the Japanese custom of removing one’s shoes before entering a home. He provided a rack where we left our shoes when entering the house. We all ran around in stockinged feet for the rest of the time.

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Our room was a comfortable corner room with lots of extra blankets as it was still pretty cool and remember there was no heat in these rooms.

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Bryan’s partner Hiro is an Ikebana master flower arranger and his arrangements are placed throughout the house. This arrangement was hung near the ceiling on the third floor. We have to note here that the Japanese are not as tall as most westerners and David had to quickly learn to stoop when walking through the halls and rooms on the second and third floors. After cold cocking himself a couple of times, he finally learned his lesson. We had a chance to try our hand at this form of flower arranging in a few days, with varying degrees of success (or not). More on this later.

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Time and weather permitting we took several walks through the area with views like the above being rather common (common depending on where you are from).

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Hiro was our cook for most of the meals and what a fabulous job he did. Meals were loaded with fresh vegetables and healthy side dishes and soups. Sweets are not a normal part of the diet in Japan so there was very little sugar and we did not miss it. Meat was not served at every meal and normally when it was it was incorporated into the dish and not a main course. We came home without gaining any weight and that was a first for both of us. We found the food delicious and satisfying and we were never hungry.

The rest of the day was spent in getting settled and getting to know our housemates and fellow students then, Bryan gave us an orientation of the contents of the class.

On Tuesday and in the next blog posting we get into the purpose of this trip and get into the really fun stuff and getting our hands into the dye vat. Stay tuned for some really  fun and interesting information on this centuries old craft.

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Until then,

Debbie and David

 

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Japan Trip – fabric dyeing workshop trip-day 2

It is day 2 and a Sunday. We originally planned on starting the day early in the morning by going to the famous fish market. Our chef son told us not to miss it; however, it is closed on Sunday so we had to make other plans. We realized that the Takashimaya Dept. store was located in the Shinjuku district. Deb has visited the one in NYC and we  knew this one also included a DIY section. It turned out to be a nine story feast for the eyes and stomach. It was time for lunch.

IMG_3655IMG_3654IMG_3647IMG_3645One entire floor of the main department store is devoted to restaurants of all kinds. We opted for tempura and quickly realized we were at a disadvantage as much of the menu was in Japanese and as the courses were served (prawns, fish, sea water eels and accompanying side dishes), we were at a loss as to what to do with many of the dishes. A very nice young lady sitting next to us was very helpful in explaining what the dishes were and what to pair with each. No silverware was provided so we decided it was a good time to embrace the local customs and start eating with chopsticks. By the end of the trip we were were quite comfortable with them and able to eat just about anything. Everything was delicious and we enjoyed watching the cooks prepare all the dishes. We were very fortunate to have been seated at the counter.

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Debbie quickly noticed the Shibori stitched and dyed coaster at the counter.

We looked around the department store rather briefly and then headed to the diy section. Debbie located the floor with the plexiglass cut outs not available at home that she wanted for the Shibori dyeing. After loading up with what we thought should fit in our luggage it was off to see what else we could discover. Another note about the Japanese concept of service: every department in the store had at least two clerks, so that no customer ever had to look for or wait for someone to help them. We noticed this same level of service at the Lumine Department store we visited later that day (this may be the case because the stores were upscale, but it was still nice to observe).

Debbie’s pre-trip research showed that the National Gardens are in the Shinjuku district and that the cherry blossoms were in bloom so we headed out for what we thought would be a short walk to the gardens. IMG_3724

On our rather long walk to find the entrance to the gardens we noticed how clean this large city (13.5 million people) and Debbie saw this artistic manhole cover. Later we realized this was standard for all districts in Japan. Art is indeed wherever you  look for it.

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IMG_3634So are certain businesses. You can’t escape them.

 

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As we were nearing what turned out to be the backside of the park, we noticed the collection of brooms and dustpans hung on the fence so that locals could keep their sidewalks cleaned off. We were impressed with how clean the city is.

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In the middle of this large city we finally located one of the entrances to the park and we entered another world.

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We took too many pictures to post here but the next blog posting will include a few more, including some of the Shinto temple.

Until next time, or dewa, mata ne

Debbie and David

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Japan Trip-fabric dyeing workshop

We stumbled across a unique, not to be missed, opportunity to go to Japan and take a ten day workshop in 8th century Japanese textile dyeing techniques. Once we were vetted as suitable  and serious candidates, we were able to receive our homework assignments and make the arrangements for the trip.

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First thing to do after clearing security was to convert dollars to yen. Gotta have spending money.

We landed at Narita Airport and took a train to Shinjuku provence, Tokyo where we spent the first night

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Accommodations were a bit tight but we were so tired after a 12 1/2 hour flight and another 1 1/2 hour train ride, we did not really care. We discovered how helpful and polite the Japanese are when a gentleman guided us through the maze of buying train tickets, boarding the correct train and getting off at the proper station. We ended up going to bed and sleeping from around 4:30 pm until the next morning.

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The hotel served a breakfast buffet the next morning and as nothing was labeled, we just guessed at items and selected randomly. It really did not matter as we were on an “adventure” and open to all experiences, including the culinary ones. We could not tell you what we ate; some items we liked and others we did not, but at least we had breakfast before we packed up and headed to the next hotel, closer to where Bryan would pick us up.

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One the way to find a cab, we saw this wonderful old wood door on an old house.

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The cabs were immaculate with the seats covered in lace antimaccasars and the drivers were dressed in suits, white shirts and ties. we noticed the cleaning rags on a rope in the trunk when he loaded our luggage. We knew for sure this was not Dallas or New York.

Later that day we explored Takishimaya and Hand department stores and the National garden where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Look for the next posting.

By the way this is David, my cohort in all things adventurous and related to my travels. He is my right hand man and a very good travel companion. We both love travel, eating, indigo dyeing and meeting wonderful new friends. He will be helping me write this blog. He loves the photography and the writing process as much as I do.

Until next time

Debbie and David

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A relaxing morning at the Modesto California farmers’ market

We had a day off between lectures and workshops and were told about the block long farmers’ market in downtown Modesto. Once there, we discovered the variety of homegrown veggies, fruits, nuts and locally produced cheese, breads and meats.

One vendor was selling the flowers grown on their local farm. There is certainly nothing like these in our Texas yard.

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There were several varieties of heirloom tomatoes at one vendor. We are so glad farmers (and individuals) are growing these great items again.

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There was a great selection of healthy looking vegetables of all sorts. Wishing we had a kitchen handy so we could take advantage.

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There was also the opportunity for less healthy snacks like the bacon on a stick. This young man was staying busy while we were there.

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We finally succumbed to the breakfast “blt”; french toast with bacon, lettuce and tomato.

IMG_5077We noticed their large charcoal grill where they were cooking chicken and ham for sandwiches and quesadillas. We were really tempted by the great looking ham.

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It is a pleasure to discover these small events that represent a return to simpler times and healthier eating (mostly healthier).

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My trip to Japan is getting closer


David and I are very excited about going to Japan to study with Bryan Whitehead at his Japanese Textile Workshops. http://japanesetextileworkshops.blogspot.com

This is the view from his studio.

Japanese textile outside studioOur trip is fast approaching and we received a package in the mail with our homework assignments.

We love the stamps on the box and plan to do something fun with them.

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What was inside the box was all of our homework for the adventure.

We have tons of stitching to do before we go. That way we can have more time in the indigo and get to sleep! We have fabrics to stitch in two different techniques and stencils to cut from very special paper.

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This is one piece of fabric that we take a stitch in every other dot.

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It is fun seeing the notions we use with all the Japanese writing. IMG_3526 IMG_3525 IMG_3524

I will keep you updated on our progress. We leave for Japan in about two weeks!!!!

Be sure to follow me on this unbelievable journey.

Debbie

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Indigo Fun as a thank you!


I have some very special people to thank for helping me accomplish a very large goal.

I can not reveal what the actual goal was but I want to show you the fun I had getting the “Thank You” items ready.

Even though I had not been dyeing for some time due to so many other things getting in the way, I decided I could get the indigo vat ready, scrunch, tie, clamp and sew some scarves to dye!!!

First I had to get the vat ready.

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It was awesome.

Then I did my magic with the fabrics.

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This scarf was folded and then wrapped around a pole.

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Then it was dip it in the indigo time!                                                                                              My favorite time because that is where the real magic happens.                                              The real fun is when you start unwrapping and removing the strings.

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This is the really cool results.

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David helped and we did a big bunch of scarves. IMG_3484 IMG_3483 IMG_3486 IMG_3485 IMG_3480 IMG_3479 IMG_3478 IMG_3477 IMG_3476 IMG_3500 IMG_3499 IMG_3493

I neutralized washed and dried this beautiful bundle of blue!!!

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Now all I need to do is press and ship to my very special “friends”.

I love giving gifts that are a part of me.

Debbie

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