St. George and the Dragon


In honor of the Year of the Dragon, I’ve decided to share a piece I dyed called Theft of the Virgin Icon, featuring St. George and the Dragon.

Theft of the Virgin Icon by John Marshall

The back view features The Virgin Mary holding an Icon of Herself,  atop the broad shoulders of Michael the Archangel (making an Appearance in the guise of St. George). The Dragon has snatched the Icon from the Virgin and is making his get away as St. George readies himself. Along the bottom is a host of Coptic Deities worrying in Circles the outcome of the Conflict. At St. George’s feet are found Fiddleheads symbolizing the unfolding of Events about to take place.

Detail of Michael-as-George, Natural Dyes on Silk Tussah with Machine Top Stitching

I’ve chosen to depict Michael-as-George a bit beyond the first (or second) blush of youth. As we follow the imagery around to the front,

Front View of Theft of the Virgin Icon

we come upon the three Saintly United Nation Observers, hands clasped in Divine NonIntervention.

The Virgin Takes Matters Into Her Own Hands

In the end, the Virgin saves herself by taking flight.

Divine NonIntervention


The piece has been dyed entirely with natural dyes on silk. Multiple stencils have been used to apply the rice-paste resist.

I do the designing and construction myself along with the top stitching in silk thread.

The buttons follow the curve of the collar shape, the front is designed so that the imagery overlaps to keep the motif continuous and uninterrupted.

I carried the dragon theme through to the inside with the label, which is stitched to the heavy silk satin lining.



Label to Theft of the Virgin Icon by John Marshall

Yokogasuri 横絣

I’ve selected a couple of rather extreme examples of yokogasuri from my collection to share with you today. The first is a truly intense yet lustrous black with minute flecks of resisted white to hint at the overall landscape.

Minute Landscape Executed in Yokogasuri Dyeing Technique


I’ve placed a penny in the image to give you a sense of scale. Below is a detail of the same shot.

Detail of Above Image

Both images above are details from a kosode (小袖) style kimono, unlined (hitoe 一重), silk in a tsumugi (紬) weave with a Shantung-like texture. Neither of the photos show the full width, nor even one full repeat of the pattern. Isn’t it amazing?

And next we have the opposite extreme – a multi-colored large scale example of yokogasuri on silk. Again, a kosode kimono.

Full Shot of Back of Kimono Dyed in Yokogasuri Style (Meisen)

Notice how the pattern has been designed to allow it to flow across the seams of the garment. Below you will be able to examine the pattern in detail since I’ve included one full repeat. This type of dyeing, while still legitimately yokogasuri, does not involve tying off the bundles of threads as discussed elsewhere. Instead the colors are screened onto the weft threads before they are woven, in essence allowing for a far greater number of colors with much less production time. This process is called meisengasuri (銘仙絣), or simply meisen (銘仙). I’ll be discussing it in greater depth in a later blog.

The image above displays one full repeat of the pattern , selvage to selvage.



Yoko-gasuri 横絣 201216

Prepared Weft Frame

In much the same manner as tategasuri, portions of the threads used in yokogasuri are tied off to create blank areas of pattern. In tategasuri we know that master threads are created to represent segments of the warp pattern.  The same will be done for the weft threads, however the approach is a bit different.

The individual weft threads, rather than running one full length straight as the warp threads do, will need to tack right to left and back again. There are many approaches to calculating the measured marks on the master weft thread to indicate where the bundle is to be tied. I’m a visual person so I will go with the method that is most visually direct.


Transferring Design to Warp

A frame is used to create a false weft. The frame is simply a board with two sets of nails running parallel, spaced a bit wider than the fabric to be woven.

Using Master as a Guide in Tying Bundles – The red circles indicate where the ‘bend’ was on the frame.

The prepared image is transferred to the threads using a dark ink. This is the master thread.

Extended Master Thread As It Is Removed From The Frame

Only one master thread is required. Once the number of repeats needed is determined, threads equal in length to the master thread are gathered into one bundle. Following the marks on the master thread, the bundle is tied off and dyed.

As the weft is woven the pattern begins to emerge. Due to slight irregularities in the tying, the dyeing, and the weaving, completed imagery generally has a fuzzy, vague definition to the outlines. This is the hallmark of kasuri weaving.

Woven Sample Using a Solid Color Warp

Unlike the warp threads in tategasuri, the artist doesn’t have the option of shifting the weft threads slightly to create variations of the imagery. However, a mirror image may be woven by simply starting a new pattern from the left rather than the right. Or an image may be flipped up-side-down by starting to weave with the end of the thread rather than the beginning.

Varying the Starting Point of Each Repeat will Yield Interesting Results

The Textile of the Week sample presented here, 201216, is yokogasuri with a very rustic tsumugi weave and a classic color combination. Four colors have been used–black, rust red, persimmon yellow, and white. The warp is black. Natural dyes on silk.

201216 Textile of the Week: Yokogasuri

Sample 201115-tategasuri $14 plus postage and tax ($12 even if purchased as part of a set. For more information about sets, click on this text.)

Both the colors and the graphic pattern have a somewhat quiet and folksy feel. Nonetheless, this is a very sophisticated and complex pattern to calculate. Take a peek at the selvedge edge. You won’t find any dangling weft threads in this sample. The artist has taken advantage of the technique by encouraging the staggering of the lines as an integral part of the design.

Close Up of Weave Showing Selvage Edge

As a balanced flat weave, the black warp adds a richness and depth to the piece. Each pixel of weft is framed by the black, heightening the sense of texture and giving the illusion of luminosity to what would otherwise be a very mat surface.