Toward the end of our lazy summer days, my girls and I attended two more workshops with Tokyo Cotton Village as a sort of last hurrah before the start of school. The first one was a cotton-picking event, which turned out to be more of a cotton weeding event since the cotton wouldn't be ready for picking until September. So right about now, I suppose, is the time to harvest what we saw that month. Below I have some photos of Japanese cotton and American cotton. I think you will be able to spot the differences. 

We went to a place called the "Goat Cafe", and it lived up to its name with the resident goat, who was too camera-shy to pose for pictures, but trust me - she was there. Aside from the cotton, there were other things I spotted growing in the field behind the cafe: persimmons, limes, and goya, to name a few. 

Once the weeding work was finished, we all had a go at de-seeding the cotton that our host Mr. Tomizawa supplied, and enjoyed a delicious barbeque while the children made up their own "barbeque" complete with cicada shells. Yum. Um, not. But the s'mores we had were yummy. I can't remember the last time I ate them. Maybe at a Girl Scout Jamboree that I attended back when I was living in Chicago oh so long ago...

Following this was a cotton dyeing "workshop", held at FEP, which is short for "Five Easy Pieces." It's an arty cafe that hosts a variety of fun workshops for both children and adults, which you can check out here (website in Japanese).  You can scroll through the photos below to see the space.

When I first started reading up on where and how our clothes are made, naturally the question of textile dyeing and environmental pollution came up. What sorts of dyes are being used on fabric? What happens to the water when those dyes are used? What about to the people who live nearby? Where do all those beautiful colors come from? I kept reading, and more questions than answers kept popping up in my head. 

For the workshop, we used three dyes derived from natural sources. My daughter and I were most keen to try the traditional blue color, ai-zome, which you can read about here. It was so amazing to watch the process because when you first dip your cloth in the dye and take it out, it appears to be a greenish color. But after it hits the air, it starts to turn that recognizable indigo blue. I tried to document the process so you could get an idea of what it was like.

Amazing, right? We certainly thought so. 

This is the one my daughter made. I think she must have been pretty proud of it because she drew a picture of it when we got home.

It was such an interesting learning experience, and also an experimental one, as we were all unsure of how the dyes would turn out. My attempt at gradation, for example, was a total failure, haha. But it turned out pretty enough. And I think that's half the fun. No such things as mistakes, as I always tell my girls. 

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