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About

I’ve been a weaver, spinner and dyer for 35+ years. My inspiration comes, almost exclusively, from the patterns found in nature and from ethnic textiles. My work is influenced by 6 months of study at Kawashima Textile School in Kyoto, Japan. It is frequently a combination of techniques; weaving, spinning,dyeing, knitting and stitching with an emphasis on fine detail. I see my life as a journey of discovery, one small stitch at a time.

Jean Betts

49 Comments leave one →
  1. Marie Suzaki permalink
    October 23, 2010 7:34 am

    Hi, Jean.
    It was nice meeting you at Weavers guild the other day.
    I’m a free-style weaver, and I LOVE shifu.
    I do Kakishibu dying as well.
    I would like to visit your studio sometime soon.
    Hope to hear from you.
    thank you.

    Marie

    Like

  2. January 22, 2011 2:08 pm

    Jean,
    Thanks for your comment on my blog. Now I have found yours! Wonderful reading, and I look forward to more. A question: do you have any sources to recommend on shifu? Books? Web?
    Alice

    Like

  3. Dina permalink
    January 25, 2011 7:58 am

    I love your website; so many beautiful things. I visited your studio last November during an open week-end. I was visiting Victoria from London [UK]; today I found your business card and I’m glad I got into the website – it cheered me up on a dark, grey day.

    Like

    • January 25, 2011 11:09 am

      Hi Dina–I remember your visit to the studio. A nice surprise to hear from you here, please stop by and say hello again. We too, are in the midst of dark, grey days, at least we don’t have the deep freeze conditions that is in the East.

      Like

  4. Lynn permalink
    March 16, 2011 8:13 am

    Jean, we have not yet met, but I look forward to it one day. I am a Saori weaver and frequent Knotty By Nature. Am intrigued by your dyeing process. Do you have workshops?
    Lynn

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    • March 16, 2011 9:49 am

      I teach a beginner’s traditional weaving class and offer a variety of mini classes to my students. Dyeing takes alot of set-up and requires equipment, space and major clean-up which I am not set up to do in my studio. You are welcome to come by the studio, please call or email first. Studio tour on April 16-17th from 12 noon -4:30. mjbetts@telus.net

      Like

  5. April 6, 2011 1:04 am

    thank you for your visit. glad i found your blog. we seem to share the same passions !

    Like

  6. June 19, 2011 8:02 am

    Hi: a Google search for Kakishibu led me to your blog. I am trying to locate a supplier in the UK. I want to use it to waterproof paper stencils. Do you know of where I can buy the stuff? Thanks.

    Like

  7. August 27, 2011 8:43 am

    This school sounds interesting. Does it require fluency in Japanese?

    Like

  8. fibreisle permalink
    September 18, 2011 10:39 am

    I Mary Jean,

    I have been following your blog for quite some time now, since I saw it mentioned on Velma Bolyard’s blog. I have really been enjoying your woven textiles with the shifu. I have been invited, as a papermaker, to give a lecture to the local weaver’s guild. I will be talking to them about paper’s use in textiles, and I think they would really enjoy seeing your work, if you wouldn’t mind me sharing some images. If you have time, please let me know. Thanks again for the gift of your lovely blog.

    Lisa Harkins

    Like

    • September 18, 2011 11:08 am

      thanks, Lisa. I’m happy to share. When I first discovered shifu in Japan 20++ years ago it was almost dead and definitely on it’s way out. The renewed interest is a joy and my pleasure to be involved in a small way.

      Like

  9. November 24, 2011 3:24 pm

    i discovered your pages while rummaging on the ‘net for saori information
    and have been enjoying a lovely wander
    best wishes
    india

    Like

    • November 24, 2011 3:54 pm

      we have an active saori community here, a young Japanese teacher who does unique “art” pieces and a teacher just across the water, on Salt Spring Island. Please visit again – I am having fun using my eco dyed “bits” in bojagi.

      Like

  10. June 10, 2012 4:19 pm

    hi Mary Jean, Where are you, and do you give shifu workshops? I have been playing around with shifu for a few years now, but now I am getting serious about it.

    Like

  11. January 17, 2013 2:46 am

    Hello from Fran again πŸ™‚

    The more I browse your blog, the more I find your work interesting. We share a common passion for Japanese techniques and fabrics.

    Like

    • January 17, 2013 8:52 am

      Guillaume – I’ve been interested in Japanese textiles for many years and spent 6 months at Kawashima Textile School in Kyoto in 1987.

      Like

  12. January 17, 2013 10:42 am

    How lucky you are… We work a lot on japanese silk, we even tried shibori (we tried…) and Lydie (my fiancΓ©e and boss of L’atelier de Minuit) is learning Nuido with a french teacher of Kurenakai School.
    I’m a fan of wabi sabi spirit, ranru boro etc., we love all japanese textile arts.
    But we’ve never been to Japan, and we dream to. We always picture ourselves taking the plane back and being arrested because of carrying 120 tons of japanese silk bolts, and wearing each 150 kimonos, thus taking 3 seats on the plane πŸ˜€

    Like

    • January 17, 2013 11:54 am

      Guillaume – dreams are what keep us going but the reality is EVERYTHING is expensive in Japan. You need to think about coming home with memories and experiences. Have you visited Bryan’s blog at http://www.japanesetextileworkshops.blogspot.com He is living the dream and it is hard work – and very cold in a traditional farmhouse in the mountains at this time of year. I am off to visit your website.

      Like

  13. January 20, 2013 3:47 am

    Thanks so much for the link to Bryan’s blog. He is doing so well with indigo… Dyeing is a ” do” (in the japanese sense) in itself. I tried with polygonum flowers, it’s beautiful, but i’m far to obtain a deep blue…
    Yes, it’s hard work !
    Thanks again for sharing this.

    Like

    • January 20, 2013 6:38 am

      Guillaume – I have been dyeing with indigo for 25 years. You learn as you do it. It is easier to start with a commercially prepared powder. http://www.maiwa.com in Vancouver is my supplier. They have good instruction sheets on many natural dyes on-line. If you are using fresh indigo, that you grow, it is the leaf that holds the colour – not the flower.

      Like

  14. January 21, 2013 2:36 am

    Hello Mary,

    Thanks for the adress. I Always say flowers instead of leaves, even in french. Must be freudian or something. I like so much the idea of a flower bath that gives a color. I would take it ! Imagine you have a cherry flowers bath, and you become like fine china white πŸ™‚

    Well, I don’t gow polygonum, I used to buy it there : http://www.couleur-garance.com/, but they stopped growing it, and they provide only powder. It’s easier with powder, and the result is more ” regular ” though.
    If you look for sth irregular (and I do), the bush in the bath is the solution πŸ™‚

    Like

  15. February 20, 2013 7:15 am

    Dear Jean, I discovered your blog through a Swedish blogger who followed my blog and is weaving something she was inspired to do on your blog – what a funny way to run into someone in my own town! I love your blog! And I shall have too contact you about a ripsmatta project…

    Like

    • February 20, 2013 8:41 am

      Kjerstin – the blogging world takes many twists and turns. Waiting to hear about your ripsmatta project.

      Like

  16. beadsandfibreslady permalink
    February 28, 2013 2:49 am

    Dear Mary Jean, Get well soon! I just pasted your blog onto the Facebook page of The Hampshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers for the members’ inspiration. Beautiful blog, well done! XX

    Like

  17. December 12, 2013 4:28 pm

    Dear Mary Jean , Dilemma ! 10 days in October on Brian Whiteheads course in Japan or a month at Kawashima textile school ? Both look amazing but I need help deciding , what do you advise as you have experienced both x

    Like

    • December 12, 2013 4:41 pm

      Annette – sorry, impossible to give you any help when I don’t know what your area of interest is, how much experience you have, what you hope to achieve/learn and your level of knowledge regarding Japan and Japanese culture, history and textiles. And also whether your interest in textiles is professional or hobby related. Kawashima has changed drastically since I was there. At that time it taught almost exclusively traditional Japanese weaving, I had been weaving for approx. 12 years and it was not my first trip to Japan. Bryan’s workshop includes field trips and is more of a Japanese experience and focuses on techniques involving indigo dyeing. It will be a learning experience whichever you choose. Good luck. Jean

      Like

  18. December 29, 2013 5:32 am

    Thankyou for your reply Jean, i suppose i was a little vague about what i wanted to get out of my experience. I am just about to graduate from University studying weaving and textile design. I would like to start a small business next year . I love the Japanese aesthetic and have tried to use this when approaching my work. I was a tattooist previously and learnt alot about Japanese culture and design then. Currently i am learning about wabi sabi and am trying to introduce this into my design work. It has always been an ambition of mine to travel to Japan, and to study whilst i am there would be fantastic. I came across Brians workshops and thought WOW as i love shibori and would love to learn more about stencil dyeing. But then i saw Kawashima and thought as this is more weaving based i should go there to , also its in Kyoto and i got all romantic and thought about studying in this enviroment would be amazing. As you can see Im terrible at making any decisions.
    Also i wanted to say how beautiful your blog is , i could sit and look at some of the photographs you post on there all day.
    Wishing you a wonderful new year, thankyou for your help xx

    Like

    • December 29, 2013 3:50 pm

      Annette – oh, I’m self-taught and have always regretted that I have no formal training in textiles. Although, as a psychiatric nurse I taught weaving to the handicapped for the final 12 years of my paid working life – training under fire!!

      As I said before, Kawashima has changed dramatically since I was there. Anything you learn will be in a formal classroom type of setting and very organized. The Japanese are very serious about learning. Of course there is the wonderful temptation of Kyoto but don’t know how much time you will have or how good you are at finding your way around a non-English, foreign city?

      Bryan’s, on the other hand is a total Japanese experience – he has lived in his minka for 25 years, has many friends in the area, is extremely knowledgeble about Japanese art, crafts and culture. He is a genius with indigo and you will be learning techniques that require dyeing. We did several field trips that were fun, informative and unique. And you get to live in a traditional, 150 yr. old farmhouse. His workshops book up quickly.

      Happy you enjoy the blog. Please let me know what you decide to do. Have an exciting new year. Jean πŸ™‚

      Like

  19. Jade permalink
    January 22, 2014 7:16 am

    Hello,

    I apologise profusely for the lack of credit in the article. The writer did credit you for another piece. So I assume it must have been an error on our part whilst editing that caused there to be no link back to your blog for the first photo. I have rectified this now: http://asia-crunch.com/2013/07/19/an-intro-and-how-to-bogaji-%EB%B3%B4%EC%9E%90%EA%B8%B0/

    Once again, I am really sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

    Thank you,

    Jade

    Like

    • January 22, 2014 9:14 am

      Jade – thank you. It seems that with the convenience, availability and anonymity of the internet regard for individual’s work is being ignored. The third picture at the bottom of the page is not my work it is from the book “Bojagi and Beyond” by Chunghie Lee.

      Like

  20. theloomroom permalink
    May 14, 2014 10:54 am

    Hi, I am attempting to spin paper, and have cut my ‘silk straw’ paper 2mm wide but am having many problems in attempting to roll it in the traditional way. Would you have any suggestions or hints as to how to go about it? If damp, the paper almost disintegrates, whilst nearly dry and the rolling process doesn’t seem to happen…. Thanks so much for your help. Warmest wishes, Stacey

    Like

    • May 14, 2014 11:57 am

      Stacey – I have no idea what “silk straw” paper is or how it is made. It might be that the paper is not good to make yarn. Kozo paper is good.You need to do the rolling process on a fairly rough surface. In Japan we used concrete building blocks here I have a nice paving stone.

      Like

  21. Judith Sloan permalink
    September 5, 2014 1:02 pm

    Hi Jean

    I was intrigued by your post on colour blending using increasing and decreasing pairs.
    Could you elaborate on it sometime? I have been playing around with pencil crayons
    but I don’t think I understand it correctly. Seems like a fabulous way to cut through the stash!! Thanks Judith

    Like

    • September 5, 2014 1:45 pm

      Judith – basically, start with a solid colour border (colour A) then 1 end of B, 4 of A, 1 of B, 3 of A, 2 of B and 2 of A, 3 of B, 1 of A, 4 of B, 1 of A. Solid colour stripe of B. Drop A and repeat the sequence with B and C. I use random numbers of warp ends in the solid areas and more ends in the colour sequences depending the amounts of yarn I’m trying to use up. Hope this helps. πŸ™‚

      Like

  22. Judith permalink
    September 7, 2014 9:00 am

    Thank you Jean. Your blog really challenges me to use up my stash!

    Like

  23. January 4, 2016 9:35 am

    Hi Jean! I was wondering if you have an email address I can write you at. I am a tiny cloth doll artist currently living in Okinawa. I have started a collection of vintage Japanese cotton and silk fabric but cannot find any tips as to what to use as stabilizer. I want to be able to make stuffed pieces and maybe a throw pillow or two or a quilt to hang. I see tons of people sell items sewn with vintage pieces but I can’t seem to find any tips on stabilizer. I don’t want to ruin any of my pretty pieces so I’ve held off touching them. Most are only about 60 – 90 years old though I have a few 30 year old pieces and one 100 year old silk scrap. Any advice would be great. Thank you!

    Like

    • January 4, 2016 9:55 am

      Monica – not sure I can help but you can email me at mjbetts@telus.net I spent 2 weeks in Naha a few years ago when one of my sons was working there, loved it.

      Like

      • February 6, 2016 7:57 am

        Sorry that I’m just now seeing your reply. I’m still learning the ropes on WordPress. But I will be in contact with you soon. Thank you so much for the email!

        Like

      • February 6, 2016 11:06 am

        Monika – hope you have found a material that works for you. Love the look of your dolls, over the years I have gathered quite a collection of traditional kokeshi.

        Like

  24. Anne permalink
    May 3, 2016 4:22 pm

    Mary Jean
    If you ever decide to sell your Woodhouse Loom please drop me a note.

    Like

    • May 4, 2016 9:11 am

      Ann- you don’t say where you are or why you think I might be interested in selling my loom? I’m in Japan right now, if you want to get in touch again email me at the end of May.

      Like

  25. September 7, 2016 2:22 pm

    Hi I’m looking for information about Virginia Atherton who was a weaver and taught classes on Salish weaving in the early 70s. I noticed you referenced a Virginia Atherton in a blog post and wondered if this is the same person?

    Like

    • September 7, 2016 2:54 pm

      Susan – she was a member of the Victoria Handweavers’ and Spinners’ Guild many years ago but I’m not sure if she is still alive. That must have been a blog post some time ago. I can probably find out from a guild member but would need to know what your interest is for privacy reasons.

      Like

  26. Jolanta Piszczek permalink
    December 17, 2016 11:50 am

    Hi Jean,
    Last year at the OB artist walk I purchased two knit flower pins. I love them, and was wondering if you have any more for sale. – Jolanta

    Like

    • December 17, 2016 11:57 am

      Jolanta – yes, there are still some in the basket. You can phone me at area code- 595-2726

      Like

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