On that glorious day at the farm where I showed the sheep in my last post, Mimi was asked: “Do you have any wool available?” Here is a woman on her way home with enough wool yarn for several projects–sweaters I think she’ll knit. Different breeds have different types of wool not just different colors. I think I overheard this woman discussing exactly what kind of wool she needed for a special white sweater she was going to knit.
There was roving ready for spinning or felting in one basket and a container full of balls of yarn from the farm’s sheep and dyed by Mimi. She has a stand during the fall and winter at our Farmers’ Market in Marin County on Sundays. Last week at the market she had balls of roving dyed in a wide range of colors that were being bought up by a woman who does a lot of felting.
Mimi’s assistant is balling up roving (wool from the sheep that has been cleaned and combed to be ready for spinning or felting). The balls are weighed then the price calculated. I was seduced last week at the market to buy a gorgeous ball of roving made of a mixture of grey wool. I plan to use it in felting art pieces.
In the courtyard there were two big tables with sheep pelts. The pelts were set out to dry in the sun. I wondered what the white areas were and was told it was salt to help with the drying. What a wonderful day it was with “thread-head” friends, good food, sunshine, beautiful country and sheep about to lamb! As a weaver I learned a lot, too.
Windrush Farm in Petaluma, California specializes in raising sheep for handspinners. They also have spinning classes, summer camps for kids, and “lamb days” every spring so children and parents can mingle with the baby lambs. More information on their website: Windrush Farm
Here they are grazing in the pasture on a simply gorgeous January day.
They came in for dinner and I was able to catch some photos of different breeds. Different types of sheep have differ colors and different types of fleece (wool). In this photo you can see that some have their coats just recently shorn and some haven’t been yet. Mimi said that some refused the shearing the day when the shearer came!
These ewes are about to “lamb” meaning deliver their babies any day now. You can tell because their udders are formed. Some ewes looked pretty fat but the udder is the sure sign. Whether twins or not can’t be predicted.
A couple of lamas are in with the sheep but they don’t mingle much with them. This one wandered in after all the sheep were already deep in their mangers eating. I like the ears and nose!
I was busy over the holidays making this piece. All the fabrics were dyed with black walnuts I collected in early December. Some I put in iron water for a short time to “sadden” or grey the colors. There were two different fabrics which were shiny so I could play with the color differences when I turned them 90 degrees. I cut the squares and turned them 90 degrees from each other to get the same effect as changing the nap in corduroy or velvet. I mounted the pieces on cotton fabric strips and moved them around to make the composition. Then I mounted all the strips on black fabric. Everything was joined with long straight pins. Some time ago I realized the straight pins in my pin cushion were too fat for silk fabrics so I got “Extra-Long Satin Pins”.
Last night when only one light was on in the room, the pins themselves shimmered for further effect.
When I got started I wanted to know what fiber my fabrics were made of. I went to my files to look up “burn test” and there was a page from my own book! I’m still not exactly sure of what I have—it came from a warehouse sale I went to in November. I think they are silk. Here is the chart from my book, “Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth“.
I seem to have found myself finding vintage clothes and loving them and not being able to resist them. These are from known designers from the 60’s and before (I think). Jeanne Marc I remember from the hippie days from North Beach in San Francisco. The yellow outfit is a copy of Adolpho. Jigsaw from London designed the navy blue and white one.The dress with the bow is by Cynthia Steffe. And the Marimekko dress reminds me of dresses I made and wore. Anyhow the fabrics are delicious and some of the construction is haute couture. What a find for a textile lover.
We visited two weavers in a tiny village after walking across a rickety swinging bridge. It was worth the hardship of crossing over the raging river. The first weaver had just cut off a panel of cloth for a skirt when we came. She got out a completed two-panel skirt to show us how it would look on her body. Note that the following photos show how the patterns and stripes work on the body. All were woven on backstrap looms.
This skirt also has a traditional color scheme. It was woven in two panels with an almost-invisible seam down the center in the narrow blue stripe.
This weaver wove the two black and white skirts to wear at festivals. I loved that they were just black and white. If you look closely at what she is weaving you can see the tufts that she is weaving in on her loom.
At first I bought the one with the more elaborate pattern for the back of the skirt because of its complexity. It was woven with three panels–one in the center and the others at the sides.
Then I realized that I really loved the more simple one–the lines with the tufts and especially the selvedges (edges). I couldn’t resist having it. I especially like to see that probably this was the first one she made and then used that as the basis for making the second one, adding an elaborate pattern for the back (that would be positioned across her bottom). This one was woven in two panels, joined at the center in the narrow black stripe. That means every single line had to match for the entire length! It is 42 inches wide and 63 inches long.
This piece is a sample for a skirt woven by a weaver in Bhutan. I liked the complicated way she transitioned between the two main colors.
Paro. Today was our next to the last day. It’s the place where tourists enter or depart from western Bhutan. It is in this lovely valley. Most of our group is hiking up to the tigers nest tomorrow for the day. Cathy and I are going to hang out in the town and shop and figure out how we will pack our suitcases.
Paro. Our last views of rice fields. We’ve seen rice paddies at all stages on the trip in India and Bhutan. These look like they will be harvested soon. The patterns are so beautiful. There are lots on terraces in the mountains.
The famous Tiger’s Nest monastery where everyone but Cathy and I are spending most of the day hiking up and back. I’m glad not to be going. Hiking all day doesn’t appeal to me even though I know the view at the top will be great. They are leaving the hotel at 7:00. I think we’ll set the alarm for then. We have to leave the hotel at 5:30 am the next day for the airport. The official name of the monastery is Taktsang.
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The loom used for weaving wool. A four-shaft floor loom. Very primitive with re-bars on top to hang the pulleys from. Quite a change from back strap looms with fine and dense warp threads. The wool warp and weft threads were not so fine or dense.
A close up of the wool loom that shows how primitive the mechanism is to hold tension on the warp beam. Re-bar again. Making a ratchet is difficult and many other solutions to keeping warp tension exist.
On our second day in Jakar in the Bumthang district we drove out to the Chumey Valley to see wool weaving which the Bhutanese call yathra. This handicraft shop sells finished goods and does a lot of natural dying of local wool.
Here are dye kettles and the wood fireplaces that would heat the dye baths. It’s interesting how the wood fires we’ve seen work. The end of a log or piece of wood would be lit and as it burned it would be pushed farther into the fire.
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Bumthang district in central Bhutan. Tamshing Monastery. This local festival drew a big crowd with adults and children in their best traditional clothing. It’s the Tamshi Phala Choepa festival. The official religion in Bhutan is Tantric Buddhism. The dancers and clowns reflected these religious beliefs. We watched for 2 hours captivated by the colorful dances, clowning, and the villagers attending.
This was a major part of the clowning. Our guide told us it was to tell the people about using condoms. Traditionally this symbol was given by a monk long ago to protect the people. They were displayed in homes we were told and we saw them in shops and places where we stopped to eat. One place had the atenae for the TV draped on it. This clown came up to our faces–too suddenly to take a photo.
This little girl and her sister squirmed and fidgeted next to us during the dancing and wanted me to take their picture. I couldn’t resist. The girls were fascinated with my camera so I let the older sister watch through the camera while I held on to the cord. Sweet.
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It took all day to drive to our destination of Mongar. We were stopped here for road construction and then again for an hour so didn’t get to stop to see any weavers at all. Lots of single lane areas, switch backs, slides and huge potholes again today.
After dinner our waitresses at the hotel showed us how the woven cloth was wrapped to form a dress. Two safety pins held it together at the shoulders. A tight sash held a big tuck in place at the waist which would held all the things one would put in a purse.
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Bhutan more mountains, winding roads and river. Road construction and mudslides have altered our itinerary. The switch backs are frequent and tight. Often there is only one lane because of construction being done by hand by laborers from India.
We have visited one or two weavers each day. All backstrap looms in the mountains. All with very dense warps of pretty fine yarns. This was a silk warp. Have seen cotton and raw silk warps too. This woman was weaving fine silk yarns in complicated small patters. Each row seemed to take forever. Silk on silk. And a large piece was priced at $1000. Cheap for the work.
At one weavers home this young mom carried her baby all over the place. She wasn’t the weaver however. We walked down and up a mile on a rutted dirt road to get there. It was hot. I was glad to have my umbrella and fold up cane.
Bhutan Day 1 – Here we are in the eastern part. We drove up and up mountain roads that hair- pinned back and forth. Lovely greenery. No on got car sick but I didn’t weave either. Lots of fog part way up. Road construction many places with mud and rock slides and laborers from India working on repairs and widening the road. I didn’t look down when my side of the bus was on the edges of the cliffs.
The entrance to our huge gaudy hotel. Our bathroom you could play soccer in. Good enough WiFi and food for Americans. We almost wish for something more modest in the town so we could go exploring the local color. This is perched on a hill top up a long muddy and ditty drive way staying here two night for a change so don’t have to pack up in the morning and can do laundry. Off this morning to see weavers. I’ve been giving shoe elementary weaving and textile lessons after dinner. I love it and people are glad to know what a selvedge is!
Silk Production on a Small Scale. Our last day in India. This is what I came to see. These are tiny young silk worms feeding on leaves on a tree out in nature. Actually it’s like a small farm where the trees are grown and silk worms raised.
The breeze was moving the leaves so they aren’t in focus but I hope you can see where the silk worms have nibbled at the edges. They eat voraciously until they are as fat as a thick thumb. Then they crawl down the tree and settle in some dead leaves to make their cocoons.
Here are cocoons from different species that make different types of silk. The gold ones are prized for color and smooth fabric. The silk strands are unwound from the cocoon into very very long threads. This is achieved because the worm (pupae) is killed before the mature moth emerges from the cocoon. This is called reeled silk because the strands are reeled off of the cocoons. Muga silk is what this golden silk is called. The white cocoon is from another species called eri silk. For this type the mature moth is allowed to break out of the cocoon. That makes a hole so one continuous strand cannot be reeled off. The silk is white in color and isn’t smooth because the silk fibers have to be spun into threads note the hole in the white cocoon where the moth came out.
Eri silk cloth. Often there are slight variations in thickness of the threads when the threads are hand spun. If they are spun by machine the threads would be uniform. The cloth feel and looks a bit like cotton except there is a difference in the way it feels.
Trying to Get Your Chickens in for the Night. I may have my days confused because on my birthday (9/19) we were sequestered in our hotel all day in the town of Along by the government to somehow prevent refugees from Bangladesh in. So our itinerary was set back a day and we drive almost all day long from place to place. Anyhow it was dusk and I think we were outside the town of Ziro when we saw this hilarious scenario of an old woman trying to put her hen and baby chicks into their basket for the night.
Finally I take a look at the woman herself and see that she is one of the villagers we hoped to see! Besides, don’t you think she’s glad that nightly ritual is done?The woman’s face close up shows us her nose plugs! They identify her as being from her village/tribe. We had seen a woman earlier who posed for us to take her picture but it was so much better to see her going about her business. We all thought she seemed afraid of the chickens.
Another Woman with Ear Plugs. This woman was coming out of her house when we walked past. Our guide takes to her and she let us take her picture while our guide chatted her up. Her face has such wonderful expressions I couldn’t just choose one photo. Notice the tattoo as well as the nose plugs.
We saw this woman in a rice field in the village. They put tiny fish in the water when they started growing the rice and now that the rice is tall the fish are grown and she had just caught one. Since she wasn’t going home right away she put the fish in a basket and put another basket inside the first one so the fish couldn’t escape. Then she put them back in the water channel until she was ready to take it home for dinner. I liked her face a lot. She only had the tattoo and I nose plugs. Only the old women have done this we were told.
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A close-up of a spectacular man’s hat. The yellow is the bill of a Hornbill. The feathers are special. The claw is from an eagle I think. A man in this ethnic group wears it proudly. The black fur in the front is bear fur I believe.
This basket is especially for a rooster and i heard it crowing. My Uncle Charley told us that the way to keep a rooster from crowing was to put him in a low cage so he couldn’t raise his head. I was thrilled to see this born out today. Notice the pointy basket was the rooster’s. the other baskets nearby were not quite as tall and were all flat!!
I took this video to show how terribly bumpy the roads are. A 10-hour trip. I sat behind the driver and held my camera steady. I hope all the jerking conveys the horrible ruts (not a strong enough term for the holes, water pools, mud , cows, rock and mud slides and meeting on-coming trucks, buses, motorcycles) we suddenly encountered at any moment coming around the curves in the one lane road. It was a road connecting two towns–not a country lane.
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Another road photo. Our driver of the four wheel drive kept down shifting. We were in low gear most of the time. The speedometer got up to 20 km/ mile but that was when we were “rolling” along. He was constantly looking ahead for oncoming vehicles because two could barely pass–especially when both cars wanted to be on the same ruts!
I tried hard to get photos that showed how bad the road was on our 6-hour drive to the town of Along. We saw lots of big road machinery but none was working. Mud and rock slides often filled half of the road– usually at curves of course.
We saw a gaur (/ˈɡaʊər/, Bos gaurus), also called Indian bison, called by our driver “White Socks”. Special to see one of these agile animals in the forest–actually we have been driving through jungle. They are fast so the head will be in the next photo. Or drivers were excited to sight one.
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We were leaving a market and saw this elephant working carrying wood for fires. Our guide ran after him and asked the driver to come back for a photo op. It was huge and calm. Took some bananas we fed it. The tongue was really soft. The skin was really wrinkly and leathery looking. Just like in a circus. So nice to see one in a real life situation.
Along a village street–they are right along the side of the road. There was a festival honoring cars trucks and metal as far as I understood. Cars and trucks put these decorations on their hoods for the day.
I think we had lunch here. There were several establishments on the side of the road. Done it was a festival day they count make us lunch. We had noodles potato chips and a delicious pineapple from a market where we stopped that morning.
Inside a home in the village. Man is a basket maker. Thought people would like to see i side a thatch roof house. The living area is on stilts above ground. Cooler there maybe. Animals below. Chickens and pigs and cows we saw.
Here are our shadows on the roof overlooking the village and the river we crossed on the bridge. When I was crossing g back on the bridge holding tightly to my guide there were 2 motorcycles and 10 people patiently waiting for me to get across! If they hadn’t seen my plight they would have begun to cross with me way out over the river. They waited because they would have swung the bridge greatly. And I would have died of fright or drowning.
Day 3 Kolkata (Calcutta) a textile workshop. In one area women were gathered together stitching threads for making Shibori fabric like this. It’s loosely related to tie dyeing. Stitches are made and the threads gathered up tight before the fabric is dyed. Where the stitching is the dye cannot penetrate. In other words the dye is resisted by the tightly squeezed cloth.
What a mess it looked like but the design was carefully stitched out. We didn’t see who pulled up the stitches. I’ll bet the same women did. However it might take people with strong hands to do that job.
“No wifi for several nights. Hard to keep track of each day’s stuff. Got wifi from guide now in Along. Hot humid. Stand up toilet seat. Elephant working with driver and load. Roads worse than ever seen. Dry but ruts and rocks and mud slides. Four wheel drive in lowest gear for six hour drive. Running now with sweat. Off to see a market. In boonies.”
Now just tonight I’ve received 27 photos on Instagram one of them titled “Day 6”. I’ll try to unjumble them and will post a few shortly.
AND it’s Peggy’s birthday tomorrow!