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.
While in Kyushu Island south of the main island of Japan near the town of Karume is a distinguished master craftsman kasuri dyer. Kasuri is a form of ikat and can be warp-wise or weft-wise. The threads are dyed in a pattern then put on the loom and woven. Here is a photo of Shoji Yamamura tying threads to make a pattern. Then the threads are dyed with indigo for the traditional blue and white kasuri fabrics we know. We bought one of his gorgeous pieces–a length of cloth for a kimono with the idea of splitting up the piece when we got home.
On a Saturday afternoon the three of us met to divide the fabric–over 15 yards.
Here one third has been cut off and we are about to cut off the second piece.
This is the end piece– it’s the signature of the weaver and is woven at the beginning of the length of cloth. Note that the unwoven area shows the ikat pattern that was tied in the threads. Also notable is the dyeing of the warp stripes–a specialty of this artist.
Day Two At Aranya Naturals Exquisite Workshop
It’s late after a fabulous day being tutored by the wonderful employees at the Aranya Naturals complex. Look them up on the web. They train and employ physically and mentally challenged adults over 18 in all sorts of fabric dyeing and design. The workshop is so organized and each section has its own operation. I did stitch Shibori (tie dye) with several women and then had the pieces dyed by the indigo (blue) and madder (red) dyers. You can see how enthusiast everyone was. They and their families are given housing, schooling for the children and complete medical facilities. This is just a drop of information about this truly amazing place. The 10 of us in the group were taken in hand by the experts and we dyed, batiked, and block printed our own individual ideas in a day and a half. [click first photo]
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We drove from Mitla in the morning in time to eat breakfast at the local market. This was the nicest market I’ve ever seen because it was not crowded or dirty. Every morning for a few hours the town people go to the market and socialize and fill their baskets. We ate tamales made by the woman in the picture. She served them on pieces of paper towel and they were delicious. I had an orange juice drink from a plastic bag knotted at the top with a straw coming out the top. A dyer had a booth with his samples and jars of dye stuff. All the women carried nice baskets and I hunted for a booth to find a small one I think I can fit in my carry on luggage. The seller crossed herself and kissed my money. I was told that it was because it was her first sale of the day.
Then we went to a weaving workshop in a large home. They do commissions from artists as well as their own designs for tapestry- woven rugs. The looms were huge as you can see. The wife is the dyer and we went up to the roof where the dye pots were cooking and skeins of yarns were drying. They used chemical dyes and do a big wholesale business in the US.
Then we went to see a husband and wife who do natural dyes on the wool yarn they use for their woven rugs. Dyeing with plants had not been done in Teotitlan for some years so they had to teach themselves. They now are world class dyers but he brags he never tries to match colors. I bought a runner that is like a sampler of many many natural dye colors. I hope I can get it home and I hope it will fir in my hallway! They dyed with cochineal today, not measuring a thing. The pictures show the before and after dyeing of the yarn.
Cochineal is like a scale or bug that grows on cactus. The dye is made from the dry bugs ground very fine. I smashed one on my hand and spit on it and got some red color. I had never seen the bugs growing on cactus leaves before. The dye had a huge impact on the economy in history. Maybe it was valued as much or more than the gold the Spaniards shipped back to Spain. I’m not entirely sure about the historical facts here.
The wife of the dyer had a wonderful expressive face. She was disagreeing mildly with her husband when I caught her lovely scowl. I loved her laughing face, too. They were young when they got married and couldn’t afford commercial dyes so began using local plants. It was a rags to riches story. Now they are quoted in books.
Our leader said there are 5000 people in the small town involved with weaving in some way. Our last stop was to the home of a candle maker who also had a big loom going. All around the loom were cactus leaves ready to be infused with cochineal bugs which will grow and multiply on them.
A young girl poured the melted wax on the candles to build up layers and layers. These long candles were made this way instead of dipping. The main candle maker is the older woman. Her specialty was fancy candles for festivals.
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