The Road to Luo Ma

Yesterday, we went to Luo Ma to hunt down some fabric.

Luo Ma is a small dusty village three hours or so away from the city where we live, and getting there means two long bus rides interspersed with another long waiting period.

The journey commenced at 10 AM when four of us boarded the 701 bus to Ba Miao. Our company consisted of three men and one woman, one of the men being the guide to the village, the other a friend, and the last a young student of the friend.

Being a foreigner traveling through China is not for the faint of heart. One must have the equanimity to deal smilingly with the stares of strangers who may have never encountered a foreigner or sat next to a person of African descent before. Additionally, one must be aware that the curiosity of locals is boundless so that people listen unashamedly to one’s conversations in some hope, sometimes vain, that they may gain insight into the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the foreigner. Some people wilt under such intensely curious examination; we don’t because that curiosity is well met and returned on our part.

Anyway, on the bus, our friend enquired of a young male traveler concerning good food to be had in Ba Miao. That focus on food is one of the interesting facets of life in China, along with being regaled with stories of “famous” place. In fact, it may even be considered a standing joke by expats that every place in China is “famous” for its noodles or some other thing. So, it was with no surprise that we heard the young traveler declare that Ba Miao is famous for its noodles, a staple of Chinese life, and recommend that we lunch on it.

Upon our arrival in Ba Miao some twenty minutes to noon, our friends expressed their intention to fill their hungry bellies. That is another unsurprising part of life here since the Chinese prefer to eat at set times, without much deviation. As we are not given much to eating when on various expeditions, such as shopping or knocking around town, we did grumble at having to stop for the “famous” Ba Miao noodles but yielded to the in-built local clocks.

The noodle joint was packed with diners, and we placed our order and settled in for a long wait. When the food came, we wondered why Ba Miao noodles were “famous”.

After lunch, we meandered to the bus station, bought tickets, and waited for a while, only to discover that the Luo Ma bus was not going to come into the station. We had to go out to the street and meet it. The driver, for some reason unknown to us, insisted on rolling the bus as we were about to board, which caused our hesitation. The guide then said the driver would move up to a small gap in the side walk and let us board there, apparently because he could remain in queue only so long before moving to allow others to take his place.

The road to Luo Ma is long and dusty. White dust. Clayey red dust. Along it are unpaved and rutted lanes leading to other communities. Their dusty-clay and pocked surfaces convey the legend of their appearance after a rainfall. On either side of the road are fields of corn and other vegetables or mulberry plants. At some points along the way, the plants and other vegetation have resigned themselves to the dusty domination of the roads and yielded their verdancy.

So, rolling along, sometimes bumpily, we came to the sparse, signboarded junction that is Luo Ma and disembarked.


Hemp Google

Hell-bent on finding other interesting weaving projects for the two squat, fat cones of hemp in our possesion, we Googled “hemp weaving projects”. The results were fascinating, to say the least.

Clicking though from page to page was akin to wearing tie-dyes and a flower in the hair. Most of the projects were for hippie-type hempen bracelets or jewelry, or macrame. The one oasis of regular weaving in a sea of hempen bracelet insanity was Paloma Textiles, to whom we linked earlier.

Perhaps we should sponsor a great hemp yarn fabric weave in in which we give away one of the fat cones of hemp with the caveat that the winner must use it to weave something on a floor, table, tapestry, or rigid heddle loom.

What are your thoughts on that?

Weaving with Hemp

As everyone is likely aware by now, because we insist on saying it aloud, we know next to nothing about weaving anything that is not tapestry. We do know how to warp the loom–God be praised! So, to weave even a table mat, we must address ourselves to a book and follow the instructions diligently.

The determination to put the new Ashford to some stellar yeoman service requires some research if the goal is to be fulfilled. That quest led to this delightful discovery over at Elizabeth’s Fiber & Yarn Store

Determining Yardage with Count System Yardages for size 1 Fiber Count
Cotton, spun silk 840
Linen, hemp, jute, ramie 300
Woolen Yarn 256
Worsted Yarn 560

For Higher Count: Multiply the count times the yardage of size 1.
Size 20 (20/1) Cotton or Silk.
Multiple 840 yards by 20 = 16,800 yds/lb
The Second number indicates number of plies. Count Yardage/per lb
20/1 16800
20/2 8400
20/3 5600

Determine Sett using WPI, wraps per inch. epi, Ends per inch Balanced plain weave, WPI / 2 = epi
Warp face plain weave, WPI X 2 = epi
Weft face plain weave: WPI / 3 = epi
Balanced 2/2 twill: WPI x 2/3 = epi

It also yielded these two weaving prospects from Paloma Textiles: Weaving Notes: a hemp scarf and a gauzy hemp sample.

Now we are loaded for bear, er, hemp.

The Hemp

The two cones of 100% hemp yarn, 8.5/1 and 10/2, came two days ago.
The cones are short, squat, fat cones of hemp weighing about 1.6 KG each. That’s a lot of hemp yarn.

Well, it so happens that we are expecting the new 32″ Ashford rigid heddle loom in a week or two. We don’t wish to say that we are slavering, but we are salivating at the prospect of experimenting with the hemp.

What to weave? We requested and the vendor agreed to replace the usual 7.5 dent heddle for a 12.5 dent one. Whoo-hoo! Sure, it is possible to weave rugs with a 7.5 dent heddle, or at least we, in our blessed ignorance, think so. However, with a 12.5 dent heddle it is even more possible to weave BOTH rugs AND tapestry, or whatever captures our fancy.

The point of the acquisition is merely to learn to weave. To learn the fine art of weaving with a mindset towards applying the new knowledge and skills gained to the weaving of tapestry. It’s all about tapestry with us, where the rubber hits the road. Every loom we have is for tapestry. We delight and wallow in it.

So, if that means weaving towels and other such cloths, we will take our lead from other weavers who have mastered the art of cloth-weaving. It is a fine and grand adventure we shall set upon when that Ashford arrives.

The hemp will play a signficant role in it. Will 10/2 hemp be adequate for warp, or will it be better suited to weft? What about 8.5/1?

Who knows? The weaving gods know! Tune in, same time, same channel!…

New Yarns

100% undyed, unbleached, natural 8.5/1, 10/2 hemp. The vendor’s sample was persuasive but the price grumbleworthy.

They are now trying to entice us into yarn over-reach by sending a sample of 20/1 undyed cotton.

Why so much undyed yarns? When you’re not big enough to buy the range of colors, you buy the one color that customers can dye for themselves.

The hemp yarn, it’s not rope, will be available in small and large amounts. Buyers can pre-order by email.