Redesigning a design

I’ve been weaving Men Without Limits on the small Mirrix. I started off using the design of a young graphic designer. That didn’t gel.

Then, I created my own design. That isn’t working out well either. I’m not sure what the problem is. I’ve asked myself ‘what does the phrase “men without limits” mean’? I’ve answered the question at length. The design incorporated the answer to the question. Yet, the weaving is more undo than do.

So, I’m starting again. The warp remains the same: 100% 60/8 mulberry silk. That a really strong and sweet warp which sits nicely and strongly on the Mirrix. The weft, now unwoven, was mostly silk and silk blends. It’s good to be a buyer and seller of silk.

Still, it wasn’t working out. For one, the design, in retrospect, looks over designed. It was symbolic. I mean, what’s a man without limits supposed to look like? You see?

Once, a long time ago, I saw a poster at MoMA Neptune Rising from the Foam. I didn’t buy it, and I’ve lived to regret that I didn’t from that day onward. It was primal, strong, powerful, beast-like. It was a man without limit. I don’t know who painted it, though I’ve long searched. It is that power, that force, energy, strength, primal beast ness that I want to capture in Men Without Limits.

How to do it without weaving the work of some long dead artist? So, it’s back to the design and the drawing book.

The Yarn Book

I used to plague my friend Ingrid about yarn sizes since she is definitely a more experienced weaver than I. Besides, I had tapestry yarns. Ingrid had and knew the rest, the linens, the cottolins, the wools, and such.

The last time I was in the USA, Ingrid gave me a page with a few samples of her linen yarns taped to it. That was the genesis of my Yarn Book.

What’s the Yarn Book? It’s a book in which I record information about every yarn I get as a sample or purchase, such as it’s composition, count, color shade, wraps per inch, microns, and price point. The book is instructional and could not have been put together without the help of vendors who sent samples so I could see sizes and colors and, in this way, be able to make good yarn-buying business decisions.

The day will come when I won’t need a yarn book; then, it will be educational for someone else.

Silk Making

Zheng is a silk farmer who, perhaps in the way of silk farmers, has a room on the ground floor of his house for silk cocoon making.
On the rough concrete floor of this dim room, Zheng has used red bricks to make a path for him to walk into the room to check the process. On the floor and around these bricks, is a thick layer of mulberry leaves, and above those is a carpet of white silk worms diligently eating away at the leaves.
Part of the process involves using powdered limestone, shíhuī, as a disinfectant, so Zheng sprinkles this powder on the mulberry leaves and silkworms to ensure this part of the silk making process is untainted by anything.

In two weeks to a month, Zheng said, the next stage will begin, and that is likely to be the cocooning of the silk worms. Once that is done, Zheng will sell a bag of silk on the cocoon, cánbâo, for about 20 RMB or $3.33 per pound.

In silk making, nothing is wasted. The worms can be cut out of the cocoons and cooked into a great tasting dish.

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.


The Fragrance of Raw Silk

Raw silk has a unique fragrance all its own. It’s a silky perfume that whispers “rich, decadent, luxurious, yum!” It just invites you to “bury your nose in me. You know you want to!” That invitation is irresistible.

Today, by happenstance, we bought silk batting, a lovely, rich white and creamy silk from mulberry-leaf-fed silkworms. We were walking along Gucheng Road after a trip to the bank when, lo and behold, we spied raw silk batting in the window of a silk shop.
Drawn by the prospect of caressing and inhaling that decadently luxurious silk fragrance, we went into the store and engaged the clerks in conversation. The upshot was a purchase of two pieces of silk batting. One piece is 1.6 KGs and almost the size of a full sized bed. The other piece is .1 KG and was purchased to experiment with spinning silk yarn.

This wonderful and richly fragranced length of silk batting can be yours for $130 USD, plus $30 shipping.
Just think of pampering yourself with a luxurious silk-filled comforter or a winter jacket with a wondrously warm silk-filled jacket lining.

UPDATE: Images added.

Of Blogging Platforms and Silk

After several months on Drupal, we decided that working smart was the wiser course. So, the websites built on Drupal got wiped, and they were started anew from exports of the old sites. So far, it seems that links are working.

However, this is a work in progress to be addressed when we’re not teaching/weaving/resting/or doing some other thing that we want to do.

This weekend, we are going to silk farming country to look at some silk worms, hopefully get another mulberry tree, and to buy some silk, yarn and fabric. Some old ladies have yards upon yards of beautifully woven silk that they are keen to get rid of. The fabric was woven in 1980, and when you consider that the kind of looms on which they worked, likely without temples, the edges are remarkably straight.

Sadly, weaving is a lost art in much of China because the young are content with store-bought and see no value in hand-wovens. The elderly say that the young think hand-weaving is too much bother, too much time, though some of them know how to weave, if they live in farming country, that is. Such a pity that so great a skill is dying out.

Perhaps if we have time, we may return to the silk farming community with the new Ashford and sit at the feet of the old women and learn a thing or two.