Archive for October, 2013

The Road to Luo Ma

Sunday, 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.



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Yum! Yarn!

We bought these new yarns to weave Thong.
This yarn is a plant fiber blend. It is approximately 90%+ cotton with the remainder perhaps hemp or some other natural fiber. We know it is natural fiber because we did the burn test.

This yarn is an animal fiber with touches of plant fiber blend. It contains wool, cashmere, some silk, and other natural fibers. The burn test has a fast moving orange flame, and the residue crumbles quickly into dust when rubbed between the fingers. Plus, it smells like burnt hair or such. There is no hint of man-made fiber in the mix.

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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!…

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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

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Work Smart

My mother, God rest her soul, would always drum into my head, “don’t work hard, work smart” because she saw I would work myself into the ground getting things done. It would drive me nuts. Now that she’s gone, would that she were around to say that again in relation to the Simply Warped store.


Drupal itself, Commerce Kickstart, Open Deals, and such, each has a learning curve. Learning curves are not bad in an of themselves, but the point is just to have the store up and running, to sell something and make some money instead of putting out money all the time. So, it’s time to rewind the tape and let my mother’s voice play.

Taking her words to heart, it’s best to have a very simple store with no CMS commerce software. Just your average everyday listing of what’s in stock, the price, and a PayPal link.

eBay sales are a viable option, but the fees are a killer! The Etsy fees aren’t so bad, but between Etsy and PayPal, a nice little chunk comes out of the profits. Since Simply Warped is a very small business, the money it makes is plough end back into the business, and there is some resentment of the fees, no matter how small they are. consider each fee paid thus: one less ball of yarn that that can be bought, one less kilo of yarn. So, sales will be conducted from this site and from the Etsy store where the fees paid are the price of reaching a wider audience.

Finally, there will be no more worrying about things; at Simply Warped, we’ll just ship yarn from China because there’ son one in the USA to handle shipping on a consistent basis. The cone yarn won’t be shipped from here, but things like silk batt, balls of yarn will be.

Yarn sales will be listed at Grapson!

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Curious to know how other people are selling yarn, I moseyed on over to eBay. I found balls of yarn selling there for $16.99, by a seller out of Shanghai. That means the seller is saying he paid 102 RMB per ball, or much less than that since he would’ve bought wholesale. That is crazy, not for the kind of yarn that was so priced. I’ve found boxes of high quality wool, NZ and Oz wools, for 300 RMB – 400 RMB. That box would usually contain four to six balls, along with a couple of spools of thread and small cones of yarn.

I guess, in the true spirit of free marketism, $16.99 is what the vendor thought the market could bear. The market is saying “no” because there was only one sale of the yarn.

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Dyeing Hemp

Dyeing hemp is not as easy as dyeing wool. For example, Kool-Aid will not work because hemp is natural plant fiber and Kool-Aid seems to work best on animal fibers, like wool.

So, what will work?

Dharma Trading Procion Dyes which will work on all natural plant fibers.

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