Thursday, December 10, 2015

Scarf and X´mas Market

This new scarf in on its way to Melbourne, Australia. I hope it makes it in time for X´mas. I also hope it makes someone very happy on the other side, who will have to wait quite some time before they get to wear it. 

I am also happy to announce that on the 19th of December, a saturday, I´ll be at the X´mas Market in Portimão, hosted by the Contramaré Association. It will be a very fun day, so if you are on this side of the world come down and say hello and support the locals.

This also means that I need to get my act together and start weaving instead of looking for that elusive 4 leaf clover. There has to be at least one out there, I swear it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Small blanket.

Blanket off the loom,
the grass really is greener,
almond trees blooming.

The blanket hanging from the small verandah, as it came off the loom in one long strip, reminds me of the blankets and quilts hung the same way during religious processions. It did look nice in one long piece. After separating the 2 pieces I joined them using the invisible stitch technique, but because my selvages are double threaded it looks anything but invisible. Either way, I like the fact that you can see that the 2 pieces were clearly joined, much like the blankets made on traditional narrower looms. Only when I was doing the "Papa blanket" workshop did I get to use a traditional loom that was wide enough to make a blanket in one go. Otherwise all the older woven blankets etc. got their desired width from joining 2 or 3 lengths side by side.

The weather is only today asking for a little blanket like this, so the timing is perfect.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Blanket and Bread.

Louro waited and waited and the cows came home, the wrong home, because the grass really was greener on the other(this) side. It was a pretty sight that thankfully did not last too long, we sure could have done with more cow poop, but these beautiful beasts would have ruined what is left of our nice stone walls.

This week I am weaving a small blanket, in 2 parts because my loom is not wide enough. I´ll have to sew the parts together much like in the old days when the looms were also narrower. Along with the wool I normally use I am trying a new wool from Guarda to see how it holds up. So far it is proving to make a bit of a mess and lose lots of little fibres as well as contain some dry vegetable matter that I have to pick out. Otherwise, the lightweight blanket is looking pretty good.

We also got the fire started to test our oven and baked this weekend, bread and folares, a sweet bread normally made at Easter. Urze helped clean the bread bowl and liked it. And the baking was generally successful, but we´ll have to make some minor adjustments next time. The bread and cakes go into the oven on palm leaves so as not to stick to the oven floor, get dirty or burn. When these palms are removed they leave the pretty mark you see on the base of the bread. The palm we used is a native dwarf palm, the chamaerops humilis, also used to make baskets, bags, containers, mats, etc.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


A slightly blurred picture of a Japanese Loom because I am so excited to announce that the Fundação Oriente have awarded me a partial short Term Scholarship to study Kasuri at the Kawashima Textile School in Kyoto, Japan, Spring 2016. All donations to this cause will be kindly accepted ;-)

A big thank you to all who helped so far. And if all goes well, next year, JAPAN!!!!!! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dipsacus- Teasel thistle

I recently noticed on a field near us dry thistles that reminded me of the ones that we had been shown at a "Papa" blanket weaving workshop I attended back in 2013. At the time I found it rather strange that a single thistle would be used to card or lift the nap of the blankets one at a time. It just seemed so time consuming compared to the carding machines that we were shown at the recently closed factory nearby, that had huge drums with horrible looking metal spikes to do the same job. These machines are called raising gigs.

Coincidently that same week, I noticed in a book I had just bought (The Complete Spinning Book, Candace Crockett, 1978), and the second image you see, an example of carders using the same thistles. Now this made much more sense. The description of the image reads "These early California carders from the Spanish days are made of common thistles mounted between two slats. There is some question about whether they were used for carding fibers or for raising the nap on woven fabric.(Photograph courtesy of the Oakland Museum.)" In another book that I had bought also that same week I came across another image of an instrument that used thistles. The book is in Dutch, so I am not sure what it says about these but they are commonly called paddles, crosses or hands, and are described as being used to raise the nap of the fabric. 

But it got more interesting when I searched for this thistle and I found them on Alibaba as being sold by the tonne. It was then that I realized that there were raising gigs that used these thistles still today. Crazier still I found that these half metal and wood half thistle machines had been developed as early as the sixteenth century in England. But of course this also made more sense for the blanket industry.

As to what kind of thistle we had found on our nearby field, well, Urze the puppy that devours gardening books, got straight on the case of identification but had no luck, perhaps because the book was upside down, in German and she can´t see so well (she´s more of a feeler/sniffer). I on the other hand can say with the help of wikipedia the teasel thistle we found is not really the one that is used more commonly for the job as seen from the various pictures including the one I took at the workshop, which seems to have a longer flower head and is a wild variety. Ours is most likely the Dipsacus liciniatus. But I assume our teasel can also be used for the same purpose. Above all I am relieved to know that it is unlikely that anyone ever had to card a blanket using a single thistle.

Around here I am told that bunches of these thistles were painted using water colours and sold at the markets back in the olden days. I am sure they would make nice arrangements although a little spiky and would be better used to clean cobwebs or chimneys than to grace vases. Just sayin´.

To end on a sweet note, the last photo shows the most delicious Lemon Drizzle Cake, with hand made sugar flowers, both made by my friend Helen. The cake was delicious and the flowers outstandingly beautiful and so well crafted. The photo does not do it any of any justice. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

New Start.

As is the case, now and then, a long time passes before I can post. But as always, better late than never. The reason for the latest lack of posting was the fact that I have just moved from Meimão where I had been based for the last 4 years to Sargaçal near Lagos. It is a very welcome move for many reasons and I couldn´t be happier. The only problem is that moving is generally tiring and this really was a huge move with lots of very long trips in-between, a lot of furniture and boxes to pack and a whole studio and a new place to fix before we even got started. But I guess this is all normal and part of moving. Needless to say the studio is not yet set up, and because the space I´ll call studio for now is also much smaller, chaos is about the only way to describe the way it looks at the moment as well as the way it is progressing in terms of set up. I can´t wait to get it all back on track so I can start to weave again.

Before I moved I still managed to make a few scarves, the blue and grey one was a long overdue birthday gift. I also managed to help a dear friend of mine with the corn harvest. The loom was set up with another scarf, this time a pink, purple orange and yellow number and it remains set up and dismantled up against a wall.

But not all is bad if we can spare a few minutes to have a cup of tea in the new op shop found wedgewood cups. And all the better now because there are new fruits to collect: almonds, figs, pomegranates and the latest olives which mature super early down south, but maybe not so surprisingly considering the weather is so much warmer here. Autumn has already started and it is still perfectly good to go to the beach.

And because puppies are the cutest things on earth, I introduce you to Urze, the newest addition to the family. She is lovely.

And now I return to "a place for everything and everything in its place".

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sundress and NY fabric.

On another trip to the sunday markets, a few weeks ago, this time at the small town of Espiche, I found these lovely fabrics. The first came with a paper taped to it with very specific instructions as what it should be used for, pattern number and everything, VOGUE 8947 to be specific, sundress + jacket etc. I thought this was really quite cool and got straight on the job of finding the pattern, which was really quite easy. So the next step, and what really made sense, was to buy the pattern, which arrived a few days ago, and make the dress, to finally give this bit of fabric the end for which it was purchased and planned for back in 1974. The pattern size is just a little too small for me so I´ll have to make some alterations for which I´ll require the assistance of my aunty Catarina, who is an expert in these matters. I can´t wait to make this dress. The jacket I´ll manage quite well without.

Cute puppy alert!
Mr. Louro looking very handsome.

On the same pile of fabrics was also a length of cotton satin purchased from McCutcheon´s of Fifth Avenue, New York. Wow. I imagine this is as close as I´ll get to New York for now. This Department store opened at this location in 1925. I found a McCutcheon´s postcard for sale. On the back of the postcard it reads "McCutcheon´s founded in 1855, is known for its adherence to quality and for exceptional values in its fine Linens, its wonderful Fabrics, Home Furnishings, Ready-to-Wear, Accessories, Handkerchiefs, and Gifts. You are cordially invited to visit our store when you come to the New York World´s Fair. The Answer Shop will solve your gift problems with ease and originality." There were 2 World Fairs in NY, one in 1939 and another in 1964. I am not sure which one the postcard refers to, but if I had to guess by looking all those gangster cars it is most likely from 1939. Nor am I sure when this fabric is from, but I like this story anyway.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rasta Scarf and Deco Prints.

Thirty something degree heat is not exactly the ideal environment to weave 100% wool scarves. The knowledge this bespoke scarf will be going to the snowy slopes of New Zealand, however, does help to cool things down a little. Or maybe a cool bevvie would do the trick! But the scarf is finished and ready to post and the loom is ready to be set up again.

Mr. Louro, the new puppy is looking good these days. Today he was invited to a Puppy Party! I bet he is very excited about that.

This last weekend the second hand markets in Lagos were quite interesting and fruitful. I bought 2 original Jennie Harbour illustrations, hand printed by Raphael Tuck and Sons, ltd. from London. Jennie Harbour was an art deco illustrator that lived between 1893 and 1959 and these prints are likely from somewhere between 1917 and 1929. There is little known about Jennie and most about her can be found on this site. One print is called "A Rosy Ruse" and the other "Miselle Demure". They are both just beautiful as are all her illustrations.