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.