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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 6:55 am 
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Still wishing to promote the batik of South East Guizhou and increase awareness of the quality and variety, I would like to share with the forum some quilt covers made by the Ge Jia and the Rao Jia peoples.

Although the Ge Jia’s main focus for their batik was their female wedding and festival clothing and child related items such as baby carriers, quilt covers were also made. However, it seems probable that comparatively few families made them since there are so few Ge Jia quilt covers in existence, and from what I have been told, the habit largely died out 60 or so years ago.

Ge Jia batik is generally thought of as being full, with every space being filled with rich and complex imagery. Usually, their work starts with a symmetrical base, which, although giving a rigid, emotionless feeling, allows for embellishment using a large variety of patterns that can soften the overall appearance and gives each piece its individuality. Ge Jia quilt covers follow this basic style, being both formal and symmetrical in design, and, because of their comparatively large size, tend to use motifs that are big and bold, which, although lacking in the fine detail and delicacy of other Ge Jia batik, give a strong and immediate impact.

Of the three quilt covers shown below, the first one makes the greatest impact with its large fish and butterfly motifs. From the style it is probably the youngest, perhaps 2nd quarter 20th C. The second is the oldest, certainly being early 20th C and possibly older and uses a very old style of bird. The third is probably between the first two in age, and uses large bird patterns, that include 4 abstracted eagles.


Attachments:
File comment: Ge Jia batik quilt cover no.1
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover--3.1.jpg
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover--3.1.jpg [ 60.7 KiB | Viewed 18294 times ]
File comment: Ge Jia batik quilt cover no.1 (detail)
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover-3.2.jpg
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover-3.2.jpg [ 50.78 KiB | Viewed 18294 times ]
File comment: Ge Jia batik quilt cover no.2
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover-10.1.jpg
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover-10.1.jpg [ 59.59 KiB | Viewed 18294 times ]
File comment: Ge Jia batik quilt cover no.2 (detail)
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover-10.2.jpg
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover-10.2.jpg [ 50.17 KiB | Viewed 18294 times ]
File comment: Ge Jia batik quilt cover no.3
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover-9.1.jpg
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover-9.1.jpg [ 61.01 KiB | Viewed 18294 times ]


Last edited by Andrew Dudley on Mon Apr 11, 2005 7:16 am, edited 2 times in total.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:01 am 
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The second group of quilt covers are by the Rao Jia, a small group that live in Majiang county in south east Guizhou and who are currently classified as a subgroup of the Yao. The Rao Jia specialize in making batik quilt covers (some are still made today) and every female would have been expected to provide a quilt cover as part of her dowry. Batik is also used for their head-scarves, and child related items. Since they and their batik only came to prominence at the end of the 1990s, very little is known about them. They use maple tree resin mixed with ox fat oil (as far as I know, no bees wax is added) as their resist material, which requires considerable care in its preparation and use. They also use traditional bamboo pens/tools to apply the resist, which, when combined with the quick drying nature of the resist material, makes the batik process incredibly slow and difficult.

The 5 examples below give an idea of the variety of styles used by the Rao Jia, whose quilt covers tend to be even more full than Ge Jia covers. Despite being basically symmetrical and formal in design, the often large spaces available for infill provide plenty of opportunity for individuality and personal expression. Motifs include birds, fish, butterflies, bees and various forms of dragon.

For the Rao Jia, it is quite common to dye their batik pieces twice, giving a pale blue pattern on a dark indigo base, as in covers no.2 & 5. Cover no.1 is very full, with beautifully drawn birds and fish etc. No.2 has many small birds hidden within the general patterning (see detail). No.3 is a less crowded and complex style, although it still has many small birds hiding in the tree branches or disguised as leaves and buds (see detail). No.4 has a very striking central circle with birds, butterflies and bats(?) inside.

They are all certainly from the 1st half 20th C. although it is possible the first two at least are from the 1st quarter (dates given at purchase generally range from 70-100+ years old although “more than 100 years old” has become the standard response to age!).


Attachments:
File comment: Rao Jia batik quilt cover no.1
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-100.1.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-100.1.jpg [ 55.45 KiB | Viewed 18296 times ]
File comment: Rao Jia batik quilt cover no.1 (detail)
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-100.2.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-100.2.jpg [ 133.19 KiB | Viewed 18296 times ]
File comment: Rao Jia batik quilt cover no.1 (detail)
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-100.3.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-100.3.jpg [ 54.81 KiB | Viewed 18296 times ]
File comment: Rao Jia batik quilt cover no.2
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-110.1.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-110.1.jpg [ 60.39 KiB | Viewed 18296 times ]
File comment: Rao Jia batik quilt cover no.2
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-110.2.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-110.2.jpg [ 47.02 KiB | Viewed 18296 times ]
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:12 am 
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More Rao Jia batik quilt covers


Attachments:
File comment: Rao Jia batik quilt cover no.3
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-123.1.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-123.1.jpg [ 59.81 KiB | Viewed 18294 times ]
File comment: Rao Jia batik quilt cover no.3 (detail)
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-123.2.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-123.2.jpg [ 59.4 KiB | Viewed 18294 times ]
File comment: Rao Jia batik quilt cover no.4
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-124.1.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-124.1.jpg [ 52.02 KiB | Viewed 18294 times ]
File comment: Rao Jia batik quilt cover no.4 (detail)
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-124.2.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-124.2.jpg [ 53.71 KiB | Viewed 18294 times ]
File comment: Rao Jia batik quilt cover no.5
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-116.1.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-116.1.jpg [ 60.62 KiB | Viewed 18294 times ]
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2005 9:55 pm 
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Andrew

As you know, I need no persuasion of the merits of wax resist from China. Thank so very much for sharing these very special textiles with us. I very much appreciate not only the photos but your very careful and helpful explanation of both ethnic groups and their use of wax resist bed covers. I did not realise that the Rao Jia are currently treated as a subgroup of the Yao rather than the Miao. I also don't tend to think of the Yao in terms of wax resist (although the Dao Tien of the Kam Mien in northern Vietnam have a wax resist skirt).

Ever since you showed us the first piece of Rao Jia wax resist from your collection I have found their draughtsmanship to be of the highest order. That it not meant at all to take away from their artistry as they have such control of the technique that the ebb and flow of the overall design has great balance, panache and movement. Thanks for pointing out the birds hiding in the bed covers of both groups. It would be very easy to miss them. I always like art (and these are art to me) that has several layers - the overall design and all the sub-plots hidden within. I enjoy the fact that, although at first glance there seems to be balance in the covers, the wax artists have not been martyrs to symetry in the designs.

One must not forget the double waxing as well as dyeing to get the two shades of blue. Andrew, is the base fabric itself hand-spun and woven, at least of the earliest examples? When you imagine the huge investment of time and labour in creating these works of art it never ceases to amaze me living as we do in an instant gratification society! I know that you value and appreciate them - I am pleased that they have such a good 'home'. To me there is no doubt that these pieces stand up against the very best Indonesian batik. Of course, these wax resist pieces from China have only been used for simple, ordinary folk, not people of 'status' within Chinese society and therefore the textiles tend not to be accorded status either. However, I think these quality pieces are likely to have belonged to people of status within their own community because they are so fine. I am sure that they would ahve been used for very special occasions and to 'dress' a bed for special people.

I have just taken a closer look at one of the bird clusters in your Rao Jia No 1 bed quilt. This little detail posted below sums it all up for me - and makes me smile!


Attachments:
File comment: interlocking bird detail from Andrew's Rao Jia quilt No 1
R.jpg
R.jpg [ 44.56 KiB | Viewed 18286 times ]

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Last edited by Pamela on Wed May 25, 2005 8:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 7:49 pm 
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Andrew

I was thinking about your bed covers last night and thinking how amazingly they have been waxed so that the lines of the waxed white lines meet up so very well despite the fact that the background fabric has been joined in 2 or 3 strips. In the case of the first 2 Ge Jia covers they really look as if they have been waxed after the strips of fabric have been joined together. However, especially in the first one - ccver 3 - the central panel of fabric is a darker shade of indigo suggesting that it has been dyed separately (and possibly dipped an extra time).

When the strips of fabric are waxed they are usually dipped in water which has been used to rinse rice and retains some rice starch. The wet fabric is smoothed out flat and hung to dry smooth and flat. It is then fixed to a piece of flat wood - I have seen this fixing done by lines of wax around the edges of the fabric so that the hot wax penetrates the fabric and adheres to the wood as it hardens.

When you think how difficult it is to create a flowing, balanced and basically matching design through all the challenges of separate strips and only being able to see a small part of the strip being waxed at a time it is a tour de force. I have some photos from a White Collar Miao village in the Duyun area of Guizhou province taken in Nov 2001 in Ma Guang village, Ji Chang township, Duyun city. We visited a house in the village where the mother of the householder was one of only 3 old ladies in the village still creating wax resist bed covers. We were told that some of these were coffin covers but we didn't know if this was true or a tale for the visitors! Of course, bed covers can also be used as coffin covers. In the same house there was a very formal, geometric design in the process of being waxed and not yet dyed. There were 2 separate halves at the waxing stage. The wax is reused after the dyeing and so, in the following photo, the wax shows as indigo as it has taken on some colour from previous dyeings - but this represents the negative image of how the final design will appear as the dark wax will be white. In the same house there were bed covers - both two halves joined and halves before joining but already dyed and with the wax removed. These covers were a completely different style - free flowing and with birds, fish, plants and bugs. Whilst make a strong statement they illustrate just how very fine are the Ge Jia and Rao Jia covers that Andrew has shared with us above.

I am also going to share a photo of the elderly waxer. Her costume is without the more formal festival jacket with which we are familiar in the Sandu, Danzhai and Duyun area which has large circles of wax resist sometimes with circular lines of added pink or yellow dye painted on.

I hope that Andrew does not mind me posting these photos on this thread. I can, if necessary, split the thread and just place a link to it.


Attachments:
File comment: A waxed, dyed and joined formal White collar Miao bed/coffin cover from Ma Guang village
0111F13e.jpg
0111F13e.jpg [ 64.83 KiB | Viewed 18260 times ]
File comment: The formal design partly waxed on one of the 2 strips for a bed or coffin cover. The dark wax will be white lines on a dark background after dyeing
0111E27e.jpg
0111E27e.jpg [ 59.12 KiB | Viewed 18262 times ]
File comment: One half of a fish design for a bed cover after waxing and dyeing but before being joined together with its pair
0111E34e.jpg
0111E34e.jpg [ 43.54 KiB | Viewed 18262 times ]
File comment: Two halves of a bed cover joined together with a flowing pictorial design after waxing and dyeing
0111E28e.jpg
0111E28e.jpg [ 58.97 KiB | Viewed 18262 times ]
File comment: Two halves of a bed cover joined together with a flowing pictorial design after waxing and dyeing
0111E35e.jpg
0111E35e.jpg [ 57.44 KiB | Viewed 18262 times ]
File comment: An elderly White collar Miao waxer from Ma Guang village Ji Chang township, Duyun city, who had waxed the bed covers shown in this group of photos
0111F04e.jpg
0111F04e.jpg [ 29.9 KiB | Viewed 18262 times ]

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2005 8:02 pm 
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...just so that you do know which Miao group this is I am posting a pice of waxed and dyed fabric prepared for one of the festival jackets....

and, a woman wearing such a jacket (one of those textiles that 'got away' - I so wish that I had I stopped to buy it!)


Attachments:
File comment: White collar Miao woman wearing a wax resist jacket - Ma Guang village, Ji Chang township, Duyun city, Guizhou province (Nov 2001)
0111E25e.jpg
0111E25e.jpg [ 43.61 KiB | Viewed 18255 times ]
File comment: White collar Miao wax resist and dyed fabric for a sleeve of a festival jacket from Ma Guang village, Ji Chang township, Duyun city, Guizhou province (Nov 2001)
0111E37e.jpg
0111E37e.jpg [ 49.46 KiB | Viewed 18254 times ]

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2005 4:08 am 
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Pamela, thanks for your comments and observations above. In response, firstly, yes, all the covers are hand-spun and woven cotton cloth.

Given a choice, the Rao Jia would have liked to have been identified as a separate minority group, but in the 1950s, the powers-that-be decided to lump them in with the Miao. Then, in 1998, the Rao Jia in Majiang county agreed with the authorities to a change of status making them a branch of the Yao. Another group of Rao Jia living in Duyun county have remained with the Miao (for the time being).

About the two shades of blue used on some Rao Jia covers, this requires only one waxing, not two. After the usual batik process has been completed and the wax scraped and boiled off, the whole piece is dyed again to turn the white pattern a pale blue colour.

You make a good point about the difficulties in matching a pattern across the joins of the 2 or 3 pieces of cloth. There are many examples of covers where the patterns fail to meet at the join, particularly with the Bailing Miao (White Collar Miao), though the Ge Jia and Rao Jia were generally more successful, as is evident above. In the Ge Jia cover no.4 below, the top two pieces of cloth were sewn together before waxing, so the pattern flows over the join, which is pretty well invisible, but, because the dying vat would not have been big enough for a complete cover of 3 widths of cloth, the third piece was waxed separately and attached after dying leaving an obvious break in the pattern along the seam. Then there was also the problem of matching the design and style across the 2/3 pieces of material, the process perhaps being interrupted by a change in the weather, a crop that needed harvesting or even being completed by a different hand (see examples below).

Yes, the Bailing Miao did/do make and use batik coffin covers. These would always use the most traditional designs, such the one you show above, and would not include representations from nature such as birds, animals, plants etc. And yes, coffin covers were sometimes used as quilt covers, particularly by the old, the sick and the dying, who would use them to summon up the ancestors spirits/souls to help them recover, or more likely in readiness for their deaths and the task of helping guide their souls on the journey from this world to the next. If you will bear with me, I’ll get a collection of Bailing Miao covers together sometime in the future.


Attachments:
File comment: Ge Jia quilt cover no.4
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover--4.1.jpg
Ge-Jia-quilt-cover--4.1.jpg [ 64.1 KiB | Viewed 18242 times ]
File comment: Rao Jia quilt cover (detail of miss-matched pattern across join)
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-70.2.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-70.2.jpg [ 44.32 KiB | Viewed 18242 times ]
File comment: Rao Jia quilt cover (detail of miss-matched style across join)
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-88.2.jpg
Rao-Jia-quilt-cover-88.2.jpg [ 50.49 KiB | Viewed 18241 times ]
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:14 pm 
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Andrew-

Once again you have outdone yourself. Fabulous pieces. On the covers could you give us an idea of size.

Bill Hornaday


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 4:16 am 
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Andrew-
Thank you so much for such an interesting post. The pieces are so artful and your commentary very helpful in understanding and appreciating how they're made and how much work goes into each piece. Pamela's point about joining the panels and matching the painting is also very helpful; knowing more about the technical aspects adds to the appreciation.

With your specialized knowledge of these, perhaps you should consider writing a book. I, for one, would love to have a reference I could hold in my hands, and study. These works are really beautiful- you have a truly wonderful collection.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 7:34 pm 
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Andrew

Many thanks for the responses to my questions. I am particularly interested to read your information about the use by the Bailing (White collar) Miao and their use of coffin covers. Your explanation is very helpful. My sense was that it would be the formal design covers which would be the coffin covers of choice rather than the ones depicting plant and animal life. The use of valued textiles to cover coffins appears in several southeast asian groups including the Tai ('Contexts and Meanings in Tai Textiles; by H Leedom Lefferts, Jr. in 'Textiles and the Tai Experience in Southeast Asia' by Gittinger and Lefferts.)

Yes please, Andrew, a 'show and tell' of some Bailing covers from your collection would be something very much to look forward to! I will try and put together into a photogallery my photos of my 2001 village visit in the Duyun area which I feel are now enriched.

I am very taken with the Rao Jia 'join detail' 88.2 which you have posted. It creates a fascinating optical effect. The outside circumference of dots has the same diametre. The outer surface of the inner highly squiggly rings are similar and yet the dots and squiggles are much smaller/more compact on one side than the other. Difficult to judge if it is the same wax artist at different times or two different people!

Your Ge Jia quilt 4. is very, very interesting. It has a completely different 'feel' about it and has echoes of so many things that are not at all related to minority groups in China. (Somehow I can hear trumpets being blown and these are giant earthworms jiving!) Passing swiftly on.... In the top 2 strips (pre-joined) there is so much more freedom with the design placement. Fascinating to see how the waxer has tried to squash up the designs against the join so that the break does not cut across motifs but falls in between.

I strongly echo Susan's wish to see a book containing photos and explanatory text of your collection. If money were no object it should be one of the lovely Taiwan produced coffee-table size big, heavy volumes in heavy sleeves. Any chance you can interest anyone in publishing?

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2005 5:17 am 
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Bill, concerning the size of these covers, for the Rao Jia covers, the batik area is about 80cm x 130cm, with each width of cloth a fairly standard 40cm wide. The Ge Jia cover no.2 is 110cm x 160cm.

Pamela, can you tell me how much cloth could be made in a day on one of the wooden looms used by these folk, both for plain weave and for the White collar Miao’s diamond twill weave?

As far as a book is concerned, I too would like to see one, but time, family, and a lack of information are a constant problem. However, the forum is helping me to focus and to get a few ideas down in a coherent manner, so thanks once again to Pamela for providing us all with this opportunity to get our personal messages across and to share knowledge, ideas and experiences.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2005 8:17 pm 
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Andrew

Difficult to say exactly how long it would take to weave the cloth. I am not (yet) a weaver so I can't say, 'well, it would take me .... to weave such a length'. However, with weaving, it is the setting up of the loom which takes the major part of the time. Weaving plain cloth would not take a great deal of time if a woman sat down and concentrated on weaving. Of course if the weft thread is very fine it takes a bit longer. I would say that a weaver could weave a metre a day, perhaps more, if she concentrated at it. The diamond twill weave should not take too much longer because she would have sheds set up to lift different sets of warps to create the pattern. Again it is the setting up of the loom which takes the time. If you think with home-spun thread this has to be created first, then the thread wound onto spindles and then the thread warped up before threading it though the sheds before any weaving happens.

I am posting a photo of a Qing Miao woman weaving on an upright loom which has been set up with a small number of different sheds to lift different warp threads. However, I do not think it is set up for a very complex pattern. I have seen a look set up for a complex diamond weave and there were many more sheds.


Attachments:
File comment: Qing Miao woman weaving in Gan He village, Ya Rong township, Huishui county, Guizhou province in 2001
0110E06e.jpg
0110E06e.jpg [ 52.92 KiB | Viewed 18182 times ]

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 4:05 pm 
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Andrew and Pamela:

Since weaving production time is something I know about, I’ll inject a few comments. What most people see as “preliminaries” are definitely the most time-consuming. It is generally conceded that to clean and card or comb wool, or to prepare cotton for spinning, FIVE people are required to keep ONE spinner supplied with fibers ready to go. Then it takes FIVE spinners to keep ONE weaver supplied with spun (and sometimes plied) yarns! (This is with average size yarns. The formula would vary if the yarns were extremely fine, or extremely coarse.) Then if the yarns are to be dyed that can be a long process…both for gathering and preparing dye materials, and for the dye processes themselves. You can imagine the time involved if one person is doing all of these tasks. You can also see why ready-made yarns in the marketplace are so appealing to weavers, and why commercial fabrics are so appealing to people doing appliqué or batik! And why production boomed in most places when yarns and fabrics became commercially available. Of course not mentioned above is growing the cotton or other fibers (or raising the sheep) in the first place.

Preparing a warp, setting up a loom and weaving, in comparison to the processes above, is comparatively FAST! Whether a loom has two harnesses (shafts) or the four harnesses needed for producing a diamond twill makes little difference in the time requirements…a slight difference in treadling time maybe. But diamond twills are most often woven with a coarse yarn or else you wouldn’t see the pattern. For a plain weave, in a fairly fine cloth, if the weaver had bobbins wound and at hand, she should be able to produce a meter’s length in an hour or an hour and a half….for a coarse cloth, much more. It’s all those specialized hand-picked brocades and warp-patterned weaves, tapestry, etc. that require LONG HOURS—which can require a day’s work to produce just a few inches.

Marla Mallett


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 6:19 pm 
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One more note: In the loom photo above, the weaver has four harness frames, but she has bound them together and hung them together so that they work as just two shafts. This was either a short cut to avoid having to move heddles from one harness to the other, or a simple way of crowding in more warps. She is doing a plain tabby weave. She of course may be adding brocade ornamentation, picking those special pattern sheds by hand…we can’t see that, because the beater is in the way.

Marla


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 6:30 pm 
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Still one more! Preparing a warp and setting up a loom with a cloth width that is typical in these areas (and like that in the pic above) and with yarns no finer than those shown in the pic, should be an easy half day's work.

Marla


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