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 Post subject: Floor Rug, Li Tribe?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 04, 2008 2:06 am 
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Location: Wisconsin & Yunnan, China
I am looking for advice on whether this may perhaps be a floor rug from the Li Tribe. This is from a collection which we have been asked to look at (not sell). I have never seen rugs from the Li tribe and wondering if they are not in fact, blankets. The size is 67 x 44.5 inches, woven and made from tree fibers and vegetable dyes. Age is estimated to be mid-20th cent. Has anyone seen similar pieces before either in or outside China? I am also wondering what kind of prices they might sell on the open market. Thanks for the help, this is my first posting on the forum. Jeanee


Attachments:
Li Rug bottom detail.jpg
Li Rug bottom detail.jpg [ 63.54 KiB | Viewed 10395 times ]
Li Rug back.jpg
Li Rug back.jpg [ 53.83 KiB | Viewed 10395 times ]
Li Rug top detail.jpg
Li Rug top detail.jpg [ 67.79 KiB | Viewed 10395 times ]
Li Rug 67x44.jpg
Li Rug 67x44.jpg [ 62.37 KiB | Viewed 10395 times ]
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 10:20 am 
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Jeanee

Please can you give us some close-up photos of the weaving especially the central panels. It is hard to say much from the photos so far except that, to me, they have an attractive hue of natural dyes. As the resulting textile - to me a coverlet/blanket - although attractive is generally utilitarian rather than decorative and thus perhaps not something which has found its way into the general collectors market and so is not so immediately identifiable.

I have been in touch with one or two people with interest in and experience of Li textiles and hope they may be able to help. One such is Eric Kindberg who has been living among the Li in Hainan for four years or so working with the local people in organic agricultural development and who is interested in supporting the Li to synthesis their textile skills into modern apparel and household furnishings. He has a large collection of textile photos of all 5 Li language groups accumulated during his time in Hainan along with numerous real examples of their textiles. He also lives next door to the museum. Eric came back to me this morning asking for detail photos:
Quote:
"Have you felt the material? There are no rugs in Li homes in recent years, since after the war, because they stopped building raised floor houses, plus there is no wear pattern on these that I can see. The two kinds of tree cottons used for spinning and weaving are rather fine, but very short fiber making for technical problems in using. The very large cotton bush plant in different colors is short fiber but is very close related to real cotton and evidently works well. But, the most common plant for spinning/weaving among Li is some kind of sessile plant. It first feels rough, but actually is pretty soft. The textile you show looks like this material.

On pattern, I need an enlargement of the details, but generally there are numerous finished textiles that look like what you picture. Collectors do not tend to buy this type of skirt or it could cover a child if needed. It is too plain. But, there are many of them.

(He sent me the image below) from the museum here shot through glass which makes it not so clear. It might be within a flat indigo piece of textile as you show.

If you send me a close up shot I can tell better.

best, eric"

I was looking at a couple of detail photos that Eric sent me some time ago of some modern Li weaving executed by mature weavers. Some of the design does look somewhat similar to that in the central band are darker weaving in the textile shown by Jeanee. Again, only close up details will let us know.

I am also very, very interested to know whether the patterns are created by weft or warp techniques. Are the stretches of textile joined in several places (as one would see in textiles of the Li speaking the Li dialect)? The designs shown in Eric's photo here seem to be warp-faced. I was looking in 'Traditional Culture of Li Ethnic Group' last night. No luck with any blankets. Some of the designs which are in the central panels (of Jeanee's photos) could be similar to that in a Li Shaman's jacket shown in the book. The pattern in this jacket is also warp faced.

I am attaching a photo of the weaving in a man's jacket (from a sleeve), I think from the Li speaking the Ha dialect. The stripes are warp stripes and thus run the length of the fabric. If a similar technique is used in the blanket shown in Jeanee's photos then there should be several joins (probably very carefully sewn and not immediately obvious) running across the textile strips.


Attachments:
File comment: detail of a Li textile (skirt) from a museum in Hainan from Eric Kindberg. These are warp patterns, note the selvedge at the top of the photo, presumably the bottom (or possibly top) of the skirt
li-textile-det-ericW.jpg
li-textile-det-ericW.jpg [ 68.49 KiB | Viewed 10351 times ]
File comment: detail of (warp-faced) weaving from the sleeve of a man's jacket, probably from Li speaking the Ha dialect
IMGP6498w.jpg
IMGP6498w.jpg [ 68.66 KiB | Viewed 10351 times ]

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2008 3:17 pm 
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Jeanee has been in touch to say that she does not have any detail shots but has sent me a large file shot of the complete textile. I have played around with enlargements of details and attach the one that seems about the best. I can't see any joins in the lengths of weaving except those that are already obvious.

The patterning seems, to me to be in the weft and to be a complementary weft weave. There is enough ease in the weft threads to completely cover the warp threads so that this is a weft faced weave. It looks to me as if the patterned centre sections of weaving are something like over 2 warps and then under 2 warp threads to give the pattern and texture. The thinner, solid lines in this central fabric seem be from one weft thread whilst the alternate/complementary chequer board effect is from 2 weft threads of the same colour. As ever when I struggle with weaving techniques I have reached for Marla Mallett's 'Woven Structures: A Guide to Oriental Rug and Textile Analysis' to confirm. Any errors are, however, mine not Marla's!

The border seems to be a more balanced weave (it is possible to see some warp threads) with simple weft stripes in the sightly darker hue. Where there is a solid line across the weft it looks like one line of two weft threads.

I have been through my Li textiles and almost all the woven patterning is warp patterning. Some of the very narrow Run Li bands have weft patterning but, aside from perhaps one or two lines it is quite different.


Attachments:
File comment: detail of the textile that Jeanee is asking us to help with
ctex-35-1c.jpg
ctex-35-1c.jpg [ 72.84 KiB | Viewed 10312 times ]

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 1:58 pm 
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Another of the people that I contacted after Jeanee's original post was Chris Kausman of Rarearth in Chiang Mai. His initial response to me was along the lines of not being able to see a Li connection in the textile as it had no Li totems. Jeanee shared images with me of three more very similar textiles (perhaps with more blue threads) and I showed these to Chris and Eric. Chris has got back to me as follows:
Quote:
HALLO AGAIN PAMELA,------- HAVING SEEN THE THESE LAST PICTURES OF MORE OF THESE BLANKET/BEDCOVERS; (FOR INDEED THATS WHAT THEY ARE); A CONNECTION WAS MADE SOMEWHERE IN THE NETHER REGIONS OF MY AGING MEMORY BANKS!-------THE ORIGIN OF THESE PIECES IS FROM 'YI' PEOPLE IN YUNNAN PROVINCE (THE EXACT LOCATION WILL BE FORTHCOMING, AS I AM WAITING TO HEAR FROM FRIENDS THERE---YOU WILL KNOW WHEN I DO!)
THE FIBRE OF THE BACKING CLOTH IS WHAT THE CHINESE WOULD CALL "MAA--PU"; A GENERAL TERM FOR ANYTHING LIKE HEMP, RAMIE ETC, HOWEVER, THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE THAT THIS PARTICULAR MATERIAL IS "FIRE--WEED" THE 'TRANSLATED' NAME FOR A PLANT GROWING IN THIS 'YI' AREA.
I HOPE THIS WILL BE HELPFUL, AND PLEASE DONT HESITATE TO CONTACT ME IF YOU HAVE ANY MORE "MYSTERIES"! -- AND I WILL DO MY BEST TO UNRAVEL THEM!
AS I SOON AS I HAVE THE NAME OF THE COUNTY OF ORIGIN OF THE BLANKETS, I WILL LET YOU KNOW.
BEST WISHES----------CHRIS

I have found this information about 'fire weed' on page 179 of 'The Costumes and Adornments of Chinese Yi Nationality Picture Album'
Quote:
""Fire weed" is a perennial wild herbaceous plant extensively growing all over the Yi districts. Its leave (sic) is about 20 cm long, with strong and tough fibre. In ancient times, it was used as the kindling of fire, thus the name "fire weed". People in Yi districts used to spin and weave with "fire weed" fibre, and the cloth was the main material for dresses. Since "fire weed" cloth is durable and warm and humidity proof, it is still popular with the people."
There are items of clothing show but no blankets/coverlets. There is a loom for weaving "fire weed cloth" which shows a narrow width but no measurements or anything to gauge size. See image below. Some of the photos of Yi items using fire weed show a texture similar to that in the blankets Jeanee is asking about.

Aaargh! On page 115 there is a roll of the woven cloth and more info:
Quote:
"According to "Nanzhao Chronicles: "The 'fire weed' leave is about 10 or 13.5 cm long with floss on the back which is made into yarn and woven into cloth about 23.5 cm wide. it is thought to be able to get fire from making it as flint, therefore, 'fire weed' is named." The "fire weed cloth" can be made into clothes, knapsacks, bags, etc".
What a frustrating 'etc'!!! There is a 'Young men's sleeveless jacket in Lunan' shown which is natural coloured with groups of fine, darker, stripes in it.

Regrettably neither of the books I have specifically on the Yi show any bedding. This reminds me of Patricia Cheesman in her book 'Lao Tai Textiles: The textiles of Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan' discussing how domestic textiles used within the confines of the home do not take on changes when the group is defeated in war. The conquered adopt the clothing style of their conquerers but do not change textiles from inside the home because they are not seen. Bedding is very much a case in point. Unless blankets are taken out to be aired they do not get seen and, plain as these are, would not attract note, camera lenses or collectors.

Jeanee - if it is any help, when I found my first Li item, a skirt, I thought that I heard 'Yi' as I didn't know about the Li at that time. It could be a case of mis-hearing in reverse to hear Li for Yi!


Attachments:
File comment: Li fire weed loom from page 179 of 'The Costumes and Adornments of Chinese Yi Nationality Picture Album'
yi_fireweed_loom-w.jpg
yi_fireweed_loom-w.jpg [ 73.78 KiB | Viewed 10274 times ]

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Last edited by Pamela on Fri Oct 10, 2008 10:13 am, edited 2 times in total.
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 2:20 pm 
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2 images of Yi men's clothing from p 115 of 'The Costumes and Adornments of Chinese Yi Nationality Picture Album'


Attachments:
File comment: Young men's jacket made of 'fire weed cloth' page 115 'The Costumes and Adornments of Chinese Yi Nationality Picture Album'
yi_mans_jacket_w.jpg
yi_mans_jacket_w.jpg [ 68.2 KiB | Viewed 10268 times ]
File comment: yopung men's sleeveless jacket in Lunan from page 115 - the start of the section on 'Lunan Style' (popular in Lunan, Mile, Qiubei and Kunming of Yunnan Province) in 'The Costumes and Adornments of Chinese Yi Nationality Picture Album'
yi-sleeveless-jacket.jpg
yi-sleeveless-jacket.jpg [ 71.77 KiB | Viewed 10268 times ]

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Last edited by Pamela on Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 5:57 pm 
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I checked with Jeanee and she is happy to see the other three blankets posted here - it may help compare with the Yi fire weed clothes above. It looks to me that the stripes in the Yi young man's sleeveless jacket has warp stripes whereas the stripes in the textiles which Jeanee is asking about have weft stripes (back to the Li dilema...?)


Attachments:
CTEX-34-001w.jpg
CTEX-34-001w.jpg [ 71.86 KiB | Viewed 10255 times ]
CTEX-36-001w.jpg
CTEX-36-001w.jpg [ 67.34 KiB | Viewed 10255 times ]
CTEX-37-001w.jpg
CTEX-37-001w.jpg [ 67.36 KiB | Viewed 10255 times ]

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2008 11:55 am 
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With the suggestion of a Yi attribution I contacted forum member, Ann Goodman to see if she could shed any light based on her collection of Yi material culture. Ann kindly came back to me with the following:
Quote:
Dear Pamela,
I don't think it is Yi. Attached is a detail from a Yi piece in my collection. The weaving of my example is similar to several other Yi pieces that I have, and none of my Yi pieces resemble Jeanne's blanket. Several years ago I saw a baby carrier on Marla Mallett's site that I seem to remember as similar to the weaving in Jeanne's piece. The baby carrier had tiny buttons on it and the central weaving was bordered by wide bands of plain fabric. Marla, as you know, is a weaver, so she may have some knowledge about Jeanne's piece. Sorry I can't be more helpful.
best,
Ann
see the detail of Yi weaving below.

You will not be surprised to read that I then sent off an email to Marla asking her if she could shed any light on our mystery. She kindly got right back to me but regrettably she is not not able to help with the attribution.
Quote:
I can’t help with this one, I’m afraid. I don’t recall ever having anything similar to any of the pics posted on the forum. With pieces like the one you’ve attached, it’s extremely difficult…Such a piece could be from almost anywhere, any time! It seems that in almost every weaving culture there is a whole lot of stuff that collectors never see, because it’s just functional everyday “cloth”. It’s the same in Turkey. Most people would never recognize the pieces that villagers make for use on their floors, beds and for their curtains. Since I’m mostly interested in weavings that are artistic expressions, I am pretty good at looking right past simple, functional weaving, whether it be clothing or household furnishings. “Weaving” in itself does not hold much of a fascination for me, if not used for artistic purposes…It’s just hard, boring work!

With this said, I think you’re on the right track to be paying attention to whether the pieces are warp-faced or weft faced. THAT represents a major difference in weaving processes, and should be telling.

Best wishes…Sorry I can’t help.

Marla


Attachments:
File comment: detail of the weaving from a Yi woolen coat in the collection of Ann B Goodman
yiwoolencoatdet_w.jpg
yiwoolencoatdet_w.jpg [ 69.21 KiB | Viewed 10229 times ]

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Last edited by Pamela on Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:36 am 
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I have just received an excited email from Chris Kausman in Chiang Mai following up from his earlier missives:
Quote:
DEAR PAMELA,----- HOLD THE PRESSES!---HOLD EVERYTHING!-----------SOMETIMES THE REAL TRUTH IS ELUSIVE, AND WE OFTEN FIND OURSELVES MISLED! (ESPECIALLY WHEN DEALING WITH CHINESE MINORITY TEXTILES!) I HAVE BEEN TOLD SO MANY CONFLICTING STORIES BY MINORITY TEXTILES DEALERS IN THE PAST;---- EITHER BECAUSE THEY WERENT REALLY SURE;---OR THEY JUST NEEDED TO MAKE THAT SALE!!

SO; THE INFORMATION I WAS LAST GIVEN, CAME FROM A GUIZCHOU 'MIAO' DEALER WHO HAS BOUGHT AND SOLD SIMILAR BLANKETS---BUT----HE HAD NEVER ACTUALLY GONE TO THE PLACE OF ORIGIN!----------- I NOW HAVE NEW INFORMATION FROM A VERY RELIABLE SOURCE! THIS MAN HAS, ON MANY OCCASIONS, BEEN TO THE AREA FROM WHICH THESE BLANKETS ORIGINATE, AND SOLD TO OTHER GUIZCHOU DEALERS, AMONGST OTHERS!

--------THESE BLANKETS ARE IN ACTUAL FACT, NOT 'YI'!!---THEY ARE 'ZHUANG' FROM WENSHAN COUNTY, YUNNAN PROVINCE!

I AM SORRY TO BE GUILTY OF PASSING ON FALSE INFORMATION, BUT LIKE I SAID EARLIER, THERES A LOT OF IT GOING ROUND!! HOWEVER , IN THIS CASE I THINK (HOPE!) THAT WE HAVE GOT TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS PARTICULAR PUZZLE!

BEST WISHES---------CHRIS ------'RAREARTH'

My thanks to Chris for his enthusiastic pursuit of the truth about these mystery blankets! Once again we are made aware of how we must always treat with great caution whatever we are told about a textile - regardless of whether it is being sold or not!

Regrettably there does not seem to be much literature about Zhuang textiles. They are certainly known as good weavers and perhaps we usually see more decorative weavings from them. We have also been seeing some Zhuang clothing coming out of Wenshan county, Yunnan more recently.

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 Post subject: Another possibility
PostPosted: Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:08 pm 
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Dear Pamela,
When Chris mentioned that this could be Yi, it jogged something in my memory of a piece that looks remarkably similar to the "Li" blanket. The dimensions are 1040 cm long and 43 cm wide. We were told that it was an uncut blanket piece that was never made into one. Also, that it was from the Yi tribe in Yunnan Province! I can understand though, how things get mixed up when you are buying because often the people who you are buying from don't know the origins themselves. Thanks for everyone who has looked at the pieces and given advice, it is much appreciated! Jeanee Linden


Attachments:
detail-blanketw.jpg
detail-blanketw.jpg [ 67.95 KiB | Viewed 10144 times ]
detail-blanket-2w.jpg
detail-blanket-2w.jpg [ 64.59 KiB | Viewed 10144 times ]
blanket-edgesw.jpg
blanket-edgesw.jpg [ 43.07 KiB | Viewed 10144 times ]
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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 1:49 pm 
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I have just found what looks like the central panels from a newer blanket on eBay. It is attributed to Zhuang and is given as hemp. I have tried posting the link here but the link is tremendously long and distorts the whole thread so I am deleting it. I will see if, by contacting the seller, I can post the image here.

I have sent an email to the seller but also think I may have found a shorter link http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll? ... 0037768273

This piece is attributed to Zhuang in Guangxi Province, 19th/20th century.

I realise that I am posting a 'selling' link on the general forum but hope I can be forgiven as it relates directly to the thread.

[Sorry, the link above is now too old to be live!]

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Last edited by Pamela on Sun Aug 02, 2009 11:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Floor rug, Li tribe?
PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 10:40 am 
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Jeanne et al,

I realize this thread is a bit stale, but I believe I may be able to shed a little light, so I'll throw in my "two cents worth".

I am fortunate to have an almost identical piece in front of me measuring approx. 120 cm X 160 cm.

The warp of the border cloth is bast fiber (likely hemp) and the weft is all fire weed (except for the dark stripes, which are also bast fiber).

The corner wear seems unrelated to hanging as a room divider or slinging as a litter, maybe rat damage. Wear is biased to the top side along one edge(focused on the center of one center panel and adjacent border cloth) and along with the dark stains (centered at each only on the top surface) indicate possible use as a rug, maybe positioned in front of a chair or bed or altar(?).

Fire weed or "huo cao" in Mandarin is certainly associated with the Yi, but it was also spun and woven by linguisticly Yi-related groups such as the Lisu, Sani, Na (Naxi and Mosuo) etc. Huo cao leaves have a lower surface covered with millions of tiny soft hairs a few millimeters in length. Fresh leaves are sliced into narrow strips and the lower epidermis (skin) with its attached hairs are peeled away from the leaf strips and dried. The approx. 5 cm long strips are overlapped to join them and twisted into a soft but weak yarn. The surface of worn huo cao cloth feels like chamois leather.

Its former range extends at least from the Kunming region northwest to the Sichuan, Tibet and Burma border regions. Huo cao is a slow-growing low shrubby wild mountain plant (Latin name?) and is found today only at higher elevations of Yunnan. It was overharvested decades ago and is quite rare today.

Huo cao is most commonly employed in the weft as huo cao yarn does not have sufficient tensile strength to be employed in the warp, especially on wide looms (over 20 cm). The Yi fire weed loom pictured in this thread is quite narrow and can be used with very slight warp tension to accomodate the weak warp yarn. For wider loom weaving the warp, and often interspersed wefts as well, true hemp (Cannabis) yarn is usually used. The width of the cloth in my accession is approx. 41 cm, which is very wide for a body-tension loom; and all four strips are cut from the same warp (more than eight meters total length). Yunnan boby-tension looms (with the exception of the Hmong/Miao traditional hybrid body-tension with frame loom) employ a circular (circuit) warp which rarely exceeds four meters in length. Therefore, this cloth was woven on a "Han type" mechanical-tension frame loom.

OK, what about the proposed provinence of these textiles? The "blanket" style is similar to Zhuang and also Dong and Mao Lan framed-center-field types with a woven colored yarn center field and broad unpatterned market cloth frame; and the center field is most commonly woven with silk. The center field of the piece I am looking at is matching bast fiber to the frame textile and is also likely true hemp. In this regard, the center field does resemble Li weavings (sarongs?) from Hainan, which are also at times woven from relatively coarse bastfiber yarn, but I do not think they grew and wove hemp. Frankly, I do not know which bast fibers Hainan weavers used!

It has been proposed that the item pictured here is Zhuang from Wenshan. The accession before me is purportedly from Hmong/Miao in Malipo, a neighboring county in southern Yunnan. I refute these suppositions on several grounds.

- I doubt the range of huo cao ever extended so far south into lower elevations.

- I am unaware of even a single Zhuang use of bast fibers, although the Hmong/Miao are the iconic hemp weavers of Asia.

- As far as I know, neither Hmong/Miao or Zhuang spin and weave huo cao.

So, if it is unlikely Zhuang or Miao and also unlikely to be from southern Yunnan, then where and from whom did it originate? I propose the following:

Hemp and huo cao were widely used by the Yi and Lisu who both also weave
"window pane" intersecting simple warp/weft striped hemp textiles on mechanical-tension looms.

The multi-colored center field totally stumps me. Although the dying of hemp fibers with indigo, red or black is relatively common with Yi etc. weavers, I have never seen hemp yarn dyed with this color palet. My hunch however, is that there is no relation to Hainan island or the Li.

My guess is that it is Yi and from north central or northwest Yunnan, possibly the Chuxiong region...

In any event, these are very interesting textiles, I would like to learn as much as possible about them, and I have a few questions.

- The one I have came my way VERY recently. Were the pieces pictured in this thread recently aquired?

- Do you have any other details that might help determine provenance? Where was it purchsed?

And, of course, if any more of these come on to the market, I will be most interested to hear about it!

Cheers!

Rob Clarke

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 12:00 pm 
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Rob

Welcome, welcome, welcome!!!

No thread on the forum is ever 'stale' - it is just waiting to be 'found' by someone able to shed light and share knowledge. I always say to people with mystery textiles to try and have patience because it is very possible that eventually someone will be able to help. So, thanks for proving me right!!!

What a very excellent exposition on Fire weed or "huo cao". Thank you so much for taking the trouble to outline this for us.

I have enjoyed your comments today on this and other threads and look forward (greedily :) ) to reading your comments on other 'mature' (or new) threads that catch your eye!

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