Thursday, 24 July 2014

Journal quilt the next installment (Georgia to China and Tibet)

It's early August and we've been on the road for almost four months. There are eighteen squares completed, so I'm a little ahead of my goal of one a week.

Here's the finished wine dyed square for Georgia. Some mountains in the background (although compared to what we encountered later, they weren't that high) and a bit of a bottled water label so I have the Georgian script. Our guide, Zaza also autographed the edge. He gave wishes for a safe journey and to come and visit again.

There is an empty square next for Azerbaijan. It was a quick trip across and my most positive memory was our bush camp at the mud craters outside Baku. I've some great pictures that I will print on fabric when I get home and then embroider a flame design. Interesting, the designs we call Paisley in the west are called flame in Azerbaijan. I have a lovely woolen scarf with the designs to inspire me.

This square is for the deserts of Turkmenistan. Mysterious and unknowing like our time there. The fabric was purchased at a mall in Ashgabat when we had a few brief minutes away from our minder. I discovered a fabric store fill of glitzy material for ladies dresses but there were also some bolts of linen fabric. My first experience negotiating amount and cost when the shopkeeper spoke no English and I of course speak nothing else. Hand gestures and pen and paper straightened out her understanding that I wanted 25 meters.

First of two squares from Uzbekistan. In Kiva, we visited a carpet making workshop and I was fascinated with the skeins of hand dyed silk hanging by the looms. With the help of our guide, I negotiated to buy some thread ends to use for embroidery - six different colours five meters each for a total of five USD. Waste thread for them and a totally unique souvenir for me. The square, exactly the correct size, was one of several small embroideries sitting begging to come home. The background is silk boiled in tea for the off white colour. The blue threads are indigo and the yellow was a flower. Uzbekistan is the second largest producer of silk, almost all of it is exported to Russia for parachutes. A small amount is used for hand made embroideries and carpets.

Here is the second square from Uzbekistan. Our last day, as part of our wild taxi ride into Fergana, we stopped at a silk factory. Only one in the country using completely traditional methods. We saw the raw silk cocoons being washed and boiled the spun into thread. My enthusiastic questions earned me a bit of the thread, although my fingers were also itching to scoop up the handful of raw waste fiber. Sigh. Then we were walked through the process of creating ikat fabric as well as seeing carpet making being taught. Interesting to compare the speed of the "experts" in Kiva and Bokara we had watched with the students here. Another "not all sheep are created equal" story. Uzbek sheep's wool is more suited for clothing so Uzbek carpets are actually made of imported Iranian wool dyed with natural dyes. Stronger and coarser. And, yes, enthusiastic questions earned a bit of Iranian wool. The final stop, the showroom/market had us all contributing to the local economy. The background to this square is more Turkmenistan desert fabric. The flowers are ikat and the stem is the Iranian carpet wool. The raw silk fiber was used to stitch things together and there is enough in the tassel that I can let you feel what the fiber is like.

Next are two squares for Kyrgyzstan. Mid way through our journey, we had a fancy dress party. Names had been picked and Tina found a fairy costume for me. Indeed all sorts of good stuff was to be had at the Karakol market The first square is from bits and pieces of the costume.

Later, we stopped for a felt making demonstration that I had been eagerly looking forward to for weeks. Apparently, I was the first Odyssey tripper to WANT to take the sample. The sample got finished at our Son Kol camp then cut up with Alicia taking the bit with Dave's fighting marmots. The embroidery is an aurochs design, meaning prosperity (health and happiness rather than money) which our guide, Begiam, explained.

Two squares for China come next. Our first town, Kashgar (Kashi), had a small local market near our hotel and I found the fabric shops. Gorgeous glitzes and brocades and embellishment bits. This square is a bit of embellishment cut up and rearranged around a green tea bottle label. I'm definitely starting to get creative about supplies for squares.

The colours of important signs everywhere in China were red and yellow so I used some of the left over fabric from my fairy costume and yellow silk thread (originally from China but brought from home). Our guide, Daniel, helped with the character. I had initially asked for "welcome", which was a long sentence, so this is "jao" or friendship.

And two squares for Tibet. All along, people have been interested in the crazy things I've been doing with this quilt and I've invited anybody to contribute "stuff". Earlier, I had been asked if I would be offended if the group made a birthday square for me (was the rule of the quilt that I had to do all the work, perhaps), to which I had said I'd be delighted. Not sure who found the fabric, although my guess is Tina who has the ability to source out anything. Everybody had signed it and it was presented at our lunch stop on the way to Lhasa. I added a few details and the prayer flags.

For Tibet, I wanted prayer flags (they are an integral part of Tibetan Buddhism and all the other ones are just copying) and mountains. This second square has mountains, created from shoe polish cloths found in our hotels (honestly) with o bit of bangdian (the name for the Tibetan apron worn by all married ladies). I managed in Lhasa to find a shop selling the actual Tibetan wool hand spun, dyed and woven rather than the cotton or polyester mass produced ones for everyday wear. They are woven in three narrow panels (traveling nomads would use a narrow loom) and stitched together with the stripes deliberately mismatched for design. The shapes of the mountains echo the designs of many of the hangings in the monasteries and temples we visited. Our guide, Tsewang said it was "just a design" but it was present even in the very oldest hangings. All the beads were from the market on the kora around the Jokang monastery. Tibetans, particularly rural tribespeople, were also buying turquoise and coral as well as amber for bracelets and necklaces. The men adorned their hair as well.

Nepal. Some years ago, I bought a small notebook of handmade Nepali paper at Ten Thousand Villages in Edmonton. It was in my mind that it would be great to find one in Nepal. This square has a piece of paper from the journal I bought (with the explanation of how sturdy it is and that it was used for all important documents). I succumbed to a fair amount of retail therapy in Kathmandu, so the background in from one of the shopping bags. The leaves are also Nepali paper, cut from an envelope I purchased in Pokara, and the crocheted silk and wool flowers are the purple water hyacinths we saw on the lake as well as in Chitwan National Park. It's interesting to reflect on the fact that before this trip I thought my Nepal square would be mountains but in actual fact my memories of Nepal are of lush greenery, waterfalls and humidity. Moral of the story: never assume.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Bangdian (fabric for married
woman's apron)

Journal quilt (rotate it 90 degrees to the left)

Wine dyed square for Georgia

This will be Azerbaijan

The sands of Turkmenistan

Hand dyed silk from Kiva
Uzbekistan Two
(Ikat fabric flowers, Iranian wool,
and other goodies)

memories of Kyrgystan dress up party
Hand felted and then finished
at Son Kol, Kyrgyzstan

Kashgar, western China
great market finds
"Zao" (friendship)
thanks to our guide, Daniel
Happy Birthday from
Everest basecamp
with help from the Lhasa market
retail therapy in Kathmandu, Nepal

1 comment:

  1. It's January 2015 and I'm going back and putting captions to the photos. I've misplaced some of these and I can't figure out how to move them within the blog, so please have patience.