Monday, 16 December 2013

Production Period 2014

It's that time of year again where we focus on our next production. 2013 has been a wonderful year for us which has seen not only our move to South Devon, but also one of the nicest summers for too many years.

Since our move in May, we have had a great time at Totnes market and wish to thank all those who have visited our stall in the market square.

Due to our annual production period in Nepal, we will be unable to process any online orders between the dates of December 21st 2013 and March 10th 2014. We apologise for any inconvenience and greatly appreciate your understanding.


As we'll be in Nepal, we'll sadly be absent from Totnes market square until Friday 14th March 2014. We'd like to wish a merry christmas and a happy new year to all our customers, Totnes market management and all those friendly stall holders that make the market a fun place to be.

We'll be at the market square for the final Tuesday night Christmas Market tomorrow and the following Friday and Saturday (20th and 21st). If we don't see you then, we'll look forward to seeing you early next year.


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Totnes Christmas Night Market

Last night saw the first evening of the Totnes Christmas Night Market.
Held over three Tuesday evenings (3rd, 10th and 17th), Totnes high street and market square are taken over by stalls selling a vast array of gift items and fine food.

Yesterday's weather was quite mild for this time of year and remained dry for all who came to have a look around.
The Christmas night market usually starts around 4pm ending at 9pm and is well worth a visit.
Sorazora will be situated in the market square where we can also be found each Friday and Saturday in the run up to Christmas.



Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Heat Branding Leather Patches

I think heat branding a simple logo is much more interesting than any form of modern print. The only factors to consider is the size of your print/brand run and whether you can find someone to create a metal brand. As we tend to keep the quantity of our handmade products fairly low, creating heat branded leather patches was an option I welcomed. We have a few simple brands that blacksmiths in Nepal made to order. The actual branding itself is quite simple and doesn't take much time, although cutting the leather to shape and size can be time consuming.

 I always use a simple butane gas blow torch, which can usually be found in any large hardware store. I've found it much quicker and more comfortable using a flame that is fairly small and concentrates the heat. A wooden handle or plenty of thick leather on the brand is a must, but you could still do with a pair of thick gloves. A simple flat piece of wood that I don't mind marking usually provides a firm work surface. I don't know if wood is the best backing material or not, but it works for me. Many woods also happen to take hot brands well and a heat brand is a great way for many woodcraft artisans sign their work.

Getting the most brands from the leather hide means minimising wastage, I cut the leather into strips so I only need to focus on the distance between each brand. A spare scrap of leather is good to have at hand because you'll most likely want to test how much heat is in the brand. A really hot brand wouldn't need as much time and pressure in the leather to make its mark. I regularly have to reheat the brand when branding labels in any quantity.
  
If you use a scalpel or any type of cutter regularly, you'll probably have a cutting mat. If not, that flat piece of wood that  you don't mind marking would do just fine. Leather and wooden work surfaces dull a scapel blade fairly quickly, but they're excellent for precise cutting. Best I mention "taking care with scapels and cutters and remembering that blades can brake easily", but with hindsight I'm more likely to say "accidents will and do happen!"
If you intend to machine stitch a thick leather patch to another material, make sure your needles are suitable for the leather. The sample below has been hand stitched on to woven wool.




Tuesday, 29 October 2013

New Atslan Pendants

New pendants now available online.

Each of these pendants and cords have been handmade here in the UK using a variety of natural materials from around the world.To view a small selection of our hand crafted pendants, please follow the link below. Alternatively, come along to Totnes market on either a Friday or Saturday to see similar designs.





Sunday, 20 October 2013

Tom's Tools At Totnes Market

Not a single Friday passes that I don't wander over to Tom's stall to see what unusual and interesting items appear. Since I've ever had an interest in working with natural fibres, I have appreciated the traditional tools that help shape these fibres. At sorazora we focus on natural fibres that can be spun, dyed, woven, knitted and knotted etc, but I always find time at home to experiment with fibres that can be cut, carved, heated, shaped and so on.

 With so many old tools sitting idle in sheds, why do we continue to buy cheap modern tools that aren't made quite how they used to be? I wouldn't like to suggest that all cheap imported modern tools aren't up for the job, just that my personal preference is for much older tools that have already proved themselves and have plenty of life left...
...This is where Tom comes in.

 Each Friday (weather permitting) Tom Widdicombe can be found with a wide selection of quality used hand tools. The tools vary greatly in their age, origin and the craft discipline in which they are used. The one constant between them all is that they are built to last as long as they are cared for (as all tools should be). The other common link between them all is that any of them could be yours to take home and bring back to life.

 Tom is primarilary an organic farmer in Dartmoor, but his passion for tools became his hobby and a weekly opportunity to meet other craftsmen. If you have any unloved quality hand tools from yesteryear and fancy helping Tom reintroduce them to working sheds, he can be contacted by the email address tomwid909@gmail.com
Or alternatively, you can pop over to Totnes market on a Friday to check out all the stalls and have a friendly chat with Tom in person.

Tom has a great website covering many areas of organic farming as well as his passion for tools. Please follow the link below to learn more:

http://www.tomwiddicombe.com/tom-s-tools/



Thursday, 10 October 2013

Tablet Weaving

Tablet weaving (often known as card weaving in the United States) is where cards are used to create patterned bands of woven fabric. This technique is limited to narrow work such as belts, straps or trim for garments.
Examples have been found in Germany and France that suggest this technique goes at least as far back as the early Iron age and are presumed to have been well used by the Vikings.

Tablets have long been made from materials such as bark, wood, bone, horn, leather and metal whereas modern cards are frequently made from card or plastics. I crafted the two tablets above from buffalo horn and Ipe (a Brazilian ironwood) choosing to try out a simple square disc with just four holes before having a bash at anything more advanced. Tablets are typically a regular polygon (a shape with all angles equal and side lengths also equal) with holes in each corner and sometimes the centre too.

 I found tablet weaving to be far more complex and involved than weaving with a simple rigid heddle and decided to stick with a very simple three colour pattern. Designing a pattern and correctly warping the discs takes some research and concentration and I'd best not confuse anyone with any attempts to explain the procedure. I managed to find plenty of helpful online articles and blogs from which I was able to pick up the basics to get me started.

 As you can see from the above image, it is possible to create decorative patterns as opposed to the simple plain weave of a rigid heddle. The compact loom frame used for this weaving is a recent prototype that I made for the mini rigid heddles that we produce. Both the frame and tablets will be available from spring 2014.

To view my blog entry covering the frame and rigid heddle, please follow the link below.



Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Loom Frame For A Mini Rigid Heddle

Although I have enjoyed strap weaving with a mini rigid heddle, until now all of my straps became much narrower than the heddle as all the warp threads were staked to a single point at each end.
The concept of incorporating a beam on which to load the warp and another beam to hold the woven fabric is not new and basic horizontal looms have been in use since at least the later medieval period. One clear advantage to beam looms is that the warp threads can be kept evenly spaced out during the weave, this will help weave as wide a fabric as the heddle allows. Having all the warp loaded also requires less work space.

The mini loom frame above has been designed to work comfortably with our mini rigid heddles. I cut the two side frames from two old larch panels that still had a little life left in them. Larch is very much valued for its tough, waterproof and durable qualities. Attached to the pine dowel beams are lengths of willow, these are for the warp threads to tie to. The beams have 8mm threaded rods inserted at each end. Wingnuts are used to hold the frame together and also to lock the beams firmly whilst weaving.

A two ply cotton thread is shown for the warp and a mix of hemp, hemp-cotton and hemp-wool for the weft. All colours are traditional naturals dyes. The frame works well for weaving with a rigid heddle and I'll report at a later date how the frame will fair for tablet weaving.

 As this frame has been specifically designed for use with our mini rigid heddle, it was important to make this device as compact as possible whilst maintaining ease of use. The frame can be taken down in seconds making it ideal for easy transportation. Measuring 30cm x 19cm x 10cm, it isn't really that difficult to carry around whilst set up with a loaded beam.
This prototype will be produced and available through our website during spring 2014.

Please follow the link below to view the blog entry regarding use of this frame for my first attempt at tablet weaving:
http://sorazora.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/tablet-weaving.html


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Weaving Waxed Hemp On A Rigid Heddle

Having acquired a simple heddle loom frame back in the summer, it was about time I cleaned it up and got it back to work. The heddle that came with it was the width of the frame, but sadly too finer a heddle to be able to cope with an uneven handspun hemp twine. Our mini rigid heddles are more than up for the task so I took full advantages of using the frame as opposed to staking out all the warp threads to a single point at each end.
 The benefit to this frame is being able to warp up the beam with a few metres at a time whilst still keeping everything compact and easy to work with. Another major difference is the ability to have all the warp threads run parallel and true to the holes and slots of the heddle, this creates wider fabric compared to having all your warp threads heading to a single immovable stake. We are thinking to develop a similar frame on a slightly smaller scale that wood suit our mini rigid heddle, but that remains to be seen as yet!

 One of the difficulties I find with weaving handspun hemp or nettle fibre is that the naturally uneven twine can easily get worn in places leading to rather inconvenient repair missions. Through making waxed cordage for pendants, I noticed that a handspun twine becomes easier to work with if given a quick floss through a block of beeswax. It removes the twine's tendency to twist up on itself and is also more forgiving if you need to undo any knots (something I greatly appreciate if working with macrame).

 Each of the handspun hemp twines in the image above are all organic wild Himalayan hemp which has been harvested, retted and then handspun in the remote villages of the Himalayan foothills very much in the same way as it has been done for centuries.
The dying we organise ourselves and use only traditional natural dyestuffs and mordants. Weaving with wax coated hemp twine was a first for me and I was keen to know if the resulting fabric could bring any new craft applications.


 The beam on the loom frame was loaded with just over two metres of twine and with each warp thread doubled for added strength. Each of these twines had to be pulled through the wax one or two times to give them a smoother, tighter appearance. I must admit that it is an added effort, especially as all the weft threads would go through the same treatment. As I planned to use as many natural dye colours that I could get my hands on, it worked out a lot easier to load up several shuttles with different colours and always having the selection to hand.

The resulting weave was still fairly loose even after using a beater so I took advantage of another benefit to waxed thread. Due to both warp and weft threads all being waxed, they can slide over each other with relative ease. This fact allowed me to slide all the weft threads by hand to compact them. This action also adds another element of effort, but the extremely tight weave in combination with the beeswax coating makes for a fabric far more resistant to water and abrasive wear and tear.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Yakusugi Pendants

Last year a good friend gave me a block of Yakusugi wood as a souvenir from Japan. Yakusugi is a Japanese term for Cryptomeria that are more than 1000 years old and originating from Yakushima island.

Cryptomeria is unique to Japan, where it is known as Sugi and often called Japanese cedar in English, though the tree is part of the cypress family and not related to the true cedars.

Japanese cedar generally lives for 500 years. Due to the less nutritious granite soil of Yakushima island, the cedar there grows much slower with a tighter grain and can survive for more than 2000 years.

Yakusugi has to endure high humidity and rainfall and has evolved with a higher resin content which makes then more resistant to rotting.
Since it is no longer permitted to fell Yakusugi today, souvenirs such as mine are made from the stumps of previously felled trees or those that have fallen in typhoons.


The beautiful grain of Yakusugi lends itself well to decorative items and as such I decided to craft a few pendants with this soft wood. As this wood is fairly light, I felt the need to give it a harder backing by creating a twin laminate using 'Ipe - Brazilian ironwood'. The darker tone works well to both strengthen the pendant and highlight the lighter Yakisugi.
The style of the pendant and the distinctive stringing are directly inspired by native New Zealand Toki pendants that are traditionally crafted from jade. All string work is a strong 100% hemp coated in beeswax prior to twisting.

These and similar pendants will soon be made available in our online store.


Thursday, 29 August 2013

Gaunts House Summer Gathering 2013

Our last festival outing for this season was a return to Gaunts House near Wimbourne, Dorset for their summer gathering held from 8th through to 11th August. Beautiful weather blessed the entire gathering from start to finish.

Gaunts House is a great place for us to catch up with old friends and make new. This small family friendly gathering offers a great festival atmosphere with a focus on workshops, therapies, speakers and inspirational music.
Our large dreamcatcher (pictured above) reached completion after being started at Glastonbury and then added to at Larmer Tree and WOMAD.

Hilary and Leigh were again our lovely neighbours, the photo below shows Hilary wearing one of our T-shirts that she purchased last year. As with all naturally dyed fabrics, they do not like strong alkaline or acid as Hilary discovered with an accidental splash of lemon juice. Her creative juices led to a great positive outcome as she used more lemons to gently treat the affected area. The light brown marks show how she stencilled the area and applied a delicate spray of lemon juice to create more depth to the night sky scene. Great thinking Hilary!!


The dates for next year's Summer Gathering are 7-10th August 2014. For more information, follow the link below to the official website:



Wednesday, 28 August 2013

WOMAD 2013

Held just outside Malmesbury in Wiltshire, the 25th to 28th July saw WOMAD's 31st anniversary and the fifth year that Sorazora has exhibited. Back in our usual spot in front of the Charlie Gillet stage, we managed to see a broad selection of international artists whilst the weather behaved for the most part.

A little rain cooled things down on Saturday evening, but couldn't dampen the revelry. WOMAD brings together artists from all over the globe with the main aim of celebrating world music, an aim it never fails to achieve.

  Gocoo were the highlight for us with their Sunday appearance on the main stage. Gocoo (pictured above) are made up of seven female and four male drummers from Japan who with almost 40 taiko drums create a fantastic musical spectacle.

As Peter Gabriel (Festival co-founder) said many years ago "I challange anyone to come to WOMAD festival and not be really excited or inspired by at least one thing", this still seems to be just as true today. Dates for 2014's WOMAD are 24th to 27th July.

Useful links:

Gocoo

WOMAD

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Stone Arrowhead Pendants

Being quite keen on archery, I was delighted to be able to source a selection of stone arrowheads that have been hand-knapped by various artisans in Arizona, USA near the Mexican border.

 Knapping is a traditional skill that dates back to the stone age and widespread across the globe. I have paired each arrowhead with an undyed linen cordage that has been made up from several beeswax coated strands twisted together, very similar to traditional bow strings throughout the centuries.

 The closure for each pendant is a simple loop and monkey's fist. A monkey's fist is a sailors knot that is tied to the ends of a rope, acting as a weight, when throwing lines between ship and dock.

A selection of five different stone arrowhead pendants are now available online. For more information about these timeless pieces, please follow the link below:

www.sorazora.com/shop/sub_category/tokyo_craft/atslan.html


Larmer Tree Festival 2013

The 17th to the 21st July saw us back at the Larmer Tree Gardens on the Wiltshire/Dorset border for music, comedy, sun and much more...

 The Larmer Tree Gardens were created in 1880 for "public enlightenment and entertainment" and are recognised by English Heritage as a garden of national importance. It's certainly a great place to hold festivals.

 This year is already being regarded as the 'hot one' and made such a contrast to last year's 'muddy one"! Among my personal highlights was Rich Hall's routine held late on the last night. Apologies to Rich for the electrical storm that interrupted his set. Rather than apologising for the weather, it was perhaps the over-zealousness of the health and safety officials that could have been done without. The audience and artists should decide for themselves if being in an ungrounded marquee was worth the risk, or not!

 A big thank you goes to Jo who came and showed Hiromi the basic skill of spinning. Sharing your skill in such a warm environment was indeed a blessing. As with previous years, this year's Larmer Tree had its share of wandering street performers who roam the site spreading happiness to all and a few other emotions to those who get targeted.

For more details regarding either the festival or gardens, please feel free to have a look at the links below which will take you to the respective official websites.






Sunday, 7 July 2013

Glastonbury 2013

Glastonbury festival needs no introduction as it is probably Europe's most well-known festival. Held each June on Pilton Farm in Somerset, it was our third time to display our wares.

We were located in the Greenfields right opposite the Green Crafts area and a quick walk from the Stone Circle. The weather for this year was very well behaved with rainfall only on the Thursday and a weekend of beautiful sunshine.


 The Rolling Stones were the headline act with their debut appearance at Glastonbury. Although I am not such a big fan, I joined what appeared to be the entire population of the festival to catch the ageing Mr Jagger sing a few songs that were hits before I was even born.

The Green Crafts area was again filled with a wide variety of activities where people of all ages came to learn new skills or appreciate the work of talented artisans. We'd like to thank all those who came to visit our stall and very much hope to have the opportunity of exhibiting in the Green Fields next year.


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Himal Hemp Shirts

This classicaly simple cut shirt is part of our 2013 collection and uses two fabrics that we love. Until now we have been usually  tailoring our shirts and kurtas from beautiful hand loomed hemp-cotton fabrics. These two new fabrics have been machine loomed which results in a much tighter and tougher fabric.

Our Himal Hemp Shirt was created with hard work in mind as the tougher fabrics hold up well during physical work. In 2012 I had a pair of Thai Fishermans' Trousers made from the darker hemp fabric and was very pleased with the fabric's durability. The warmth of the fabric suited me from spring to autumn in the UK climate, even managing to keep me cool during the summer.
This last production period gave me the chance to use this fabric for tops, and of course more Thai Fishermans' Trousers!

The second fabric we have used is a finer machine loomed hemp-cotton blend. Lighter in both weight and colour it should be great for keeping you cool in summer and providing warmth when the sun disappears. We have kept these fibres undyed giving you a choice of shades that were intended by nature.


To learn more about this garment, please follow the link below:


Thursday, 23 May 2013

Nettle Pesto

With our love of nettle fibre as a craft material we often forget the nutritious benefits that this plant holds.

It's that time of year where new leaves are springing up all around and our recent move from Essex to rural South Devon has given us greater access to wild food, both flora and fauna.

Nettle pesto was our first try at bringing Urtica dioica into our kitchen and tasty it was too!

 This spring's new nettle tips were blanched before being mixed with raw garlic, olive oil, sesame seeds and finely chopped Parmesan cheese. Apart from being great with cheese or salads, it also makes a good pasta sauce (pictured below).