Paper Braid Hats

Do you know the differences between different paper braids that are used to make hats? It is not as simple as it would seem as first. So here is a little background: To make the paper strands that will be woven into the brands, huge rolls of soft colored paper are sliced into thin rolls. Then the thin rolls are unrolled and the flat paper is twisted into strings. The strings are then braided. OK, now that you know the general plan, here are some details: The original idea for making paper braids (Toyo) came from Japan, but now the experts are in Taiwan with the Chinese close behind. There are several different thicknesses of paper that can be used for hats. The lightest is 18 pounds, more common is 22 pounds. 20 pound paper is also possible. In China 18 pound is not currently generally used (it is in Taiwan). The lighter the paper, obviously, the lighter the braid. The heaviness of the braid can also be affected by how wide are the strips that the paper is cut into before they are twisted into twine. it is not unusual for the strips to be 0.7cm to 1.2cm, though some machines can be adjusted to cut strips as thin as 0.6cm. For most hats 0.7 or 0.8 centimeters is common. In addition to the weight of the hat you should be aware of the material going into the braids. The machines that braid the paper usually hold from 9 strands of paper plus 4 strands of thread to 13 strands of paper plus 6 of thread. Some machines that are very rare in China will make a thinner braid of 7 strands of paper and 4 of thread. The thread is cotton or polyester, or it can be a clear monofilament like used for fishing line. The monofilament made from polypropylene (sometimes just called PP). Since it is clear it picks up the color of the paper in the hat, so the thread itself seems to change color. Currently most braid makers are using 22 pound paper and about half the time they use polypropylene for the thread. They say the stiffness of the heavier paper helps the bigger hats keep their shape. (Also in bigger hats for easy shape adjustment the hat maker will run a metal or plastic wire around the edge of the brim.) Some of the more fine hats, including the Rainbow Sombreros we carry are made with very light weight paper and no PP. We use 18 weight paper cut to 0.6cm and only 7 strands of paper and 4 of cotton in our Sombreros. That is why the cost is a little higher than for the run of the mill paper hat!

Read more... | Published: 02/14/10

Gardening doing well in Recession

Today a newspaper in upstate New York reported that for gardening centers business is better this year! See below: Ernst Lamothe Jr. • Staff writer • May 20, 2009 Richard Thomas, owner of Thomas Garden Center in Webster, NY has been in the business for many years. He knows that because of Rochester's iffy spring weather, most people start coming to his store around Memorial Day to pick up their mulch, Miracle Gro soils, perennials and other plants. But this year has been different. He started seeing more than a steady stream of customers coming into his business in early May, three weeks ahead of schedule. "It's just a fact that people are spending more time at home, and staying in. Making your garden look great, is really inexpensive," said Thomas, who said his business is up 10 to 20 percent from a year ago. "The economy doesn't seem to be having any ill effect on us." While many garden centers were unsure they would be as busy as last year for landscape and flowering plants, they've discovered the market is flourishing, according to the National Gardening Association. The Burlington, Vt.,-based group found that food gardening in the U.S. is on the rise and the sagging economy had a lot to do with it. Seven million more households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables herbs, or berries in 2009 than in 2008, a 19 percent increase. In 2008, gardeners spent a total of $2.5 billion to purchase seeds, plants, fertilizer, tools and other gardening supplies to grow their own food. "We see a big jump ... every time there is a recession," said Bruce Butterfield, research director for the National Gardening Association, which does an annual gardening survey. "People are trying to save money by growing their own food and through the survey, we found people feel like this is one thing they can control. They can't control what is happening to their 401(k) but maybe they can control what is happening to their garden." Bob King, director of the Agricultural and Life Sciences Institute at Monroe Community College, said many of the garden centers he has talked with reported revenue increases as high as 50 percent specifically tied to the economy. As more people are opting not to travel, they are using their homes and yards for entertainment. "Usually Mother's Day is the kickoff of the season and right before Memorial Day, things start picking up tremendously," said King. "But this year things were in full swing much earlier." The National Gardening Association's annual survey found that 11 percent of households active in food gardening plan to increase both the amount and variety of vegetables they plan to grow in 2009. A third of people deciding to grow their own food said that the current recession played a vital role. "As the economy is going down, people want to plant more of their own vegetables, and we are seeing a lot of people try gardening for the first time," said Tom Johnston, of Spencerport, who owns Shelter Creek Nursery and Garden Center in Chili.

Read more... | Published: 05/21/09

The Folk Art

The art of making animals from palm fronds has been passed down from generation to generation in China. In modern China is has become something of an artistic anachronism: not many know the craft. It takes many years and much patience to become proficient. Before the weaving starts, the palm maker must collect the palm fronds from the short bush-like palm trees growing in the area. Each animal will take much time to create. Even an insect will take close to an hour, with bigger animals taking an entire half day. In the past (and up to this day) the palm leaves were not treated with any oils, so after a few weeks, they would dry up and people would have to throw away the shriveled palm animals. Today some artists, such as the one presented, preserve their work with oils and finishes so they will last many, many years.

Read more... | Published: 03/16/09

Praying Mantis

The Praying Mantis, holding its powerful front legs folded and ready to strike, has intrigued humans throughout time. Farmers and gardeners revere them for consuming mosquitoes and other pests. With an eerily alien visage and a stealthy hunting ability, the praying mantis symbolizes creativity, awareness and patience. It is used as a spiritual totem for meditation and contemplation. Yet it is also a brilliant combatant. Kung Fu masters during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) adopted some of the whip-like attack techniques of the Praying Mantis. The “praying mantis hook” uses both hands out front with one, two or three fingers extended in a “praying mantis fist.” One fist is used to deflect an attack, while the other goes for the opponent’s neck or face area. A praying mantis waits patiently, then moves fast and goes for the neck. It will start enjoying its meal right away. In some parts of China Praying Mantis are set against each other in fighting contests. The Praying Mantis has sharp spiny spikes on its forelegs. Though they will not nip a person, they attack lightning fast to eat other insects. They’ve even been seen to kill small mice. Praying Mantises can hear ultrasonic signals. That ability helps them avoid being eaten by bats. Birds and snakes also eat them. They have two big eyes and three more little ones in between. Like the black widow spider, after mating the female will eat the male! Yuck! Later she will lay many separate masses of eggs in gummy material on twigs or tree branches. They will hatch the next year. (The mother will live only 6 months to 1 year, so she won’t see them hatch). When they hatch the babies already look like tiny adults, but they can’t fly until they grow older. It takes three months (& several skin sheddings) for them to mature.

Read more... | Published: 12/03/08