Saturday, January 30, 2016


When serving on his first mission in California, Theron developed a 'tie' fashion statement.  A color, a design, a different knot, or something to distinguish him from other missionaries. He has kept this fashion statement for all of our 41 years together.  Whenever he would travel, he would buy a tie as a souvenir- a plaid from Antarctica, a kiwi design from New Zealand, a 4th of July tie, and so forth. A few days after we arrived in Samoa, he started looking for a tapa tie and a woven tie.  There are no such ties, so he went to work inventing them.  He is now the proud owner of I think the only tapa tie in all of Samoa and perhaps the world.

Tapa cloth is made from the bark of a young mulberry tree.  The bark is split and then removed from the young tree stem.The inner bark is separated from the green outer bark and is smoothed then beaten with a wooden mallet to stretch it and make it thin. It is very labor intensive and requires a lot of time and skill to pound the tree fiber to make it expand into a piece of "cloth". Several layers of the paper-like material are laid together to cover any holes where the branches were or other imperfections and to achieve the desired width and length of fabric. It is then dried after which a design is imprinted on it.  The tapa is a very light tan color after it is dried.  The design is stamped into the tapa using a coconut stencil usually cut and formed into geometric designs as shown in the picture below of the wood carver.  The traditional brown color is from the koko bean.

The young girl is filling in some of the color of a stamped pattern while her grandmother is cutting off the bark.

Tapa was once used for clothing on the islands and today is used for decorations or room dividers.  Tapa is given as a present at weddings and other occasions.  So a tapa tie would be a marvelous gift and a definite traditional fashion statement.

The best tapa in Samoa is made on Savai'i.  We bought some pieces there, but want to bring them home for a wall decoration.  So, I wasn't going to give them up for the tie.

Theron had been thinking about how to accomplish his desire and had Adrian send us some zipper ties. His idea was to have the tie made around the form of the zipper tie because you couldn't tie and untie the tapa material it is just too rigid and fragile.  Our time in Tutuila was coming to an end I was having a pulatasi (dress) made and we had just found a long narrow piece of tapa at a store in the airport - we spent a lot of time at the airport so this became an easy shopping place.  The day I went to pick-up my pulatasi, Theron approached the male seamstress about making his tapa tie.  He explained what he wanted and we brought the material to him.  He seemed quite interested in creating the item.  Just a few days before we left, we were able to pick up the ties (he was able to make two from the cloth).

They are beautiful.  The picture doesn't do them justice so you will have to wait to touch them and see them.  He wore the tie to Church the following Sunday and to Elder Christofferson's missionary meeting this past week.  We predict a new business will be born from this idea - no one had ever seen a tapa tie, all the missionaries want one and the locals kept saying, "I've never thought of that!".  Elder Ellsworth has talked to him at length about how to get one.  The controller in Tutuila took pictures of front and back and has a seamstress that she is going to have make some.  It was fun to see the excitement that has come from a tapa tie.  Now he just has to find the right person to make a "fine mat" woven tie.

McGyver is at still at work and going strong!  How fun to see his imagination at work.

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