An Unexpected Day

A month or so ago I read this description on the website for the New Hampshire Weavers’ Guild:

The Telling Detail: Special Effects in Tapestry
Lys Weiss & Jeffrey K. Weiss

Museum exhibitions of historical tapestries can overwhelm us. Their huge size and display of magnificence can make it hard to focus on specific details. The overall effect is tremendous–but how exactly was that effect achieved?
This presentation will use examples from historical tapestries to train our eyes to see how those long-ago weavers created the remarkable special effects we marvel at today. We will examine striking details: plants and animals, flowing water, majestic buildings, and lively people with expressive faces, costumes of elaborate fabrics, sparkling jewelry, and all the material goods of daily life.

I’ve seen every blockbuster tapestry exhibition at the Met since 2002, and once I went to one of these huge exhibitions five times.  And even after viewing the same tapestries five times, I felt completely overwhelmed and lost in every single one. I know I’m not the only one!  Imagine this scenario:
Who wouldn’t be ovewhelmed at all the visual stimuli in these large pieces.  So, let me tell you–I want to meet this couple who can talk you through these mammouth works and break down the images into bite size pieces.
Their presentation is going on right now as I write this.  When push came to shove, I could not manage driving 3 hours each way to see their program.  And boy, am I disappointed.  Yesterday, when I faced the fact that I would not be going, I wrote to them to ask if they would consider giving the same program to my guild in Connecticut.  Fingers crossed….
Instead of driving to Concord, New Hampshire today, I drove to the border of Haddam and Killingworth, somewhat north of where I live on the Connecticut River.  The woman who runs our  guild’s “Weftovers” tables was given a large quantity of Paternayan Persian wool.  It’s about 12 lbs. worth of the large 4 oz. skeins and the smaller 8 yard skeins.  I don’t even use Paternayan for tapestry anymore, but I could not let it get thrown out.  I am hoping to pass it along to beginning tapestry weavers, for which it is a great yarn….easily unplied and re-plied to create endless color possibilities.  And at 8 epi it is perfect as one strand of weft.
Here it is in its new home–the storage room off my studio.
According to KC, the guild member in charge of the “weftovers tables” at our guild, this yarn came from a church that had commissioned the recovering of its pews with needlepointed cushions.
So although it wasn’t a drive to New Hampshire, it was a lovely drive north along the river to a fairly rural area with a few farms.  The almost-winter sky was beautiful and the cows were out in the pasture today.
After loading the boxes of yarns into my car KC took me for a walk in the woods behind her house. We crossed over the stream on this pretty bridge that she and her husband built, and walked toward the pond.
It has been a lovely day in its own right, and I hope the Weisses will agree to give their presentation down here in Connecticut.  If they do, I’ll let you know!
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Precious Gifts

The first thing on my mind for the past week is the lovely tapestry exhibit at LaGrua Gallery in Stonington, CT.  Dash over there if you can!  How many opportunities are there to see tapestry as the focus of a gallery exhibit?  And Mary Merrill’s tapestries are beautifully displayed in this space with it’s wonderful light.  Mary’s works have a lot to do with light since her works are all landscapes.

I was surprised and disappointed to find that no one from my Connecticut guild of weavers was present at the opening.  Mary Merrill’s daugher and son were there to speak about their mother and comment on the works chosen for this exhibit.  It was delightful to meet them and to learn some personal facts about the woman who wove these tapestries.

Mary Merrill  lived her life within the confines of most women of her generation, supporting her husband’s career and raising five children.  At the same time she pursued various weaving techniques and volunteered in several areas related to weaving.  She held numerous positions in the Weavers’ Guild of Boston, including president, and she volunteered and did research for Plimouth Plantation.  Later in life her tapestry work depicted her experiences traveling the world.  Her daugher Amy described their summer vacations at a cottage in New England.  Her mother would be make the meals and participate in some of the family outings, but a significant part of each day was spent at her large tapestry loom.

Here is Mary in front of her tapestry, “Kilauea.”

Mary Merrill seems just the kind of woman I would have enjoyed knowing–someone I probably would have emulated.  I only became introduced to her work this summer when I saw a display of her tapestries at NEWS (New England Weavers’ Seminar) in Northampton, Massachusetts. The works chosen for that exhibit were mostly tropical landscapes with the vibrant colors of a hot, sunny location.  There was one tapestry in the show that stood out for me with its intense colors of a sunet in a high latitude location.  It is a scene of from a Norwegian village.  Here are Amy and Paul posing for me in front of  ”Primary North,” 1998 (copletted just a hear before her death).


In the 15 years since her death, her family has taken care to have her work stored in places for safe keeping: first at the Fiber Arts Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, and now at Harrisville Designs in New Hampshire.  If you ask me, this has got to be the most endearing display of love I have encountered.  Hearing about her life through the eyes of two of her children added such depth to the woman I only know as a power house of hard work in the preservation of textile history.  Since not a single person from my guild came to the opening, I can truly say they all missed a wonderful evening.  However, you can still see the exhibit!–through early December.

And you’ll be able to see more of Mary Merrill’s work in March and April when she will have a retrospective at the Fuller Craft Museum.

The following day I attended one of my lace group’s monthly meetings, a somewhat rare treat for me since I am out of the area for a good part of the year.  This year while I’ve been home I’ve had some unfortunate conflicts with the dates for our lace meetings.  When I get to one of these meetings I am always stunned by the complex work the members do, and by how tolerant they are of my slow progress as a beginner.  Last month I admired a minature bolster pillow at Mary’s house.  It was a traditional pillow, only tiny!–in the style of the pillows from Slovenia, sitting in its tiny woven basket with an intricate piece of real Idrija lace displayed in miniature, including some miniature bobbins hanging from the lace!  It was a gem!  It was a gift to Mary from another member named Linda.

This month’s meeting happened to be at Linda’s house.  Linda and her husband made us a feast that was like Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one huge festive meal.  Shortly after I arrived and was returning to my lace after getting some morning coffee, I found this little gem sitting next to my lace pillow.  What a gift!


Now if only my own attempts at Idrija lace looked as beautiful as this does.  Sigh….

For the final event of this special weekend I met my oldest friend at an opening in Windsor, Connecticut.  I was not particularly moved by the works in that exhibit, but we had a nice evening together.  She has been telling me about the wonderful scent from a Brugmansia Angel Trumpet that she is ‘plant sitting’ in her studio.  The fragrance was heavenly, and the plant is truly impressive.


IMG_1643I’m about a week late posting this.  Life does get in the way sometimes….but sometimes it’s all really good stuff.  I’ve made some progress on the book about Archie Brennan.  (I hope whoever reads this jumps out of their seat and gives a cheer!)  And my sister and I have had some precious time together, although not under the best of circumstances.  She agreed to let me care for her after some rather scary surgery.  All went well, but her recuperation will be slower than we imagined.  I have enjoyed having here with me.  We’ve been two women alone together, watching movies, eating good food (I have to take good care of her, don’t I?–alone I would have been eating junk food!), and talking about everything under the sun.  Bob has been away sailing for almost 3 weeks so it’s been special to have this time with my sister.

And fall is quickly turning to winter.   Here is a beautiful photo taken near the Connecticut River by my friend Jody.

IMG_1613And the view out my kitchen window, just a day or two before the beeches turned brown and began dropping leaves.








Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sericulture in Connecticut and a Workshop with Sarah

That title is a mouthful.  Initially, I just liked the sound of “Sericulture in Connecticut,”  but I could not write about that when I’d also just spent a fabulous three days sewing with Sarah Fortin!  Some week!   I guess if all weeks were as educational and productive I’d be wiped out all the time. Who knew there was a silk industry in Connecticut?  I did not.  I certainly knew that China and other Asian countries have had  silk production since the dawn of time.  And I knew that by the Renaissance, European countries wanted to grow their own silk worms so they could stop buying costly silk from China that involved the long and treacherous journey on the silk roads.  Well, it turns out that the English wanted to see if silk could be successfully cultivated in the American colonies.  The experiment started in the area from Virginia to Georgia, around 1650.  This is the same period in which the English experimented growing indigo in the southern colonies as well.  A century later the southern colonies were focused on cotton and tobacco, and an experimental silk culture had started in Mansfield,  an area east of Hartford.  This was a cottage industry in which farmers were encouraged to plant black mulberry trees in their orchards, and their wives raised the silkworms and learned to reel the silk. The program was presented by Ann Galonska from the Mansfield Historical Society.  She has been researching the silk industry in this part of Connecticut for a number of years and she also decided to try her own hand at raising silk worms.  She was able to feed the caterpillars on the leaves from the few remaining black mulberry trees in the area.


Interestingly, Ann told us that silk worms put on 80% of weight during the last week of their caterpillar cycle.  They go through so many mulberry leaves that she has to replenish the leaves multiple times a day.

Ann brought silk cocoons, silk worm eggs, a silk worm preserved in a jar (formaldehyde?), and various samples of different silk preparations.  She showed slides of the various silk mills that cropped up in the area.  Hanks Silk Mill ws the first mill in the US, established in 1810.  As time went by more mills were established:  Chaffee Silk Mill and Mansfield Silk Company, until by 1869, there were eight mills in the area. She showed bills where farmer were paid for the silk they delivered, as well as ledgers of bartering with silk as payment for household goods.

She showed an adverstisement from 1834, urging farmers to buy mulberry trees to add to their orchards: 100 black mulberry trees for $3 – 5.  Hard to imagine, even given the cost of things back then.  By the end of that decade the same 100 trees cost $500.  And that is even harder to imagine!  Silk was a profitable industry in this area for a couple of decades, but the decline began when people started buying saplings of the white mulberry tree, which was known to be preferable to black mulberry.  Ann said these trees survived the first couple of winters in Connecticut which happened to be mild, but when a more typical New Engalnd winter ensued the white mulberries were not hardy enough to survive.  And most of the farmers had cut down their black mulberry trees in order to plant the white version.  While raising silk worms swiftly declined at this point, the mills hung on well into the 20th century using imported silk.  You can find more information, along with early  20th c. photos of some of the mills at the historical society’s website.  And there are tours of the mills at certain times of the year.  Now that would be a treat!

Much of last week I spent at a workshop with Sarah Fortin, learning to sew a garment from handwoven fabric.  This is far from my forte (ha ha!)–so far that I would say I am completely inept at making a flattering garment.  So to cut into precious handwoven fabric for a likely-to-fail attempt at making a jacket made me pretty uncertain about taking this workshop.  I brought a nice selection of commercial fabrcis to choose from:  a length of Harris Tweed, two lengths of wool melton, and a selection of other wool crepes and one chenille that I thought might work up as something interesting.   Somehow, in the tote bag of fabrics I also included a very precious length of wool fabric that Rabbit Goody wove, and that I bought from her as a remnant, about 20 years ago.  This piece of yardage was far more precious to me than any of my own handwoven fabric, and I cannot explain why I took it with me to the workshop!

Naturally, when I showed Sarah my fabric choices, I began listing all the reasons why I would not consider cutting into the Rabbit Goody fabric.  And naturally, Sarah listed all the reasons why I should.  In the long run, Sarah (with enthusiastic support from the rest of the workshoppers) won this debate.

1-Sewing with Rabbit Goody fabric

I have to say it was not easy to cut into that beautiful fabric.  The sewing was enjoyable and ate up most of the workshop time.  When I reached the last seam in assembling the jacekt I suddenly got very anxious.  I knew it would be time to try it on.  It still had a lot work to do–all the embellisments I’d planned as well as all the finishing for the sleeves and the hem and attaching a front band.  But it was at this point, when all the pattern pieces were together, that I could try on the jacket, and I did not want to do it!  Sarah came with me to a more private area where the others could not watch, and I put it on.  I was very shocked to find that I loved it!  ….and that it fit so well.  Whew!  All credit for this  goes to Sarah, of course, for helping me size the pattern before cutting it out.  And of course she was right– better to enjoy this fabric as a garment– the very reason I bought it in the first place, rather than hiding it away in my stash.

Sarah Fortin workshop me

Everyone made a successful jacket during our workshop.  Marjie, who is likely our most accomplished seamstress, finished her jacket first. The pattern she used is called the ‘swing’ jacket. Look how pleased both Marjie and Sarah are with the outcome!  The rest of us are are sighing over this and hoping ours will turn out as well!

3-Sarah Fortin workshop

Last day of class, more people are approaching the finishing! This is Jody’s jacket, a wonderful fabric woven on a warp at Vavstuga. The coloris quite off–it’s actually a great mixture of two greens and brown.  Jody made the same pattern I did, called the “bias sleeve” jacket. I think Jody’s jacket is the most successful combination of weave structure and garment design.  It’s a beauty and it looks fabulous on her!

2-Sarah Fortin workshop Jody

One more finished swing jacket with terrific color placement!

4-Sarah Fortin workshop swing coatSome of us will be getting together again this week to continue to work on our finishing.  I’m now a bit confused about my sleeve finish and how to put on the front band.  I’m hoping some of the more experienced sewers (that would ALL of them!) can give me some pointers.  Also, Sarah has offered to answer any questions so I think I will email her.  I’d better get to it!

Posted in sewing, weaving | Leave a comment

Weaving Vignettes

Over this summer I have stumbled on some wonderful weaving videos, everything from an historic reenactment of working with flax and wool in the Bronze Age to a number of videos showing tapestries in progress, to a Google video about high tech weaving with threads that have conductivity and can be attached to a very small computer chip imbedded in the cloth.  Huge thanks to everyone who makes these terrific videos–sharing their knowledge and their weaving talents and information on such fascintating endeavors with the rest of us.

Here’s the video about conductive threads that have been designed for use in weaving fabrics for clothing, upholstery, and other applications where the cloth will then be compatible with any computer device.

So now it might be fun to see the other end of the weaving spectrum:  Bronze age flax and wool processing and weaving in northern Europe during this time period.  The Center for Textile Research, which I believe is associated with a university in Denmark,  has documented this period of history so beautifully!

Here is a great stop action video of weaving one of  the “Hunt for the Unicorn” tapestries that were re-interpreted and woven by weavers from West Dean College in Sussex for Stirling Castle in Scotland. The original tapestries (from around 1500 which were woven in Flanders)  are hanging in the Cloisters in New York.  This project of recreating the seven tapestries in the series began in 2001, and was not finished until 2014.  The last tapestry in the set was hung at Stirling Castle this summer, 2015.  The weavers made a number of trips to the Cloisters to study the originals.  I met a few of them on one of their trips, and it is something I’ll never forget!

Isn’t it wonderful to watch the unicorn’s horn get woven?  On that note, I’d better get back to weaving myself!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Sublime to the …well, NOT

On the right hand side of this blog page I keep a list of the exhibitions where my tapestries have been shown.  Yesterday was the opening of a show in a venue I’ve never participated in before.  The focus was all kinds of fiber work, and when I dropped my pieces off for the jurying I was quite intrigued with a number of pieces already there.  There were quilts of course, and different kinds of felting from felted landscapes to nuno felted vests and jackets.  There was a beautiful double weave scarf displayed on an acrylic rod in a deep black frame that enhanced the glowing colors of the fabric.  There were a set of free form coiled baskets made from linen and coiled with waxed linen.  There was a bit of knitting and a bit of handmade paper forms.  It was the most diverse exhibition I’ve ever been part of, and I was looking forward to meeting some of the artists who made these works at the opening.

I do not have any photos from the opening because I was too shocked to actually think of taking any.  Perhaps they just accepted too many items into this show…. some walls were beautifully displayed and others had too many things jammed together.  So the crowded walls had things displayed salon style, and the sense of the whole was just a mish-mash because the pieces had nothing to tie them together… fairness maybe color, not technique, and not with a sense of cohesion.  It was just painful to look at.  I couldn’t help thinking that the pieces that were well displayed were the pieces that were valued by the judges–the award winning pieces.  But this was not the case.  Some of the beautifully arranged walls had no awarded pieces on them at all.

Bob took two photos of my works at the opening.  ”Hudson River Idyll” got an honorable mention.  It was hung quite high above a quilted piece , and our two pieces are quite jarring together.  I’m trying to put a happy face on it!


And “Sunset on Wilson Cove” was hung in a place that was not even part of the show.  There were three gallery rooms and a long hallway that had works on display.  Then the very back of the long hallway was separated with some architectural molding and this is where  there was the coat room, the bathrooms, and an exit to the stairway that leads to the lower level.  THAT is where “Sunset on Wilson Cover” was hanging–the only piece that is not in the actually gallery area.  Frankly, I think it should have been rejected from the show entirely rather than put it in such a disrespected location.  I was quite embarrassed by this….  and I don’t understand it.


The walls that were carefully chosen were stunning.  The walls that were over-filled just made everyone’s work look bad…..even cheap.  And having one piece of work off in a different place entirely was just mind boggling to me.  There comes a point when accepting more pieces into a show than the space can handle just deters from seeing anything well.  The other shocking thing is that some pieces still had stickers on them–stuck right to works themselves, not on the sides or backs–with the entry numbers written on them.  Luckily I can say the volunteers who checked me in at the drop off put stickers on the stretched fabric of my frames, not directly on my tapestries.  But the pieces hanging on the walls for the opening had stickers stuck right to the pieces themselves.

On the other hand, I did meet some of the very interesting artists!  I was happy to see that some works were made by men.  The most interesting person at the opening –to me– was a felt artist.  She had done a wonderful nuno felted jacket as well as a hand felted mandala (for which she also got an honorable mention–and I have to say it–there was a sticker on this piece) and she had made a large quilted wall hanging.  She happened to be wearing the most interesting top of all the interesting garments that fiber artists can dream up to wear to openings, and by the end of the opening I just had to approach her and ask about her garment.  She had made it herself, from a commercial pattern to which she added some handpainted designs and a very funky set of closures to the assymetrical line of the front opening.  I wish I had asked to photograph her…..but the upside is that I have her contact information and she has offered to help me learn fitting techniques so I can possibly have better success at sewing!  So, all in all I enjoyed meeting the other artists as the highlight of the event.

There is one other positive feature about this gallery that I should mention.  The windows are very tall and they have been covered with balck venetian blinds.  For this exhibit the blinds are closed, keeping the textiles from too much UV exposure over the next few weeks.  Of course the halogen spotlights are screamers, but the the gallery is only open from Thursdays to Sundays in the afternoons each week, so not full time.

Looking back at my admittedly narrow experience in showing fiber works in public spaces, I’ve been quite fortunate to be part of exhibitions in large spaces that allowed such very different techniques to be seen to good advantage.  I guess it takes a bad experience to better appreciate the good ones.  Meanwhile, for the next month my tapestry of the sunset on my son’s face can greet people as they retrieve their coats and visit the ladies’ or the men’s….. (snark)…

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


It’s quite hard for me to believe that I have not written a post in more than six weeks now.  I have been working like a woman with her hair on fire….and that usually goes hand in hand with having a LOT to say–or write.  For some reason I’ve been strangely mute.

Finally I have turned my attention to a project that has been lingering on my big Toika loom for several years.  I managed to move that loom with the warp on it when we relocated here in Connecticut, and I’ve managed to play with it for short bursts over the past few years while we’ve lived here.  Suddenly I want it off the loom and on the wall!  That’s always a good motivation!

I’m chronicling the 40+ years that Bob and I have known each other.  The piece starts with a row of autumn trees to represent our first outing together: a walk in the woods, in the nature preserve called Devil’s Den in Weston–back in 1972!  What do you think of my boundweave loom?  I can’t take credit for drawing that gem.  It is Karen in the Woods’ design which she posted on Weavolution.  I learned to weave in 1976.


The past couple of days I’ve worked on wedding rings, sailboats and kitties.–wish you could see their green eyes.  I’m now in the early 80s.


When I settled down to weave this project I could not concentrate until I completely picked up and reorganized my studio.  There was way too much clutter everywhere I looked.  Now that I’m in the thick of boundweave my studio has become messier than it was when I couldn’t stand it any longer.  Funny how that happens.  Now I cringe a bit when I enter the room, but I really had to pull out all that yarn out for picking the colors and the softness I need for my little boundweave figures.


It was a beautiful summer although, aside from the linen tote bag, I did not knuckle down to any floor loom weaving until August.  There was SO much I wanted to do–I won’t bore you with the list….

We had more hummingbirds than we’ve had in previous years.  One of the females would sit on top of the iron plant hanger and chase away all other birds who came to feed.  I grow lots of red flowers on the deck to keep everyone happy.  The hummingbirds were constant companions for us.



In September I was invited to give a presentation on tapestry weaving to the Rhode Island weavers’ guild.  There are several women in that guild who are also in the CT guild so I already knew a few members.  They are a dynamic group who do some amazing work.  You can find articles that various members have written in back issues of Handwoven.  There are some well known weavers in Rhode Island:  Antonia Kormos, Norma Smayda, Jan Doyle…. I could certainly learn more from any one of them than I could possibly teach them!

For the presentation I collected images from all the tapestry weavers whose work inspires me.  I was impressed how willingly each of these weavers shared their photos with me so I could share them with the RI guild.  Such beautiful work!–Joan Baxter, Tommye Scanlin, Jon Eric Riis,  members of the Wednesday Group, of course!–along with Archie and Susan.

And in the afternoon an adventurous group of guild members tried their hands at weaving on chopstick looms.  Sally’s husband made the looms, and he did such a stellar job that it made all our Wednesday Group looms look pathetic!  I’m not going to give out Henry’s last name or he might be inundated with requests for these beauties!


Here are some of the portraits, all well woven!


In August, after the wedding,  Bob and I spent a week sailing on our new Pandora, all the way to Nantucket and back during the most mild and beautiful week of the summer.  I’ve got a new stash of window box and front door photos from all the pretty houses there.



Maybe I’ll post more of these another time, as a ‘postcards from summer’ type entry. I can’t help myself when it comes to gardens, and there were a lot of wonderful gardens on Nantucket….and I visited the oldest house on the island for the first time.

I’ve got warp ideas filling my head, and hope to get at least two of them on looms before we leave for the winter.  Lucienne Coifman is in my guild and has just published an intriguing book on Rep weave.  I bought it after also borrowing it from my guild library.


 This is the project that is calling me!  I think it would make wonderful placemats and runners (in a different colorwary) for my son and his wife’s new dining room.  Naturally, I don’t have any 5/2 cotton which is the weight I’d like to try for a rep project.  So it looks like a big order is looming….ha ha!  I hope I can get it all together before I leave.  I know from experience that it is a wonderful thing to come home to a loom just waiting for me to sit down and weave!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Past Wedding, Full Forward on Inspiration!

First a moment of shamless personal happiness:  our older son was married over the weekend in Baltimore.  It was a glorious event!  I enjoyed every detail of it starting with our private time with the almost newly weds when we arrived on Wednesday evening last week, right through to the after-wedding-Sunday-brunch.  It was a small wedding, but the honored guests came from as far as San Francisco and Denver and Florida, to as close as right down the street.  It was a congregation of close knit friends and relatives.  It couldn’t have been better!

rob and kandice wedding begins

 We invited our very oldest friends–two couples we’ve known since long before either Rob or Chris were born–Chris and Pat and LeaAnn and Garrett– and a dear friend, Craig, who has been more than an uncle to our boys….and my sister Sheryl and her family–Carl, Madison and Chloe.  It was perfect!

Elevator selfies are certainly the rage now!

IMG_1282 The wedding party was large for so small a wedding– 6 bride’s maids, 6 groom’s men,
1 groom’s dog, 3 flower girls, and 2 ringbearers.  The groom’s dog may have stolen the show.  After walking down the aisle with the groom, he then gave the groom a ‘high-5′ moments before the bridesmaids entered.

rob and Kandice wedding Bosun procession

 He lay down peacefully between the bride and groom when the vows began.

Rob and Kandice wedding vows with Bosun

When he began to make nesting movements with the bride’s beautiful wedding dress, he made no fuss at being moved in front of the groomsmen. Just look at all those Chuck Taylors!

Bosun and groomsmen

He got to spend a few moments at the reception before he was sent up to the bridal suite to to relax with a very attentive friend.

rob and kandice wedding rob and dad bosun

Here are more moments from the day… I loved every minutes of it!


Photo ops in the beautiful Hotel Monaco in Baltimore.


The best man and the mother of the groom–moi!

rob and kandice wedding Chris and me

I am shamelessly proud of these two young men–the groom and his best man brother!

rob and kandice wedding rob and chris

The finale of the ceremony!

Rob and Kandice wedding the kiss

That wonderful moment for any mother of the groom!


The very best moments of this weekend aren’t documented with photographs.  It was spending some wonderful time with both our sons, our new daugher in law, our friends, my sister and her family.  It was finding two very sweet handwritten notes from my son thanking us for so much, acknowledging what a wonderful relationship we’ve had over the years behind us and the years to come.  This note arrived with a gift just moments before I left our room to go down to the ceremony.  It just doesn’t get any better!


With a little help from my friends (there’s always a Beatle theme when our family is together) Bob and I hosted a brunch for the newly weds on Sunday morning at their new house in the suburbs of Baltimore.  If not for Pat and Jeremy, and of course Bob, the brunch would not have been nearly as buttoned down as it was!  I guess we were way too busy hosting to get any photos.

I am so indebted to our old friends and my sister’s family for making such a long trek to be part of this event.  Being with them put the frosting on the cake and the cherry on top!

Now back at home I am relishing the all the memories and enjoying looking through all the candid photos taken by friends.  We’ll have the photographer’s images shortly.

I have turned my attentions back to the tapestry presentation I’ll be giving in early September to the weavers’ guild in Rhode Island, to working on what I’ve lovingly called the “Archie Project” for the past ….. years.  I refuse to admit how long this project is taking!

Bob and I took inventory of his stash of dowels in the workshop to determine what he might need to buy in order to make a backstrap for loom for me.  It looks like we have everything needed!  I might be weaving by early next week.

This morning LeaAnn sent me links to a wonderful illustrator and writer who lives in Wales – Jackie Morris.  My imagination took off while reading her blog.  On Saturday, while we were celebrating a wedding, she wrote this:

The summer is always busy. It’s hard to find the silence required for clear thought. George MacKay Brown talked of writing poetry as ‘the interrogation of silence.’ I know not everyone needs it to work, to think, but I do.
…I become more fascinated by silence as I grow older. But finding silence is different to being silent. When you choose to stop speaking you unnerve people. They fill the silence, the space you leave. They interpret your silence in their own way. 

At the end of her post she invited people to comment on how they achieve the silence they need to think and work, or to respond that they do not need to find this silence.

I agree whole heartedly with her description about needing inner silence and attempting to find it. There is no one place where I find mine. Sometimes it is easy to retreat to a wonderful silent place, and sometimes, no matter where I go I cannot get to it. I’m certain it has more to do with the state of my mind than the features or faults of any physical place. It all comes down to me. I just have to learn to be still and let it come.

As a weaver I often find that being at one of my looms is the best place for me to be silent and reap the benefits of where silence can lead. It doesn’t always work, but it is almost foolproof. On a floor loom or at a spinning wheel there is a rhythm of mechanical music that takes me deep into my inner self where there is a vast landscape of something like silence.

In tapestry I almost silently lift each warp thread by hand to create an image, and in that case it is my own deep thinking about the image that draws me away from the world, from any other noise but that deep music inside me. These are the reasons I return to weaving again and again.

After all the busy-ness of this summer–the SSCA extravaganza, visiting friends, the biennial weaving conference, and the wedding–it’s time to find that silence and get some good work done.

Posted in family, inspiration, tapestry, weaving | Leave a comment

A New Direction…

It’s less than a week until my son’s wedding!  I have finished my projects, but I’m still deep in lists–  lists for everything we need to bring to the wedding– a list of  what I need for myself as well as what I’ve promsied to supply for the ceremony…..lists for meals before the wedding,  and a list for what I need to host the wedding brunch at my son’s new house the day after the wedding.

Meanwhile, I can’t help thinking about weaving projects.  I’ve gotten precious little weaving done on the small tapestry I started onboard late winter this year.  What I have done on it has been quite fun–lots of swirling water and the beginnings of the tentacles of a Portuguese Man of War. Very soon I will have my first attempt at pulling the warp around the loom so I can continue weaving up the warp.  I’m more than a little anxious about this, but once I’ve done it I hope it becomes something I can count on doing.  It will allow me to have smaller looms on board if I use this kind of warp.  Check out my new attempts at holding my cartoon in place–a small, very powerful magnet.  These little magnets will jump right out of your hands to fly together they are so strong.  And a very large paper clip.  Neither is a good solution, but I muddle on.


And I’ve been planning my next floor loom project.  It’s so hard to choose what to weave when I have so little time at home and so many ideas.  I think I will weave yardage in Plaited Huck (same structure as my recent linen tote bag).  This time I will make a warp of tussah silk in natural (sort of a pale oat color–not shown in the photo because the cone is the size of a small loom) with random stripes of several  silks from SanJo that are also cool natural colors, but matt–no sheen like the tussah.  One is smooth, another is boucle and the third has wonderful dark flecks in it.  The weft will be golden tussah, in the center of the photos.  It will become yardage for a top I hope to make…


But here’s my NEW DIRECTION–all caps because I am very excited about this!  At this time of year for the past 3 years– the threshold of late summer–I have become rather anxious and a bit cranky (might be an understatement) that my weaving time at home is rapidly diminshing.  This year I have even less to show for myself than previous years…  sigh…

Yesterday morning I was looking at some messages on Ravelry and then clicking on various links to other things.  Isn’t that the recipe for suddenly losing half a day?  Following various links on Ravelry, a site for knitters, I stumbled on Laverne Waddington’s website about backstrap weaving.  Here is the first photo that caught my attention.

Are these not WONDERFUL???  A little voice is saying to me:  Are these not exactly what you’ve been wanting to weave???  Book covers and handbags. The little voice again: That’s why you’ve woven and sewn two tote bags in the past year.  That’s why you took a class on making paper forms for handmade books… can do this….YOU can do this on a boat! 

Look how Laverne personalized these book covers with the initials of the lucky friends who will receive them!

There are lots of small bags on Laverne’s site too, and lots of simply beautiful pick up designs.  Go take a look!

Oh, be still my heart!  I think backstrap weaving might be a wonderful new direction for me.  It will fit on the boat.  It will satisfy my need to weave somewhat complex cloth.  It will allow me to continue my new interest in making book covers and handbags.  It is taking all my willpower not to make a loom right now…  I must stay focused on the wedding for 8 more days, then I can come home and get started!

Funny how things come to you when you need them.  I’ve known of Laverne for a number of years now.  She and I are in a number of the same online groups.  I see her stuff on these groups now and then and marvel at her beautiful weaving.  It just never occurred to me until now that this type of weaving may be the perfect solution to weaving onboard.

Posted in family, weaving | 1 Comment

It’s summer and I’m thinking about Linen…


There was a recent post on Facebook that linked to a May 16th  article in the New York Times about the two brothers from Pennsylvania who wrote The Big Book for Flax.  Most anyone who attended Maryland Sheep and Wool festival a few years ago saw them there, selling their beautiful coffee table book about linen when it was first published.

The article points out the hardships these two men have faced in trying to build a commune where members would work together to live off the land, including growing flax and spinning and weaving it to make their own clothing.  Their lifestyle is modeled off the colonial Moravian communities that settled in this part of Pennsylvania a couple of centuries ago.

I’ve never been certain how well flax grows in the US.  I know Sara von Tresckow has good success in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  Her website boasts a flaxcam, although I did not see live video of flax growing!–truly like watching grass grow!  Instead there is an interesting photo essay of the whole seed to harvest process. Sara spins and weaves with her homegrown flax.  I loved her solution to the volatile weather that the midwest gets each summer.  She cordons off her fields with baling twine to help keep the plants vertical during a blow or a thunderstorm. Now that’s an attention to detail and a labor of love!

Last year I met a woman from New Hampshire who demonstrated flax preparation at the Bushnell Farm in Old Saybrook as part of an annual historic festival of ‘life on the farm’ in our area of the Connecticut River Valley. Gina Gerhard brought locally grown flax from New Hampshire along with all her tools for demonstrating  the whole process from harvest to stricks that are ready to spin.  I described the whole process last year in this blog post.

Still, I can’t help thinking that flax is easier to grow in northern Europe where the weather is more reliable, where the  light is gentler for softly bleaching the fibers to that perfect silver.

Linen is such beautiful fabric that I have always wanted to spin it.  I have made a few attempts in the past and have enjoyed it.  I have a few spools of wetspun linen waiting to be plied and then utilized in some way.  I have a lovely image of myself in a simple handwoven jacket–where I also am a perfect size 6.  It’s always fun to dream….

Last week at NEWS I saw some beautiful linen stricks at the VavStuga booth and couldn’t resist buying one. It has that beautiful color that I associate with flax from Belgium or Netherlands.   Now I wish I’d bought two–or three!  I can’t do much with 4 oz!


 Then today I stumbled on a link to a beautifully done vimeo video on current European flax processing.  After seeing so many demonstrations and videos of traditional techniques for retting, breaking, scutching and combing flax it was very interesting to see the same processes done by machine.  It still appears to be a low impact way of using a natural product–far less environmentally challenging than most cotton.  Check it out.


And there is a sequel that includes some high tech applications for using linen in the automotive industry, for sports items such as bicycles and surf boards,  and even for fishing rods!  There is exciting information in this video about quite innovative uses for linen and flax fibers,  and yet the mechanics of processing flax are fairly basic compared to other high tech fibers. Fascinating!


There is about 25 minutes of video here, and all my words.  I think I’d better stop for now!

Posted in spinning, weaving | Leave a comment

Whirlwind Tour of NEWS in a Summer that is Zipping Past

This year I decided against registering for NEWS, New England Weavers’ Seminar.  Instead, I thought I would make a day visit and include some good friends from my old stomping ground in New York and New Jersey.  I would give them a little taste of NEWS just before their own regional conference, MAFA (Mid-Atantic Fiber Association) began.

Here we are at the end of the day….a bit worse for wear, but so happy to be together and to have been so inspired by all the exhibits at the conference.

NEWS friends

We had a terrific time at NEWS, although I did feel a twinge of regret when I saw that Margo Selby was offering a class in double weave.  Take a look at the work she exhibited in the faculty show.  Who wouldn’t want to study with her??


Maybe I should start with the faculty show… This is Barbara Herbster’s work.


This is a repweave table runner by Lucienne Coifman from my own guild in Connecticut.  She is a superlative teacher, and someday I hope to study rep with her.


The Gallery Exhibit is always exciting, and I was particularly excited this year!  I won 5 awards for my tapestry “Sunset on Wilson Cove.”  It is most likely the last time I’ll exhibit this piece so I was pleased that it had quite a swan song.  The three awards that blew me away are “1st Place Tapestry and Transparency,”  ”Judges’ Choice,” and “Peoples’ Choice.”  I am thrilled!  The other two are “First Time Entrant at NEWS” and “Best in Tapestry from the Textile Arts Center.” Can you tell how happy and surprised I am!


We all loved the upholstered footstool right below my tapestry, woven by Susan Wright. What great use of color.  It’s a beauty.


This stunning runner caught all our eyes.  Ruth Buchman manged to create a threading that is mirrored but gives such sense of assymetry.  Then her color choices were superb–greys and blacks with just the right touch of yellow that also gave a strong impression of assymetry.  So the piece has a calm balance in color and weave struture while also giving the impression that it is not symetrical.  Brilliantly done!


This is another of Ruth’s pieces in the gallery exhibit.  Stunning doubleweave.


This is Sarah Fortin’s double weave fabric.  I have no idea how she gets some areas to pleat and rise off the flat surface of the background fabric.  Beautiful colors and beautiful weaving.



IMG_1103IMG_1103This piece by Suzi Ballenger is stunning!  It has silk cocoons attached to it and the weaving was done with her open top beater tool that allows you to move warps, which creates the warp undulations in the fabric.


This fun–and beautiful– bag, called “Take Me Shopping” is by Karin Borden.


There was also a special exhibit of Mary Merrill’s tapestries woven over the decades from the 1950s when she began weaving until her death in the 1999.  Her family generously shares her work at gatherings like NEWS.  Look how fresh and lush her colors and her shape making are in these two works.  This was when I wished I could be at the conference for the entire weekend, so I could come back and visit more than once!



I’ve only been to NEWS twice now, and both times I have to say that my favorite displays are the guild tables.  Unjuried though they may be, the work is excellent, and both times I’ve been so inspired that I simply cannot take it all in.

Each guild chooses a theme for their display.  This year one guild did textiles inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, another displayed projects woven by one of their members who has passed away, and another guild woven projects based on personal memories.  There was a guild whose inspiration was gardening.  I have a photo of a curtain called “Spinach and Blackberry Salad” from that display. Our guild did a display of handbags based on the project that Area 4 did last year of weaving lunch bags and matching napkins to coordinate with a mug that belonged to someone else in the group.  It was a grab bag choosing of mugs, and then you designed and wove the lunch bag and napkin to give the member who owned the mug  you selected.  It was such a wonderful way to weave for someone else, and it honed our design skills along with our weaving skills.  My lunch bag was not part of the display since I gave it away last summer, but I have been so intrigued with making bags lately that I submitted my newly finished large tote bag for this display.  My photo makes the bags look like a bit of a jumble, and the lighting was harsh.  It was actually far more striking than it looks here.

Connecticut Guild’s display of Area 4 lunch totes and handbags.



The Frank Lloyd Wright display.



I think the next image may have been from a picnic themed project, although if so, I missed reading the details of what this group’s theme was.  Lovely weaving!– a basket tote and a handwoven band for your stawhat.


“Spinach Salad with Blackberries” from the gardening inspired display.


Stunning tableware woven by Jo Ann Miner.


None of us supported the vendors as we should have.  I hope they fared better with other visitors.  I was looking for some fine silk to add to my upcoming project for plaited huck blouse fabric, but  no one had what I needed.  I have some fine tussah silk from my stash as well as some silk I got last summer at Convergence from a vendor called “SanJo.”  I want to get the warp on sometime in August so I can get the fabric woven in time for a workshop in October with Sarah Fortin on sewing with handwoven fabric.

Why am not tackling that warp sooner?– BECAUSE we have our son’s wedding in less than three weeks!  I am feeling rather confident about my two wedding projects–the ring pillow is done!



And here is my wedding outfit.  The blouse is a vogue pattern for a boatneck tunic sewn by a wonderful seamstress in Amston, CT.  I then embellished it with silk ribbon embroidery to coordinate with the brown silk pants.


Want to see a closeup?  I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’


And to top off the outfit I am having some ballet slippers embroidered by a woman in Altanta who has an Etsy shop called AJuneBride.  My shoes will look something like this.

Well, I let this get absurdly long so I’ll stop for now even though I had lots more to say…  next post.

Posted in family | Leave a comment