St Kitts, Thomas Jefferson, Batik

That’s an odd assortment of names in the title, yet that is the diversity of what we have seen on this island!

The weather has us pinned down off the southeast coast of St. Kitts. There are no harbors here for protection, which is the case for many of the West Indies islands in the Caribbean, and boy do I miss the protected harbors on Antigua. After sailing from Antigua last Saturday, we attempted to anchor off Nevis, but the best anchorage area was too rough! It was only 2pm in the afternoon, so we sailed about seven miles further to White House Bay on St. Kitts, and then had to move again for more protection. We were finally settled, although not comfortably, just before sunset. The winds have been quite strong, which is typical for this time of year. They are called the Christmas winds and usually last until the end of January.

The capital of St. Kitts is Basse Terre, and in the center of the city is a roundabout with a clock in the center called Piccadilly Square.

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Cruise ships arrive almost daily in Basse Terre, and we can see them come and go from our anchorage, a few miles to the east. There is a hospital ship in the same area that has to leave every time a new cruise ship arrives. We learned that this ship is a medical school and that since the destruction of the medical school on Dominica this ship has taken on the faculty and students from that university. We watch it come and go every day to make room for the large cruise ships. I wonder what the faculty and students think of that. I’m trying to wrap my head around the students practicing surgical procedures on a vessel that has to be rolling around even slightly, in spite of having stabilizers.  I contemplate over each evening as we watch the sunset from Pandora.

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Yesterday we hired a tour guide to drive us around the island. Normally Bob and I detest this kind of touring, but this island has many windy roads and switchbacks that lead through the mountainous terrain, and driving is on the left. It was a smart decision not to tackle it ourselves!

Alexander Hamilton was born on nearby Nevis, and Thomas Jefferson’s great-great grandfather had a large plantation here on St. Kitts. The plantation has become a historic site here, no surprise, as well as the site of a botanical gardens and a local business of women who make batik fabrics. I’m quite fascinated to learn—so late in life!—that some of our founding fathers had such exotic origins! Years ago I visited the home of George Washington’s family, Sulgrave Manor, that seemed to be ‘right down the street’ from Princess Diana’s ancestral home Althorp. Both these family manses are in Northamptonshire, in the UK, so not so exotic. Still, I was well into adulthood before I ever gave a thought to exactly where our founding fathers originated. I just vaguely thought of them all as English. History is far more interesting in the details, isn’t it?

Romney Manor was first the site of gardens for a man named Tegereman who was chief of the indigenous tribe of Caribs. By 1625 this site had become a beautiful Euorpean style home for Sam Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s forebear.

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The gardens are good mix of natural landscape and cultivated gardens.

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It would hard to ever leave a spot like this…..more lemonade, please!

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Along with the gardens, which are well cultivated and include beautifully landscaped areas of quite a variety of tropical plants, a group of women also run a textile business on the property of the plantation. The women make wonderful batik fabrics and their business, which started in 1976, is called Caribelle Batik. After 40 years, they must be on their 2nd or even 3rd generation of women keeping this technique alive and well. I’d say I was watching the 2nd generation of master batik makers demonstrating for the tourists, since all of them were about my age.

The shop was full of about anything you can dream up to make with batik fabric.  There were wall hangings, clothing, all kinds of little containers, pillow covers.  I bought a nice selection of things to bring home for friends and family.

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The designs are drawn with a stylus filled with melted beeswax.

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They do intricate designs, and the best thrill of all was walking through the gardens, surrounded by exotic plants, views of the ocean, and lines and lines of batik fabrics drying in the breeze. I think this will be the highlight of my winter!

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In addition to a rainforest full of exotic native and not so native plants that have found there way here, St. Kitts also has a large colony of green monkeys. They are everywhere! Our guide told us that they were brought to the island by the French, who brought them on their ships from Africa, along with their human cargo destined to be slaves. Some islanders have taken young monkeys for pets. I got accosted by a heckler, who came up from behind and just put this monkey into my arms. I didn’t mind, but I would have preferred to be asked. I guess he knows well that if he asks, most people will say no. It’s better to just throw a monkey into your arms and grab your phone before you have a chance to think. It’s the way of life in this part of the world, so it’s best just to go with it. Cute monkey, isn’t it?….wearing a diaper, thank heaven!

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We had stopped for this view when the ‘monkey man’ approached me.

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How about a monkey in its natural setting.  They are pretty shy so we haven’t gotten close to the wild ones.

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In the middle of our day our tour guide took us to a local restaurant–just a couple of picnic tables under an awning, with a ‘kitchen’ in an attached shed.  No refrigeration.  Our guide said all the food was prepared daily so no need to refrigerate anything.  Well, hmmm.  The choices were pretty varied, so it’s hard for me to imagine that they used everything up everyday.

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Yeah, I know!  It looks pretty rough, and I’ll admit that I was nervous about the food.  It was all delicious–barbecued pork ribs, rice and pigeon peas, green salad, and Caribbean mac n cheese.  Others had baked chicken, or baked mackerel with same side dishes.  No one got sick.

I am staying onboard today. The wind has abated, although our weather guru says it’s best not to change locations until the weather is more settled at the beginning of next week. Sheesh! It’s only Wednesday! I plan to spend some time working on a small tapestry that is getting embarrassingly old, and then I will spend some time on my little Norwegian woven band. Later we will meet our cruising friends for sundowners at the beach bar, SaltPlage, where the view of the sunset will extraordinary!  Well, as you can, we already had our sundowners…I could not get this post online yesterday.

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So, that’s my report. St. Kitts is an interesting and unusual mix of history, lush flora and fauna, and beautiful local textile work.  All good for me.

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Memory…and Text (or lack of it)….and Textile

These first few days of the new year have been a bit of a roller coaster. As the east coast of the US was plunged into a weather condition called a ‘cyclone bomb,’ Bob and I were enjoying mild tropical weather in Antigua, where we celebrated the new year with fireworks that we watched from the deck of Pandora at midnight, shortly after the rise of the first super moon of the new year. All week the moon rose each night, well after dark, for such a display of lunar magnificence—exactly what the doctor ordered on these long nights—although noticeably shorter than January nights in New England. We’ll have a second full moon at the end of the month. A month with both a super moon and a blue moon—what might that conjure up for me?

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Two days later I saw the moon rise over Bob’s shoulder as we had dinner at a local restaurant in English Harbor.

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And one last photo–the moon rising over the courtyard of Copper and Lumber, in English Harbour.

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I have not made a new year’s resolution since young adulthood, after doing so throughout childhood and early adulthood never gave  me the desired results. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about resolutions at the start of every year, as well as at the beginning of September each year. Those shortened days in late summer/early fall, along with the start of a new academic year, are always a time for me to reevaluate and take stock. So here I am again, at the start of another year, thinking about another set of priorities and ideas that I will refuse to call resolutions.

Being away from home is also a time when I take stock of my situation and think about re-prioritizing. Years ago, I read The Artist’s Way, and writing the morning pages has always worked a strange magic on how I think about work and get things done. For some reason, perhaps that heady mix of being away from home mixed with the exercise itself, morning pages have a stronger effect on my thinking while we are away each winter. It’s working its magic again this winter. In addition to that exercise, I have started reading Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit. A dear friend gave it to me for Christmas, and it rekindled something I’ve missed. I started that book many years ago and never got very far, in spite of thinking it was a great tool. I lost track of the book and haven’t seen it since. What a pleasant shock to receive it again. I am enjoying it and have added its exercises to my morning routine. Of course I hope this will lead to good things and good work!

Yesterday several cruisers joined us in taking a day trip by ferry from Antigua to Montserrat. Most of us have been hoping to visit Montserrat for a number of years. It is a difficult place to visit by boat since it has no protected harbors. You need calm winds and no northern swells in order to safely anchor there and get ashore in a dinghy. Even if you get one perfect day, like yesterday, it’s not enough, since you need to spend at least one night there in order to have time to also get ashore to see the sights.

The biggest sight is the volcano, which of course you can see as you sail anywhere in the area. It’s a huge mountain whose summit is always lost in the clouds. Those clouds are usually emissions from the volcano itself—sulphur dioxide which you can smell if you are downwind.

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Our friends and we decided that the weather was not going to be perfectly favorable at any time in the next week or so, and that we should take the ferry across from Antigua for a day trip. In order to get the most out of our day we decided to hire a tour guide. There were eight of us. The cost of this outing was rather steep—just shy of $400 for each couple. We left Pandora at 6:30am and did not return until 8pm. The downside was that out of that 13 ½ hour day, we spent 8 ½ hours either waiting on various immigration and customs lines, or sitting on the ferry. Our tour was only 5 hours out of that long day! Still, we can now say we’ve been there, and the sights were as amazing as we’d always imagined!

Here is the track of the washout that occurred when the heavy rains began — the rains that came down once the fiery ash rose into the colder atmosphere above and caused massive electrical storms.  20 years later, look at that dry bed.  It’s hazy from the gases being emitted.

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The volcano overshadows every vista on the island. It is present, always. The smell of sulphur is always present too; it just depends which direction is downwind. We drove around the outskirts of the devastated capitol city, Plymouth, that was buried under ash from the last several eruptions during the mid-1990s. The islanders have not yet declared where they will rebuild a new capitol city, so it still feels like they live in the midst of this destruction, over 20 years later. This ruined city held most of the population where many people worked in government offices, schools, and the university that were also part of the city. Although very few people died in the eruption, the population has dwindled by 2/3’s of what it had been beforehand. The loss of homes and jobs forced many people to move elsewhere, and the English government subsidized moving people to England if they chose to leave. It was stunning evidence that what humans have achieved over the millennia is so fragile compared to the force of nature.

Last year when we attempted  a plan to visit Montserrat, I read about a small weaving business on the island called Sea Island Cotton. Before the eruption Montserrat was known for having the best quality sea island cotton, which is cotton grown in soil high in volcanic ash. The fibers of this kind of cotton are finer and softer than cotton grown elsewhere. A woman named Anna Davis started a handweaving company, using this special cotton to weave table linens and personal items. She lost her looms and shop when the volcano erupted, but she has started over in the small village of Salem, and her daughter Lovena has joined her in the operation. Last year I wrote about how much I hoped to meet her.

Yesterday, I finally made it to the island, but our tour did not allow for a stop for one person–me!—to indulge in such a wish! At the end of our tour we stopped at the botanical garden and our route took us right by the shop! I was excited to see it and also miserable that I could not get there! There was a set of Sea Island placemats for sale in the gift shop of the botanical gardens. They were summery yellow and white, in a weave structure called Ms and Os. I loved them, but they were finished with a fringe, which is a pet peeve of mine. I looked at the fabric and did not think the edge pattern could suffer being cut off and hemmed. I didn’t want to buy them just because it was the only thing I could find of the mother/daughter weaving duo! But now I certainly regret it…. We passed the shop again on our way back to the ferry terminal, and it was closed. What a missed opportunity!

Yesterday’s trip was a good way to take my mind off  the first anniversary of my mother’s death. I don’t think I will mark this day in the future, but the first anniversary of a death is always a day when you cannot ignore the significance of what happened one year earlier. I could not help thinking about how people live on in our memories, and it is how we keep them with us. Ancient cultures had no other way of keeping the memory of someone alive since they did not have written language to record these things. Memories tended to die when the last person who knew the deceased personally passed on. To extend memory the Greeks began to sing about their memories, and these songs might outlive the last person who actually knew the subject of the song. It certainly worked with the stories and characters in the Illiad and the Odyssey. When I think about these ancient sotries, which I so much enjoyed reading and studying in my youth, I think about the phrase “Sing you home.” It was the only way humans once had of keeping someone alive, and perhaps a way to send them to the Elysian fields.

So the death of my mother has rejuvenated my erratic attempts to design a tapestry to sing my father home, after his death more than six years ago. This is something that has emerged and reemerged during my ‘morning pages.’ Text and textile and memory. Like song, textiles often served as a story telling method before there was written language, as you’ll remember from more recent times when large tapestries were woven that told stories for the many non-readers to view and understand.  Text and textile and memory intertwined.

Earlier this week I warped my little band loom from handyWOman on Etsy. I made a warp based on examples from the book Norwegian Pick Up by Heather Torgenrud.

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I am enjoying weaving onboard! I’m just practicing a bit of plain weave before I attempt some of the pickup patterns that are given in the book. It’s nice to be weaving something relaxing and a bit mindless. At this point I do have to pay attention to the rhythm and movement of using the shuttle and opening the shed since it is so very different from loom controlled weaving, and consistency is vitally important to the look of the band and the selvedges!

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When we are more settled (whenever that might be!) I will turn my attention to the two small tapestries I have onboard. One is getting so old it is embarrassing me! The other is fairly new. I thought about doing a photo record of all the projects I have with me, but I haven’t gotten to drag everything out of their storage places and take the photos yet. And I’m sure it will just annoy me at the end of this winter to have a record of all the things I didn’t accomplish!   But since it’s also the beginning of a new year, when I am writing my morning pages and reading Twyla Tharp’s book, maybe there will be good work flowing off my looms this year. Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nostalgic Holiday

By the end of this brief month we’ve been home we will have visited our older son and his family, which includes our delightful granddaughter Tori, three times.  That is a LOT of driving, and it always includes a trek through New York City… and that brings back memories from the decades we lived in New Jersey.

On our last trip home, after Tori’s 1st birthday party, we drove into the city for an appointment that should have taken place over the summer.  It was a sparkling mid-December day, where the snow that had blanketed most of the northeast had already melted on the city streets.  It was the morning the suicide bomber had set off his pipe bomb in the subway near Times Square.  Hearing this news, we decided to avoid the West Side, so we took the Holland Tunnel.  What a view with the sun directly behind Freedom Tower!

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We drove down to Battery Park to get on the East Side FDR.

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What memories!  Foremost in my mind was a very different day–a late summer day in September, five years ago, when our son Christopher met us at Battery Park.  We were onboard our last Pandora, and Chris was on his bike!  We said our goodbyes across the water, and I was crying.  It was our farewell moment at the beginning of a 9-month trip down the east coast of the US and across to the Bahamas, where we spent  4 months sailing about 1,000 miles among the islands from the Abacos, the Berries and the Exumas, before retracing our tracks back up the eastern seaboard.  I’d never been away from home that long before–actually haven’t been away that long since either.

Chris first met us near Gracie Mansion, where Hells Gate flows into the East River.  He took this wonderful panorama of us. We were alone on the river that morning.

Then we raced him down to Battery Park, Pandora against Chris on a bicycle.  We won, by only 10 minutes, and he had to navigate far more traffic than we did that morning!

While we lived in New Jersey, I almost never had an occasion to drive on the East Side, so driving up the FDR brought this single memory back in full force.  I can still feel the breeze and smell the river and the city from that September day. What a difference a few years make.  Chris was at the beginning of his doctoral studies; Bob and I were neophytes at long distance sailing.  Now Chris has been working in quantum physics for a couple years, and Bob has put 10,000 miles under the keels of two Pandoras since then.

This December day, we parked our car near the East River and walked west into the throngs of midtown… past Lex and Park and Madison, and on to 5th Ave.  It was fitting to me that Saks has chosen Snow White as the theme for this year’s windows.  Our little Tori seems like Snow White to us with her ivory skin and dark hair.  I wish she could have been with us to see this!

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As it happens, Tori’s Mom loves Mini Mouse, and now so does Tori.  I made Tori a Mini Mouse dress to wear for her birthday, and her parents decided to have photos taken to commemorate this milestone.  We don’t have any of the final photos yet, but here are a couple of proofs. I love the middle one (kind of wish I’d made her a Snow White dress, though!).

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During our visit for Tori’s 1st birthday party, the first snow of the season fell on the day of her party!  Grampy gave her the first taste of snow.

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The rest of us made party preparations.  Kandice had seen this Mini Mouse fruit bowl on Pinterest, and Rob and I enjoyed creating it!

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Rob and Bob finished decorating the huge tree.  We always say that Rob likes to “Clark Griswold the heck out of Christmas”–and he does.

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But….back to our drive through New York….our appointment was only half a block from THE TREE so we had to take a moment for that.  Due to the earlier incident with the bomber, the streets were heavily patrolled by policemen in groups, all carrying automatic weapons.  I haven’t seen that kind of police presence since the 70s in Rome, but I will refrain from saying more.

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The promenade and the shops along it were still as festive as ever.  My favorite shop is Penahaligons!

Earlier this week Bob gave a slide presentation locally about our travels through the Windward Islands during the past winter season.  As usual, he was entertaining and humorous and his slides were stunning.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was that a woman approached me to tell me that she’d missed hearing me add to the presentation with whatever handwork I’d discovered on our travels.  I had no idea that any of the sailors in the audience would want to hear about textiles and handwork!

And on that note, it seems I’ve gotten quite far off track on writing about textiles lately.  Perhaps my final thoughts will center on that.  A couple of my gifts this year focused on Idrija lace from Slovenia, which I quite love.  I ordered these little lace hearts from Slovenia.  I should have ordered many more!

My favorite purchase this year came from the Hartford Artisans’ holiday sale back in late November. It is a short piece of Deflected Double Weave sewn into a cowl.  What a terrific idea to weave cowls in this structure! For one thing, when sewn together with a flat fell seam they are reversible!  Another bonus is that from a warp that would normally be used to make only two scarves, I can probably get six cowls!  Oh!  And a 3rd bonus–no fringes to twist.  I’ve already made my warp, in a much different colorway than this cowl which I bought at the sale.  I’ll be ready to dress my small Baby Wolf to weave some gifts when I return next spring.

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Today marks the halfway point of Hanukah, and it is only 10 days until Christmas.  We’ve had three snowfalls already and some record breaking cold temperatures.  As I write this today I am steeping a large quantity of gin in a mixture of dried hisbiscus flowers, cardamon and peppercorns.  It is my ‘plan B’ from years of searching for damson plums with no luck. I hope hibiscus gin will make a delicious gin and tonic this evening to warm me as I make a batch of cookie and get started on tomorrow’s beef wellington.  I hope you are doing similar things to make your holiday festive and to keep warm.  Best wishes….

 

 

 

 

 

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The Royal Visit

Right up front I’ll tell you we missed seeing Prince Charles.  Right now it feels like old news, but believe me I still smart a little from this! The Prince arrived hours earlier than predicted, and I was still onboard Pandora, carefully choosing what to wear for a royal visit.  He was gone by the time we got ashore (although we did not know that until hours later!–until others told us all about it).  Some of our friends only saw the royal motorcade while they were out on their morning walk.  Our friends on Exodus were on the dock in English Harbour, due to the many gear failures that occurred during their passage that needed professional attention.  They were having their morning coffee in the cockpit when Prince Charles strolled up to have a chat!  It was then that they all wished they’d taken more care with their morning attire!

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One of our Salty Dawgs, Ardys Richards, took this fabulous photo!

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As you can see, not many were on hand when the Prince arrived.

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It has taken me awhile to catch up on the all the happenings since we left Antigua.  Thanksgiving seemed to come right after Prince Charles left, and I cannot account for the three days in the middle. I think we were having more of Bob’s planned events–it was a whirlwind!  What an experience to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in such a tropical setting, with a significant number of non-Americans sharing the experience with us.  Dinner was served just after sunset, on the deck above the Antigua Yacht Club, where we enjoyed a balmy breeze and beautiful views of the harbor.  The cooks made 10 turkeys for the 100+ diners, and we all tucked into plates full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and various roasted veggies….not island fare at all!  (photo also by Ardys, I think!)

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We left on Friday to head back to the States, in particular to our older son’s house to participate in our granddaughter’s christening.  That was quite an adventure–although too boring to write. We didn’t arrive until just before dawn on Saturday morning.  Our younger son arrived on Friday from San Francisco, and we all enjoyed a belated non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner together on Saturday night.  Rob and I have always wanted to make a Beef Wellington together, and at last we did!  It was a special evening to have our whole Osborn family together, that now includes a daughter in law and a granddaughter, along with one of Rob’s oldest friends and his new wife.  I was overflowing with thankfulness!

And then Sunday brought the christening! Of course I think Little Tori would be beautiful in a burlap sack, but I was thrilled to see her wearing the dress I’d spent most of the summer and fall making for her.

Tori’s mom chose the fabric–silk shantung, and it had that mesmerizing rustle of silk as Tori walked around in it.  The sleeves are silk organdy (mostly because they were a bit complicated for me and I could not face the idea of trying to make them in the shantung when it came to inserting them into the tiny armhole!).  As it worked out, I love the sheerness of the organdy that shows off Tori’s tiny, delicate shoulders!  I barely know what I’m doing to make a dress like this–French seams, a lining, petal sleeves,  bound seams on the armholes,  buttonholes.  The credit for this dress really goes to my sewing teacher Marie, who directed every move I made in the construction, and then sewed a few things herself when I could not, such as inserting the 4-piece petal sleeves into the dress and making those buttonholes!

Tori is looking a little shop worn after the long ride to the church and back along with the christening ceremony!  She was happy to get back to bare feet!

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I had to make the dress in spite of my sewing INexpertise because I wanted to use the lace I’d been making for the 5 month months leading up to the big day.  I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 hours making the two yards of lace border for the bodice and hem of the dress.  There is a smaller lace at the neckline that I had saved from an earlier project (members of Metro IOLI will recognize it as Gunvor Jorgenson’s workbook, lace #3).   Making this dress meant the world to me!  I was thrilled to see my little princess in it and I was glad that she wore it all day!

Christopher documented the whole day in photos for us….just about the best gift we could imagine!  He took 600 photos!  I’ll just share a few….though it will be more than I usually post…. what can I say?  I am smitten with Tori and with Chris’ photos of her!

Here she is with her dad, walking along the altar at the church.

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Meeting the priest.

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Getting baptised.

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Aftereward, posing with Mom and Dad in front of the Christmas tree on the altar.

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The party at home afterward included good friends and both families for a late lunch and play time with Tori.  I don’t think she took a nap that day…. she held up well, like a royal would do!

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Our little Tori is as royal to us as Prince Charles.  She is certainly the little sovereign in our family, and we all do our best to serve her needs!   She our tiny super moon (still), and we are all caught up in her orbit. In fact, December’s full moon is occurring now, the same full moon (actually a ‘super moon’ like the one that occurred last year when  she was born!) In lunar cycles, she has turned one on this full moon!  Her calendar birthday will be in 10 days, after this moon cycle has finished. It’s a wonderful place to be–in her orbit….I’m enjoying every moment of it!

 

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Antigua, Ho!

My trip to Antigua went smoothly.  Once I arrived at the airport in Baltimore, I connected with another sailing friend, Judie.  We made our connection in Miami, and even enjoyed a couple of leisurely hours in the American Airlines member lounge!  There is a saying among sailors that “nothing goes to weather like a 747.”  It’s certainly true!  While Bob had his easiest passage this year, there was still one long day when he and his crew had to schlog through 20 squalls.  My passage was much shorter and much smoother than Bob’s!  His journey took 9 days, 23 hours.  He had estimated 10 days, so how’s that for accuracy on something as hard to predict as sailing conditions and boat speed?

It is shockingly hot here, but lush from all the rain during hurricane season.  Antigua has had little damage compared to its close neighbor Barbuda whose entire population has now been evacuated.  We spoke with a waitress who is from Dominica who said that the rainforest, the best in the Caribbean, has been flattened.  No one here has gone untouched by this year’s violent weather.

I have made things as cozy and homelike as I can for the moment.  I’ve put out the little woven table mat that I bought from Chris Hammel during the Greater Boston Open Studios a few weeks back.  It is just right for our dining table aboard Pandora.  I hope she knows how much I love it!  Bob got fresh bougainvillea for the table to greet me when I arrived, as well as a vaseful of pale pink oleander.  He knows I love flowers!

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The day before I left home I visited the Hartford Artisans’ annual weaving sale with my friend Jody.  We both bought some great treasures, and I bought this kitchen towel to put onboard to help me remember fall at home….there are no naturally occurring autumn colors in the Caribbean, so this feels a little like New England in November. It’s the towel on the left.

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Our mascot, the little sailing mouse, French Louie (who came from a shop in St. Martin, but is originally from Denmark!), has a new hammock.  My friend Mary made it for me when she was trying out her skills at net making.  She did a fine job, and Louie and we love his new spot for relaxing! Thank you, Mary!  Sadly, we will not be visiting St. Martin this year due to the hurricane damage suffered there.

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Before he left on the long passage, Bob made a lot of entertainment plans for the boats arriving here.  There has been cocktail party one night, and a ceremony by the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Navy Tot Club last night.  We were guests at their daily meeting, where in historic fashion one of the members reads from the logbook various events that took place on this day over the past 700 years or so, then toasts enemies and lost friends (Thursday’s toast-there’s a different one for each day of the week) and the health of the Queen, and THEN we each take a tot of rum, all in ‘one go.’  For men, a tot is an 1/8 of a pint.  That is 1/4 cup of rum, straight, all in one go!  For women guests the tot is half that.  Well, let me tell you I failed at getting it down all in one go, and I decided not to attempt the rest of it.  I gave it to Bob, who was successful at his own full tot.  Sheesh!

Here is Bob in the white shirt at center, thanking the Royal Tot members for their hospitality in hosting us for their daily ceremony. It’s a beautiful setting in the Copper and Lumber historic site that is now an inn and restaurant.

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Tonight, Saturday, Bob has arranged another dinner, the first of three. Tonight we will be having fresh sushi, Caribbean style.  There is a traditional Caribbean dinner coming up on Monday to welcome the rest of the arrivals–boats who had various equipment problems and boats that are simply slower or had weather issues getting here.  One of the restaurants here in Falmouth Harbor is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday for all of us who will not be home for that holiday.  There are plenty of English and Canadians in our sailing group who will join us for this holiday dinner. Other boats in the harbor are flying home port flags from Sweden, Holland, and France.  As the weeks go by there will be more and arrivals from many other places.

For the moment Pandora is in Falmouth Harbor, where we spent a few days on the dock, enjoying the ease of stepping ashore for me, in addition to being plugged into electricity so that I had some air conditioning to help acclimate to this tropical climate!  Now we are off the dock and anchored out in the harbor.  There is plenty of breeze, but it still takes some getting used to!

This lovely water garden is near the entrance to English Harbor, just a short walk from Falmouth.  I would love to add something similar to my own garden next summer. I know I’ll have to settle for something far less interesting than this giant iron pot that might have been in use when Lord Nelson was stationed here.

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My last post had a photo of Pillars Restaurant where we had dinner after my arrival.  Pillars is equally beautiful before the sun goes down.

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Before I left I had three wonderful days with our son and his wife, and our adorable granddaughter Tori.  She is getting cuter and cuter as well as bigger and bigger! I’m so glad we will see her again over Thanksgiving weekend.

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In fact she will be our Princess Tori when she has her christening day on Sunday after Thanksgiving.  And speaking of royalty, we have been hearing for days that Prince Charles will be visiting Antigua today as part of a tour to see the hurricane damage among islands that were once British subjects.  I am keen to see him!  Wish me luck!

 

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Changing Gears

Tomorrow at this time I will be in the air heading for Antigua. Hard to believe that time marches on as it does.  For weeks now I’ve been entirely focused on other things–things with deadlines that had to happen before I took off to warmer shores.

First!  The dress fits!  Can you imagine what a relief this is???  I am not an experienced seamstress, and not particularly knowledgeable about how quickly a baby grows during the six weeks since I fitted the muslin to my granddaughter.  I thought she might get taller, but I was counting on her NOT getting wider in the chest.

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She is such a beauty!  –not that I’m partial or anything!  I owe the success of making this dress to my sewing teacher Marie, and to my lace mentors, Mary and Clare.  This dress was beyond my limited sewing skills, so I’m lucky to have found such a great teacher!

At this point I don’t even remember what projects I put onboard Pandora before Bob left to sail south.  I will have fun discovering what’s waiting for me.  I will bring Tori’s Mini Mouse dress to finish during the 10 days we’re there.  I decided not to bring my new band loom on this trip.  I’ll wait to let Bob help me with the logistics of that when we return at the end of December.  We will be in Antigua for only 10 days before we come back for Tori’s christening and to spend the month of December celebrating her 1st birthday and the Christmas holiday.  Our younger son Chris will come out for both the christening and Christmas, so I’m thrilled we will all be together twice in one month.

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be arriving here.  Bob says we are one of only a handful of boats on the dock right now.  It won’t last as the super yachts will be arriving everyday now, until the docks are full of mega-yachts.  We’ll move off the dock and out into the breezes in the middle of the harbor after I arrive.  But tomorrow I will move aboard while Pandora is at the dock…

…and we will enjoy dinner together at Pillars on my first evening there.

I imagine I will have a bit of culture shock as I transition from all the conveniences of living on land along with the transition of late fall into tropical weather.  Now I’ll be in permanent summer, while living off the grid.  When I get used to it, it does have its pleasures, but I never get entirely beyond missing home.  One thing I cannot live without these days is good internet!  I need to get photos of my Tori Tiny Super Moon at least once a week!

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Internet Shopping

Boy, have I had fun shopping in cyberspace lately.  Remember the old days when the ‘modern’ thing to do was ‘let your fingers do the walking?’  This is lightyears beyond that!

Internet shopping is hardly new, but the wealth of websites devoted to weaving/spinning/lace making/sewing….etc…etc has expanded into a galaxy of  wonderful places to shop!

A couple of posts back, pre-christening dress dilemma, I wrote that I had ordered a tape loom on etsy.  Well, it arrived!  And it was beautifully packaged so that opening the box was like a well choreographed dance.  I enjoyed every moment of unpacking this treasure!  I hope I can get a warp on it, and figure out how to get it to Pandora, now that she sailed away with Bob–OR rather, Bob sailed away with her.

The woman who made this loom and all the accessories that go with it calls herself HandyWOman. What an attention to detail!  My loom has images of England and Scotland branded (?)/burnished (?) into it on all sides, inside and out!  The accompanying bag (sold separately) is so well made– it shows the kind of sewing expertise that I am trying to attain in my classes!  Just take a look!

Here is the box with the first bit unpacked.  She made the drawstring bag that holds some small items you’ll see shortly!

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I enjoyed the unpacking process and had to document it! The rigid heddle is embellished with a Tudor rose.

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The set came with this little Scottie dog comb–adorable!

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Everything unpacked and displayed on the kitchen table! I wish I’d gotten a better shot of the London skyline on the side of the loom that is being blocked by the instruction papers.

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You need to see a closeup of the tote bag that holds all the pieces with plenty of extra room for other stuff. Note that HandyWOman’s logo has been machine embroidered on the top of the bag.  What a great touch!  I’m finding it hard to believe that she can be such a good wood worker as well as such an accomplished seamstress.

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I can’t wait to try weaving on it!

Going back a couple of weeks now:  my lace group made a trip to the Windham Textile and History Museum in Willimantic. My friend Mary descends from some mill workers and foremen, so she has particular interest in this time period.  She was searching the internet for some mill related information and found the clothing designer Carolyn Denham (of Merchant and Mills) who makes timeless yet modern clothing with a nod to the mill workers of years ago.  I couldn’t resist ordering this pattern, and today I found it in the mailbox! There’s no time to make it now, but hopefully I can tackle it in the spring when I return.  In fact, I hope Mary makes it while I’m away so she can give me pointers on the process!

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Last week I went to an extra sewing class on a day I don’t usually go.  There were students there I hadn’t met before, and lots of projects to sigh over.  One woman is making her granddaughter a quilt out of large and small panels of woodland animals drawn in a wonderfully graphic style.  I love the owl and the fox and think that Tori would love them too!  So, of course, I had to go hunting for them, letting my fingers do the walking so to speak, across the keyboard rather than the phone dial of old….and they were easy to find! They also arrived in my mailbox today! (The panels are from fashionable fabrics)

There are actually four animals in this set.  I’m smitten with the owl and the fox so that’s what I’ve photographed.  There are also a bear and a bunny.  I bought the coordinating fabrics at the top of the photo at a local fabric store in Glastonbury called Close to Home.  I’d never been there before, but I will be going back in the future. I just love the addition of that kiwi green and hope Tori will too.

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The arrival of these treats could not have come at a more opportune time!  It’s post-christening dress trauma and just in time to plan things to work on when I return home in the spring!

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Calm after the Storm

This morning I sewed on the newly bleached lace to the front bodice of my granddaughter’s christening dress.  What a relief that it looks good to these old eyes of mine!

Here is the front of the dress, looking rather golden because of my kitchen lighting and the cherry cabinets in the background.  Trust me, this dress–and the lace!–is bright white!

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Here is the back.  As you can see, I cannot finish attaching the narrow lace to the back until I’ve done the buttonholes.  That will get done on Wednesday at my sewing class.  Actually, my teacher is going to do that….if you mess them up the dress is ruined, so that is WAY out of my comfort zone.

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I tied off the the rest of the lace on the pillow and have just finished bleaching and soaking it in hydrogen peroxide.  When it dries I hope I will find that it got as light at the lace I did yesterday…my fingers are crossed and I’ll just pause here a moment to go throw some salt over my shoulder!

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Alrighty then!  It’s a damp fall day here, drizzly and dreary.  It will get dark an hour earlier than I’m used to this evening.  I have taken a moment to enjoy what will be close to the last things blooming in the garden.  It’s been such a mild fall, and surely the first hard frost can’t be too far away now.

These are the last few roses in the garden.

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I couldn’t resist cutting a few of them, along with some lavender, to bring inside.  The summer colors looked quite out of place in the house.  I’ve moved them to my bathroom (of all places!) where a bit of pale pink, bright pink and purple look better.

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It’s almost time to bring in my extended sheep family.  During the winter they stay warm in front of the fireplace.

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The birds who lived here are long gone, along with all the hummingbirds who were attracted to the red mandevilla and sat on the wire waiting for a drink at the feeders.  The mandevilla doesn’t have much time left, so it’s singing its swan song.

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I’ve already brought in some of the plants I want to keep for the winter.  l didn’t realize this  geranium cutting had a bud on it.  It is sitting on the window sill above the kitchen sink, and it opened yesterday during my trials with bleaching.  Today this bloom seems like a benevolent onlooker to yesterday’s events.

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Lastly, here is the kitchen table.  It hasn’t been used much lately for eating!  While Bob is off sailing to Antigua, I haven’t felt much like cooking for one and sitting down to a meal at the table.

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Mostly I’ve been using the table as I am now, to write emails and blog posts, with morning coffee or a glass something stronger in the evening.  I’m feeling pretty lucky that I had the opportunity to write this particular post.  The storm is past, and it’s looking pretty likely that there will be a christening dress worthy of dear little Tori, my tiny super moon!

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Oh Dear! OH DEAR!

I did not end up posting this on the day I wrote it.  It all happened yesterday, Sunday of the first day of standard time… thank heaven for that extra hour!

There is a textile crisis going on in the Osborn house this morning!  If you are my husband, either of my two sons, or any of their acquaintances, reading this, you are probably scoffing!–or laughing!  Bob says a dropped stitch is an adventure for me!  (not true)  Those of you who know me will know how serious this is.

I began sewing the larger lace to the christening dress this morning, starting with a 12″ length that is getting attached to the bottom of the front bodice.  Earlier this week I noticed that the first inch or so of this lace, which I started months ago, had discolored a bit.  When I showed it to a few other people this week we all agreed that it probably was affected by the darling walnut lace holder I’d been using to wind the lace as it came off the pillow.  This prevents the lace from hanging off the the back of the pillow and possibly hitting the ground or getting caught on something.  Perhaps the tannins in the wood leached into that first bit of lace that wrapped around the wooden cylinder (just right of center in the photo below).

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Last night I soaked this lace in a mild solution of Eucalan, a gentle cleaner that I use for washing wool locks that I want to clean before spinning, as well as cleaning my handspun yarns.  This morning I took that bit of lace outside to get a good look at it to see if it had come clean.  To my horror, I discovered that the stain was not just in the first inch of lace…..it was a discoloration that ran the length of the lace in a distinct pattern.

Somehow, when I started this lace, I managed to wind bobbins with two different colors!  One was pure white, and the other was half-bleached.  So I’ve got two colors running through the whole length of my lace–almost 2 yards.  That lace has taken me over  100 hours to make, and I hate the mottled look of the two colors.

How could I have done this?  I still cannot imagine the scenario.  Surely, I must have been interrupted as I wound the 36 bobbins needed for this pattern.  But I know I would have left the spool of linen with the unwound bobbins.  How did I manage to get a 2nd spool of linen into the mix?  It’s no use wondering how this happened.  It’s time to decide what to do about it.

My first reaction was to make peace with it.  I pinned the cut piece of lace to the dress.  I took it to different rooms as well as outside to look at it in various lights.  When I’m in a gloomy room and cannot see the problem, I don’t mind it.  Anywhere else, where I can see the color changes, I hate it. I think this photo does a reasonable job of showing the color problem.

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Solution #2 is to tea dye it and make the whole thing off white.  I cannot get onboard with this.  The dress is a bright white, and the smaller lace at the neckline is also.  I just can’t go there….and what if the lace still looks mottled after the tea dye?  It could very well look dirtier!

So, as I’m writing this I am taking desperate measures. I am soaking the small bit of lace for the bodice in a weak solution of bleach.  Yikes!  I’ve done a futile internet search on bleaching linen and come up mostly empty handed.  I called my friend Clare, who is a far more experienced lace maker than I am, someone I hoped might have had a similar situation.  And she has! She bleached some vintage lace in the past, and it worked while not harming the old fibers.  My linen threads are new and should be able to take this treatment.  I’m following her lead.

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Fingers crossed….

Tick tock….  I have stopped the bleaching three times now.  First time was 10 min.  Then I did an additional 3 minutes.  Now I’m watching the timer for another 5 minutes. Each time I’ve rinsed the lace and put it into a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution.  Both the bleach solution and the hydrogen peroxide solution are about 1:10 ratio, chemical to water.

I will not go beyond 30 minutes total.  I think the lace looks whiter, but it still doesn’t look quite right against the dress.  It’s a dark day here, and drizzling, so I’m blasting my two brightest Ott lights at my little container of diluted bleach, hoping I can get as good lighting as possible for seeing some change!

One last try…. I added 1 1/2 tsp more bleach (1/2 TB) to my solution and am trying again for 5 minutes.  I think I will have to make peace with this and not go further. Ha!  I added another 2 minutes when the timer went off.

The almost verdict:  the lace is still damp so it will get slightly lighter when it’s completely dry.  The lace is noticeably lighter than its unbleached counterpart that is still attached to the lace pillow.  I can still see a color difference running through the lace, but it is less obvious.  I’m hoping it will be even more subtle once the lace is dry.   I bleached it for a total of 27 minutes, and do not want to chance doing more. I must make peace with this ……MUST!

I’m trying to convince myself that the dress will still be a lovely thing in spite of its flaws.  I expected some sewing flaws, but I did not expect the lace to be the focal point of my disappointment.  I hope the love embedded in the dress will make up for the visual flaws…

It’s now a couple of hours later.  The lace has dried, and looking at it with my two brightest work lights I cannot see any cream color now!  Whew!

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That was WAY too close to disaster!  I feel undeservedly lucky.

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On Impulse

Taking a trip on impulse, buying something new that crosses your path, or getting together with friends on a whim are wonderful opportunities for inspiration and finding deeper meaning in the things we choose to do.  October has been full of wonderful opportunities, and I feel lucky that I gave in to a number of impulses this month.

Last weekend the New England Lace Guild arranged for a tour and some presentations at the Textile Museum in Willimantic.  There are only two part time employees at this museum, and although neither of them has a background in textiles, they are both committed to the history of this town and to keeping the records of the textile work done in this part of Connecticut.  We had a tour of the museum and two terrific presentations on the history of the mills in the area and the working conditions and lifestyle of the mill workers.

Here is our group standing outside the museum building which used to be the mill store for the American Thread Company, where they sold cotton threads and yarn.  Some of our group remember coming here as children when their mothers shopped for thread and yarn.

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In the photo above we are looking across the street to the mill buildings, situated along the Willimantic River.  This mill was made of stone and has weathered almost two centuries quite well.The museum houses the equipment that was used to clean, comb and spin cotton threads and yarn, as well as some of the equipment used in other mills that wove fabrics.

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Naturally, I was most intrigued with taking photos of the looms.

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….and the collection of vintage sewing machines.

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Note the vintage wooden thread spools.  The museum has a machine that made these spools.

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The attic is a stunning room that houses the archives and library of the museum.

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It was a beautiful fall day with wonderful views from every window!

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As luck would have it, later that week at our regular bobbin lace study group, Mary had found a website for a sewing pattern company in England that uses names from the age of textile mills to promote their designs.  The company is Merchant and Mills in Rye, Sussex County.  The  clothing designs are modern, but the names are historic–such as the “landgate,” the “foreman,” “Ellis and Hattie.”  They also have a couple of patterns for traditional work bags from that time period.  On impulse (no surprise!) I ordered one of the patterns.  They have beautiful fabrics too, but the shipping is pretty steep so I refrained from ordering anything heavier than a paper pattern.

This weekend one of our local guild members hosted a Japanese tea ceremony (Chado) at her house.  She has met a Japanese woman who has started taking weaving classes.  The Japanese woman is married to a man who is not Japanese but has become intrigued with Japanese culture and has been studying tea. Anthony and Noriko conducted the tea ceremony wearing Japanes kimono.  The clothing alone would have entertained us and stimulated a lengthy session of questions, but the tea ceremony took it all to another level!

The ceremony took place on Sally’s enclosed porch that has beautiful views of her gardens and the surrounding woods.  On this late October day, the sun was as brilliant as the golden leaves floating down from the trees.  Anthony brought all the accessories to make this event special, including the shoji screen and tatami covered table and the tea stand.  The vessel heating the water is a cast iron kettle set on a bronze base.  The light coming through the shoji screen was beautiful.

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Here are Anthony and Noriko together during the ceremony.  It was quite a feat for Anthony to prepare about 15 cups of tea for us because each cup is brewed individually.

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Here is a closer look at their kimono!

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We were all intrigued with the tools and implements used in the ceremony.  Everything has has a function while also being an example of beautiful craftsmanship.  One of the implements used in the ceremony is a small ceramic stand that holds the lid to the kettle while the host is pouring the hot water into the tea cup.  The stand he chose to bring for our ceremony was fashioned to look like a silk reel.  It was a delicate thing, and he chose to bring this particular piece to acknowledge that his guests were weavers.  This is the kind of attention to detail that is at the core of a tea ceremony.

Perhaps the item I loved most was the small silk drawstring bag that held the tea caddy.

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I love the Japanese sense of color! I love the way the braid has been laced to the bag, and the braid itself is so ingenious!

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Can you see that the bitter end of the braid is twice as thick as the rest?  I believe the braid was started leaving a length of unwoven silk at the beginning, braided in the narrower design.  When the length needed to encircle the bag had been woven, the two ends of the narrower braid were brought together to finish in a thicker braid.  The drawstring can be closed by making a loop in the thinner part of the braid and slipping the thick end through the loop.  When the drawstring is tightened it will not come undone.  I also think the braid has to be inserted through the lacing before the braid is finished, when the two ends of the thinner braid are brought together to begin the thicker braid.  I’m not an expert, but this is how I would attempt to do this…..and I hope to give it a try next spring when I return home!

Our hostess for the tea ceremony venue also surprised us with a hot meal after the ceremony!  This gave us some additional time to get to know Anthony and Noriko a bit better and ask them questions about Japanese culture and their traditional textiles.  It was also a wonderful time to be together and share a meal.  It’s yet another day spent with weavers that will be a treasured memory for all of us.

It’s almost time for me to slip my moorings at home and join Bob on our floating winter home.  He is in Hampton, Virginia, now, waiting for November 1, and a good weather window to sail to Antigua.  I will join him there in mid-November.  So I am beginning the process of winding down things at home–gardens, projects, preparing to close our house.  Sometimes when my list of chores gets overwhelming I start something new as an escape from the things I’d rather not do!  This week I found myself pulled to make more throw pillow for our boat–this time for the cockpit–our outside sitting area, what you might call our outside terrace, if you will.  Here are the fabrics I chose when I made an impromptu visit to the fabric store earlier this week.

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I am making two pillows that are 18″ x 18″ out of the shell fabric with the striped fabric used for piping along the edge.

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Here is one of them–a bit odd to see this summery shell fabric against a backdrop of fall decorations.  Today I plan to make two smaller, rectangular pillows (12″ x 16″) out of the coordinating striped fabric.  Photos to come soon, I hope!  Since Bob has already left, I will deliver these pillows and a trove of other things we forgot to put onboard, to one of Bob’s crew members.  He is renting a car and driving to Virginia on Tuesday.  It’s my last chance to put bulky things onboard.  The list is long, and I hope Jim is renting a BIG car!

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The last impulse of this impulsive month was a purchase!  I bought a tape loom on etsy.  It’s a little gem made by a woodworking woman who calls herself Handywoman.  She makes the looms out of cherry then embellishes them with images.  The one I’ve chosen has images of England and Scotland on each side, and there is even a carrying bag made out of flag fabric!  I can’t wait for it to arrive.  There should just be time for me to put a warp on it before I have take it with me.  I will have to plan my packing carefully to allow room for traveling with this loom!

It’s raining buckets today, so it’s a good day for chores.  I will make the last two pillows and then tackle some more lace for the christening gown.  Time to get down to work!

 

 

 

 

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