Weaving with Tori

We’ve had some whirlwind times since we returned from New Bedford — ten days on the West Coast, a week at home, and now a few days in Baltimore with our granddaughter.

Tori is quite interested in the Harrisville Potholder Pro loom that arrived in the mail just before we drove down here.  I decided to bring it with me.

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She likes the colors and running her hand across the warp.  I think she’s got potential! Meanwhile, Bob is not so enthusiastic.  He burst out laughing when he saw the box.

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The first words out of his mouth were, “Potholder PRO??? Is it possible to be a ‘pro’ at potholder making? Does it come with a wheelchair?”  Funny guy.  I have no idea why I’m attracted to this thing, but if it will give me some pleasure onboard or while visiting family, that’s no joke!  I’ve been wondering how I’d ever bring a loom to either of our son’s houses.  Well, this is a start!  I’m making one a bit like the one shown on the box, since it came with the purple, aqua, and lime green loopers.  I also bought a gigantic bag of loopers in ‘designer’ colors.  There’s a lot of potholder possibilities in those looper bags!

Anyway, before I went down this path, I had 10 days in San Francisco and points north with our younger son.  In San Francisco I visited two terrific shops– ImagiKnit and Britex Fabrics.  I can’t think of a more creative name for a knitting shop than ImagiKnit!  Their summer window display lived up to their name.  There were knitted ice cream bars on sticks, knitted cupcakes with elaborate frosting decorations, and a box of knitted donuts!  There was too much afternoon glare on the windows for me to get good photos, but you get the idea.

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It’s a big store, with two long rooms divided by fiber.  One room holds yarns made from animal fiber and the other yarns made from plants fibers.  They’ve been around for about 15 years, and it looks like a successful venture!

Then there’s Britex in Union Square, another shop that is not to be missed on any trip to San Francisco!

Can you say ribbons and notions?  Oh my!

To say nothing of floors of fabric!  They have downsized a little (I think) since the last time I visited, more than 10 years ago.  They are downsizing more in November, when they will move to a smaller building, although they will still be in the Union Square area, and you can add on a visit to the Apple store while there.

I got lovely white linen for Tori’s christening gown that will be accented with the two bobbin laces I’ve made.  I also got a fine white cotton batiste for the inner slip and some tiny buttons for the back of her gown.  Sewing will commence soon….

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During the week in between visiting the West Coast and now visiting Maryland, the first meeting of the year took place for the Connecticut guild.  The featured  speaker was Anastasia Azure.  I was lucky to get one of the last spots in her morning mini-workshop on weaving with paper.  She is known for her woven jewelry and larger woven pieces that are sculptural.  It turns out she knows how to have a lot of fun with paper too.  Check out the difference between her two renditions of the photograph below.

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We had a great time making our own small paper weavings that can be mounted on a greeting card.  Anastasia’s afternoon presentation was about her jewelry and sculptural work.  You can learn a bit about her here.  I remembered her name from someplace, and by the end of our morning workshop, I realized she had been the juror for HGA’s gallery exhibition when Convergence was in Providence, where Anastasia now lives.  She was the juror who accepted my tapestry of “Sunset on Wilson Cove” into that show.

On the home front…. organization continues to be one my biggest struggles.  I am just not good at it.  I always have to rely on others to spark ideas for how I can organize my own space.  Recently I got just that when I visited a friend from both the weaving guild and lace guild.  Clare’s looms sit out in one of her living spaces, enhancing the room.  That could never happen in my house.  I asked her where all the ‘stuff’ was that you’d expect to be right near the loom.  She said she has converted one of her bedrooms into a stash room.  She then gave me a tour of the cabinets and shelving she uses to organize her stash.  Bingo!  I went right home and told Bob.  My stash is not yet under control but it’s a LOT closer!

First, I got rid of the bins in my stash room and bought a wall shelf unit from Ikea.  These two walls had floor to ceiling mismatched, plastic bins that were quite an eyesore.  And even worse, whatever I wanted to access always seemed to be in the bottom bin, so I had to UNstack everything to get what I needed.

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Here are just a few of those bins piled up in the studio, waiting for the wall unit to be built!  You know the saying that to make things neater, you have to endure a much bigger mess.

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Ikea packages everything so concisely.  It’s to imagine that there is wall of shelving in those two boxes.  Actually, it was four boxes.

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Bob finished building this wall unit in less than an hour.  By the end of the day I had all the blue canvas baskets full of my stash.  I now have 25 canvas containers holding all the stash of wool, silk, cotton and novelty yarns that used to be in mismatched bins stacked to the ceiling.  My next purchase is going to be a flat file for all my shuttles and bobbins.  Thank you Clare for getting me motivated!

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Well, I want to get back to that potholder!  Tori has had a nap and an afternoon outing, so it’s time for both of us to get back to it!

 

 

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Getting to “Plunge” and “Thou Shalt Knot”

Wedged between two trips that Bob and I have planned for a while now, we took a lightning speed trip to New Bedford to see two interesting exhibitions that are right down the street from each other.

The first was “Plunge: Explorations from Above and Below” an exhibit of artworks inspired by the sea that was curated by the couple who make up Brown/Grotta Arts.  It’s on view at the New Bedford Art Museum. There were a number of pieces done in fiber techniques, which is what intrigued me to visit.  Foremost is Helena Hernmarck’s large tapestry “New York Bay, 1894,” and joined by quite a few other works in fiber.  There is a beautiful catalog for exhibition that you can buy here.

Helena Hernmarck’s “New York Bay, 1894”

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The details are marvelous!

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There are a number of works by Karyl Sisson, and I was drawn to all of them.  In three of them she has used miles of zipper tapes to create organic, aquatic shapes.

“Reaching Out”

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Here’s a detail, so you can see the zipper tapes and more accurate color.

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“Growth II”

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“Opening Up,” made from cotton twill tape and wooden spring loaded clothespins.

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“Long Lines” by Annette Bellamy is a hanging created with twine and ceramic hooks.  It dangles over a plexiglass plate and the gentlest breeze makes the entire piece move.  I know, I blew on it ever so lightly.

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It worked well viewed with the piece behind it, and that was signature aspect of this exhibition.  Often the pieces enhanced the works around them.

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Behind “Long Lines” is Gretha Wittrock’s (Denmark) “Artica” made of sailcloth that has been dyed with indigo and cut and shaped.

There were quite a few works in fiber.  There was a large hanging made up of many silk threads that were hand painted with dye.  There were three marvelous little boat shapes made of plant paper and willow by Jane Balsgaard (Brooklyn, NY).

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The entire exhibition is beautifully displayed with spectacular pieces.  It is on view until October 8, so there’s time to get up there.  If you do, don’t miss a visit to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Right now there is a temporary exhibit about Clifford Ashley, the master of knots who wrote The Ashley Book of Knots, a book you’ll find down below on almost any blue water sailboat.  We’ve had our copy since the late 70s.  It covers knots used in other applications (I’ve used it for tying interesting knots with my kumihimo), but it’s a knot bible for sailors.

It turns out that Ashley had about 7,000 knots in a collection he made for the book.  His daughter now has that collection and loaned it to the museum for this exhibition.  Ashley was also a painter, and I enjoyed seeing what a good artist he was.  He studied with Howard Pyle in Brandywine during the same period that N.C. Wyeth studied with Pyle.  The exhibit has photos of Ashley’s family life, his paintings, and lots of knots.

Quite a clever title for the show…and great graphics.

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Here’s the book.

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A photograph of Ashley standing in front of one his paintings

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Just a few knots….along with harpoon.

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And I could not resist a photo of some lace bobbins, tatting shuttle and lovely ivory fid displayed on a piece of machine made lace.

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Upstairs at the museum you can see a vast amount of ivory things. The walking canes alone must number in the hundreds!  There were no shortage of handwork tools and household items that men carved for their loved ones.  While I enjoyed looking at all the rolling pins and pastry cutters, I confined myself to photos of items for handwork.

A cabinet full of top shelf swifts!

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The crown jewel of sewing accessories….pin cushions, spool holders and lots of little drawers for supplies.

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My favorite– an ivory knitting basket, with ivory and ebony knitting needles.

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Into our 36 hour trip we also crammed in a visit to the well known Nantucket basket supply store called DELS, where I purchased some of the missing items from a Nantucket purse I started about 7 years ago.  Maybe I’ll be carrying it by next summer.  I’ve always wanted to see this shop in person.  It is a treasure trove of basket temptations.

The counter display of ivory, bone, and acrylic decorations could have entertained for me for an entire day….

There were shelves and shelves of basket molds to choose from and all the cane and staves you need to weave.  And all the tiny finishing hardware necessary for these baskets.  I thought I should make a plan for my next basket while I had the attention of an expert (Melanie) to guide me.  I settled for a small, narrow tote.  They will gather up the necessary items and ship them to me in a couple of weeks.  I’ll put it on Pandora to weave this winter.  And then I’ll be just like the real McCoy!–making a Nantucket basket aboard a boat!

So here’s the shape of my tote.  Just imagine it without the salt and pepper grinders and the center divider, and with  short leather handles for carrying.  It’s going to be just the thing! I’m making mine with a cherry base, rim, and staves.

This trip came about because of one thing Bob had scheduled to do– a tour of the Coast Guard air station on Cape Cod.  We had a 12.30 appointment to meet one of the helicopter pilots–a female lieutenant.  We met her earlier in the summer when she spoke at Bob’s SSCA event and we arranged this visit.  She is still in her 20s and has been a pilot for four years already.  Impressive!

When we arrived at the air station we learned that all the planes except one helicopter and two planes had been called to Houston to deal with rescue efforts in hurricane Harvey.  There was a pilot left on the station to man the remaining helicopter, and he graciously gave us the tour.  We have incredible armed forces, and it was fascinating to learn a bit about the Coast Guard.  Bob and I have seen two presentations on how the CG goes about search and rescue.  Visiting the air station and getting to see the actual equipment was really the frosting on the cake.  These guys can keep a helicopter level in order to lower a cable and a basket onto a boat that might be rocking to and fro and rising and falling in 50 foot waves.  That helicopter is experiencing the same wild winds, and yet the crew know how to keep control of the rescue procedure during all the uncontrollable elements in a bad storm.  The men who handle the rescue operation know how to do things that seem far beyond humanly possible.  Honestly, I don’t know how they can do it.  And what a nice bunch of people to boot!  There are quite a few women at the air station, but most of them had been called to Texas.

Lieutenant Podmore is showing me the remaining M60T helicopter that he flies.

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The hangars are ridiculously clean.  I’m not sure what this plane is…Bob and the Lt kept talking about C-130s…

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The rescue swimmers work out every day….as you might imagine.  Hard to see, but some of these guys were doing things that I (again) did not think humanly possible!

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It was a whirlwind trip–barely over 36 hours.  I have been worried about everyone down on the coast of Texas, but of course, worried about my own family most of all.  It was especially moving to me to meet these soldiers who have such an important role in the ongoing storm and will continue to help through the aftermath.  I don’t have a way to reach my relatives who live in Galveston, so it was very comforting to think that these soldiers are down there helping.  My relatives further east on that coast were managing at the end of the weekend, but have now just been hit by the 2nd landfall of Harvey, and again, I’m thankful to have seen first hand the kind of rescue and help that is down there.

 

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Nordic Tapestry in Washington Depot

The day after the eclipse marked one month left until the vernal equinox.  We are on the downward slope of summer.  These next few weeks will hold the last of summer’s wealth….

Last weekend my friend Jody joined me in visiting the opening for the Nordic Tapestry exhibit in Washington Depot.  What a lovely town that is, and the venue for this show of works was quite beautiful, which made a great backdrop for the wonderful tapestries.  The artists are a group of students of Helena Hernmarck, mostly from Sweden, with one from Iceland and a couple from the US, who organized this event to honor Helena during her 75th year.  What a great birthday present! ….and well deserved.

This is one of the Swedish weavers, Stina Fjelkner-Modig, standing in front of her “Poppies in a Wheat Field.”  She has certainly done wonderful things with Hernmarck’s technique for creating texture.

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This may be my favorite tapestry from the students’ exhibition.  It is “Autumn” by Anneli Forsberg.  Jody and I enjoyed talking to her about Sweden and working with Helena. It’s stunning, right?– with the same marvelous use of floats and thick bundles of weft.

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A few other works of note…..

“Lighthouse.”

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“Longing for Summer,” by Hugrun Runarsdottir

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Two of the artists/weavers admiring the crocus. The artist for this tapestry is on the left.

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Both exhibit spaces were on the green in Washington Depot.  This is the building where the students’ exhibition was on display.

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In the back is a lovely sunken garden where they served refreshments. By the time Jody and I found this spot the opening was over and the clean up had started.

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At the other end of the green was the display of Helena’s work.  I loved the setting and the way this building is open to the outdoors.

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The last time I saw Helena, at her studio, this piece was newly finished.  It is double woven with a layer of plastic strips on the back.  When it is hung in a way that allows viewing on both sides, it has a luminous, transparent effect.  The plastic on the back side creates a sparkling effect on the front.  On the back side the effect of the woven plastic strips is very glossy and dazzling.

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One of my all time favorite pieces is Helena’s “Anemones.”  Her use of floats and big bundles of weft is what makes her dramatic use of focus and out of focus effects.  Looks like I had trouble focusing on holding my camera straight!

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Here’s a detail shot….

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At the end of our visit, dear Jody got a photo of Helena and me together.  I treasure this!

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It was Jody who thought to take this fabulous photo of two of Helena’s works together.

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This was the BIG event of my summer, and I’m looking forward to seeing another work of Helena’s at the “Plunge” exhibit in New Bedford, later this weekend!

Backtracking a little, I made contact with one of the award winners from the juried exhibit at NEWS.  The basketmaker, Barbara Feldman Morse.  I’m rather certain I saw another of her baskets awarded two years ago.  Now this year she gilded the lily by also weaving a liner for her latest basket.  Brilliant!

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I had no way to contact any of the weavers whose works I admired, but I happened to stumble on Barbara on Facebook, so I tried contacting her through FB messenger.  Well, it took a couple of weeks for her to see my message, but when we connected at last I found a most interesting woman!

Over the 40 years that I have been weaving and getting to know other weavers, I’ve often found that weavers lead fascinating lives.  They are often gardeners, artists in tw0-dimensional techniques, like painting, and often good cooks too.  Many weavers seem to love cats.  It turns out that Barbara loves to cook and in particular she bakes madeleines!  What wonderful little luxuries!  She has published a cookbook on madeleines and her madeleines were sold at Ghiradelli’s Chocolate in San Fransciso, at local  Starbucks, and they have been used in films.  All that baking success is quite a feat on its own, but she is also a master weaver and accomplished basket maker.  I am happy that I have crossed her path.  You can read her here and also get a few madeleine recipes!

And summer marches on …. Bob and I participated in a “Conquer the Current” paddle on the Connecticut River last weekend.  He did the conquering and I kept cool and out of the sun by holding my umbrella.  Bob rowed 9 miles down the river!  We put in at the Haddam Bridge (think Goodspeed Opera House), and ended at the Connecticut River Museum, in Essex, where the museum staff treated all participants to a wonderful Sunday brunch on the grounds of the museum–even me–who didn’t do a thing!

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The gardens I see along my walks are just beginning to show signs of slowing down, but are always still a wonderful part of any venture outside.  It was a hazy August day-after-eclipse that I took these.

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The eclipse seemed to have an oddly productive effect on me.  Before it started I dug out some linen fabric that I had eco-dyed last summer, unsuccessfully.  Actually, I eco-dyed it twice and still did not get a pleasing outcome.  So on eclipse morning I brewed up some French marigold flowers that have been stashed in my freezer from last year’s garden.  I simmered the linen fabric for about an hour, then let it cool in the dye bath for the rest of the day.

This photo is about as hazy as my garden shots above.  The color is actually darker and quite interesting.  The fern prints from eco-dyeing that barely showed up now stand out considerably more!  Win, win!

First the marigolds, so you can see the color of the flowers.

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And here’s what I got…although darker than this photo.

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After the eclipse I brewed up a batch of peach jam.  That’s a lot of productivity for me in one day….. it had to be some lunar/solar energy vibes.

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It’s been a good week in my little world.  I hope it’s been good for you too!

 

 

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Summertime Weaving and other Arts

This is the summer of regional weaving conferences all over the US, and I enjoyed a day trip to Northampton, Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago to visit the exhibits and vendor hall of NEWS, the New England Weaving Seminar.  This is always a great way to rekindle and rejuvenate my love of weaving.  There are so many weavers, even just in New England, who are doing inspiring things!

One of our Connecticut guild members, and a good friend from my local weavers’ group, has made a fabulous doll this year. This is not her first miniature figure, and she is definitely honing her skills as time passes! In her travels she acquired a porcelain doll head of a Japanese male.  She and her husband began sculpting hands and feet out of polymer clay to go with the head.  Then they began the daunting task of making a soft-sculpture, pose-able body for the figure.  And then came the weaving!  This fellow has a full set of traditional Japanese undergarments in white, all handwoven!  His kimono is a dark indigo plain weave, and his obi is also handwoven–even the thongs on his handmade shoes are woven!–in the same pattern as his obi.  It’s an amazing piece, and I’m so glad it got such a prominent place in the gallery.  Being in the front window you could easily view from all sides.

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The lighting is challenging for getting a photo that shows the details of his woven garments.  He is holding an origami crane, also made by Sally.  Really, isn’t he fabulous??  I doubt the judges knew what to make of this!  And I wonder if they opened up his kimono to see his handwoven undergarments.

The guild exhibits were quite good this year.  The space was light and large so that each guild table could be seen well from multiple directions.

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Maybe it was not the most creative use of space, but the displays themselves were quite inspired.  Very enjoyable.  This is the display for the Weavers’ Guild of Boston.

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It was a wonderful day for me, and far too short.  By the time I caught up with friends and had a dash through the vendor booths it was past time to head home.

My favorite place in the vendor hall is upstairs, where Vav Stuga and Pro Chem share a space.  I always find way more than I meant to buy in these two booths.  This year Pro Chem had a deep basket full of stamps for printing fabric, and Vav Stuga had a bundle of past Vav Magazine calendars at a discount.  Who could resist either of those?  Not me!

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There was a new vendor this year, Lofty Fibers from New Hampshire.  On top of selling some wonderful linens and the Jaggerspun wool/silk blends, they have developed a small gadget called a “Tempo Treadle” that keeps track of your treadling sequence and will alert you if you make a mistake.  Isn’t that a handy thing to have?  I would like to have one for my AVL mechanical dobby, which has a very bad habit of not lifting all the shafts that are pegged or lifting one too many.  It’s a mysterious –and pervasive– problem, and I would love to have an alarm system for this! Barry said he’ll look into making one for AVLs.

There was a wonderful 3-woman exhibit of works by Norma Smayda, Jan Doyle, and Antonia Kormos.  All three women are Rhode Island weavers, although my small area group in Connecticut claims Tony too, as well a number of other Rhode Island residents who regularly come our meetings.  Tony is in her 90s and still doing fabulous work in many complex weaves as well as bobbin lace.

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Changing gears a bit, but still celebrating inspiring works of art, the next photo is of a gift that Bob and I recently gave each other.  Back in June we celebrated our 40th anniversary.  Pretty amazing to both of us! We enjoy looking at art together, although we are not wealthy enough to actually as much art as we’d like. We count ourselves  lucky to have some accomplished artistic friends….because of that we heard of an artistic exchange between the US and Russia, where a group of Russian painters came to the US last spring to paint plein aire along the coast of Maine.  Bob and I sailed coastal Maine for 16 years before we started sailing in the Caribbean for our winters, so images of Maine bring back some wonderful memories of summer travels during our increasingly long marriage (I mean that in a good way!).

One artist in particular captured one of our best memories with this depiction of a lobster pound near Stonington, Maine.  Almost every summer we would stop and anchor near Stonington, just off from Billings Marina.  We’d take our dinghy ashore and walk into town, which included walking right by this very spot.  It’s the still water of the pond that just undoes me.  It looks wonderful close up and at any distance.  We have hung this in a spot where we can view it from close up as well as all the way to the other side of the house, and we love it from all the vantage points.

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The artist is Olga Karpacheva, and she has an impressive background of achievements in Russia.  She has work in five Russian museums, and I found images of her work online that make me think she has special ties to the Volga River.  She is also well known for her work in restoring art.

But this is the best thing I found about her online!  –a photo of her painting the piece we bought!  She is on the left.  What a thrill for me to see this!

The summer offers a couple more exciting venues for seeing artwork, both woven and not woven.  Here is my list!

I regret not posting this before the opening….but it’s still on, so try to get there!  It was quite a thrill to reconnect with Helena after six or seven years.  Her students included about a dozen Swedish weavers, one Icelandic, and two US weavers.  No one lives near Washington Depot, so it was impressive that these students organized the event from so far, and almost all of them managed to get to the opening.  The exhibit has been at two venues in Sweden before coming to New England, and the students organized these exhibitions as a tribute to Helena.  What a wonderful event, and I’m so glad I was able to attend.

It was there that I learned of this exhibition, currently at the New Bedford Art Museum.

The couple who own Brown/Grotta were at the tapestry opening.  They are quite excited by their current show of works which you can read about here.  As luck would have it, Bob and I are visiting the New Bedford area in a few days, so it will be easy to add this to our itinerary.  Yes, I feel lucky!

And I also met a pastel artist at the Nordic exhibition who shows work annually at the Lyme Art Association during their annual pastel exhibition.  It’s interesting that I’ve seen this woman’s work for several years before now getting to meet her.  The opening for the Nordic Tapestry Group was a convergence of how interwoven our artwork and relationships are.  Lucky, indeed!

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Weaving

Summer is a time when my weaving projects must take priority since that’s when I’m home to work!  Yet summer offers SO many wonderful distractions!  The garden, family and friends visiting, lots of conferences to attend.  I want to kick back and enjoy the season, but I also feel the pressure to make as much progress as possible before I leave home again.

These are the scenes that greet me each day on my walk along the Connecticut River, although the peonies and iris have shifted to roses, and now the roses are being overtaken by hydrangea.

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It’s been a banner year for roses in my own garden.  I have to give all the credit to Bob since he has fertilized every time I’ve asked, and he’s also used some kind of eco-friendly spray when the gypsy moths fell out of the trees on to the rose bushes.

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We have a granite wall that is about 100′ long and planted in pink and yellow roses, interspersed with lavender, daisies, and boxwoods.

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I’m going to back up a bit and reminisce about the trip I took to Tennessee to attend the Southeast Fiber Festival back in April.  Back in April?  Time flies!  I took three weeks to drive down to Gatlinburg and back.  It was a perfect mix of relaxation and adventure.  After spending Easter weekend with my new granddaughter and her parents, I continued south to meet my good friend and tapestry weaver AnnaByrd to make the rest of the trip together.  We had a wonderful 500 mile drive through the Shenandoah Valley and into the Smoky Mountains.  Both going and returning we stopped in New Market, Virginia, and enjoyed lunch in a cafe at the civil war museum there. We were both taking a 3-day class with Jon Eric Riis on Coptic tapestry techniques.

In spite of the terrible destruction in Gatlinburg by last autumn’s fires, Arrowmont is still a stunning place.  There is plenty of evidence of the chaotic and destroying force of fire, but I was relieved to see that there was still plenty untouched. This view is not the direction of the fire came from.

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A view of the main building from the dining hall.  The dining arrangement is the best I’ve had at a conference.  I wish I’d photographed the dining room.  It is cafeteria style, and the food is excellent.  You sit at real wooden dining tables that have real chairs.  Although there are a lot of tables in this large room, it feels quite like gathering in a home situation because the food is excellent and so obviously prepared with care, and the setting is so comfortably home like.  Well done!

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My few photos from this trip are not memorable, but the memories they conjure for me are too good not to use.  Here is Jon during his keynote address for the conference.

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The slides of his work covered most of his weaving career.  I had no idea he’d been weaving for 50 years–how can he be old enough to have had such a long career?  I have always loved his Icarus tapestries, and I no idea just how many works he’s done over the years.  Look at this assemblage of pears! I know, it’s a bad photo– what can you expect of a photo of a projected slide during the presentation?

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AnnByrd took this photo of Jon and me together, and it’s a great memory for me, even though blurry.  Some day the memory of the workshop will become like this photo….a bit out of focus–but hopefully not too soon.

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On display in the instructors’ exhibit were a series of partial faces that Riis wove entirely in metallic yarns.  I don’t know HOW he got such a beautiful surface with such challenging materials.  On the last day, after this work was crated, he unpacked a few and let us pass them around.  Look at the curve of the chin–and the shading!

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There are 20 partial faces in this series that hang together in a grid.  The piece is called “Diaglogue.”  You can see it here.

About 10 days after I returned home from this adventure, I was off to the Cape with a couple of lace making friends.  We were headed to the Sacred Hearts  Retreat Center in Wareham, Massachusetts, for the annual weekend  retreat of the New England Lace Guild.  It’s a wonderful setting near the beach, all our meals are served to us family style at big tables in a large dining room.  We have private rooms and shared baths, and we can stay up all night making lace if we like, go for walks, take classes, and even buy stuff from the Van Scivers who always come. For the past two years I’ve opted not to take a class, and instead, filled my days sitting in the sunroom with a couple of my own projects that needed uninterrupted attention. There are plenty of other lace makers who do the same.

I spent the weekend working on this project while also keeping track of the eagle cam that was following the eaglet Spirit, on the Anacostia River, just off the Potomac in Washington, DC.  You can just see Spirit at the edge of the nest (upper right) on my computer screen.

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Here is one of the two classrooms….. since the center is in a large Georgian house, the rooms are generous and furnished from decades past.

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Back at home, with the summer unfolding, we’ve celebrated our 40th anniversary, and been treated to a long weekend with both our sons and daughter in law, along with cherished new granddaughter Tori and a few good friends.  I’m working on a couple of floor loom projects and two tapestries.

One tapestry is the line of text that our son Christopher asked me to weave.  As of this week, I am 20% done.  It seems like an insane thing to weave, and even Archie tried to dissuade me from this project, in spite of having woven quite a lot of text himself.  Yet I find it both relaxing and challenging.  Chris made the font and then hand manipulated the spacing of letters for my cartoon.  I am not making any marks on the warp, since I’ve found that I have more success working from a cartoon when I let the cartoon be an idea of the weaving, rather than trying to actually follow the cartoon slavishly.

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And here is the work in  progress on the design I created in Riis’s Coptic workshop.  The workshop was titled “Unraveling Coptic Weaving,” and we were to bring family photos to reinterpret in a Coptic style.  I balked at that idea and brought a lot of other images that intrigued me more–Minoan dancers, Greek vase paintings, and one of the bas relief religious figures from the facade of St. John the Divine Cathedral in NYC.  Anyway, after playing with those compelling ideas, I settled back on the idea of a family member…..dear little Tori.

The warp is sett at 16 epi, which is considerably finer than the finest sett I’ve ever used before — 12 epi.  Between the fine sett and the neutral color of the warp thread, I am struggling to see what I’m doing!  Still, when I pick the right threads, the weaving is also compelling.

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It was a good challenge for me to draw this cartoon.  Tori will be surrounded by clouds with hearts in the corners….schmaltzy for sure, but I hope to balance that a bit by using some tertiary colors. Each cloud and each heart is somewhat different from each other….the only way I can do it. We’ll see.

This morning I measured the lace that I started at the retreat.  It’s also for Tori.  I just photographed it after I put away the measuring tape.  It is now a whopping 32″ long!

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So I’d better get back to work on these projects so I can get some of them finished before the season changes!

 

 

 

 

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When Weaving and Sailing Converge

The month of June is shad season all along the East Coast of the US.  This is the time of year when many communities have shad festivals.  Our festival in Essex took place over the weekend, although Bob and I were not able to take part in it.  The day after the festival, we happened to be visiting the Connecticut River Museum, where Bob enjoys volunteering.  We visited the new exhibit on shad fishing along this river, and  I learned that the town of Moodus, just across the river from us, used to be the twine making center of the US. Amazing that there is such a thing!  The twine making center of the US, in quaint Moodus. There were numerous mills for making gill nets, the type of nets used to catch shad.  These nets work by trapping shad right behind the fish’s gills, in a way that they cannot free themselves by swimming either forward or backward.

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Many tapestry weavers use cotton seine twine for warps, and it is getting harder and harder to find. Most of us rely on a Swedish brand of twine that comes in several sizes.  I had no idea that this very type of twine was made in this part of the world.

Here is the gill net making machine invented by Wilbur Squire around 1872.

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A close up of the knots

The twine made in these mills was also used for warps for rag rugs that were woven on industrial looms in this area, for sewing sails for boats,  and a finer cotton yarn was used in commercial sock making, and even the cotton string used inside yo-yos!  If this kind of history intrigues you, you can read more here.

The Moodus River is a tributary of the Connecticut River. It’s a small, fast flowing river that feeds into the Salmon River, which flows into the Connecticut River at Haddam.  In the hey day of twine making there were 15 mills along this small river.  If you happen to be in the area and want to take at look at the remains of some of these mills and the dam that used to harness the power, travel along Rte. 149 to the East Haddam Land Trust’s Hidden Valley Farm Preserve, and also  Grist Mill Road off Route 149 just east of its intersection with Route 151. The Bernstein Preserve is on Falls Road/Route 149.

Here is some of the interesting information about the  twine mills and net making on display at the Connecticut River Museum.

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These are netting shuttles that are used to make nets by hand.  The very day that the shad festival was taking place in Essex, I was at the monthly meeting of my Connecticut lace group, and one of my good friends was teaching herself how to make netting with a shuttle just like one of these–an interesting coincidence!

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Another member of our lace guild made several small pieces of netting for Mary to for use in the centerpieces for our annual lace retreat on Cape Cod.  That little piece of netting makes just the difference, doesn’t it? It is just the right size to go with Mary’s driftwood sailboat with lace embellished sail!– and the tatted the tatted sea turtle!  Pretty impressive! Mary takes making these centerpieces very seriously! Each year she makes five or six centerpieces for our annual lace retreat that takes place on Cape Cod.  There is always a beach or seaside theme.

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I am intrigued by the interesting history of my new home along the river.  Ship trade in the Caribbean gave Connecticut it’s name “the nutmeg state,” and the area around Willimantic had a number of silk mills, where local farmers tried their hand at raising silk worms for a few years in the hey day of the Industrial Revolution.  Although it’s not unusual to have textile production and ship trade coexisting in a community from that time period, it is interesting to me to live in such an area now, where I can enjoy the textile history and Bob can enjoy the maritime history.

I took this phoe of the Onrust at her new home on the river,  from the 3rd floor shad exhibit at the Connecticut River Museum.

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A walk along the river at any time of year is beautiful, but maybe June wins because of the wealth of spring flowers. In early June azaleas and rhodies are at their height.

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Peonies and iris are a fleeting burst of color in late May and early June.

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And the first roses of early June along the river.

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Women’s Work

Today’s mail held a treasure I’ve been looking forward to seeing!  Last week on Etsy I found a vintage bedsheet with matching bolster pillow that had been embroidered in counted cross stitch and bordered with laddered hemstitch.  The sheet itself is a luxurious, heavy weight French ‘metis,’ which is 65% linen and 35% cotton. According the to vendor, Hanky Heiress, this fabric blend was developed to be an ‘easy-care alternative’ to 100% linen sheets.  Look how beautiful it is!

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Here it is opened up across my bed.  The blue and orange cross stitch look wonderful on my vintage, machine woven, overshot bedspread!  I’m thrilled!

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The seller of this sheet and bolster set believes it’s from the 1960s, and she speculated that that they have never been used.  Now that I’ve seen it firsthand, I agree with her.  Who knows where it originated; by the time I found it, it was residing with an Etsy vendor in Cheshire, England. What a sad thing that it may have spent 50 years in a drawer or closet.  I have been imagining various scenarios in which this might happen, and the only that makes sense to me is that someone made this as a gift for someone else.  Perhaps it was a wedding gift, with the two initials signifying the union of two different names.  I can only imagine that the woman who did this put so much love into this gift.  It is truly a treasure!  And I’d like to think that the woman who received it loved it so much that she was hesitant to actually use it.  Well, I intend to use it, and I intend to enjoy it.  I will always think of this story that I have created to go with it.  I feel it has good potential for being true!

It amazes and inspires me that women (and men too) have been making and embellishing textiles since the dawn of humanity.  There’s a reasonable chance that textiles are older than pottery, as Elizabeth Weyland Barber has speculated.  It seems we are hardwired to surround ourselves with the work of our hands.

In early April I learned that our friend Hank, had arrived in Havana on his boat and would soon try to deliver all the all donations of lace-making materials to the woman I met last year.  I wrote about the lace makers last year while Bob and I were visiting Cuba on our boat. Due to lack of communication in Cuba as well as while sailing offshore, I did not get confirmation of the delivery until mid-May.  What an emotional moment that was for me!  And I understand there were few tears shed by Hank and his wife, along with the women who received this bounty, and even the male interpreter!  I cried myself when I saw the photos and this wonderful video that Hank and Seale made for me.

When Bob and I first hatched this idea of sending materials to Cuba, neither we nor Adriana fully realized the effort involved.  I had been quite saddened to see the poor quality materials women had access to–sewing thread used in multiple plies for embroidery and crochet, and poor quality knitting and crochet yarns that looked like some Russian version of Lily’s “Sugar N Cream” yarn–and only available in one color  —  Ecru!  Mailing gifts is simply not possible, since all mail is opened and usually the contents are ‘re-purposed.’  Even making a face to face delivery had a high degree of risk for confiscation.  Adriana and Hank worked out the best plan they could come up with, and still both of them were worried about being discovered.   It is forbidden in Cuba to have guilds or groups, so the women who meet to do various types of lace together have to be quite careful.  I am so relieved that this venture was a success!

This is now my favorite photo of Adriana, where she looks like a young woman again, full of excitement for the many projects that lay ahead for her and all the other women she tutors in lace techniques. I can almost see the ideas starting to swirl in her head!

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Here is photo of the stash before Bob and I packed it up in four extra-large vacuum seal bags.  In early January, Bob sailed to the British Virgin Islands, where he transferred the stash to Hank’s boat.  In early April, Hank sailed for Cuba as the leader of a rally of sailboats that would spend two weeks in Havana.

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Best of all, here are some photos of Adriana’s lace work that I bought from her last April.  First a Torchon  doily that I gave as a present at my lace group’s annual holiday party.

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And two pieces of Adriana’s tape lace that I kept for myself.

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The work of our hands–across the decades– and across the world.  And this is just the tip of the tip of what is out there in the world.

 

 

Posted in bobbin lace, inspiration, Lace, travel | 1 Comment

Where in the World Have I Been??? Well, Beaver Brook Farm for Starters.

A lot of water has rushed under the bridge and over the dam, since I returned home more than 6 weeks ago.  A whole bunch of wonderful things have happened that I should have written about already.

Bob has had a hard time sailing the long distances this year, both going south and returning north, but he managed to get home just a few days before this holiday weekend.  He had to leave Pandora in Hampton, Virginia, and drive the rest of the way home. Hopefully he’ll make the last few hundred miles back home in late June.  It’s terrific to have him back!

For now, I’ll write about this holiday weekend.

Since we’ve moved to Connecticut it has been our new tradition to take a drive through the beautiful Connecticut River Valley each spring as part of our Memorial weekend festivities.  Yesterday was a glorious day, one of the first days without rain in about a month.  I put together a picnic, and we headed out in our toy car to visit a sheep farm/dairy and a local winery.

Only a week before I learned about this sheep dairy from a friend who traveled with me to a long weekend lace conference.  On the other side of the Ct River there are three dairy farms that make cheese:  a cows’ milk dairy called Cato Farms, a goats’ milk dairy called Beltane Farm, and a sheep and cow dairy called Beaver Brook Farm.  Imagine that! All three right within a few miles of each other!

Here is bucolic Beaver Brook Farm, owned by the Sankows.  The farm has been in their family since the beginning of the last century, and they’ve been raising sheep and making cheese since the current generation bought their first sheep in 1984.  I found some newspaper articles tacked up on the walls of their farm market that date from the early 2000s.  These articles came from the New York Times, “Saveur” Magazine, and several local publications.

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It was a stunning day for a visit.  First came looking at the new lambs.

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Then we met Suzanne who gave us a tasting of fresh sheep’s milk cheese covered in herbs de Provence, feta, an aged cheese that she calls “Farmstead,” and even a fresh sheep’s milk cheese mixed with pesto.  All of it was delicious!

Here is Suzanne cutting some feta for us.

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And here is a counter of aged Farmstead ready to be cut and packaged. It is a semi-firm cheese with a LOT of great flavor.

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Suzanne gave us samples enough for a meal, and we enjoyed all of it.  Afterward we visited the small building next door called the Wool Shop.

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Inside the shop is more of an idea in progress than a fully functioning shop.  They are just now branching out with the idea of making and selling things from the wool of their sheep. (Did I ask what breed these sheep are??  How could I neglect to do that?)  The raw fleeces are sent to a mill in Massachusetts to be washed, then sent south for spinning at a mill in in either North or South Carolina. Some of the yarn is used to weave fabric that becomes blankets or clothing items, like capes and vests and sweaters.  But look at all those piles of socks!

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Recently Stan bought a sock knitting machine from China and is busily making hundreds of socks per machine knitting session.   Sometime back, I remember reading in the NY Times that there is one town in China that produces almost all the socks sold in the world.  Is that where Stan got his knitting machine?

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It takes only 3 minutes for this machine to knit a sock.  There are lots of choices of sizes and designs for the socks.  When the sock is finished it shoots out into the blue plastic bucket in the foreground.  I burst out laughing when the sock came shooting out!–sans toe because Stan has the toes done elsewhere and also has the socks washed elsewhere which makes them much softer than what we are holding here.

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Want one?  Here’s the info on that. The basic machine is about $6,000.  You’ll need to fork out more for all the design possibilities.

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A sock in progress down in the center.  That plastic tube is where the sock will get shot out of the machine and into the bucket.

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Just a head’s up for friends and family.  There will be sheep socks coming your way this Christmas.  How can I resist?

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There are many to choose from!

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Then we went to take a look at the sheep in the field.  What a bucolic setting….

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The farm is in Lyme on Beaver Brook Rd, in Lyme.  Suzanne says they are open 7 days a week.  That’s hard for me to believe with all the chores that must keep them busy, but she says they always have time to greet visitors and give you a cheese tasting.  We went home with the fresh cheese covered in herbs de Provence, two hunks of feta and and some Farmstead.  Yum…

We capped off the day with a stop at Priam Vineyards in Colchester, just a bit north of Lyme, and a lovely drive too on a spring day in a very old MGA.  Cato Farm, where you can buy some wonderful cow’s milk cheese is just around the corner from them.

We sat on their shady terrace overlooking the vineyards and had a glass of  chardonnay with our picnic.

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What a way to celebrate the beginning of summer in New England.  It is the best time of year for remembering and acknowledging how lucky we are to have such freedom and so many opportunities to enjoy life.

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Dominica, Our Final Destination

This is the final week of my Caribbean winter.  When we left home in January, we had no idea how many islands we’d get to visit.  As it turns out, it was less than we imagined, but what a trip it’s been.  We have only been through the Lesser Antilles, or Leeward Islands so far. Dominica is our final destination before turning north to return to Antigua in time for my flight home this Sunday.  It is magical place that has entranced both of us.  We will be back again next year.

In the past Dominica had a reputation as a trouble spot for cruisers.  A group of locals realized that Dominica is such a gem with so much to offer tourists, as well as so much of traditional island lifestyles that could support the locals, it was worth making an effort to make this island a safe place to visit.

Bob and I arrived just a day before the weekly Saturday market in Portsmouth.  We learned that almost everyone on the island has a little plot of land, a small ‘farm,’ that may be only a small fraction of an acre, but is bountiful in supplying so many crops and a few chickens.  The market is full of tropical fruits and veggies, like pineapples, bananas, sour sop, Caribbean pumpkins, coconuts, nutmeg, along with plenty of European vegetables like carrots, onions, corn, peppers, eggplant, and even some cold weather veggies like lettuce and cabbage.  Many people also have jobs in tourism or government offices, but they all get up extra early each morning to tend their farms.  It is quite impressive.

Look at all these coconuts!  There were several trucks like this at the market on Saturday morning. We learned that Dominica used to be the biggest exporter of coconut related things until coconut oil took a serious downturn years back during the ‘fat scare.’  Now there are more coconuts than the locals can keep up with, and every time a coconut falls to the ground it germinates into yet another coconut palm.

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The tomatoes and cucumbers here are beyond belief–even better than home grown.  How do they do it?

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This woman was selling flowers along with food.  She would not allow us to pay for the flowers, and when we added a few ECs (Eastern Caribbean coins) to her total she threw in a few bananas.  She is stunning in the traditional madras head covering.

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The next day we hired Faustin Alexis to take on a river tour of the Indian River.  He is an excellent guide, so if you find yourself on Dominica you should ask for him.  All the guides through PAYS (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security) get training, and in Faustin’s case, he has become very committed to the traditional way of life and wants to return to it himself while also helping others preserve it for future generations.  His enthusiasm for the plants and animals of the rainforest was moving, and it was impressive to see his knowledge of plant life, birds and bird calls, and fish.  He says he’d like to return to living in the rainforest when his children are grown.

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No motors are allowed on the Indian River, so after Faustin picked us all up from our boats (8 adults and 2 toddlers, plus Faustin which made 9 adults) he walked to the front of the skiff and began rowing into the river.  In spite of rowing upstream, he kept up an ongoing conversation, pointing out plants, birds, and bits of traditional lore.

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As we entered the river, another tour boat was exiting.  I think these tours are highly organized so that there are never more than two boats on the river at once.  We could not resist getting a shot of these adorable kids on the other skiff.

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We had our own adorable kids onboard as well.  They belonged to two Dutch families who happened to meet just before their Atlantic crossing in the Canaries.  I hope someday we can share this wonderful experience with our own granddaughter, Tori.

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These amazing trees were all along the river.

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There was lots of bird life that we saw and sometimes only heard.  There were parrots in the upper story, although we could not see them.  But we saw the shore birds feeding along the river’s edge.  Here is a white heron looking at the little crayfish at the water’s edge.

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And a green heron.  There is even a type of duck in Dominica, but I missed the name.

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And there were so many plants that Faustin identified for us that are used for food or medicine or for general health.  He often jumped off the boat to peel some bark from a cinnamon tree, or to pull a branch of bay for us to smell, or a nutmeg laying on the ground, or to show us plants used to make poultices to heal wounds, and the bright magenta leaves of another plant that would be used to wrap as a bandage around the poultice. His knowledge seemed quite encyclopedic.  He told us that the older person on record came from Dominica and was a woman who lived to be 127.  His own great uncle lived to be 115. Faustin showed us which trees are used to build the traditional houses and which trees are prone to termite infestations.

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At the farthest point of the tour upriver we stopped for a bit of a walk, and explored a set of traditional buildings where a couple of men served flavored rum to the tourists and demonstrated how they make it.  Here is a big batch of gooseberries being boiled down to flavor a new batch of run.

4-1-17a 080We all enjoyed the day’s drink offerings which were a coconut rum drink or an ‘ultimate’ rum drink.  I also had a small taste of the medicinal rum that Faustin had– flavored with ginger root, nutmeg, bay leaves (a very pungent type of bay that must not be bay laurel), a few ingredients I’ve now forgotten, and ganja!  What a surprise!

The next day we arranged for Faustin’s nephew Fitzroy to take six of us on a walk through the rainforest up to an impressive waterfall.  There were Carol and Bob from Oasis and Dave and Chisholm from Pantine, along with Bob and me.

Fitzroy had a similar respect for the wonders of Dominica as Faustin has.  He was an excellent guide.  He recognized many bird calls and pointed out to us that the main birdsong we were hearing was that of parrots.  They were all around us!  After straining and straining to see them in the canopy of leaves, two parrots took flight and shocked all of us with their bright flash of color.  No one got a photograph.

This is the forest we walked through.  Sometimes there were openings to the sky as here, and sometimes we were in deep shade with the canopy of the trees about 150 feet above the ground.

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Looking up into the upper story where plants get the most light, we could see many orchids and bromeliads growing on the tree trunks, as well as huge vines.

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In the deep shade there was plenty of plant life too.

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There were places with great vistas–

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And places so deep in the understory that it drew our focus into the details.

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There are even wild amaryllis in the sunnier parts of the rainforest.

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Bob and I were particularly on the lookout to see orchids and tree ferns, and there were plenty of both.  There are traditional uses for tree ferns in Dominican culture.  What we know it best for is a planting material for epiphytic orchids.  Fitzroy was surprised to learn that is all we used it for back home.

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Tree ferns are very ancient plants, older than humans.

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There were plenty of orchids too.  Bob was thrilled to find a few brassavola nodosa in bloom on his previous walk, and plenty that would soon be blooming.  We saw lots of orchids on our walk to the waterfall, but none in bloom.  There were some very tiny orchids and some very large terrestial orchids.

The goal of our walk through the rainforest was a large waterfall.  The path we followed crossed the river several times, the final time involved swinging across the river on a large vine, Tarzan style.  Here is Bob swinging through the air.

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And we’re on our way to the waterfall along the relatively dry river.  The rainy season will come in another couple of months. That is our guide Fitzroy in the distance.

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You can see how high it is based on how small our fellow travelers are!

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Along the edges of the forest there are houses and small farms, places where the locals have burned a bit of the rainforest to create a small plot for growing their own food.  Here are lots of banana trees, coconut palms, and plots of vegetables.  This plot which was labor intensive to start is for a type of yam vine.   Each tuber was planted into its own mound of soil.

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And the locals are growing coffee plants and cocoa plants.  This is a branch of unripe coffee beans.

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–and a branch of rather ripe cocoa seeds.  Inside these pods are strands of thick cocoa.  I bought some in the market and they have a deep chocolate aroma.

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At the end of the day Fitzroy asked me what I use all the plants for that I grow.  I was left a bit tongue tied by that.  Use?  I grow a few herbs and vegetables, but mostly I grow plants for the sheer enjoyment of it.  That is all I could tell him.  He was surprised by this.  What a very different culture we were experiencing here on Dominica.  This is my lesson from visiting this place.  Perhaps I can figure out how to be a bit more conscious how I can be more self sustaining.

Yesterday we began the trek northward so I can catch my flight home on Sunday from Antigua.  We have returned to Terre de Haut in the Saintes and treated ourselves to a wonderful dinner out last night at Bon Vivre.  We were happily surprised when Judie and Phil from Rum Runner walked into the restaurant shortly after we sat down.  We shared a table together, and tonight we will have them aboard Pandora for a last dinner before we each head our separate ways.

 

 

 

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Textiles in the Caribbean

Time to get back on track a bit and talk about textiles!  It IS the driving force of my visits to any location, so I’m always on the lookout for any kind of textile handwork.  And I have not been disappointed this winter!

Some of the places that are well known for handwork have not fallen in our path this winter.  They will be on my list for future visits, but I’ll still mention them here.  Perhaps the most intriguing place is the island of Saba, which lies off the coast of St. Martin.  It is one of the many volcanic islands that make up the Lesser Antilles, and may be the mmost dramatic.

It does not have a good harbor, so sailors must carefully choose a weather window for visiting.  That did not happen for Bob and me this year, although we could have taken a day trip by ferry to visit.  This island has underwater volcanic mountains with coral reefs, so it is also known as an excellent dive site.

In our sailing guidebook (Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands) I read that Saba is only 5 square miles but rises to 3,000 feet in that small area.  It was settled by Dutch, Scottish, and English farmers, along with their African slaves.  Over time they all worked side by side to eek out a living on this steep and rugged island.  These settlers became fisherman and farmers and boat builders.

Until the 1940s, all ships came into Ladder Bay, on a dangerous shore that provides little shelter from ocean swells, where access to land was via an 800-step track that was cut into the rock.  Really!  I’m almost afraid to visit and be found to be the biggest cream puff the Sabans may ever encounter!

In the 1950s, some Dutch engineers determined that the island was too challenging to build roads, so one elderly local took the initiative to study road building via correspondence class and shortly after, with his knowledge, the Sabans hand-built their road, finished in 1958. I guess they don’t easily take ‘no’ for an answer.  The women have become skilled in needle lace which they originally learned from lace makers in Venezuela.  Since living on Saba is very isolated, over time their designs have taken on a specific nature that makes it truly theirs.

I found some images online and links to information about lace making on Saba, but most of them will not open since we have slow internet here.

The inactive volcano on Saba is named Mount Scenery, and I bet it is quite a scenic place!  There is a museum on island that I look forward to visiting someday. You can read about the museum here and their collection of lace here.  And, lucky for me, since it is a Dutch museum, I bet the information will be in English!–a nice change from the French islands where English is not an option.

I should mention that although Iles des Saintes and Marie Galante (the islands just south of Guadeloupe) were discovered by Columbus, they have been French since very shortly after they were colonized.  Until recently, the fisherman here used boats like their fishing forbears from Brittany used.  I am sorry I did not get to see a fleet of those boats. When we arrived on Terre de Haute a few days back, I took some photos of the textiles inside the church in the center of town.

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From the back of the church seeing this altar cloth drew me right in.

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and from the back entrance I thought the pulpit drape might be filet crochet.  I’m glad I took a closer look because it is needle lace.  I have no idea how Saban needle lace differs from other needle laces, such as this, and hopefully I’ll learn a bit more about that on future visits.

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Along the road to the church there are many shops, and one of them is a clothing and accessory shop, called Maogony where everything is dyed blue.  The two owners, Annie and Chakib, use three colors of blue dye to create garments that reflect the colors of the Caribbean waters that lie right outside their store.  Annie and I talked a bit, and I tried my best to understand her excellent English.

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When she described her process, using blues she called cobalt, indigo and turquoise I began to think she and her partner might be using Pro Chem MX dyes.  She said they set the colors in the sun and then finish with a hot mangle before washing them. Their mangle is against the back wall in this photo. They work with garments made from cotton, silk and linen.

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Just east of Iles des Saintes is an island called Marie Galante.  According to legend, Columbus had already used the names of all the saints that he cared about, so had to resort to some other source for a name for this island. Marie Galante was the name of one of his ships.  There is an indigo dyer on Marie Galante, and I believe she uses the natural plant dye for her work.  I know nothing about her, but am certainly hoping that I’ll meet her next year!  She has a website and a facebook page called Maison de l’Indigo.

Another island we did not get to visit this year is Montserrat, which still has an active volcano on it, Soufriere Hills–the only active volcano in the Leeward Islands, and perhaps in the Caribbean. The original settlers were Irish, and today Montserrat is known as the ‘other emerald isle.’

I have heard there is a mother/daughter weaving team here who weave with sea island cotton. I found Sophie Bufton’s description about her visit to the weavers. This photo is from Bufton’s site.

What I learned from this limited and torturously slow internet search is that the sea island cotton on Montserrat had the longest fibers of any cotton in the world, and that was due to the volcanic soil on this island.  The cotton plants and the spinning factory were destroyed in 1995, the first eruption of Soufriere Hills which destroyed the capitol city of Plymouth where the spinning mill for the cotton was located. This eruption not only destroyed the cotton crop, but also two-thirds of the island.  In the early 2000s, the dome of the volcano collapsed, after a few more years it seemed that the volcano had become inactive.  In 2006, there began to be activity, and another eruption in 2008, has put that theory to rest.    Yet it appears that the weavers are still working with sea island cotton.  I’ll write more when I can get better access to the information.

The internet can be such a treasure trove.  I found this stamp with an image of a spinning ginny and a young Queen Elizabeth.

Madras fabric, originally from India, is considered the national dress of several of the islands in this area — Guadeloupe, Martinique and Dominica.  You can buy almost any kind of souvenir in madras, including plastic key chains and serving trays.  Our granddaughter Tori will be getting a madras sun hat in a couple of weeks.

This part of the world holds a fair amount of geographical confusion for me.  We are in the Caribbean at large, but the particular area we have traversed this winter is known by several labels:  the West Indies, the Lesser Antilles, the Leeward Islands (as opposed to the Windward Islands).  It’s a lot to comprehend, and I just keep looking at the charts to orient myself.  We are in the southeastern part of Caribbean island chain, just before the chain heads due south ending at Trinidad, near Venezuela.  These islands are known as the West Indies because there were slaves brought here from India, and that culture has lived on in West Indian traditions such as food and music.  There is plenty of African cultural influence which melded with the India culture to create something entirely new.  There are so many labels that include ‘west’ and ‘east,’ and also also ‘leeward’ and ‘windward’–how can I keep up??

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