Still Not Tropical!

It’s still a bit chilly down here at the top of the Gold Coast of Florida.  Bob keeps posting photos on Facebook, saying how cold we are, and you can imagine the responses from friends living in New England!  They are NOT sympathetic!

However, we are cold!  Try living outside in 50-degree temps with near gale force winds.  There is no going inside for the day when you are under way; you simply must stand in the chilly gale in order to steer the boat and navigate.  Then after 12 – 14 hours of this you can go down below which is the same chilly temperature, but at least without wind, and try to warm up.  In the long run we get into bed each night as cold as we’ve been all day, and get up each morning still cold.  Oh!  And I should mention that at least half the days onboard there is no hot water, so I also have to wash up with 50-degree water in my tiny 50-degree head (boat-ese for bathroom).  It’s not all bliss down here!

But I admit it looks pretty blissful….Pandora on a mooring in Vero Beach….she’s the boat at center in the distance.

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But the sea life, the birds and the plants don’t seem to be suffering.  We still see dolphins playing around us every single day as if life is very good indeed!  Yesterday Bob missed the most exciting photo opportunity of this year. We were several miles offshore, sailing from Ft. Pierce to Lake Worth, and at one point we passed a giant sea turtle!  It was right near the boat! The turtle’s shell was almost 5 feet in diameter, and his head was like a cantaloupe!  Bob said he raised his head and looked right at Pandora!  I missed this auspicious moment because I was in a stugeron– induced fog due to always being seasick when we are offshore!

Such lush ivy growing on a wonderful tile.  The climate is certainly mild enough for tiles outside!

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Doesn’t this palm frond make a lovely headdress for Bob?

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 Every year Bob and I plant a window box of herbs and flowers that becomes my little garden onboard.  It’s my one little connection to life on land.  This year I could not get to my favorite nursery in Ft. Pierce, so I’ve had to make do with plants from the Lowes that was right on the bus route in Vero.  I’ve got a small mint and parsley plant and two red geraniums.  I hope they will thrive as well as the plants in previous years.  This little bit of green and red makes me so happy!

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I need to knuckle down on my little landscape tapestry.  Time is growing short if I am to finish this in time to send it off to Scotland for an exhibit of miniature tapestries called “Postcards from Home.”  First it will travel to New Hampshire where it will be boxed up with other tapestries before it goes on its journey across the Atlantic.  Doing this piece has made me realize that I’d like to do a series of miniatures based on the changing scenery we find as we head south each winter.  It will be a nomad’s view of winter along the US East Coast.  But first, I need to stop weaving/unweaving and just finish #1 of this series!  At this point I am not ready to photograph it!  It still has so much that disappoints me….hopefully soon it will be looking better.

And I’m making good progress on the Carol Sunday sweater, “For Irene.”  There was a glitch with the sleeves, but once again, Carol came to my rescue very quickly.  I had gotten an email ages ago saying there was a corrected version of the pattern available with a link .  When I followed the link and downloaded the new pattern I really couldn’t see any differences between the two, but I figured I just wasn’t looking carefully enough.  Well, it seems I have two copies of the un-corrected pattern.  Carol very nicely sent me the corrected pattern as an attachment.  It does mean that I had knitted most of a sleeve where I kept fudging the lace pattern in order to get it centered.  I have set that aside to knit the correct version and am now nearing the end.  I will then rip out the first sleeve and knit it again.  If I can just make some good progress on my little tapestry I will get this sweater done in no time!  And if it does get done soon I’ll be wearing it too!

Bob and I vacuum packed our down coats and wool sweaters about a week ago.  We regret that but haven’t yet taken the plunge to dig them out.  We did UN-vacuum seal one of our blankets though since we’ve been very cold at night after all the long hours of standing in the wind and chill each day. That means we hae 3 lightweight blankets on us at night! Anyway, I’ll be happy to have another new sweater to wear!

I’ll close with this morning’s sunrise.  I was up for it, but it was Bob who took the shot!

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Approaching Tropical

We are now in Cocoa, Florida, just past Cape Canaveral.  The space coast of Florida is delightfully mild, and we are beginning to thaw!  Saturday was the first day of sunshine we’ve had since getting onboard Pandora, and the feeling of warm sun on my face was glorious!

We left New Smyrna yesterday and arrived in Cocoa mid afternoon.  Both towns are very charming with pretty parks right at the water’s edge, pretty pastel colored low, stucco buildings and historic bungalow style houses along quiet residential streets.  Cocoa’s waterfront park was teeming with families yesterday, and I realized it’s a 3-day national holiday this weekend to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr.  And even though the town was bustling with folks who could enjoy their Sunday without worry of what Monday would bring, the residential streets were still very quiet.

This first image is actually a small church on the corner of the street with so many pretty bungalows.

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It’s funny to me that when I get ashore I spend a lot of time walking through residential streets and snapping photos of houses and gardens.  I think I really miss life on land!

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Along the waterway near New Smyrna there are lots of small estuaries, full of mangroves, and nesting/hunting grounds for a wonderful selection of water birds and sea life.  While we were underway, Bob saw a number of baby dolphins swimming alongside their mothers. And we saw colorful crabs tucked into the roots of the mangroves.  I did not know crabs came in such brilliant colors!

I love how pelicans fly in formation together.  Bob took this photo right before sunset when the pelicans are glowing with the last of the light.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe waited ages for this ibis to take flight, and then when he did all our photos are blurry!  It was a beautiful sight!  You’ll have to trust me on that!

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Isn’t this crab amazing?  I had dreams last night about giant crabs in vivid colors…..

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The highlight in the town of New Smryna was a beautiful gallery of pottery and stained glass right along the residential street at the edge of the harbor.  It is called Clay Gallery, and you must pass through a stunning garden before you get to the galleryn entrance.

What a lovely spot!  And they have a wonderful beehive oven, very similar to what Bob has been wanting to make for our house.  Great inspiration for him to get started this summer! I particularly love the shells imbedded in the mouth

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I have been avoiding my computer problems by knitting.  I have been knitting for a ridiculous number of hours each day and am racing through the front of the pretty “For Irene” sweater by Carol Sunday.  I knitted the back of the sweater while traveling in Portugal, in the fall, then put is aside to finish up the Merle sweater to wear during the cold weather we’ve had while onboard. I got myself in trouble at the beginning of the front of “For Irene” doing the short rows, and with internet so unpredictable on a boat, and with the fear that I might wait days for an email response from Carol, I decided to call her!  I felt quite uncomfortable about this, but I really needed to keep knitting so I wouldn’t have to face the overwhelming job of sorting through photos and files on my computer.  She actually has her phone number posted on her website, and I could not resist getting instant gratification for my questions.

I want to wear this sweater to a wedding in the spring.  The wedding is 3 months away, which may sound like ages….but not in my circumstances!  I need to know if the sweater will be flattering on me with enough time left over to determine if I can find anything to wear with it as we travel south along the coast.  That’s a tall order! So 3 months is not that much time to pull an outfit together from a boat!  I don’t have the luxury of a car, so I only have access to whatever is available in the little shops along the coast.   Mostly these shops have beautiful clothing for beautiful people…..who wear a size 2!

Anyway, Carol actually answered her phone!  And she was patient and friendly with my questions.  And of course, my problems were entirely my fault, nothing to do with the pattern.  I cannot convey how thankful I am for her immediate help because I had an entire day of knitting and managed to start the front over again and make it all the way past the armholes!  I am making this sweater in Phildar Cotton 3 because I want to wear it in the milder months.  The colorway is “Eben” (#223), a warm medium brown, which I hope will look nice with either cream or pale blue silk pants.  I am changing the pattern a bit below the armholes (it is a top down pattern) by increasing one stitch at each edge every 8 rows, and then every 12 rows, to create more of an A-line tunic. I also intend to change the sleeves to 3/4 length, so I can actually do stuff while wearing the sweater.  I love the idea and the look of sleeves that drape below the wrist, but it just doesn’t work for my lifestyle!  I cannot cook… or eat… while wearing long, flowing sleeves, and there you have it!…in a nutshell!…. why I don’t wear a size 2!

I sure hope I like the finished garment!  It’s so nice to have a flattering sweater that you have knitted for yourself!

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Fog

It has been cold and damp ever since we moved onboard Pandora. ….and there has been fog!  When it is pea soup thick and we can’t see anything but a bit of water on all sides of us, I can imagine that we are in Maine in June rather than Florida in January!  Then out of the gloom I’ll see a bit of salt marsh and realize we really are in the south.

Bob took some lovely photos of the marsh as it materialized now and then out of the fog.

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He is using our GPS to navigate the narrow channel of the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway) and radar to find other vessels that might be crossing our path.  There are lots of bridges along the ICW, many of them draw bridges that only open at certain times, so approaching them in fog is a bit dicey for my liking.

We ran aground at one point on a hump that was right in the channel, and we got stuck for about 10 minutes, just long enough for me to begin to make peace with staying put until the next high tide.  That would have been a good long time since we were traveling on a falling tide that morning.  Bob used the engine to get us off, which always means stirring up a bit of mud from the bottom as he powered off the shallow hump.  It creates a bit of stirred up water and mud and certainly a lot of noise.  I took a photo of this pelican who didn’t seem to mind all our noisy, turbulent endeavors.  I guess he’s seen it all before.

IMG_0054 These photos made me realize that I’d like to do a series of small tapestries of the beautiful landscapes we travel through on our winter journey.  Of course I’m a bit worried about colors!  I brought a lot of yarns along to work on a particular image I’d planned before we left, and I don’t think any of them will work for creating these foggy landscapes that are so compelling to me now.  That will be a challenge!

I should finish the aplaca/silk infinity scarf today.  I hope it will go in the mail tomorrow (my birthday!) in time to reach my sister when she returns from celebrating her birthday!  We are almost twins, a decade aparty!

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Traveling South, Knitting along the Way…

Our boat Pandora went in the water a few days ago in St. Marys, Georgia.  This is a lovely southern town, the epitome of old southern elegance and gentility.  We enjoyed walking along the waterfront, through a lovely town park, and along the main street and quiet residential streets… when it wasn’t raining!

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There was a wedding in the park on Saturday evening.

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There are camellias in bloom all over town.  Some of them are very tall.

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Lunch at Riverview Café turned out to be a fun surprise that the owners are Greek and have a menu full of delicious Greek items!  I have not had Greek food since moving to the Connecticut River! We got a piece of baklava to take ‘home’ with us for after dinner.

Most of the shops in town are closed on Sundays, but the one that was open may be the gem of the whole town:  Cottle and Gunn.  I was ready to move in and never leave!  Both owners were in the shop while Bob and I were there and the four of us had a lively conversation.  These two women collect lots of vintage furniture from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, along with plenty of vintage household items to complete the look.  They sell a line of chalk paint and milk paint and are quite creative at ‘repurposing’ some of the furniture to be whimsical, fun pieces that would transform any room into a fairy tale.  I wanted everything in the shop!  Barring that I just wanted to move in.  They invited me to come back with my knitting to sit and talk to them!

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 Along with the vintage items, they also had a beautiful collection of locally made things by various craftswomen.  There were some beautiful baskets, and some very creative sewn accessories.  When I get home in the spring I think I will call them to order this fun spool of colorful paper dots.  I don’t know what I’ll do with it (beyond using it for a garland on a Christmas tree), but I think it could brighten a room all year.

Cottle and Gunn spool of dots

 It is raining a lot, and it is chilly.  We left St. Marys yesterday, in late afternoon, and motored the short distance to the northernmost coastal town in Florida, Fernandina Beach.  We’d love to go ashore and explore this quaint looking town, but it’s cold….and still raining! So we had a quiet dinner onboard last night with baklava for dessert, and this morning we are heading south in a gentle rain and fog.  The salt marshes are beautiful in the fog.

I have been working on an infinity scarf .  It is a heathery shade of pale plum “Misti Alpaca” by Berroco, and the pattern is also by Berroco.  It is called “Wallis” and it’s available as a download through Ravelry.  Rain is still in the forecast for most of today and tomorrow so I should be able to finish this project quickly since it’s too chilly and damp to go ashore, and the alpaca/silk blend is warm and soft in my hands. The color of my yarn is a paler version of the woman’s blouse in this photo. I’m hoping to get it in the mail soon for someone very dear.

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Preparing for a Nomad’s Life

Well, it’s full on winter now, so we have cast off the moorings of our safe warm home and headed south for better weather, but rougher living!  Our boat Pandora is on land up the St. Marys River in Georgia.  Bob left her there in October and she had her hull buffed to a gleaming shine, and she had some mechanical work done as well.  Now we are provisioning her and getting ready for the trip down the coast of Florida and possibly over to the Bahamas.

It’s not unusual for the temps to dip below freezing in winter in southern Georgia and northern Florida, and that is exactly what has happened.  When I realized this was going to happen I decided it would be an excellent opportunity to wear the Wool People 7 sweater “Merle” (designed by Amy Christophers) before I lost this opportunity.  If not now, I wouldn’t wear it ’til next fall.  I only had 1 1/2 sleeves to go, and it went quite quickly.  I am now happily wearing it!

I’ve got a number of projects to keep me happy while we are away.  This is the first year I’ve brought a lace pillow onboard.  I have a little book of lace hearts and I’d like to make 2 or 3 of them.  I am on the last bit of my first heart, and it has been an easy project.  Whew!  I was beginning to feel that I was never going to gain any proficiency at making lace.  It does help to work on beginner projects!

I also have about 8 very small knitting projects on board.  A pair of gloves (almost done with the first glove), a pair of mittens, two pairs of socks, a moebius scarf, knitted slippers, and a small handbag….hmmm…that is only 7, so I have forgotten the last one.

I also have five sweaters onboard this year.  The first one is the “Merle” which is finished (shown above!)….so that leaves the other four.  ”Arabella,”  another Wool People design by Anne McCauley, which I am knitting with Cascade Yarns Venezia sport, which is a blend of merino and silk.

I also have with me the wonderful boatneck sweater by Carol Sunday called “For Irene” which I am knitting in Phildar Cotton 3.  I’ve got Alice Starmore’s “Mary Tudor” with me, which I’ve neglected for over a year, so maybe I will make some good progress on it.  And the last sweater is a casual sweatershirt type design that I picked up at Halcyon Yarn the last time we were in Maine….possibly more than 3 years ago now.

I’ve got two tapestries with me too.  I’m not sure I have the proper yarns for them, which is a big worry.  I also forgot to bring any bobbins!  I know I could weave without bobbins, but it wouldn’t be pretty and I do want to do the best work I can.  A good friend from the Wednesday Group has sent me a package of bobbins!  They have arrived at the local cruising station, and I will get them today.  What a good friend!

AnnaByrds bobbins

Pandora will go in the water on Saturday or Sunday, depending on temperatures rising and no rain!  Then we will be off living like nomads.  Today I am provisioning food and household staples for the next 4 months.  Wish me luck!

 

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Approaching the New Year….

The weeks have been ticking by, and I’ve had SO much to post and no ability to do it!  For these past 6 weeks, I’ve felt like a woman with her hair on fire!

Posting has been virtually impossible (and continues to be):  my computer is full, my iphone is full, and Dropbox is full!  How could this happen all at once?  Clearly, I am that kind of person who just glides through life enjoying my high-tech toys, who then completely falls apart when these tools require some effort on my part!  I have resisted the urge to simply pay for the upgraded Dropbox.  UGH……

So, in addition to having clogged up all my precious tools, it’s also been the holidays and I’ve just had minor surgery!  While the surgery was minor and completely successful, general anesthesia always takes its toll.  I’ve been blissfully relaxed and able to sleep ridiculous amounts of time, and I’ve been quite fuzzy brained.  In a number of ways, it’s been a blessing!  I’ve had a no-stress holiday since I couldn’t get up enough energy to jump through all the hoops or even worry about what lists I should make!

A terrific perk to not worrying about Christmas preparations was that I took a whole day to go into New York to see the Pieter Coecke van Aelst tapestries at the Met.  It was so inspiring and overwhelming and just plain HUGE.  Isn’t it marvellous how they displayed the tapestries coming out from the walls?

Tapestry Pieter Coecke Met

But, on the other hand, there is so much I would like to catch up on here.  I had such amazing experiences in Portugal, and I want to record them.  There were so many opportunities to experience textiles.  I spent a day in the lace museum at Vila de Conde and another day at the lace school that is part of that museum.  I saw wonderful textiles everywhere!  Each part of the country has its traditional embroidery techniques (and pottery designs too!) which are easy to find.  And I visited the eastern city of Portalegre where there is a tapetry studio for large works created by well known modern Portuguese artists.  I have lots of photos and lots of stories about these wonderful places, and I hope to make some space on my computer so I can begin to document these adventures!

Meanwhile, it’s that lulling time between Christmas and New Year and Bob and I are throwing our stuff together to head south and move onboard our boat Pandora, that is waiting for us in St. Marys, Georgia.  I am taking some guilty pleasure from spending some time washing and ironing all the linens we have used over the past week.  I am setting the table for my return in May, and have a new embroidered tablecloth from de Viano do Castelo in the north of Portugal.  Take a look at that link for some gorgeous examples of the handwork of the women in this area!

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 Here is a close up.

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A few other things that have given me a grateful holiday spirit:  Approaching the end of my Merle sweater.  Huge thanks to Jared Flood and Harrisville Designs for making such a lovely yarn (Loft) for knitting!  Thank you to Amy Christoffers for this beautiful design.  I have knitted it a intriguing color called “Button Jar” which is a complex green, hard for me to describe….muted with wonderful flecks of a bright warm blue, like sky blue, and sunny yellow.  It has been a dream to knit, and it looks pretty good on me too!  Unfortunately, I am having no luck getting the colors to be accurate.  This is too washed out.

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 When I return home in May I will be ready to finish weaving this medium weight linen fabric that has huck motifs crossing each other in a plaited effect.  Pretty cool!  It’s a huck threading based on a plaited twill that Laurie Autio designed on her computer, and I am translating into cloth. This design was part of a hand out that Laurie gave us at our November mini-workshop at the Handweavers’ Guild of Connecticut.  This fabric will become a hefty tote bag lined with some fun plaid linen fabric from my stash.  It will be a summer bag and I hope it will be finished in time for summer in New England when I return!

This is the fabric on the loom….the color is somewhat too cool.  The real thing is a bit warmer.

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And this photo is of a sample that I cut from the loom, and now the colors are too warm!  Reality is somewhere in between…. Also, the huck motifs running in one direction are a noticeably different color than the motifs going in the opposite direction, but the photos do not demonstrate that.  Having the warp and weft in contrasting colors emphasizes the plaited efftect.  While I chose a medium contrast of colors, the photos just do not pick it up.  The real deal is much more effective!

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Wish me luck getting my computer files under control so I can post some videos and photos of the beautiful handwork of Portugal!

 

 

 

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First week in Portugal!

We have been in Lisbon almost a week….a wonderful week!  We are staying in a lovely studio apartment in the Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon.  It was originally settled by people from northern Africa, so there is lots of Arabic influence.  A good number of the streets are too small for cars so it is quiet with lots of foot traffic.  Our apartment is in a small cluster of low masonry buildings that are perched up on a high terrace, with views of the Panteo Nacional.  It dominates our sky and is stunning at night when it is lit.

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Our taxi from the airport dropped us off at one of end the nearest larger street (meaning one small car could navigate, and clearly he wasn’t will to do it).  We walked a ways up this street (up being the operative word here!)….and then we began walking steeply up a trail of narrow cobbles and steep steps to our terrace.  But what a reward at the end!

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Each morning we have been walking down from our high perch to have coffee and pastry at Alfacinho coffee shop which has good internet.  The coffee everywhere here is delightful.  I don’t know why we cannot get better coffee in the US!  And the traditional sweet pastry is delicious!

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There is so much to do here that it feels somewhat stressful making sure we see all the “important” sites.  So we have tried our best!  The well known tile museum, and of course the Gulbenkian, and both were as impressive as we could hope!  But the best part of being here is walking the tiny medieval streets, listening to Portuguese, looking at the views!

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On the first day we chose sites that were within walking distance, and we walked a total of 8.5 miles.  I slept really deeply that night!  The next day we tackled learning the metro system and headed for the central part of the city, where we found a bank and the long walk uphill through the park to the Gulbenkian Museum.  Aside from most places NOT taking our Visa card, everything is going really smoothly.  We are a long metro from a bank, and of course there are limits on what you can withdraw each day…..so living on cash is going to be a bit dicey!  And who knows if there will even be banks in the smaller towns.

We went to the Castelo San Jorge, which (naturally!) is on a high bit of land where it could be well defended.  It was originally a fortress built by the visigoths, and then later acquired its current name.  Portuguese certainly know how to relax…. there are cafes everywhere, and in fact, at the castle there was even a wine cart, where we bought two glasses of wine and and sat on the parapets enjoying the immense 360 degree views of all Lisbon.  The city has sprawled out over a number of hills that rise up from the Atlantic and the Tagus river.  Walking anywhere involves much steep ups and downs…..feels like mostly up no matter which direction we head!  How can everything be uphill in both directions??

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There were falcons and owls inside the castle, and a group of trainers who worked with the birds.  You could even pay to have your photo taken with one of the birds.  At one point a trainer let one of the owls fly about.  The owl was quite reluctant to come back, and after quite a long time the owl was still flying about the courtyard.

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Last night was our first weekend in Portugal, and Alfama was a great place to spend it.  It is well known for many tiny taverna style restaurants with live traditional Fado music.  Fado is a type of folk song, always sad, always accompanied by guitar.  The place we chose last night had three guitarists; one playing 12-string, one on 6-string, and one playing mandolin.  The singers rotated between three men and two women.  They were all very entertaining!  At one point the two women sang a duet together.  I could not understand more than a random word here and there, but I definitely got the impression that the two women sang about loving the same man.  One of the men had a beautiful tenor voice.  It was a great way to spend the evening.

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We are still sleeping later than usual each morning….perhaps we begin to show our age? Tomorrow we will figure out our way to Sintra and for the rest of our stay we will mostly be in smaller towns.  We hope to settle in somewhere quiet where we can make day trips to other locations, but stay settled in a quieter location than bustling Lisbon.

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Another Day, Another Exciting Technique to Learn!

This fall I’ve participated in three workshops, more than I’ve ever done in such a short time!  Last week I spent three terrific days with members of my local guild, learning crimped cloth with Dianne Totten!

Weaving crimped cloth uses the techniques of woven shibori, but instead of dyeing the cloth (or in addition to dyeing the cloth!), you tighten the pull threads and steam the woven cloth.  Whether these pull threads are in the warp or the weft determines the direction that must also contain some thermoplastic fibers.  In this class we used orlon or polyester sewing thread.

Here is Dianne wearing one of her beautiful vests.  This is an advancing twill on 16 shafts, woven in a straight draw.

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Since I haven’t been home long enough to actually warp a loom, I decided to be a virtual weaver by bringing my computer with Fiberworks software.  I’m so glad I participated this way!  I got to photograph Dianne’s samples, try on the clothing which mysteriously seems to fit everyone , take copious notes, and watch what the others were weaving.  I did a few drawdowns and have made a plan for my own crimped cloth warp.  I hope to get going on it the moment I return in mid-November!

This is one of Dianne’s finished pieces called “Garden Party.”  The fabric looks like Fortuny himself pleated it!….and the warp is a luscious blend of three different tencel colorways of Just Our Yarn’s “Almaza.”  I have my own stash of “Almaza” which has been ‘aging’ (as veteran stash collector and weaver, Kathi called it!).

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Here is a detail of the sleeve that shows the weave structure used for the pull threads that created the pleats.

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I’m very intrigued with inserting zippers into the front opening!

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Several women in my area guild had taken this workshop with Dianne last spring when it was offered to the statewide guild.  They arrived at this class with finished cloth and spent days 2 and 3 begining to fit and sew their garments.  This added such excitement to atmosphere in class!

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2014-10-10 14.42.52Dianne is an excellent teacher!  She is ingenious, creative, and completely open to sharing.  She spends plenty of time answering questions and listening to ideas from the students.  She’s not afraid to admit what she doesn’t know, and she’s not afraid to problem solve on fitting questions.  I think the best part of the class was fitting and constructing the garments for the women who had already woven their yardage.  There was so much to consider during that stage, and Dianne gave us all plenty of food for thought!

Tomorrow Bob and I are off to Portugal….for a month!  Lots of wonderful textile adventures to have while there.  I’ll be going to the tapestry workshop in Portalegre, as well as looking at handmade bobbin lace and embroidery in all the towns we visit.

And speaking of bobbin lace, I was very surprised to get a red ribbon (2nd place) for my little lace edging on my linen top at the Big E!  Wonders never cease sometimes.

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And my wonderful lace mentor, Mary, has really helped me make progress on the never ending handkerchief edging.  I really intend to have this finished before the end of the year.

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Time to get packed!  Hopefully I can post some wonderful textiles from Portugal!

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On This Crisp October Day…

Let me recount the amazing experiences of the past 3 weeks before they disappear into distant memory!

In the past 3 weeks I have had the good fortune to spend a week….YES! a WEEK….studying with Joan Baxter, who came all the way from Scotland to share her knowledge and her wonderful sensitivity in tapestry design with a handful of very lucky students across the US.  I was part of her first workshop in Rockport, Massachusetts.  Then she headed off for a week of teaching in each of three additional locations:  Santa Fe, San Francisco area, and the Atlanta area.  Lucky weavers all!

On the first day we spent the afternoon getting inspirational shots of Cape Ann to develop a design for a tapestry with images of the sea and/or the coastline.  This is the quarry at Halibut Point State Park.  You can see the Atlantic in the distance.

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I took a lot of wonderful images that day….including some shots of the women in my class.  We are all members of TWiNE (Tapestry Weavers in New England).  I had not met any of them before so it was also a good experience getting to know women I’ve only seen as names on email lists.

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Someday maybe these images will inspire something, but my tapestry design was already chosen before I got to class.  For me, this class would be about honing what I wanted to say with an image I already had in mind.

Joan certainly knows how to design works with multiple layers of images that create an entire story in one tapestry.  You can see her work here.  These are some of the samples she wove to blend colors for ideas for her designs.

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She generously brought lots of yarn for us to try,  7/2 wool that she had dyed herself and every color of 18/2 wool that Weavers’ Bazaar carries.  It was a terrific way to get familiar with their yarns.

I started a little sample of a Portuguese Man of War.  I’ll explain why I’m intrigued with this in a future post, when I have more to report.

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Less than a week after Joan’s class, I headed up the Hudson almost to Albany for the last regular meeting of the Wednesday Group.  It was a bittersweet gathering of the entire group.  Some people really had to jump hurdles to get there, but we all managed it.  Archie made a very touching farewell to all of us, but I don’t think most of the group realized what he was doing.

He brought in one of his recently completed tapestries, one that we’d all seen in progress some months ago.  Typical of Archie, this tapestry is an experiment in meaning….woven in code.  He was testing the human ability to read many different fonts and handwriting styles. He wondered if we could as easily translate letters into colors, so he wove a poem with a coded color scheme. I think he wondered how many of us could decipher the poem….or would even bother to try.  Naturally, this brought out the puzzle solver in me and in one of my good friends in the group.  In the long run, I had to take a photo of it after Archie had wrapped it up to take it home. Hence the very bad image! Just a few minutes after class, two of us decoded the poem almost simultaneously! Then three of us got busy checking to see if we were right…and we were!  And it was a sweet farewell message from Archie to all of us!

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I would love to tell you what the poem is, but I know he wants you to see this tapestry in some venue down the road.  He wants you to have a go at figuring it out, so I’d better not spoil it!

Meanwhile, our little band of friends wanted to let him know how touched we were, so we decided to sing our own version of farewell to him at dinner that night.  I know it’s corny….when we arrived at our favorite sushi restaurant, four of us surrounded him and sang a little  farewell poem back to him.  It was clear that he knew we had broken the code, and he was very touched!  Our goodbyes could not have been any sweeter!  All things must pass, and I’m very thankful for these last wonderful days together.

The Wednesday Group also had a final project. Almost everyone has now delivered their chopstick weavings.  They are a terrific statement of each person’s weaving style!  For the most part we could all identify who wove each one!

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This was Archie’s ingenious idea.  For several years now we have all stayed together after class on Wednesdays to order Chinese take-out to share.  The number of chopsticks used on these occasions was rapidly growing, and Archie wanted to find a creative way to recycle them.  He devised a little loom with 15 chopsticks for warps, and he challenged us to weave a face.  He made a loom for each member in the group, and some of us had so much fun that we made a few on our own in order to weave more chopstick portraits! This is my “Chopstick Triptych.”

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One member did a series of six maneki nekos (or maneki neki?  Who knows Japanese?).  Are you wondering what they are?  Well, you can read the official report here on Wikipedia, or you can take my word for it.  If you go to any Japanese restaurants or sushi bars, you’ve seen them.  They are good luck charms, or talismans, in the form of little kitties, and they have one paw raised in a gesture of beckoning.  They are beckoning all sorts of good fortune for those who pass by.  How apropos that one of our group wove a set of them on chopsticks! (Now don’t you hope we display these treasures in public sometime?)….

On the morning after I returned home I had to get out early for my monthly lace meeting.  I’ll save writing about that…as well as describing my upcoming workshop with Diane Totten for another post.  It’s been crazy around here, and I have loved every minute of it!

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Summer’s Swan Song

A few images from our morning walk into Essex to have coffee at our favorite spot.

Today really feels like autumn, and I wore long pants for the first time this season.  All the gardens along our way are bursting with everything they’ve got in the last weeks before frost.  It is a breathtaking time of year!

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Sunflowers in a long border of sunflowers, zinnias, and roses.

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One of my favorite houses where the Kousa dogwood berries are framing a view of the front door.

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And right next door is my friend Jane’s house.  She has beautiful gardens, and at this time of year the focus is purple Russian sage and bright yellow sunflowers along her picket fence.

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Right near Jane’s house is a house where the older residents grow a very large vegetable garden.  To me it verges on being a farm.  They have pole beans, various types of squash, corn, tomatoes, and in late summer the pumkin vines grow almost out to the street.

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Clever Mr. Farmer has trained the longest vine onto his big apple tree.

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While having coffee we met a man who just returned from Portugal, where he and his family have a house in Nazare.  His wife was born there, so they visit each year, and he had lots of good advice for us.  I will get busy honing the details for our trip…

And on this first crisp day I will warp my new copper loom for the upcoming Joan Baxter workshop.  I am leaving tomorrow for a whole week at an inn in Rockport, Massachusetts, where 12 of us will spend time with Joan developing our individual cartoons for tapestries about the sea and the shoreline.  More on that when my idea gains some clarity.

Also, today, I am making the second batch of baguettes from the recipe in the current issue of “Cooks Illustrated.”  (If you want the recipe you have to buy this issue!) The first batch was the best baguette I have ever made myself (thank you CI!!).  I reached my goal of making a baguette that could rival Balthazar’s Bakery in NY….a goal I’ve been heading toward for decades!

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And while I wait for next round of dough to rise, I’m having a fresh tomato sandwich with mozzarella and basil on day old, lightly toasted, leftover baguette.  Hard to imagine anything better!

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