Dog Days are Here

It must have been moments after my last post that summer’s heat arrived with a vengeance. Ouch!  We’ve had a full week now of temperatures close to 90 and even a little higher.  I’ve been hiding inside my climate controlled house.  I miss fresh air, but it’s hard to breathe 90* air with an equal amount of humidity.  Boy, have we had some impressive thunderstorms.

Hiding out from the heat is a great way to get things done.  I finished my first attempt at weaving on a taka dai, thanks to my friend Clare allowing me to use hers while I wait to for mine to arrive.  It’s an 18 month wait, so I won’t be holding my breath.

This is the standard first braid that almost everyone makes.  I used 60/2 silk from WEBs.  There are 12 strands on each tama, and a total of 25 tama make this pattern.  It is just plain weave, and therefore it’s relaxing to weave.  I twined the fringe that comes to a point at the end of the braid.

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It’s been a good week for doing a little re-organizing.  Bob built some shelves for me in our den where we had a useless closet that had only one shelf and a horde of items we need on occasion.  I wish I had taken a before photo.  In a closet with 8 feet of height there was only one shelf at the halfway point.  Now it holds an array of things, neatly organized.

You must be thinking I’ve lost my mind to take a picture of a closet!  Well, that’s how excited I get when chaos is momentarily curbed by order.  Thank you, Bob!

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This little activity sent me down to my studio to re-organize some of my cabinets and drawers there.  I won’t bore you with more photos.  My studio is still quite a mess at the moment, but it’s comforting to know that my cabinets look a lot better and are more useful.  Once I knuckle down on some projects I’m preparing I can straighten up the studio–just in time for fall.

The Big E is coming in about a month.  For those of you outside New England, this is a nickname for the Eastern Exposition, a mammoth country fair that includes all of New England.  There are all the traditional country fair events on a large scale–livestock judging, baked items and canned items judging, dairy judging, butter sculpting competition, handwork competitions in various categories, and of course there is a midway.  Members from my bobbin lace guild always submit an arry of entries in order to educate the public on what bobbin lace is and to demonstrate that there are people who still make lace by hand.  I’ll be demonstrating there on Sept. 19th, which is Connecticut Day this year.  I thought that was a good day to be on hand.  If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello!  I’ll be in the building that has displays of handwork.

I’ll be submitting the christening dress I made for Tori last year.  It has about 2 1/2 yards of lace on it, and I made the dress to boot.  I’m no seamstress so making the dress was a bigger hurdle than making the lace.  Also, I’m far from the best lace maker in CT, much less in New England, but I’m submitting the dress anyway.  It’s not about getting an award; it’s just about showing that it’s still possible to make enough lace for a garment.  Even a clumsy newbie can do it!

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I still haven’t mounted my little Portuguese Man of War tapestry, but I have got all the mounting materials gathered in one place now.  I just need to do it.  Perhaps today.

While escaping the heat I’ve been googling around.  Did you know that Jean Pierre Larochette and Yael Lurie have a daughter, Yadin, who weaves tapestry? She wrote a brief post about her family tradition of weaving related to the exhibition “Woven Gold: Tapestries of Louis XIV.”  You can scroll through photos of this exhibition on the Getty site.

I’ve watched this 10-minute video before, and may have posted it here in the past.  It’s worth a re-visit if you have a few minutes.  It makes my fingers itch to be weaving!

But first I need to mount that little Portuguese Man of War tapestry.  It’s certainly too hot to do anything but gaze out at the garden!

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And speaking of heat, someone came to clean our cedar roof this week.  It was a hot, hot job.  I’m glad he had an umbrella!

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July on the Fly

Are you old enough to remember this lyric?  “July, she will fly”…  That’s what this month has been doing.  It’s been a month jam-packed with the fullness of a summer on steroids.  (By the way, that phrase is from “April, Come She Will“).  And ha!  It’s now August 3rd.

First, there are the gardens and the farmers’ market.  I’ve waited almost a year for cukes to be ready for making pickles again.  This year I’m starting pickle season with sweet pickles spiked with hot, dried piquin peppers from France.  It’s my version of hot pepper jelly in a pickle.

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The gardens are flourishing in the mild summer.  We seem to have stolen all the best qualities of summer from England and left them parched and dry as our Arizona desert.

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I’m picking bouquets of daisies and globe thistle now, instead of roses.  And tiny bouquets of Legion of Honor poppies.

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Yet no summer is complete without its downside.  Last year it was voles.  This year the deer are getting a bit too comfortable coming right up to the house, eating my window boxes!

Two are unharmed and looking great!

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While the other two have been a great treat for deer.  Grrr….

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A few weeks back, I celebrated finishing two tapestries that have been languishing in my stash for a couple of years–one actually longer than that.  Well now they are ‘finished.’  If you’re a weaver you know the adage, “it ain’t finished ’til it’s (wet) finished.”  In tapestry, there is no wet finishing, but there is a tedious process that needs to happen before the piece is truly finished.  Here are a few photos of my process.

First you have to tack all those lose warp threads to the back.  This is my least favorite task.

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Then the piece can be mounted.  I plan to write up a little tutorial on this shortly.  Full credit to Susan Martin Maffei who taught this to the Wednesday Group.

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Saving the best for last!  The height of July brought the birth of our twin grandchildren on Tuesday last week. A tiny girl named Emmeline, and a tinier boy named Rhett, have joined the family.  They are preemies, and there were some hurdles, but all is going quite well for both of them. Here are a couple of close ups and then a family shot with their big sister, who is only 18 months.  Three under two.  Whoa. Our son now writes his last name O5born.

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And here they are with the big sister, who now looks SO big to me!IMG_1297

And so goes the summer.  I have splurged on some new equipment in my studio! I have a new loom.  It’s a Baby Wolf with what must be all the bells and whistles.  It has a second back beam with sectional warping capability.  It has a compu-dobby.  It can be returned to its traditional weaving function with treadles.  It can do anything!  I have a deflected double weave warp waiting to go on, but at this point I can’t envision when that will happen. And my 8S Baby Wolf has gone to live with a member of my current guild.  I hope she will enjoy using for years.

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I have a Jensen 30″ Norwegian style wheel on order. I might have it by early fall.  In anticipation of getting that gem, I have been spinning through some stash and dreaming about weaving with these random bits I’ve collected over the years.  Surely there is a project waiting to be born amongst some of these yarns.

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And there are evenings in the garden.  Summer is often too long, but not when the weather  has been this mild.  Keep it coming!

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Following a thought

Whenever I visit a gallery of paintings, the works that depict textiles grab most of my attention.  Bob and I visited the New Britain Museum of American Art last week.  It was our anniversary, and I could picture us wandering the galleries together and talking about what we liked.  In reality, we were hardly in a room together.  He lingered over the landscapes, while I was drawn to portraits and landscapes studded with people captured in the daily work of living.

This is the prize winner.  I had to go back twice and look again.  It is a stunning landscape with the fog and the sheep in the background, and the spent flowers in the foreground. But these two girls are show stoppers!  I can feel the chill in the air, the blush on their cheeks from hard work, the roughness of their clothing.  And look!  One girl is knitting! Daniel Ridgway Knight, The Meeting.  1888.

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I know you want a closer look, as I did.

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And here, Thomas Eakins has captured an elderly woman doing handwork. He called this painting Old Lady Sewing. Perhaps she was younger than I am now when he painted her, although I’d at least like to think I look younger than she does.  At any rate, even 10 years ago, I could not do fine work by such light.

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Closer, you ask?  My phone brightened the colors too much.

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Whenever I visited the Metropolitan or the Frick, when I lived nearby, I would get pulled into the paintings that depicted lacework.  New Britain had a few examples. This is John Singer Sargent’s Miss Cara Burch, 1888.  While everyone else admires this young girl’s porcelain complexion, I am studying crispness of her silk dress and the frill at the edge of her ruffled neckline and bodice.

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This painting was a pleasure with its riot of textiles.  Woman before a Mirror, 1918.
Louis Ritman

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I recently saw this image connected to an Augusten Burroughs quote. Some things are so awkwardly true.

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Earlier this week, my English friend Lesley sent me this photo.  She was staying at an inn in Belgium, where the innkeeper teaches lace techniques during the day and runs the inn in the evenings.  That would be a terrific get away for a few people I know!

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This afternoon, as I write this, I have a pot of finely chopped carrot tops simmering on the stove.  I’m waiting for them to give up their color, which could take another hour or so.  When they do, I’ll add some alum mordanted, white wool yarn from Weavers’ Bazaar.  I believe it is mostly Leicester Long Wool, spun for tapestry.  Fingers crossed that I’ll get the lovely spring green that Jenny Dean got in one of her books. If there’s time, I’ll continue doing the finishing work on my little Portuguese Man of War tapestry.

And June is calling…. I want to get outside for a bit!

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Voices from the Past

Although I was curious about weaving throughout my childhood, it was while I was studying ancient history in college that I finally pursued learning to weave.  I happened to be in the right place at the right time because my tiny college in the middle of New York state just happened to hire a weaver for one year of their artist in residency program. That weaver was Candiss Cole.

I continue to be most fascinated with what we can learn about the earliest textile remains, so I was mesmerized by this article from Science Nordic that I found on facebook yesterday.

You can read the full article here.  This is a wall hanging from the late 12th c. that was embroidered on  handwoven red fabric.  Most of the fibers used are wool, with some linen used in the embroidery stitches.  Back in its heyday it was full of brilliant blues, greens, yellows and white against the red woolen cloth.  At some point, perhaps around the Reformation, this wall hanging got rolled up and stored in the loft of the church, and forgotten, which saved its life for someone to discover and for us to learn about.

And what can we learn?  For one thing, that there were some talented embroiders in this area who were spared some of the drudgery of farm work in order to be allowed to work on this piece.  It tells us that they must have lived on farms that were prosperous enough to spare these few women to do this handwork. It shows that while making ends meet from year to year was not easy, beyond that there was a call to make objects of beauty. It shows that these women knew a wealth of stitches, and one in particular that is found only in Norway. This piece tell also tells us what dyes they used at that time.  Like woven medieval tapestries, it confirms the tradition of telling a story through imagery in a manner similar to today’s cartoon strips.  This piece is on display at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

And to achieve such a beautiful feat, these women had access to finely woven cloth on which to embroider.  They had colored threads to use in their embroidery.  They had needles.  They had the skill to envision the objects they wanted to depict and the skill to embroider them.  This is what always pulls me down the rabbit hole of history:  these women are still speaking to us from another millennium.

Years ago Bob and I visited the Metropolitan Museum in New York to view the exhibit of Leonardo DaVinci’s drawings.  It was frustratingly crowded, but there was still that sense of being pulled back in time, to be a witness to Leonardo’s hand making marks on paper.  There weren’t even pencils as we know them, or paper as we know it, back then.  He was using silver wire on linen paper.  The drawings and sketches were as personal as handwriting, and as close as yesterday, or today.

About a week ago, Bob and I visited two galleries on the Yale campus to view an exhibit called “Text and Textile.”  You can see it yourself, at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, through August 12.

This was a printed work on cotton of a jacquard weave pattern.  The printing process took numerous layers of printing to complete.  I enjoyed this piece, with its printed original pattern for weaving, being printed again in layers on woven cloth. There were plenty of clever and interesting things to see in this exhibit, which extends to another building on campus–the Haas library that is part of the Architecture School.

The curator summed up the theme of this exhibit so well:

Even as the Fates spin the thread of our lives, text and textile enshroud the body in the fabric of myth, the costume of the domestic or the exotic, the imperatives of the industrious or the industrial.  This exhibition draws on Yale University’s extraordinary collections to explore the intersections of text and textile in literature and politics, from Eve spinning in a thirteenth-century manuscript to the mill girls of New England in the nineteenth century.  Particular highlights include: Gertrude Stein’s waistcoat; manuscript patterns and loom cards from French Jacquard mills; the first folio edition of William Shakespeare’s plays; the “Souper” paper dress by Andy Warhol; American samplers; Renaissance embroidered bindings; Christa Wolf’s “Quilt Memories”; Zelda Fitzgerald’s paper dolls for her daughter; Edith Wharton’s manuscript drafts of “The House of Mirth”; an Incan quipu; poetry by Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Susan Howe, and Walt Whitman; and the Kelmscott Chaucer by William Morris.

What moved me from this exhibit?  Seeing a vest made for Gertrude Stein by Alice B. Toklas.  Now why didn’t I take a photo of it?  I guess I was struck dumb by seeing it! It glowed with love from Alice’s hand stitches.

This little book which includes the image of a Flemish spinner (attributed to Boccaccio) that I currently have on my Shannock tapestry loom, barely started.

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This lace panel with an accompanying poem gave me such a sense of the passage of time, of women’s hands carefully and lovingly making these pieces that have long outlived their makers.

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This display was particularly poignant–a cloth book made for recovering soldiers who fought in WWI.  They used these books to embroider their feelings and experiences.  The slow process of embroidering their thoughts must have been therapeutic on a number of levels.

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It was a remarkable spring day in New Haven.  I couldn’t resist trying to catch it….I was about to write ‘on film.’ But that’s no longer the case.

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And it was a perfect day for looking at windows and roof lines that always catch my eye!

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We ended the visit by attending a lecture by Valerie Steele on the history of the color pink titled “The Color Pink:  the History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful color.”  Her lecture got off to a powerful start with this image!

Valerie Steele is curating an exhibit for FIT on her research on pink which will open in September.  Road trip, anyone?

I’ll end with some words from another weaver from the not so distance past…..

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Retreating

….two long weekends in row.  It was pretty wonderful to have these days away from the pull of house and garden chores, and even the decision  about how to spend my creative time.  While both retreats had themes–one was weaving and the other was bobbin lace–we had the option to bring whatever project we wanted.  Whatever my choice, I’d then have the ability to focus on that one thing for three days at the first retreat and four days at the next.

The first retreat took place in a small town in northwestern Connecticut.  It was a woodland setting that made me think we’d gone deep into some forest, when in actuality we were on a large property at the end of a couple of mostly residential roads.  This retreat took place at an Episcopalian center called Camp Washington.  The photos on my phone tell me I was in Lakeside, Connecticut, but my google maps directions took me to the little town of Morris.

There were seven of us, so we were quite an intimate group.  We stayed and worked in the smaller lodge that is nestled into the woods across the street from the larger campus shown in the photo above.

The main room is where we worked and ate and gathered together in the evenings for conversation. There is a dining table off the right of the photo, and in the evenings we pulled the couches closer together to have wine and camaraderie before dinner arrived.  All the looms are spread out behind me and to each side (so not in the frame) to make use of the great light coming in a wall of large windows.  Note that balcony upstairs! — a great place to enjoy watching the activity!

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Our chef Ben delivered meals to us three times a day, and they were way beyond what you’d expect to get at a retreat center.  Take a look at this–grilled shrimp and grilled zucchini.  To the right is grilled polenta topped with pesto and grilled peppers and onions.  YUM!

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It was a great way to kick off the weekend! (Now you can see a bit of our equipment set up in front of the windows in the background.)

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Here’s Ben setting out the goodies. He took such good care of us all weekend.

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Even breakfasts were a large spread.  This was Mother’s Day brunch.
Thank you, Ben!

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And lest you think we did nothing but hang out and eat, I did manage to get one photo of progress on a loom.  This Marjie’s project, a multi-colored warp in cottolin with a twill design that represents fish scales.

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I was so busy working on my Robert Frost text that I neglected to take photos of the work others were doing.  Clare and Julia were working on braids on their takadai, and the other three women were weaving on floor looms.

Here is my progress.  Good stuff/bad stuff.  I’m disappointed about the rippling in the area of the ‘F and A’ of fact, but I got control of it by the end of the word.  Hopefully it will steam out when it’s off the loom.  I am happy with the the ‘T and H’ of the next word…which is the.  I am enjoying the process of weaving this simple phrase that’s so poignant. I’m not telling what it is.  If you love Robert Frost’s work, you already know where this is headed.

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After getting home late on Sunday of Mother’s Day, I had a busy three days to unpack, do some chores, and welcome Bob home from his long voyage from Antigua back to the Connecticut River!  Then Thursday morning I hit the road again, this time with my friend Janet–off to spend four days doing bobbin lace north of Boston.

This was a much bigger gathering, although I can’t tell you how many of us were there.  We were at a new retreat location this year–Rolling Ridge retreat center in North Andover, Massachusetts.  It was quite a different setting than the previous weekend!  This is a Gilded Age mansion on a large property near a lake.

I couldn’t get a shot with the entire place in the frame!  We stayed in the larger section on the left.  There was a round courtyard to drive in to unload our stuff.

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Happy arrivals to the retreat!

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The dining room with beautiful views into the woods near the lake.  Each table had a vase of flowering branches of dogwood and appleblossoms.  The food was far better than standard institutional fare.  Lucky!

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My room was at the top of the main staircase–so grandiose! My actual room, not so grand!–but plenty comfortable.

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What did I work on during the four days?  I tried my hand at a Torchon edging.  This is my beginning attempt at a cloth stitch trail with a rose ground filling.

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I learned such a lot over the weekend, under the guidance of Holly VanSciver.  For one thing you may notice that I did not start at the point suggested in the background pricking. There are several new techniques for me in this pattern.  The best thing I gained was a better understanding of Torchon in general so that I can make my own decisions about how to do the lace.

The last dinner of each retreat is a fancy affair where those of us from Connecticut wear our tiaras and our lace sashes. We hope this will eventually impress the rest of the New England participants to follow our lead in future years.  So far, they resist!  This year the dinner happened to occur as the newly married royal couple, Harry and Meghan, were attending their evening bridal reception. Let it be known that a number of us rose at 5 am that morning to watch the wedding event live on a big screen in the conference room!

We have a man in our lace group, and he needed something more appropriate than a tiara. Those are printed lace panels on his shirt. We do love to get in the spirit at this dinner each year!

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I certainly had a great time over the past two weekends!  And now it’s Memorial Day weekend, and Bob and I are home together to celebrate. The gardens are calling!

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Small Wonders

The next two weeks have a lot in store, and I’ve been looking forward to these events all winter! First is my local weaving guild meeting tomorrow.  I haven’t been able to get to one of these meetings since last September, so this is a big deal for me!  We are taking a field trip together to the Rhode Island School of Design to see an exhibit of Mayan textiles.  Isn’t that a wonderful way to get back in the groove of weaving?  The exhibit is called “From the Loom of a Goddess: Reverberations of Guatemalan Mayan Weaving.”

Then, on Friday, I will attend the Connecticut weaving guild’s annual weaving retreat.  I’ve never been home in time to participate in this, so I was ecstatic to learn that this year’s retreat was moved to May.  Even better, the retreat takes place over Mother’s Day weekend.  That was probably a non-starter for most of our members, but I’ve now been alone on Mother’s Day for six years–with my kids living far away these days and Bob far offshore sailing home at this time of year. I wanted to find something fun to do, and this fits the bill perfectly.

The following weekend I’ll go to another retreat, for bobbin lace. It’s almost too good to believe, having three wonderful events all in a row!

I finished a small tapestry yesterday that has spent two winter seasons onboard Pandora in the tropics.  It feels like quite an accomplishment to get it done.  Deciding that it was, in fact, done was one of the hardest parts of working on this small piece.  That is often a problem for me.  It would be awful to cut a piece off the loom and then wish I’d woven another 2″ or so before calling it quits.  On the other hand, I am usually so thrilled to finally finish, it’s quite a chore to stick with those last few inches before the end.  By this point all the ‘important’ decisions have been made, and I’m usually just weaving background.  Then I realize that deciding where to end is a pretty decision in its own right.

Yesterday I had a very small ‘cutting off’ party–just me and my iphone camera.  I figured if I could send a few friends the photo it would be almost like having them with me for the event.  All along I’ve been saying that I rather like this piece as long as I see it in dim lighting from about 10 feet away.  In other words, I don’t really like it.  So, I was a little relieved to find that I don’t hate it, now that it’s off the loom.

I could not see the whole thing as I wove it because I decided to use as small a loom as possible, since it was going on our sailboat.  Around the halfway point of the design I had to advance the warp around to the back.  Yes, I could still see it if I flipped the loom around…but I could not see the two halves together, and that made me wonder if I would like the thing as a whole.  Also, the often-changing humidity onboard wreaked havoc on the warp tension.  The selvedges got incredible loose while the middle remained tight.  There were probably other factors than just change in humidity contributing to this problem. A boat is not the best to store a loom.  I am happy to discover that the selvedges don’t look nearly as bad as I predicted.  Note the scissors in the upper left.

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The whole thing.  It is 21″ h x 7″ w.

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This afternoon I tried a couple of edge finishes for the warp threads, finally deciding on one from Peter Collingwood’s book that he calls “Indian Edge,” a variation of half Damascus.  I will now tack down the warp threads that have been moved to back of the piece after finishing the edging.

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I don’t know anyone who likes the long process of finishing.  I have to force myself to do it, and today I also realized that while it feels like such an accomplishment to finally complete a project, it also feels a little sad.  It’s a little like death.  My relationship with the piece is over, and we will never interact with such intensity again. It is also time to tackle the next big idea, and with that comes a fair share of insecurity about a whole new set of important decisions.  No, it’s not rocket science or brain surgery, but these decisions are vital to the success of a piece.

So, on Friday I’ll be off to Camp Washington Retreat Center in the beautiful Litchfield area of Connecticut.  I’ll spend Friday through Sunday working on my text tapestry that is a favorite line from the Robert Frost poem “Mowing.”  The finished piece will go to our younger son.  Think of me sitting here when I’m in my room (I have no idea if this is actually what my room will look like, but I hope so!  This photo from the website looks so inviting!)

Meanwhile, every chore completed (the Indian Edge finish) needs a little reward!  Don’t you agree?  I spent the late afternoon spinning on my brick terrace, with a great view of gardens and woodland and with the sound of about 1,000 song birds all competing to be heard.

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And I learned that spinning from a rocking is not that comfortable OR easy!

Today a friend of mine helped me realize that I am always happiest in May and June.  I hope these two months don’t fly by too quickly.  I want to savor all the wonders of this season.

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Home for Spring in New England

It’s the first week of May, and I’ve been back in my ‘real’ world for about two weeks.  It’s been glorious here, in spite of the cold and all the rain.  We’ve just passed through two days of insanely hot temperatures, but as of today it’s the real deal, gentle spring temperatures and gentle rain.

I got home just in time to make it to the fiber art exhibit in Jamestown, Rhode Island, called “Con/Textile/Ized. ” My friend Jody came with me, and we both thought the show had a successful range of works.  We both found that there works that sang out to us–by artists Mo Kelman, Kate Barber, and Valerie Ann Phoenix.  Then there were works that I would not have put in this collection at all, and works that feel in between these extremes.  I think the sharp contrast between the works on display made it a success.

Valerie Ann Phoenix’s work in this exhibit was a dress made of interesting materials that I cannot name.  Some of it seems to be thick mylar.  There are strings of lights wrapped around the dress that respond to noise.  The louder the noise, the brighter the lights.  Well, who can resist that?  Both Jody and I spent time making soft and loud noises, and I tried singing some high notes.  It was a fascinating piece, and it required that I venture out of my comfort zone in order to interact with it!

Here is Jody talking to the dress! Note the purple lights.

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There was a second exhibit at the JAC, that filled the large entrance and the hall leading to the main gallery.  As we entered the center, we were greeted by two large walls filled with small white garments, like the plain underslips of  christening gowns, overlapping and filling the walls.  It was a mass of small white slips in varying fabrics.  There was a vintage 1970s Singer sewing machine on a white-draped table in front of the larger wall of tiny garments. The name of the exhibit was “Re-Dress: On Memory and Being Remembered.”  Each little underslip represented 1,000 Korean babies and youth who were adopted by US citizens over the past decades–sorry, I missed some of the details. There were more than 250 little white dresses. I have just done a search for the info I saved from this exhibit, but I did not come up with the name of the woman who made all these tiny dresses/slips, and who is herself a Korean American adoptee.

I’m so disappointed that now I do not have her name, even after checking on the art center’s website and doing a Google search. Each dress had two tags attached it.  One was an official tag that had the administrative number of the adopted child, and then there was also a plain 3×5 note card on each slip that had a handwritten memory about a child’s birth family.  Many children were adopted at such a young age they have no memory of their family life before coming to the US.  And that was the point of the exhibition–that our memories of family are so important to who we are, and yet many children don’t have that.  It was a moving installation, done by…. I seem to have lost the information about the woman who made this installation.  I took her card, but that was now two weeks ago!

Here is a quote from the artist’s introduction to the exhibit:

I am often asked whether I have memories of Korea, ald although I have a few fleeting images of a dusty courtyard, a chain-link fence, being fed sweet persimmon on a spoon–I don’t know whether these are real or imagined, and there is no one currently in my life who can verify.  These images remain in the province of dream.

Beyond my own memories, I often wish for the stories of being remembered as a child in Korea.

Being remembered is a way of being loved.

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Near the end of the exhibit there was a table with note cards and safety pins for writing down your earliest memory and pinning it to a table draped in white cloth.  It was a moving installation.  I wish I could find the information about it, because the artist has also written about book about on this subject. (I searched for that as well, with no luck.)

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Jody and I capped off the day with a visit to a well known Rhode Island nursery called The Farmer’s Daughter.  What a place!  If you are within driving distance of North Kingstown, you must go!  They have unusual varieties of common plants, they have UNcommon plants, and they have masses of creative ideas of what to do in containers, in the garden, in the house.  We spent more time and money there than we meant to, and we’re not sorry!

 

This trip to Rhode Island was a wonderful way to kick off my season at home–getting back in touch with the things I love and have missed in the Caribbean.  Just this weekend, I enjoyed another such day out and about, in Vernon, Connecticut.  It was the 109th annual Connecticut Sheep and Wool Festival.  Wow!  109 years!  It was my first visit to this small event.  Small, but definitely memorable.  There was an array of fleeces that had been judged and were now for sale.  I could actually walk along the tables and look at each of them without being crushed in a human sea of shoppers.  In fact, it wasn’t even the first stop on my tour of the event.  At Rhinebeck and Maryland, if you don’t get to the fleece sale at the crack of opening you might as well forget it!

The vendors were fascinating! –mostly small operations focused on beautiful yarns and fibers, or creative, hand made things.  I bought this elaborate orifice hook from the Red Hart Bunnie Farm who obviously also sells angora fibers.

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I bought some bamboo buttons with a design of knit stitches burned into them at this booth, Katrinkle.  What a great name, and clearly it was a fun shopping experience.

ColeMama Creations is a one-woman operation making different styles of coiled rope containers.  I fell in love with the bucket, and had such a dilemma choosing a color.

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Great vendor displays and easy crowds made the day so enjoyable!

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One of the owners of Aisling Yarns makes Shaker boxes out of fallen trees that would otherwise get burned as logs in his fireplace.  He had a selection of sycamore boxes that were my first choice, but since those were already sold out I easily made peace with this honey locust box. It has beautiful patterning on it.  It’s a small box, which this photo does not really show.  It now holds small embroidery scissors along with my small bobbin lace tools.

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I also succumbed to some things that don’t fall into the fiber category.  I came right home and crocheted this necklace of fresh water pearls and Swarovski crystals.  It was almost instant gratification.

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I also found my 10 sheep gifts for the December party of the Flockettes!  But I’d better not show what they are….just in case….

I drove up there by myself, and ran into lots of people I know from both my weaving guild and my bobbin lace group.  I didn’t see anyone from my local area there so I didn’t feel guilty about driving that distance alone.  I was able to see the entire show in somewhat less than a full day. You can’t say that about Rhinebeck or Maryland!  No, there weren’t drop spindles perfectly balanced to spin for several minutes, and there was only one vendor selling one brand of wheel (Kromski, I think), but the wealth of fibers on display,  the creative use of fibers, and handmade items to help make your own fiber experience better was plentiful.  It was a good day!  I’ll go again next year!

At home things are progressing too.  I am so close to finishing my small Portuguese Man of War tapestry.  I have refrained from photographing it.  It is the one of the first times I have made a warp that has to advance around the copper frame, and I am not happy that I cannot see the whole work at once, now that I’ve pulled the piece around to weave the 2nd half of the image.  I have no idea if the piece will work as a whole.  I just can’t bring myself to photograph a partial piece, even though I do it all the time when I’m in progress on a tapestry that doesn’t get pulled around the loom.  It just seems weird not to be able to get an image of what I’ve already woven, along with what’s in progress now.  I will be cutting it off soon and then there will be photographs.  I have a strong premonition that I am not going to like it.

I’ve been spinning.  It was one thing I missed this winter while I was away.  So I’m getting that out of my system.  I bought some cashmere and mixed fibers at the festival last weekend, so of course I am spinning that.  I bought a 1/2 ounce each of 100% cashmere, 50/50 blend of cashmere and merino, and a 50/50 blend of cashmere and silk from Boreas Farm in Vermont.  I’m finishing up the last of the cashmere/silk and will probably ply that tomorrow.  So far I think I prefer the two blends to the pure cashmere.  I am thinking about how these fibers might take dye…..how they might knit up….what to knit.  If something calls out to me, I will buy more! What a coincidence that the woman who owns this farm used to work with Jody before retiring to raise cashmere goats in Vermont.

It was a lovely day for spinning on the deck, and I managed to make it fairly comfortable since I cannot get out the summer furniture on my own.  A few cushions, a small table, and a big water bottle.  The black flies are a bit of an annoyance this year, but mostly the breeze kept them at bay.

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A close up of the singles 50/50 cashmere/silk.  Yum…

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It’s quiet here without Bob.  Luckily we have gotten to talk at least once a day during this time we are apart.  He sailed from St. Lucia to Antigua with a friend after I left, and they made stops in Martinique, Les Saintes, and Guadeloupe on their way to Antigua.  After that he had a week alone before his crew arrived yesterday for the trip home.  They are enjoying some late season events in Falmouth and English Harbour, and will leave for home on Sunday morning.  There will be a mandatory stop in Bermuda to wait for better weather to make the trip up to Connecticut.

I’ve been to Baltimore to see my son and his family–and my adorable 15 month old granddaughter.  She is about to be a big sister to twins, so things are busy at that house! Our younger son turned 32 in early April–I don’t understand how he could have reached such a mature age….. what does that make my age?  He was supposed to visit at the end of April, as part of a business trip to New York,  but the plans changed.  I licked my wounds last weekend by indulging in a few souvenirs from the sheep and wool festival. I have puttered a bit in the garden, and I’ve got some seedlings hardening off outside during the day and still  living indoors for the evenings.  It won’t be long before they go into the ground.  All in all, things are very good–it’s May, and I’m home!

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Short Time in Bequia

It’s April now, and at home in Connecticut, it’s yet another snow day.  That has to be some kind of record!  I’ll be back there in 11 days, snow or no! It’s cruiser lingo to say “short time” when you are about to leave a harbor.  We might get a bit further south by the end of the week, or we might end up going directly back to St. Lucia, from where I’ll fly home.

I’m beginning the process of figuring out what I can take home with me, because I sure cannot take everything I’ve put onboard.  This is a dilemma!  Whatever I do not take with me will be inaccessible until late May.  When you add the fact that I had to put these projects onboard back in October when I didn’t arrive until January, and now won’t have them again ’til late May, it does take its toll on getting work done on these particular projects.  So what to take, what to leave?

I always think I’m going to get more done than I do each year.  There are major distractions every place we visit! –like here, at the Pitons on St. Lucia, where we stopped for one night before heading on to Bequia.

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This resort terrace was a perfect spot to view Petite Piton to our left and Grande Piton to our right.

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I enjoy taking pictures of Bob taking pictures!

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Cocktail hour arrived as the sun moved lower in the sky.

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Then look what appeared from behind Grande Piton as the sun was sinking.

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But….back to packing! I have two tapestry looms onboard, a band loom, two lace pillows, that silly Harrisville potholder loom which I never touched (!), and a bevy of knitting and embroidery projects.  I have two small carry on bags I can take home, one of which will get checked.  If I can get one tapestry finished in the next 10 days I can cut it off the loom and take it home with me!  That is a priority!  I’d like to bring three of my knitting projects home, since they are for Tori and the twins, and the smaller of the lace pillows.  That will have to go in the checked bag since it’s got about 1000 pins in it!  I may not get to take any clothing home!

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I’m taking a hiatus from that pattern before starting the next blanket.  I wound the yarn for a sweater/tunic I want to make for Tori. It’s a luscious blend of merino, silk, and bamboo.  It’s also a luscious shade of red, since the three different fibers take the dye differently. There is a lovely halo to this yarn, and it’s so soft.

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Are you thinking that’s the worst center pull ball you’ve ever seen on a nostepinne?  I certainly am thinking that!  It was a bear to wind that ball.  I use our wheel to for winding hanks of yarn into balls.

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To wind balls, I stand behind the wheel on the helmsman pedestal.  In a roll-y harbor, such as here in Bequia, I need one hand to hold on to something to keep from falling, but I also need two hands to wind that ball.  So it’s a messy job, and I was a tad seasick by the time I finished.  Then, I decided to save this project for the future anyway.  Oh well.

So I have turned my attention to a dress for Tori that I put aside a couple of months ago. The design is by Christa Becker, and it’s a top/down lace dress that she calls “Song of the Spruce.”  I am further along than my photos show. I have the shoulder stitches on cables because I plan to knit sleeves when the rest of the dress is complete.

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Isn’t the lace pattern in the printed directions delightful?  I am now finished with that first large spruce tree pattern that you can see on the print out.  I can’t photograph it because my needles are too short!  My knitting is completely bunched up on my short needles, but there is no place to buy knitting needles down here!

This is just the beginning of the large spruce pattern section, when I could still spread it out a bit between my fingers.  I’m using Dale Baby ull for this to make a sturdy fabric for Tori to be able to wear without snagging.

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Okay, well, I couldn’t resist trying.  So, excuse how rumpled this looks.  It’s way too crowded on the needles.  And, again, photos are struggling, so you cannot even see the spruce pattern that was the entire reason for taking the photo under less than ideal circumstances.  Internet here is unreliable, at best!  I supposed it builds patience, but that is NOT my forte.

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I can’t help thinking that in finer white merino, this pattern would be a wonderful christening dress. Can you tell where I’m going with this.? A knitted christening dress would sure  progress faster than bobbin lace and sewing!  I think I might be just a tad obsessed with knitting for grandchildren….Just saying….

This is Bequia.  The hills along the harbor are dotted  with colorful houses.  Today is Holy Monday, and there will be a festival onshore today with games and activities. It is a tradition here to have boat races all through Easter weekend, and this will be the last day of the Easter regatta.

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Bob and I walked up to the 18th c. English garrison for the best view of the regatta during Saturday’s races.  We were so high that the frigate birds were flying below us!  We are always trying to get a photo of a frigate bird in flight, and you may notice that I’ve never posted one before.  Bob got this shot, after both of us have spent six years trying! The photo does not do justice to showing how large these birds are.  They have the biggest wingspan of any bird, and they can glide for hours.  Since they fly far offshore, but cannot actually land on water, they can sleep while flying.

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The hillsides are full of flowers too.  Doesn’t this field look like an Easter bouquet?

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Some of the charming buildings along the waterfront of Admiralty Harbor. This bookstore wins the prize for most charming!

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There are plenty of spots to have a meal while looking out over the harbor.

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And there are a number of art galleries like the local doctor, Patrick “Doc” Chevailler,” who has his medical office and art gallery together in one charming building, with its own dock!

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I particularly enjoyed a visit to Oasis Art Gallery, where I bought a small painting done on canvas that has fringed edges and is painted with a thickened mixture of, well…something!  L. D. Lucy said she feels she is making tiny tapestries with this technique, and that is exactly what attracted me to these works! Here is the one I chose. I put the little woven fish on a stick with it, made by Tom the basket maker in Marigot.

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With our short time left, we will visit the Easter festival today.  A local told us that one of the highlights of the festival is a contest called “Crying for Nothing.”  We needed an explanation, and he said that people cry on demand and win a prize for it.  Hmmm…. I hope I get photos of that!

 

 

 

 

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Colorful Martinique, St. Lucia, Bequia

As I write this, I am sitting in the harbor on Bequia, and we’ve now visited several islands since I last wrote about living onboard in the Caribbean.  I was surprised to learn that my sister and a few friends have visited St. Lucia.  It’s so nice to share our experiences!  And St. Lucia was one of my favorite islands this winter.

Before that, we spent about a month in Martinique, between three harbors:  Fort de France, a moderately large city that is the capital of Martinique, followed by St. Anne and Le Marin.  We rented a car twice during our long stay in Martinique and enjoyed driving around different parts of the island.

There was plenty to do just walking around in Fort de France. The morning produce and spice market in Fort de France was pretty exotic.  I would love to have bought some of everything–well, maybe not everything!  I still have spice blends I bought in St. Martin last year, so I hesitated to give in to everything colorful bottle and jar that tempted me!IMG_8746

Since it was early February, it was getting close to Carnival, and the various fabric shops in Fort de France were busy selling bright, shiny fabrics and lots of feathers and glittery trims to customers.  I was lucky to wade through the crowds to find a beautiful linen/cotton blend fabric with a subdued floral print in muted greens and creams on a pale periwinkle ground. So French…  Meanwhile, you can see what types of fabrics attract the locals!

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There is a beautiful public library in Fort de France designed by Gustav Eiffel and named for the man who abolished slavery on Martinique–Schoelscher.  We passed this library on every walk through the city we took, and I spent a productive afternoon inside the library doing work on the Archie Brennan Project.  It was the fastest internet I’ve had all winter!  It’s a bit shocking that the interior of this building is completely different from the exterior.  Inside the rooms are institutional and drab!

We also walked up to the bus station to catch a bus to the well known Ballata Gardens.  This botanical garden was the private home of the grandparents to the designer.  He spent his childhood in the simple, traditional syle house, and when he chose gardening for his vocation, he spent a great deal of time and resources turning the surrounding area into a remarkable place.

Just outside the back porch of the house, that has a deep overhang on the roof shading the verandas on each side of the house, there were nectar feeders that attracted quantities of hummingbirds. Bob got this shot with our digital SLR–it would have been nearly impossible for either of us to catch this moment with our iphones, but plenty of others were trying!  When the sun catches them, they are so iridescent!

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Later in St. Anne, Carnival arrived and Bob got this shot of a very pretty little devil!

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While we were in St. Anne, there was a barbecue for cruisers every Friday at noon.  We met in the shade of trees along a beach, and the couple on Out of Africa brought a grill and charcoal ashore, in their dinghy (!), to share with anyone who wanted to cook a hot meal.  The rest of us brought something to grill and another dish to share.  Some of the cruisers brought their musical instruments to play, which made the event quite festive!  As you can see, these were quite the gatherings each Friday.

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I doubt there was ever a more entertaining musical duo than these two with their accordion and little horn.  Is that a cornet? I love accordion music! So French, so Italian, so Polish…..so many cultures have terrific accordion music!

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Here’s a view of the anchorage at St. Anne from the beach where the cookouts took place.

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A couple of times we enjoyed a sundowner from this perch overlooking the harbor in St. Anne.  Pandora is one of the dark hulled boats near the center of the photo.

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This is the sight that greeted us each time we came ashore in St. Anne.  It is literally right at the end of the dock.  There was a service everyday at 6pm–Catholic, since this is a French island– and the service always drew a large crowd.  During the service you could hear the music from anywhere along the main street. (Sorry the photo is crooked!–it’s the photographer, not the church!)

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A few weeks later, we drove further up the road in a rental car, past Ballata Gardens to a nature preserve that has well paved paths through the rainforest.  That day was the highlight of our stay on Martinique.  It was a long day, walking on trails in the rainforest, visiting the highest road on the island, partway up the volcano Mt. Pelee that erupted in 1902, and destroyed the town of St. Pierre right below. I wrote about this day a few weeks back,  but to recap I’m including a few more photos.

Here is the beautiful trail into the rainforest.  The entire walk was paved, and all the cement was brought in by men only–no pack animals, and no modern equipment.

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In the rainforest.

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Tiny pink bananas.

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After our morning walk, we decided to drive up Mt. Pelee as far as the road would take us.  You can hike up the rest of the way, but I bet it would be challenging!  And on the day we visited the top of the mountain was well shrouded in cloud.  While just a bit lower, in the rainforest, we had glorious sunshine, this is what we found as we drove to higher elevations.

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After a short stop here, we drove back into the sunlight and stopped at the Depaz rum distillery, which is one of several historic sites on Martinique.  I’ve already mentioned how memorable a visit that was!

It began to feel like we might never leave Martinique, and there were still plenty of things do there.  But, after a month, we pulled anchor and sailed to St. Lucia.  I was openly nervous about this since we hear of dinghy thefts there almost weekly, and also some occasional crime  involving bodily harm.  Hmmm… We had been assured that we’d be safe enough in Rodney Bay, but it is a crowded harbor with dirty water.  We often like to swim in the late afternoon and we usually make water every couple of days. This would not be possible in Rodney Bay, so we chose to take our chances anchoring just outside the harbor.  I never felt threatened there, so it was a good experience.  We pulled our dinghy up into the davits every night, and when we went ashore, Bob always locked the dinghy to the dock with a heavy cable.

Outside Rodney Bay, we were anchored just off a couple of popular resorts.  One of them was Sandals, where my sister stayed with her husband back before she had her first daughter who is now almost 13.  It was fun to reminisce with her about her vacation there. I sent her photos.

For Bob and me, the highlight of St. Lucia was Marigot Bay.  It is a tiny teacup of a harbor, with a wonderful resort on one side of the harbor.  By taking a mooring in this little pond, we had access to all the resort facilities.  Boy, did we have fun with that!  We spent several relaxing, lazy days under an awning at the pool, writing blogs posts and reading books, and spent evenings in the beautiful open air restaurants.  One night we had a compressed melon salad topped with feta cheese and mint and a lemony vinaigrette, followed by tuna tartare which has been my favorite dish to order throughout these islands.

Here is Pandora, framed in the entrance to the resort. She’s the dark hulled boat to the right.

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Each morning ‘boat boys’ row or paddle out in the skiffs or on paddle boards, laden with fruits and vegetables.  We can buy fresh fruit every morning, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions….  Today we were visited by a basket man, who weaves baskets from coconut palm fronds.  His baskets are beautiful, and while I was looking at a couple of them, he made me a little ‘fish on a stick’ as a present.  While I realize this is a great ploy to get me to buy a basket, I still think it is a generous thing to do.  It only took him a minute, but it just reinforces my belief that weavers are often such generous people.  I still have the little snake and bird that the Cuban basket weaver made for me a couple of years ago. It was so nice to start the day talking to a weaver! His name is Tom.

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This was our most colorful visitor!

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And look what we got!  I’ve never seen a lemon that big– and it was full of juice!

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It was hard to tear myself away from Marigot Bay.  It is so well protected that much of our time there the water was mirror calm, and I haven’t seen water that calm since we left the sheltered waters of New England!  But off we went, as we had planned to get further south this winter.  We spent so much time in Martinique and then Marigot Bay on St. Lucia, that we are short on time to get as far south as Bob had planned.

So, here we sit in Admiralty Bay on Bequia (prounced “BEH quay, for those who are not familiar with this tiny spot in the Grenadines).  The harbor is called Port Elizabeth (for Elizabeth II), and the nearby beach is Princess Margaret Beach.  Long live the Queen.  This is a lovely spot.

Bob has found quite a cache of talented boat workers here in Bequia.  There is a canvas maker whom everyone raves about for his well made dinghy chaps.  I didn’t even know we needed such a thing until  just a couple of islands ago. Bob is ashore now, waiting for the template to be made.  The chaps will be ready sometime tomorrow.  There are good woodworkers here who do refinishing and varnishing.  The island is known for scrimshaw carvers, potters who make contemporary items in the style of the Arawaks, and even a couple of painters who do enticing work.  Bob and I each bought a bit of scrimshaw made from the teeth of pilot whales.  It is legal here to hunt whales, and they do it from traditional row boats, no motors.  And they have to use hand-thrown harpoons.

This is something you don’t see too often.  A colorful building with its own little dock, and a sign announcing you have arrived at the medical office of the local doctor who is also a well known artist with a gallery adjacent to the examing rooms.  We stopped in yesterday–to the gallery, not the medical office.  The doctor was in, the gallery that is, and he was as colorful to talk to as his building is.  What a life!

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This is something you don’t see too often.  A colorful building with its own little dock, and a sign announcing you have arrived at the medical office of the local doctor who is also a well known artist with a gallery adjacent to the examing rooms.  We stopped in yesterday–to the gallery, not the medical office.  The doctor was in, the gallery that is, and he was as colorful to talk to as his building is.  What a life!

 

 

 

 

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Remembrance

Today is the first day of spring.  It feels like hot, midsummer here in Marigot, St. Lucia, and I’ve heard that New York/New England will get one more big snow storm today.  March came in like and lion and  is going out like one too!

A number of weavers I have loved and admired passed away recently.  I know as we age our older friends beginning moving on, but this year the losses took me by surprise.

Losing friends is hard, but particularly hard among weavers, who I believe are more generous and caring than the average person.  My dear, dear friend June passed away in mid February, and I was fortunate to be able to get home for her service, a wonderful celebration of June’s life as well as a terrific gathering of weavers who were also long-time friends of June.  It’s a wonderful way to remember someone, surrounded by all the other age old friends you have in common with the one who is absent.

Then so shortly afterward, I opened the NY Times one morning (March 12)  to find a wonderful obituary on Ethel Stein.  She lived a productive 100 years, and created so many beautiful works of textile art.  She definitely made the most of her time here, but that doesn’t mean I won’t miss her any less.  I cannot be counted a friend of hers, but I visited her beautiful studio in Croton on Hudson, and enjoyed her generous attentions in showing a small group of us her her works in progress, the draw loom she adapted herself, and a wonderful series of  black and white opphampta pieces she had displayed on one long wall in her house/studio (I’ve got a photo of that somewhere).  Her gardens were so lush; it’s hard to imagine anyone  weaving such complex and difficult pieces with such dexterity while also having time to garden.  And she was not young when I visited her.  It was probably 20 or so years ago.

There is a wonderful video of Ethel winding  yarn, dyeing it, and then weaving with it, posted by Eric Schrotenboer .  She’s doing a wonderful clasped weft piece in this video using her dyed yarn.  It is a treasure!

Over the weekend I learned that the Jockey Hollow weaving guild, one of my guilds from New Jersey, is having a sale of Andi Trasborg’s equipment and fibers from her extensive collection of weaving, bobbin lace, spinning, and dyeing stash.  I was shocked to learn that she had passed away in December, especially since she should have had years left to pursue these passions and share her knowledge with the rest of us.

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I spent a week with Andi at Vavstuga.  We had long days weaving and learning Becky Ashendon’s Swedish weaving techniques, and each evening we indulged and relaxed over a glass of wine and conversation, after the other participants went to bed. It was a short but memorable time together.  She continued her studies at Vavstuga and learned to weave damask and opphampta on a draw loom.

But I return to my dear June.  She had a long life, but not long enough! At 88, she is survived by her two older sisters, who are 91 and 94.  I wanted  June to make it to 100. She began weaving at 16 years old, which would have been in the mid-1940s, and she spent a year in Sweden (where she had plenty of relatives) learning Swedish techniques in one of the state craft schools.  She continued her art and textile studies when she returned by attending Alfred University in New York State.  When I met her in the early 1990s, she could proudly say she’d been weaving for 50 years by that point–longer than I had been alive.  She was so enthusiastic and so willing to share all she had learned over the years.

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This is just about my favorite photo of June!  It captures her personality, which was always optimistic and enthusiastic through both good times and challenging times.  She had her fair share of challenges, but you might never guess that if you didn’t know her well.  This was taken at a family gathering on her 85th birthday.

And forgive — I can’t resist! — here is a photo of June and I together at another celebration of her 85th birthday.  Our small group of weavers from the Hudson Valley area took June on a boat tour of the Hudson, from Kingston, down past West Point and Bannerman’s Island.

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When I went to June’s service, I wanted to share a moment in time with her friends and family.  I knew that whatever experiences I had with her would be similar to any experience others had with her.  This won’t mean much to those of you who never knew yer, but if you did, and if you did not hear me tell this story at her service, read on.

Remembering June

Over the past couple of weeks, this story about a day I spent with June keeps running through my mind. I feel compelled to share it with you. It is like so many days I spent with June, and I bet the same is true for each of you.

I met June through weaving, but very soon became acquainted with her many interests and talents. However we each knew June, she brought us into her fold…. her design and compositional gifts, her musical talents, her weaving and painting talents, her storytelling.!

Several years ago, June was beginning to de-stash her house on Deer Track Lane in preparation for moving. She had assembled several boxes of books, which she wanted to donate to a weaving school in Rhode Island, run by her friend Jan Doyle.

June planned to drive to my house in Connecticut to spend a few days, and during her visit we would drive together to visit Jan. We were headed to South Carolina, Rhode Island–I’d never heard of a town with such an odd name!

I’m the type of person who likes to organize a trip, putting my destination in my GPS, calculating what time I should leave home, and contacting whoever I plan to visit to let them know what time to expect me to arrive. This is not how June operates. Although I asked her a few times for the address of the weaving school, she put me off, saying not to worry, she had it. On the morning we headed out, she told me not to worry about the address, she knew where we were going…..and she did! We got there with no trouble.

We carried in the boxes of books, and Jan and June and I had fun unpacking them and looking through some of them. Some of Jan’s students came to look too. Then Jan took us on a tour of the school, which is in the rather well known Octagon House. There were looms in every room except the kitchen and one parlor, upstairs and down, and every loom had a project underway on it. June struck up a conversation with every student, wanting to know how and when they learned to weave, and what project were they working on right then. She commented on every project! Then Jan took us into one of the large parlors, the one room without looms, where a group of creative writers were holding a regular meeting. June had no problem mingling with the dozen or so people there. She asked them each about what they were currently writing, and she told them about her desire to finish writing a memoir. She had such a gift of gab — I felt like I was clutching her apron strings to keep up.

After our visit at Jan’s weaving school, we drove into Wickford for a quick tour and lunch. June had a story about each of the historic houses along the main street in town. She pointed out a house where she had spent a few summers many years ago. Although my husband and I had lived in Wickford aboard our boat for several summers quite recently, June knew more about Wickford than I’ll ever know. We had a late lunch there, and during lunch, June decided that we had time to visit a very old friend in a nearby town on our way home.

I don’t remember the old friend’s name, but I’m going to call her Muriel. I know June called her by a name I thought was somewhat old fashioned. If I’ve got it right, some of you might know the friend I mean. I have no idea what town we were headed to, but again June knew how to get there, and of course we got there with no problem.

Muriel lived in a charming New England shingle house, with large gardens around the property. We rang the front door bell, no answer. We knocked on the back door and got no answer. So June told me stories about Muriel while we walked around her gardens. She had not seen Muriel in many years, maybe forty years, although June and Muriel continued to stay in touch with holiday cards. Muriel happened to have a wonderful hedge of hydrangea in bloom that day, with flowers in that deep blue shade so like the early night sky, just after dusk has passed, that is so common in coastal areas in New England and Long Island. June decided that we needed to take home some of these hydrangea flowers to make two arrangements as a memento of this day together. Well, now I was completely out of my comfort zone!—but June knew I had a small bucket and garden shears in the back of my station wagon. So…. we cut an armful of beautiful, blue hydrangeas and began the drive home. June had no problem directing me back to Rt. 95, and we had an easy trip back to my house.

Back at home, June and I picked greens from my garden to add to our hydrangea. June chose greens of different colors and textures to enhance the hydrangea. She had such an eye for composition and color, didn’t she? We made two very pretty arrangements, and the next day June headed home with hers.

A couple of weeks later June called to tell me that she had called Muriel’s house several times and eventually gotten through to someone. She had spoken to Muriel’s daughter who said that Muriel had been in the hospital for some time, and that Muriel would enjoy hearing that June had tried to visit. The daughter said that Muriel would be happy to hear that we were making good use of her hydrangea flowers!

So here’s the thing. This is my take away from a day spent with June. A day with June always became an adventure, and the day became legendary–epic!—almost before it had ended.

June touched each of us. She molded each of us. In some cases knowing her changed us. She certainly changed me – in good ways for which I’ll always be thankful. She is the reason that the ‘thing’ we used to call “six degrees of separation” has become somewhat closer than six degrees. As we move into the next room for a time of fellowship I think we’ll find that gap of separation getting even closer. June would love that.

 

 

 

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