A Weekend at Red Stone Glen

It was a near-perfect weekend for a long drive to central Pennsylvania, where two friends and I took a class at Tom Knisely’s new weaving studio called Red Stone Glen.  It’s a bucolic setting, far from the rush of nearby Harrisburg–except on Saturday nights when there is some kind of race car track nearby that makes quite a racket until about 9pm.  In the stillness of the woods it is quite a surprising background sound!

This is the main house, where the weaving classes take place and where you can shop.


Isn’t this just the spot to have lunch and admire the view across the valley to the distant hills.



Julia, Clare and I were taking a class on the taka dai with Rodrick Owen and Terry Flynn, in the smaller farmhouse down the long driveway from the main house.  We had a large room for the three of us upstairs on the right side of the house.  The room goes from the front to back of the house.  We had a private bath in that room as well.  The mornings and nights were chilly, but I was determined to have coffee outside each morning–totally worth it!


The back of the farmhouse has some lovely views as well.


There was fog each morning.


Oh yeah, and the class we took was great!  We were so busy working that I didn’t take enough time to get photos of that! This class took place in the farmhouse.


Rodrick is watching Clare braid.


One of the staffers took a photo of all of us together on Phyllis’ phone. Those are all of Rodrick’s braids on the table!


Rodrick always travels with a treasure trove of the braids he has made over the years.



When you’re not working in class you can shop on the lower level of the main house.  These are the samples from the book 18 towels on Four Warps.


Here are three of the four braids I’ve made lately (one has gone awol, but I hope it’s still somewhere in my studio).  The braid on the left is one of the first braids to make since it is plain weave with a color and weave effect known as log cabin.  I made that on Clare’s taka dai during the summer.

The braid on the right is unfinished because I plan to put it back on the taka dai today to continue making it.  It is a twill such an interesting pattern.

The middle braid was quite a bit harder.  I was making some weaving mistakes and getting an interesting pattern….you know the adage “a mistake made over and over is a new pattern!”  Well, I wanted to make the example in Rodrick’s book, so in the 2nd half of this braid I have corrected my mistake.  The beginning of this braid is a technique called braiding from the point so that there is no fringe at this end.  Terry Flynn helped me with that, and she also helped me learn how to do a hemstitch finish at the other end.  This is a technique that Terry figured out how to add to the ends of braids.


This is a close up of the correct part of this braid.


You can see how it has two lattice work areas in different colors that weave through the background color.  All these braids were made with 60/2 silk on cones from WEBs.  I don’t have a lot of color choices in my stash, and I was not particularly happy with these colors.

Figuring out how to get a wide variety of colors without taking out a 2nd mortgage is a challenge in making kumihimo!  For the moment I will have to make do with what I have!

Take a look at the Red Stone Glen website and see if you don’t find plenty of temptations in their class choices.  I hope to go back in March!

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October Day at Six Paca Farm

Clever name, right?  Six Paca Farm.  Each new cria born on the farm gets named after a brew.  It was a soft October day, well ahead of the height of fall color, heavy with the coming rain.


Joe introduced to us to some of the females and the quickly growing brood of cria.  Patriot is the youngest of the herd, born on Memorial Day.  He is a cutie!


There are 37 alpaca on the farm at the moment.  They live in a bucolic setting in Bozrah, Connecticut.  Along with the farm, there is a nice shop full of alpaca things–from yarn to finished garments and hats/mittens/socks, and items from other local farms, such as cheese, milk, meat.  The owner Linda is a gracious host!  She set up tables and chairs under an awning for us to enjoy the lunches we brought, and she had coffee going, both at the farm and her mill that is just down the road.

The alpacas came out of the barn in small groups.  They weren’t entirely sure about visitors at first.


They each had such unique features.


Eventually they all came out and enjoyed some attention.


It’s clear that Joe loves these animals, and they love him.



He told us so much about raising alpacas–their life span, what they eat, how to keep them healthy on a farm, pregnancy and gestation (11 months!), weaning the babies, and breeding for soft fiber and color.


Prior to visiting the farm, we met at the mill down the street.  Linda owns the mill and the farm, and she started the mill about 9 years ago, when she was tired of waiting for her fiber to be processed at outside mills.  Back then it might take as long as 9 months to get her alpaca yarns back from a mill.  Now that she takes outside orders at her own mill, she says it sometimes still takes about 9 months to get her own fiber processing done.

Linda (behind the desk) is giving us some background information before go into the mill.


All her mill equipment is brand new.  She bought equipment from all over the world and learned to use it as quickly as she could.  The picker is from New Zealand.  The carder is from Italy.

This is a pretty fancy washing station.  There are seven separate bins, each with a heating element and a drain.


Freshly washed fiber is about to go through the carder.


She dyes fiber as well.


Her carder produces a semi worsted roving.  These rovings are being sent through the pin carder.


Then comes spinning….IMG_1620

…and plying


We couldn’t resist fondling the end product, even though we were told that this particular yarn was not the best quality alpaca fibers.  It was still soft!


Last week I dyed two onesies to give to our grand-twins, Emme and Rhett.  Barbara from my small weavers’ group gave them to me when we all met for our annual dye day.  I was not able to stay and dye, so I brought them home.  In my dye stash I have a color I love called ‘wasabi.’  It’s a ProChem MX dye.  I thought it was the perfect name–and color– for a couple of babies who are peas in the same pod.  This is Emme’s.


and Rhett’s too.


When we got back from our visit to the kids and grandkids, I decided to make a project I’d once made ages ago.  A few decades ago my embroidery guild in New Jersey asked each member to make a tote bag for small projects. It was so clever.  You start with a store-bought placemat and coordinating napkin.  It’s a quick project and feels a bit like a magic trick when it’s done.


I’ll post more photos and the instructions for this when I return from my next jaunt.

I’m heading off again for another fun workshop.  I’ll be at Red Stone Glen for the weekend to take a class with Rodrick Owen on the taka dai.  Remember my practice pieces from the summer in preparation for this class?  If not, you can see them here and here.  I haven’t seen Rodrick in 20 years.  It’s going to be fun, and I only have about a year left to wait for me own taka dai.  Patience….

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Some things take a long time to finish.  This little piece was one.  I wove it mostly while onboard Pandora for the winter.  For a couple of years in a row we encountered Portuguese Men of War while we were sailing in warm waters.  This tapestry is from the second sighting.  We were in Lake Boca, on the eastern side of Florida, and a few of these had been pushed into the harbor by strong winds.  I think it was just after a long session of strong easterlies that blew them inshore.  Normally they float up the Gulf Stream (which was our first encounter with them, which is another story entirely).  The one I’ve chosen for this tapestry had been blown into the harbor, and Bob and I motored right near it when we headed ashore in our dinghy.  I spotted this creature floating closer and closer to the dock.  I don’t think it had much longer to live in the murky harbor water.  It was strange to see this, when I associate these creatures being in the clear, pure waters of the ocean.

It is mounted on green dupioni silk that matched the murky green harbor water.  I felt it needed a braid, but I cannot tell you why.  It took me several months to decide what kind of braid.  This is a 16-tama braid called Hira Kara, which Claudia Wollny demonstrated in a 3-color placement that she calls a snake braid.  Although it does resemble snake skin, there is something about the color placement and design that seemed to go well with my little Portuguese Man of War.   Sometimes there is no reason, there is just a strong sense of this is it.

It now hangs on the wall in my weaving studio.


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Lace, Large and Small

The “Lace, Not Lace” exhibition opened at Hunterdon Museum on Sunday afternoon.  There were crowds there….a line to get in the museum, a line to buy the catalog, a line to get into the room with the full size, bobbin lace carriage made of copper wire, and quite a traffic jam at the stairs.  All the lines were worth it.


The Urchins were, of course, the largest scale pieces in this exhibit.  But there were other large pieces inside.  This piece by Pierre Fouche is a mixture of bobbin lace and macrame.  The shadows were fascinating, even though it’s now hard to tell the piece apart from its reflection on the wall.


This might be the tiniest piece.  Three little vehicles–a catboat, a yellow cab, and an airplane, all done in needle lace– suspended by thread across a corner, casting larger than real shadows on the two walls.  Dorie Millerson has a lot of miniature needle lace items that often cast HUGE shadows.


Here are a couple of other lace pieces done on a typically small scale.  First is a piece by Dagmar Beckel-Machyckova, a series of bobbin lace dwellings, called “Habitats of Hypocrisy.”


Lenka Suchanek has two pieces in this show that are very different.  The other piece is an elaborate silver wire neckpiece embellished with garnet beads.  While it is extragavant and exquisite, this piece has such beautiful form, it was the one I had to capture.


This piece is so elegant and mysteriously UNdecipherable.  In the catalog, Veronika Irvine gives her math equation that helped her design this piece.  It’s pretty daunting–like a moebius on steroids.  She marvels that 17th and 18th c. lace display “an astounding mathematical complexity, although made by an entirely illiterate workforce.” Her website give more information.


And here is the piece shown on all the promotion materials for this exhibit:  Lieve Jerger ‘s “Carriage of Lost Love, 1977-2018.”  It was housed in its own room, where the shadows cast on the walls and ceiling by this bobbin lace construction of copper wire was lit from within.  A staff member of the museum stood at the entrance to limit the number of people entering at one time.  It allowed all of us to see this work and enjoy the shadows cast all around us.





At the end of opening we were led outside to hear Choi and Shine talk about designing and creating the large Urchins.  Each one is crocheted from one long length of cord, and Jin Choi told us about her design challenges in creating these orbs.


At the end of the talk, we were all invited to enjoy live music and dinner from two food trucks, while we waited for the lighting at dusk.


The view from the museum across the spillway.


Dusk at last!  Beautiful!


And then it was fully dark, on a night that included a 2-days-short-of-full moon.




The “Urchins” will only be on display for two weeks, so if you want to see them, better get on the road right now! The rest of the exhibition will continue through January 6, 2019.

Three good friends joined me for this adventure, and sharing something like this is definitely multiplied by enjoying it with like-minded compatriots!  We sat in a cafe along the river to wait for dusk to arrive and the lighting of the “Urchins.”  It was a memorable excursion that we’ll remember for decades to come.

In other life news, I got this card in the mail from a friend on the West Coast.  It just makes my day every time I see it!  I think I’ll frame it so it can be a ‘memo to self’ that it’s not always about the outcome as much as it is about the dream and the journey.


Lastly, I need to show you my grandchildren!  First, two wonderful photos of Tori.  In this photo, she’s a magical princess in a fairytale land created by a local photographer who has documented the arrival of the twins.


And to balance– here is ‘real life’ Tori, helping her Daddy with some yard work.  She loves to help outside, so he bought her some hearing protection.  He’s such a thoughtful daddy.


This week the twins visited the pediatrician for their first vaccinations.  Emme needed some support from little Rhett so she grabbed his hand….or maybe she wanted his cute binky holder.  I’m going with the former.


And a little frosting on the cake for last week! — Bob has put a beautiful finish on my new Jensen wheel.  It spins like a dream.


And my good friend, Susan, has cut fabric off her loom that she wove for me!  She is now making me a tote bag and napkin that was a guild project a couple of years back.  I don’t care how long I have to wait!  The fabric is gorgeous, so I don’t mind waiting a bit longer for the tote bag and napkin.  Lucky, lucky me.


Life is full of so many wonderful textiles, isn’t it?  Lace is only one wonderful piece of it.


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Flapping in the Breeze

Isn’t August the month when almost everyone goes on vacation? …when almost everyone takes some time off to relax and recharge?  I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed this month, like I’m hanging on to a frayed cord that is snapping in a gale.

But most of what is happening these days is good news.  If I weren’t so slow at accomplishing the things I am driven to do, I’d be thrilled at what’s coming down the pike.

Here is the postcard for the upcoming exhibition of fiber art at the Eclipse Mill Gallery in North Adams, Massachusetts.  I had no idea that my tapestry would be included on the card.  What a happy surprise!


I joined this group when it was formed by Betty Vera this spring, but I have not yet met the other members.  This weekend I am going to one of the monthly meetings and am looking forward to getting to know the other artists.  I think Betty Vera and I are the only weavers in this group (not entirely certain about that), so I am interested in learning more of what the other artists do.

A few weeks back I was catching up on reading the various journals and magazines I miss when I am away for the winter.  In an issue of  “The Journal for Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers” (from the UK guild), I saw an advertisement for an iphone case made of Harris Tweed.  I became single minded about obtaining one of these.  A google search led me to Amazon.  Yeah, Amazon.  There are more, if you’re tempted too.  I just love it!


My two small tapestries are now mounted.  It feels so good to finish things.  I wish it happened more often.  I think I’ll call this one “Primary Source.”   I hope some of you get my signature.


And here is the other, “Blown Off Course.”


I think it needs a braid, and with that in mind, I am sampling.  My first attempt is too thick, but I like the design.  I will try it again as soon as I finish this one.  Next time I’ll put fewer strands on each tama. And next time I’ll take a better photo! Now you know what a mess I work in when I’m on a role.


My generous friend Clare is still letting me use her taka dai.  Really!  After this I think I’d better let her play with it again, since it’s her toy.  This time I am trying a 2/2 twill.  With these experiences under my belt I hope to work up to double weave braids in my class with Rodrick in the fall.


And here is a close up so you can see the colors better.  I like it!


So, why am I doing all of this?  I haven’t touched kumihimo in about 15 years.  Well….. I only recently learned that an American kumihimo society has been formed.  It piqued my interest to get back to this.  I’d like to use the flat braids from the taka dai as embellishments on clothing and handbags.  As of yet, no fabric with which to implement these ideas!  Isn’t that always the way? —  at least for me! —  to put the carriage before the horse.  It’s thrilling to be enthusiastic though!  Clare and Julia and I are investigating other silks for these braids…that is, other than the pre-cut fine silks you buy in packages.  We want to find the same fineness on cones so we can choose our warp lengths.  Hopefully we’ll have a source soon.

And I’ve been thinking of adding other braids to my tapestries.  In fact, for my ‘real’ Portuguese Man of War tapestry, that currently only exists in my dreams, I plant to use a number of braids, along with other handwork techniques for embellishment.  In my mind this piece is a tour do force.  No cartoon yet …..because I actually don’t know if I can capture something so wonderfully ephemeral down on real materials, like paper or warp and weft.

So August marches on like a house on fire.  I hope I can keep up….


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September around the Corner

Imagine my excitement when I saw a recent post on facebook that some large scale lace I admired from images on the internet is coming to the US! — Not only to the US, but within driving distance for me!

These were the images that piqued my interest in large scale lace installations in the environment.

This is a large crocheted piece based on a traditional Dutch head bonnet.  Delicate lace made on a huge scale to interact in the environment.  Hanging over a canal, in Amsterdam, it reflects on the water beneath, whether ruffled by wind or calm and still.  It casts shadows day and night on its surroundings.  When I saw this online I dearly wished I could see it in situ.  There is an excellent description of how this piece was made and assembled.

It has two sister pieces called the Urchins, and these will be part of the exhibition at the Hunterdon Museum in Clinton, NJ, that opens in late September.  These two urchins will hang over the Toshiko Takaezu Terrace at the museum, which overlooks the waterfall on the South Branch of the Raritan River.  It will be their first trip to the US.  They will only be on view during the first two weeks of this exhibition.  Inside the museum will be many other pieces of lace, including bobbin lace and needle lace, done on large scale.  I can’t wait to see them!

So, the big decision is….. do I go for the opening?  The pluses of that would be getting to hear two lectures on the lace exhibit — one by the curator Devon Thein, and another by the creators of the Urchins, Jin Choi and Thomas Shine.  Afterward, at dusk, the Urchins will be lit.  Those are big pluses.  The downside?  Well, I never fully enjoy the artwork at an opening.  It’s crowded, I can’t fully see the pieces on display, it’s noisy….it’s a party.  The likelihood of me getting to this exhibit twice is pretty slim.  I have to choose.  What would you do?

My friend Clare is letting me use her taka dai once again, so I have put on a warp for a 2/2 twill design out of Rodrick Owen’s book.  I dressed the taka on Thursday and will spend some time at her house tomorrow weaving.  I almost live there now….not sure what her partner thinks of always finding me in their sunroom.  Here’s a look at the first braid in progress.  I’ll take photos tomorrow of my twill attempt.


With luck, my next  post will have photos of the finished mounting of the little Portuguese Man of War tapestry and maybe a new flat braid from the taka dai.  Oh yeah, and the last of those lace blankets I’ve knitted for my three tiny grandchildren.  Don’t you want to see them?  (the grandchildren, that is, not the blanket)

This is just pulls my heartstrings! Rhett is holding Emme’s hand in his sleep.  I wonder if he did this in utero as well.


And here is big sister Tori with little Rhett.  I just love being their YaYa.  I hope I get to see them in September.  They are growing up so quickly!




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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.


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!


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!


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!


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.


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.



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


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!


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


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.



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.


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.

Emmeline AudreyIMG_1276

Rhett JamesIMG_1250

Rhett and Emme

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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!


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.


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.



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.


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.


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



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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