Weaving Connections

Today is Tuesday, August 2nd, and Convergence, the biggest gathering of weavers in the US,with lots of attendees from overseas as well, began over the weekend.  Facebook is full of posts from the many participants.  Do I feel left out?  Well…..maybe… just a little.

My tiny part of the world had its own weaving weekend though. On the hottest Saturday of the summer (so far!) members of Area 4 of the Handweavers’ Guild of Connecticut had a beautiful display and did demonstrations of weaving and spinning at the Historical Society during Old Lyme’s 30th annual Old Lyme Festival.  It was steaming hot, but we all had a great time.  We heard that we were the most popular event at the festival, and I have to admit that I’ve never seen such a crowd at any of my past demonstrations in New Jersey.  Although the historical society headquarters are not yet air conditioned (supposedly next summer it will be), I wonder if being in an historic grange building with lots of fans (that would be rotating, air circulating fans–not enthusiast fans!) was still more enticing to the hordes than being outside in the 90-degree sun.  Or maybe we just really were a compelling option for visitors.

The local online newspaper, The LimeLine, covered our event and got a shot of our group working on the behemoth, 9-ft Clemens loom.  I think this may be the moment when Jody (in the b&w stripes) began the tedious process of mending broken warp threads. She generously allowed visitors to try a bit weaving at the loom, and there was an incident of over zealousness that led to some broken warps.

These photos of our exhibit are pretty pedestrian.  I’ll just whine and say that I was very busy spinning!  It’s not a real excuse, but I hope you’ll accept it. This is just part of a display of our members’ work.


Stephanie has a business making rugs and blankets of all sorts and teaching classes in both techniques.  She brought a loom to demonstrate weaving and had a lovely array of rugs for sale.  Right next to her is a rack of her indigo dyed shibori silk scarves.


I know there are lots of better photos taken by others, but I haven’t see them yet, so these will have to suffice for now.  It was a very worthwhile event.  The folks who run the festival said we were the most popular participant, and they hope we will continue to be involved in the future.  And knowing this building will be air conditioned next year makes us all think, oh yeah, we’ll do it!

The next day a few of us drove together up to Kingstown, Rhode Island, to take a look at the extensive weaving stash of our dear friend, Kathi Spangler, who passed away a few weeks ago.  She has been on my mind so much this summer.  When I went to see Kate Barber’s exhibition in Providence, I realized we were so close to the convention center where the last Convergence was held.  When I left the gallery where Kate’s work was on display, the first corner I walked to had the building where ATA housed our tapestry exhibition two years ago.  Kathi wanted to make sure that visitors to Providence would know they had reached a building with a weaving exhibit inside, so she filled all the large main floor windows with works by Rhode Island weavers.  It was quite dramatic and such an undertaking to gather all the woven items and display them so creatively.  I had a strong sense of her presence as I stood at that corner remembering the scene from two years ago.

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At Kathi’s house, Susan, Sandy, and I spent a couple of hours looking through Kathi’s handwoven fabrics.  Some things were finished items, like hand towels, scarves and shawls, and table runners.  I was intrigued with several lengths of fabrics woven for samples of techniques.  This one in particular caught my attention.


Sharon and Jan who had organized all of Kathi’s stash and who were on hand to let friends in to look through Kathi’s treasures, said this piece was called the ‘chicken project.’  Boy, I am SO curious about that.  What comes to mind is that the color of golden yellow is rather like a baby chick.  Sometime I’ll have to ask Jan how this project got its name.

I took a wonderful table runner in natural linen with a bit of overshot in red at each end.  I found two more runners in the same pattern with forest green at both ends that I took for Jody.  Kathi had a lot of beautiful sample pieces, and I wonder how many of them became finished projects.  The red runner underneath the overshot runner has Christmas trees in huck lace.  It just needs hemming.


I was so moved to see that she had finished her wonderful jacket from Sarah Fortin’s workshop.  Jan and Sharon had thought to put it on a dress form for visitors to see.  Why didn’t I photograph it?  Of course, it turned out beautifully, and I hope Kathi wore it a few times before she got too sick.

Speaking of yardage, I am very close to finishing my JOY project.  I rewarded myself with about an hour of weaving today after working on Archie’s book.  It is really stunning fabric, and I will cherish it even if it never turns into a garment. Those JOY women, Diane and Cathy, have really created something wonderful with their line of handpainted tencel, and using these yarns as both warp and weft is amazingly dramatic!  Weaving it has been very therapeutic, as weaving should be.

I neglected to mention what I’m dreaming up for my next project!  Sharon has shared with me all the details that her Rhode Guild has discovered about weaving and constructing an origami top based on Virginia West’s examinations of garments constructed from narrow widths of cloth used diagonally.  I have an assortment of fine silks that I will soon make into a warp.  Photos to come.





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8S Advancing Lace Yardage Using JOY Almaza

This is an advancing lace structure on a plain weave ground that I found in the Greater Baltimore Weaving Guild’s book Sixty Scarves for 60 Years.  The pattern was designed by Carol Bodin, and it is called “Raku.”

JOY “Almaza”
Length: 6 yards,  35 epi, 16: wide= 560 ends + 8 ends for selvedges.  Total 568 ends

Click on this image for a bigger version:

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I threaded right to left and had 2 floating selvedges on the right side, then ended with threading 1,2,3,4 and two floating selvedges.  That used the 8 extra threads I assigned for the selvedges.

As you can see there are little huck interlacements on a plain weave ground.

Here is the warp.

The weft is Almaza in a different colorway.


I wove 3 1/2 yards of the lace pattern and 1 1/2 yards of plain weave for fabric to make a jacket.

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Weaving and Dreaming

I’m dreaming about my next project as I zoom along on the current one.  There are always surprises, and this yardage has had its share.  Last fall I decided to make the warp a yard longer than I’d figured when I bought the materials.  Yeah, so, it should not have been a surprise when I ran out of warp and had to fudge a second warp out of a solid grey to blend into this handpainted warp.

Then, for some reason, I neglected to make the mental leap to realizing that if my warp is now a yard longer than planned I might not have enough weft!  That only occurred to me after I started weaving, about 2 weeks ago.  Really, I amaze myself sometimes.

So I’ve spent this morning thinking about what I might use as weft for the rest of this yardage.  I have not yet run out of handpainted JOY weft, but it was time to decide if I should switch to a solid color now so I had enough yardage that is clearly different to make a significant part of my garment–like sleeves or front bands.

I spent some time this morning digging through bins stacked pretty high, looking for a bin of tencel.  Luckily most of these bins are clear so I can what’s in them.  But wouldn’t you know the bins at the bottom of my various stacks are not clear so I had to unload everything to check out what is in those bins at the bottom of each stack.  No luck in finding any tencel.  I have lots of tencel, but at the moment I have no idea where it is!

So I moved on to looking at color cards for tencel, and found that there is no coral shade that comes even close to what I want.  That led me down the rabbit hole of looking through my silk bins and silk color cards.  I have the perfect shade of coral that I’d love to use, but not nearly enough of it!  So I called Treenway and have placed an order for two 1000-yard skeins of a loely coral color #27.  Those skeins will not arrive for almost three weeks.  Sigh…Does this happen to you?  Please say it does!

Fast forward to the end of the day. I wove another half yard today, in plain weave now, with the handpainted weft. Just moments ago, when I advanced the warp, I saw that I am only about a yard away from the end.  That means I will have 5 yards of fabric instead of 6.  The mistakes just pile up faster than I can keep track of them!  I could swear I made a 7 yard warp and that’s why I ran out of materials.  I have no idea what happened last fall, and I don’t know where my notes are!  I hope this sounds familiar to you.  Now I think I need to call Treenway and cut my order in half!

Luckily there have been some marvelous experiences lately to balance the derangement going on in my weaving.  While others are busy heading off to Milwaukee for Convergence,  I have gotten to enjoy some inspiring events much closer to home.

First is an exhibit in Providence that will be closing soon.  I wish I’d seen it sooner so I could have spread the word earlier.  I believe it closes this weekend.  There is a small gallery called The Reading Room of the AS220 gallery, on Matthewson St. where Kate Barber has a wonderful exhibit of her recent work, called “Forward Folding.”

This postcard image is a detail of one her works on display, and it is stunning.  Her exhibit is in an intimate setting with beautiful lighting.  I stayed longer than I would have imagined to view her 22 pieces.  There was such zen in the room I could not tear myself away.  Kate is doing wonderful things with shibori on the loom which she uses to create crimped cloth. Some of the works are also dyed and embroidered.

There is a wonderful mascot at the gallery who watches for visitors and then greets you at the entrance.  I’ve now forgotten her name.  She is so calm that I almost mistook her for a ceramic dog!


Across the river, in Old Lyme, my local area weaving guild members are hard at work getting ready for the annual town festival where some of us will demonstrate various textile techniques.  The big Clemens loom is ready for demonstrating the weaving of a traditional Canadian rag coverlet bed covering.  Jody will the be first weaver, although she needs three helpers to do this.  This is her coverlet that will be woven first.  It will be 9 ft. wide by 9 ft. long.  It’s a big undertaking!

This Saturday, July 30, Jody and her crew will be weaving on this behemoth loom, and others in our guild will be demonstrating various textile techniques.  I plan to bring my spinning wheel to spin some lovely tussah silk sliver that a Connecticut woman who calls herself HoneyBuns prepares and dyes.  I am spinning a wonderful colorway of rosey coral and gold.

Yesterday Jody and I went to see a wonderful film about an exhibition that is currently traveling through Europe.  It was a stunning film and almost made up for the fact that I  won’t get to see this exhibition in person.  The exhibition is called “Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse,” and the film has the same name.  The Royal Academy of Art put this exhibit together.  It was quite moving, and I enjoyed sharing it with Jody and two other weavers from my local guild who also attended.

There were scenes of the exhibition itself, including a large room where Monet’s waterlily triptych has been displayed together for the first time ever, since each of the three pieces is owned by different museums.  There is current footage of the gardens where each of the artists painted a century ago, and there are wonderful old photographs of the artists.  The best image was Renoir’s portrait of Monet in the garden at Giverny, doing a painting of his own.  I did not know that this portrait is owned by the Wadsworth Atheneum, so sometime in the future I will be able to view it in person!

Here is a short excerpt from the film:

Here is one more video with the curator discussing Monet’s Agapanthus triptych.

To all of you heading off to Convergence, have a wonderful time!  I’ll be thinking of you and what I’m missing. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the down time of being at home in the studio.  Maybe I’ll soon get to start the next project I’m dreaming of–I didn’t even tell you what it is!



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Finally Weaving

After a winter of dreaming about weaving, it was hard not to get right down to it when I returned home.  During the 8 weeks of waiting for surgery, then recovering and waiting for the pathology reports I distracted myself with knitting.  Last week I finished the warping process and got down to weaving!  Boy, it feels great!

Some weavers have asked for more info on this project, so here it is.  The warp and weft are two entirely different colorways of Just Our Yarn “Almaza,” which is an 8/2 tencel thread.  One colorway is a bit on the cool side, with blues and purples, jazzed up with a bit of acid green and soft roses.  This is my warp.


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The weft is a rather bright analogous colorway of watermelon, coral, pale peach, and cream that is very slightly yellow.  It looks like candy.  It’s NOT a colorway I would ever buy on purpose!  And yet I did, at the suggestion of Cathie and Diane from JOY.


Here is a bit of plain weave showing the color interactions.


The weave structure and the two very different colorways are creating an amazing fabric!

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I planned the fabric at 35 ends per inch to weave a fabric with enough body for a garment.  If I were weaving a scarf I would have used fewer ends per inch.  My weave structure is a blend of plain weave with lace floats in the warp and weft.  I am using one of the designs in the book Sixty Scarves for 60 Years that the Greater Baltimore Weaving Guild published a few years ago.  The name of this pattern is “Raku” by Carol Bodin.  I am sorry to learn that this book is now out of print.  Time to consult your guild library!

Carol Bodin describes this structure as a lace overshot.  I can’t follow that.  To me it seems like a lace structure with advancing lace modules of 1-2-1, 2-3-2, 3-4-3, 4-5-4…etc with a plain weave structure surrounding the lace elements.  Make sense??

I put the basic weave structure into my PCW program which I wrote about here.  Then I had to make the BIG decisions.  The pattern moves across the warp in one direction only.  Did I want that or did I want a mirrored repeat at the halfway point across the warp?  Did I want to mirror every pattern repeat?  After sampling these ideas in PCW, I decided to leave the structure in its simplest form.  Mirroring every repeat made a very busy fabric that looked like a headache waiting to happen!

The width I have on the loom is 16″ which means I’ll be using two lengths of fabric for fronts and backs.  I can mirror the weave structure when I put the garment together.  To make any mirrored design elements in the fabric would have made the overall design too fussy.

Screenshot 2016-07-23 18.51.47

This is less fussy:

Screenshot 2016-06-27 07.48.25

I’ve woven 3 1/2 yards of the lace structure, and now I think I’ll switch to plain weave for the next 2 1/2 yards.  This way I’ll have some complex fabric for the body of a jacket and some plain weave for front bands and sleeves.  It would have been so smart of me to choose a garment pattern before I began to weave, but that’s just not the case.  This is a case of wanting to weave the fabric and the devil make care what it becomes!

When I’m not weaving I’m enjoying the garden.  August is almost here, and the heat is starting to build.

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I’ve had a couple of wonderful experiences that have inspired my weaving ideas lately.  More on that next time!


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It’s all about the Details

Area 4 of the Connecticut Guild of Handweavers is setting up a monumental weaving display in Old Lyme, at the Historical Society on Lyme Street.  This location is the old grange building.

One of our members, Stephanie, has temporarily brought a large Clements loom to the building in order to demonstrate weaving traditional coverlets for the next few months or longer.  It is a behemoth of a loom, with a 9-foot weaving width!  It takes four people to weave:  two people sit on the bench and coordinate working the two sets of treadles, while another two people have to stand at the sides of the loom to throw the shuttle, catch it, and send it back.  This will be a challenging exercise in team work!  I can’t wait to try it!

Right now we are winding a 9-ft. wide sectional warp of moderately fine cotton.  We have 54  2″ sections to wind.

Photo by Jody Brewer

As you can see, it takes a few of use to beam the warp as well.  It will certainly be a project that involves all of us helping out in various ways.  Several members plan to weave coverlets for themselves, and the rest of us will be needed to stand in as the team of four weavers.

Jody got a photo of me at the other end of the loom.  The loom is on a stage so there is terrific lighting.

Photo by Jody Brewer

We are meeting on Tuesdays and Saturdays to work on this, and we plan to be weaving the first coverlet by the last week in July.  If you are in the area, stop by on one of those two days!

Meanwhile, at home, I have been working on an old Torchon lace project from a few years back.  I cut off about a yard of this lace a couple of years ago to embellish a linen tank top.  It’s a small lace edging that would be perfect on a baby garment. With the baby arriving in December, I need to churn out this lace, especially if I’m also making the garment to go with the it!

This has led me to time how long it takes me to make this little lace edging.  Two repeats of the pattern is one inch long.  I can do two repeats in about 25 minutes, give or take.  Hmmm… that amount of time sounded pretty discouraging to me until I then calculated that one yard of this edging would take about 15 hours to weave.  That sounds much better to me.  I’ve been working on it a couple of hours a day since Saturday at my monthly lace meeting.


When I cut it off for my linen top a few years back I only left about four inches attached to the pillow.  Today I measured it and found that my efforts here and there over the past few days have advanced the edging to 20″!!  That should mean that I have less than eight hours to go!

Last Friday, when I attended Kathi Spangler’s funeral mass, I met three very intriguing women in Kathi’s life:  her daughter, her sister, and her mother.  I was moved by how much they looked like her, how much of her I could feel emanating from each of them.  It was quite comforting to know how she lives on in each of her close relatives.  Of course she lives on in each of us, but it shows in her female relatives because you can see Kathi looking out from their eyes–young Kathi in her daughter’s eyes, a very familiar Kathi in her sister’s, and the Kathi we will never get to know in her mother’s eyes.  These three women were wearing scarves Kathi  had made for each of them, and the women of our guild had a good showing of Kathi-inspired ‘surprise’ scarves.  It was a moving celebration.

One day last week, two friends stopped by my house for a bit.  Jody returned my little container of limpet shells that I collected in the Bahamas, and we spread them out on the kitchen island to pick out a few buttons for the first baby sweater I’ve knitted.  Here they are!


The little limpets on the bonnet will be used to attach a ribbon on each side for tying.  I just need to find a good color of cream …or maybe one of the warm colors in the limpets…for the ribbon.

In my studio I have some yarns that Kathi shared with me that are waiting to become fabric.  I will enjoy thinking of her as I dress the loom and weave.  Right now I’m struggling to thread the pattern and wondering what has happened to my brain.  I’m making a LOT of mistakes in what should be a simple huck threading.  I’m hoping its just a temporary residual effect of anasthesia and not that I’m truly becoming feathery…


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Remembering Kathi Spangler

Regret is an emotion I try not to nurture, but I almost named this post ‘regret’ — I’m fighting the urge to give into it.  I got the shocking news last night that one of my local area weaving friends died…. unexpectedly to me.  I did not even know she was sick.

Some of you know that I am a relative newcomer to this area, so I haven’t known the local weavers here for very long.  Some of them have been so generous in including me in local events and welcoming me into their magical circle of friendship.  Kathi has been that kind of friend to me.  In the small amount of time I have lived here, only four short partial years, Kathi has been a good friend, and I have seen first hand what a marvelous weaver she was.

In this photo she is wearing one of her handwoven scarves, which reminds me how she loved jewel tone colors like what she is wearing here.

Kathi SpanglerWhen Convergence was in Rhode Island, in 2014, she was in charge of setting up an exhibit that would greet visitors who entered one of the sites off the conference grounds.  It was the entrance to a building downtown Providence that, I believe, is part of URI.  The exhibit on display within the building was ATA’s small format tapestries, and all the windows at the entrance to this building were filled with various kinds of weaving done by Rhode Island guild members.  It was a visual feast and it let you know immediately that you had arrived at the right location.  It was a grassroots effort to get more weaving in public spaces, and it was beautiful.

One day last fall Kathi invited me to meet her in Rhode Island, where she lived.  We met for lunch and then she took me on tour of URI’s textile department at the Kingstown campus.  First she showed me the exhibit on display in the gallery, called “These are a Few of My Favorite Things,” which was a lavish collection of pieces chosen by the staff and the curator, Margaret Ordonez.

I hope Kathi realized how much I loved this entire experience.  The exhibit included so many amazing textiles from the past several centuries that included handwork from many cultures.  We met Norma Smayda there who was visiting with a few of her students.  When Kathi introduced to me Ms. Ordonez, we were treated to a tour of some of the textiles currently being restored by students and also took a look at some of the classrooms.  Boy, if I could do it again, I’d be a textile student at URI!

Kathi did a lot of work for the Connecticut state guild, and this is something I can barely record since she was involved long before I ever moved here.  While I have lived here she was the head of a committee to grant scholarships for weavers to attend various conferences around the country.

Last fall our local group had a long weekend workshop with Sarah Fortin.  We all brought handwoven yardage that we then assembled into jackets based on patterns that Sarah had developed over the years.  Kathi’s jacket was one of the most interesting.  She had woven a variety of twills on one warp using neutral creams, greys and blues.  Because she had changed her treadling throughout the yardage, she had quite an interesting mix of pieces to go into her jacket.  I kept hoping I’d see her wear it one day.  I never saw it finished.


My local weaving group remembers Kathi for her easy going attitude and terrific sense of humor toward trying new techniques.  I was lucky to take two workshops led by Kathi where we made what she termed “Surprise Scaves.”  For these workshops Kathi brought a rainbow of ProChem MX dyes in little squirt bottles, a large pot black acid dye, and a pot of dye discharge.

The process she taught was folding silk chameuse scarves (dry!) in shibori style manner, and binding the folds with rubber bands.  We then used the squirt bottles to apply color to our folded scarves. We set the color on our dry scarves with vinegar from another squirt bottle  After that we put our folded scarves in the hot black acid pot.  Then we took off the rubber bands and readjusted them in a random way and dunked our scarves in the exhaust bath.  After removing and cooling a bit we undid our little bundles and everyone had a stunning scarf!  It was completely unpredictable and yet also magical!  I participated twice in this workshop, but but the time I joined this group this was already a popular workshop, so the group does it almost every summer.  In fact, we plan to do one in the near future in remembrance of Kathi.

This is not a great representation of her ‘Surprise Scarf’ technique.  I was looking for a photo of all of us happily squirting dye while scarves were drying on the racks, ruffling in the breeze….alas.  Maybe someone from the group will send me a photo.  Meanwhile:


I know that Kathi was very active in both guilds in Rhode Island and Connecticut, so many of those members have far more memories of her than I do.  I regret that I will not get to know Kathi  longer.  She was one of my favorite friends, however new our friendship was, and she was also one of the most creative and experienced weavers I have known.  I am trying to focus on how lucky I am to have gotten to know her, however briefly.  Her funeral is Friday, and I intend to wear a surprise scarf to the service.


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Knitting to the Rescue!

It’s sad for me to report that my looms are in the same condition as when I arrived home.  Life has gotten in the way of my plans…

While I was determining the most pleasing way to thread the pattern for the JOY (Just Our Yarn) yardage project, I had my semi-annual visit to the dermatologist and discovered that a worrisome spot on my arm had become melanoma.  I noticed this spot had changed to something of concern back in January, but I could not get to a doctor then since we had already sailed away to tropical waters.

Still, the news was a bit shocking to me.  I was already beyond Stage 1, so removal of lymph nodes was mandatory on top of removal of the offending spot which ended up being much bigger than what shows on the skin.  It’s all behind me now.  I got a consultation with a surgeon at Smilow Hospital at Yale, and the surgery was only a week later.  Whew!  Two weeks later I got the news that my lymph nodes are clear and that the surgeon got clear borders around the malignant cells.

Yet I’m still not weaving…. The long cut on my arm and the smaller incision in my underarm severed quite a few nerves, and regaining use of my arm is going to take longer than I imagined.  That’s a small price to pay for getting rid of the melanoma, and I can certainly knit and also do bobbin lace.  And every day I am doing arm motions to improve my dexterity.  Very strangely, I have all kinds of odd sensations in my arm all the way down to my hand:  burning, stinging, numbness.  It’s very strange.

Meanwhile,  back to talking about weaving.  Diane and Cathy from Just Our Yarns gave a program to the Connecticut weaving guild last November, in which they demonstrated using two completely different handpainted yarns for warp and weft.  One of the slides showed a scarf woven with a warp of one of their skeins painted from the cool side of the color wheel–mostly blues and purples.  The weft was a brilliant contrast of oranges, yellows and peaches.  You cannot always purchase colorways that you see and like in JOY yarns since they do not repeat any of their handpainted designs exactly.  But I found two contrasting handpainted that should give a similar effect.

I chose a twill weave structure called “Raku” by Carol Bodin from the book Sixy Scarves for Sixty Years from the Weavers’ Guild of Greater Baltimore.  Here is a partial view of my plan.

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The long warp and weft floats should show off the color contrast of the warp and weft nicely. My warp is mostly muted greys, purples and blues, while my weft is a blend of peaches and creams. The sett will be 35 epi so those floats won’t be too long.

Now, the BIG question:  Should I flip the threading at the center of the warp and have the second half of the threading lean the opposite way?  Should I flip every other repeat of the sequence??  Should I just thread the whole thing in one direction and cut the fabric and turn it as needed for whatever I end up making?

I’ve favored each of these ideas at different times, and at the moment I’ve come full circle back to leaving the threading alone.  It would certainly help if I already knew what I will make with the finished fabric.  Typical of me, I have focused on the intrigue of working with this yarn rather than what I might do with fabric.  The warp is 17″ wide on the loom and I plan to weave 5 yards.

Meanwhile, as I ponder what to do about that threading,  I’ve been knitting and doing some Idrija lace on a bolster pillow.  I don’t even have to prop up my right arm on pillows anymore in order to knit, so I’m definitely improving.  This baby blanket is moving along nicely.  Interestingly, after looking at innumerable lace patterns, I ended up choosing a Eugen Buegler pattern.  He has designed lace patterns for many years and you can see many of his designs at the link above and on ravelry, as well as in numerous books by XRX.  He designed the first lace shawl I ever knitted, over 20 years ago.  I actually went to the local knitting store as I felt myself coming down with the flu in order to make sure that I had something to knit while I would be stuck in bed.  I still have that shawl…. in butterscotch colored, fine merino yarn from Grignasco.

But back to knitting for little baby Ozzie.  Here is the baby blanket as shown on Ravlery. It is called “Lace Plumes Baby Blanket” and is available as a downloadable pattern from Fiber Trends. Thank you, Eugen!  I’m using “Sublime Baby Cashmere” which I ordered from Jimmy Bean’s Wool.

I’m now further along than this photo shows because I work on it almost every evening, and then I realize that evening is not a good time for getting a photo.


Next up will be this adorable sweater from Little French Knits on Etsy.  It’s a bit feminine, but, since I am so smitten with this little gem, I am clinging to the fact that, should our little bundle of joy be a boy,  they have traditionally dressed in rather delicate clothes as newborns.  This is just too lovely to pass on. Oui?

I have not yet shown a photo of the first sweater I made for our future little one.  The pattern is a design by Sephanie Pearl McPhee called Nouveau-ne.  It is delicate and fun to knit without being overly feminine.  I used Plymouth Yarns “Perlina” which is 100% merino which I bought at my LYS, Saybrook Yarns. The pattern has a matching bonnet style hat that I have finished but did not photograph yet.  There are also booties which I have not yet started.


I have little limpet shells from the Bahamas that I will use as buttons instead of what I’ve shown here.  I lent my stash of limpets to a friend, and as soon as I get them back I’ll pick out the tiniest ones for buttons on this sweater.  I think it will be wonderful to have a little embellishment from our travels on our grandchild’s first sweater.  Aren’t I clever??

And I turned my attention back to the little Idrija lace ‘doodah’ that I started at the lace retreat back in May.  This little organic shape reminds me of a fiddle head fern or some kind of sea creature.  I’ve decided to make this two more times in a combination of blue and green.

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Second fiddlehead doodah in progress.  As you can see, the piece is woven upside down. On the next version I will make the central ‘squiggle’ in green and the side ‘squiggles’ in blue.  Then I plan to attach them to one of my summer tops.  Hopefully soon!


So the past month has been taken up with the excitement of a first grandchild and the fears of having cancer–cancer that managed to progress past stage 1 before I got diagnosed.  It’s been an emotional roller coaster, and as usual, handwork– mostly knitting– has saved the day.  It took a full month to get diagnosed, have an initial consult with a surgeon, have the surgery, and get the pathology reports.  Waiting may not be the hardest part of being sick, but it’s certainly not easy.  Making these little projects and dreaming about future projects is what kept me sane during those long weeks.

Today I stumbled on this book of animal themed pom-poms made by a Japanese woman. She has captured the essence of each animal. After making each pom-pom with a mix of colors to imitate the animal’s fur, she adds details with needle felting.  I looked for the book online, hoping to order it, but so far I only found it on Japanese Amazon with no ability to order from the US.  I shall try harder.

And here’s a video of the author making a bear and teaching others the technique.

Just another little idea for Baby Ozzie to tuck away.  I hope I can find the book!

Posted in bobbin lace, books, knitting, Lace, weaving | 10 Comments

Welcome Home Sweet Home!

Right now I can barely believe that less than a month ago I was still in Cuba.  All those hot colors, the tropical sun, the friendly people.  It was an experience I’ll never forget.  Now it’s also hard to believe that I’ve been home for almost a month.

Catching up at home means there has been very little time for putting down my thoughts.  It’s a beautiful spring in Connecticut.  Friends told me that for a full month before I got home it was cold and dreary. I guess I returned at exactly the right moment.

On one of my first outings with friends they told me was the first warm day of the spring.  The outing was a day trip to the Cloisters Museum in New York, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for those of you who are not familiar with it. It houses an impressive array of medieval art and is composed of architectural pieces of various medieval cloisters from all over Europe. Some of my oldest friends, and almost all of my ‘sheep group’ treated me to this amazing day in honor of my 60th birthday back in January.  They arranged for a docent to take us through the museum, followed by lunch at New Leaf in the park.

Judy and Julie put some of their photos together to make this video, which can be seen here on facebook.  Since I cannot figure out how to post it here, I’ll just put a few photos from the day. The following photos are from Jody, Judy and Julie, my “J” friends!

A stunning spring day at the entrance to the Cloisters.

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The main reason for our trip!–  A chance for me to see the “Hunt for the Unicorn” series again after moving away four years ago.  I used to visit the Cloisters numerous times a year since I lived only about 1/2 hour from the museum–now it’s been 4 years since I’ve had the opportunity to just pop by and see what’s in bloom and visit the tapestries I love so much.


No visit to the Cloisters is complete without enjoying the wonderful cloistered gardens.  Because of the protection from the elements of a cold New York winter, these gardens bloom earlier and stay in bloom later than the surrounding area.  This garden, the kitchen and dye garden, has been heavily rearranged since I was last here.

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After our tour we walked through the gardens of Fort Tryon Park to the New Leaf restaurant.  It’s a gem, with a slate terrace for dining outside amongst the azaleas and dogwoods on an early May afternoon.  For my special day there were beautiful flower arrangements on the table and a 3-course lunch.  I felt like royalty….where was my tiara??


Everyone arriving at the restaurant and taking a seat.  Look at those flowers!


A gathering of such dear friends, including two of my new weaving friends from Connecticut who joined me.

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And lunch was amazing!  Jody photographed my lunch salad.  There were two choices for each course, but now I only remember what I chose….which, of course, was amazing! Now you know I’ve totally lost it when I post photos of food, but really, a meal here is such an experience!

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Dessert was a mango panna cotta.

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I am still on such a high.  I’ll never forget it, and I won’t ever get over the thrill of it!

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While I was enjoying one of the best events of my life Bob was sailing home through some very challenging weather off the Eastern Seaboard.  One of the rewards for enduring those spring gales was a day of complete calm after the storm, with visits from both dolphins and a humpback whale.  I know you’ll want to see the video that Dave (one of Bob’s crew members for the trip home) got of the dolphins and the humpback whale they encountered during the trip!

The following weekend was the annual lace retreat for the New England Lace Guild, and I attended for the second year.  I managed to spend the whole weekend working on my project from last year’s Idrija lace class, until I finally gave up on it and started a new and simpler project in that lace.  I did not take any photos while there….I was too busy working! Everyone helped me, but especially Linda and Mary.  Thank you.  Here is a look at my simpler project.  It looks a bit like a sea creature.  I hope to find something useful to do with it…


Just after Bob returned home, we took a trip down to Baltimore to visit our older son and his wife.  They surprised us two-fold: first by flying our younger son out from San Francisco to join us, and then announcing the wonderful news that our first grandchild will arrive in December.  So much happiness and such a wonderful few days together.  They announced the news by giving me this for Mother’s Day:


When being home includes such wonderful time with family and friends, it’s very hard to ever think of going away again.

Returning home does involve a lot of house chores to get things up and running again, and a good bit of gardening too, Bob and I have managed to take some time for sightseeing in our lovely part of the world.

We took a little river cruise on Pandora one evening in the middle of this week, to a spot I just love, where we can watch the Chester Ferry crossing to Hadlyme.  From this vantage point the sun sets behind us as we watch the last rays hit Gillette Castle.  It is a magical place, hard to tell what century we’re in as long as we don’t look at the cars on the ferry!


This is Memorial Day weekend, and yesterday we took a drive to visit Cato Corner Dairy Farm and Priam Winery on the eastern side of the river from where we live.

Look at the charming shop on the farm property!


And inside we were greeted by an even more charming sight–a farm girl ready to serve us tastings and sell us cheese!


We took our cheese selections with us to Priam Vineyards and tasted a few white wines before choosing the one we had with lunch!


Once at home I baked a batch of sour dough bread…. what a great welcome home!


Now it’s time to stop with all this wonderful nonsense and get to work on a loom!  Hopefully I’ll be talking about that in my next post!

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Farewell to Cuba with a Surprise Stowaway

Our final day in Cuba – Pandora on the dock at Marina Hemingway. Isn’t it a lovely spot? Most days were a bit too hot, but our last day was picture perfect.


We made plans to meet with a number of our new cruising friends for a goodbye drink—Anne and Christian aboard Tidom (France), Lars aboard Luna (Norwway), and the Trudel family (Silvain, Natali, Romane, Elisa, and Victor) aboard Masqueret (Quebec), and Addison and Pat aboard Three Penny Opera (Ontario). Some of us made plans to walk into Jaimanitas for dinner at a paladar that has a great reputation.

Jaimanitas has a section that is done in Gaudi-style mosaics, and it is a wonderfully colorful place. The mosaicist lives in the neighborhood and continues his homage to Gaudi with ongoing projects.

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The paladar was also wonderful. I did not get the name, shame on me! Beautiful ambience, room after room of open air seating and terrific food. Our two best meals of the trip took place here and at the paladar in Old Havana—Paladar los Mercederes.

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Early the next morning (April 29), we rose at 5.30 to head to the Guarda Frontera office to check out of Cuba. Bob took this photo of my exit interview with the Guarda Frontera before they warned him that photos are not permitted.

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What a sight to see the sunrise over Havana as we headed north for Florida in the early morning.  The odd shaped tower that gets a bit wider at the top on the right side of the photo is part of the sprawling Russian Embassy.


It was a rough crossing, and I did not fare well. I had about 30 hours of mal de mer on the journey to Ft. Lauderdale, and that meant that poor Bob had to stay awake and do all the navigating during the trip. He was really tired when we finally arrived.

A couple of hours after leaving we noticed a snowy egret flying very close to us. He was very far from shore and was clearly getting tired. He made quite a few attempts to land, but he was having a lot of trouble landing onboard, both because he feet are not made for perching and the wind was quite strong.



He tried several times to land on the lifelines near the stern of our boat, and he attempted to land on the dinghy up in davits a few times.



Finally he made a successful landing up on the traveler, on the windward side. He stayed with us for the entire day, and luckily we stayed on the same starboard tack for most of the day. Whenever Bob adjusted the traveler or the sails the egret got very nervous, but he did not fly away. I felt terrible for him.


Later, just a short time before sunset, we needed to tack to head up the coast of Florida. We knew it would startle our Cuban stowaway into taking flight, but we hoped he would return once the boat settled into its new course. The egret took flight and appeared to head right back for Cuba. He never even looked back. It was getting dark, and now Cuba was more than 60 miles away. As a wading bird, egrets cannot land on water. We had already watched him try to land and flounder a bit as he struggled to ascend again.

I had imagined that this bird, like all birds, must have some inborn navigation sense, and I thought there’d be a good chance that this bird knew we were sailing northeast. He might not know that there would be land to the northeast, but I was hoping he’d want to stick with us to find out. Certainly it would have been an easy trip for him if he could make peace with confined so close to us. But he headed right back to Cuba once we frightened him by changing tack. I was heartbroken by this. He had almost no chance of making it all the way back.

And speaking of stowaways…. as we left Marina Hemingway and entered the Straits of Florida, we heard the power yacht that had cleared out of Cuba just before we did, call Marina Hemingway to report what they thought were two boats in trouble:  a small fishing boat far offshore, and a small sailboat.  The sailor immediately answered the call to say that he was not in trouble.  No info on the fishing boat–most likely because they didn’t have a radio.  We saw a large Guarda Frontera cutter (possibly an ex-US Coast Guard cutter?) come out from the harbor to check things out.  Look at the gun on the bow!


Moments later a bright red Donzi-type speed boat joined the cutter and both boats circled the small sailboat for quite some time.  The sailboat lowered its sails and drifted as the two Guarda Frontera vessels checked things out.  In the end, both Guarda Frontera boats went back to the harbor, which means they never did check out the report of a fishing boat in trouble.  Hmmm….

Clearing in with Customs and Immigration in Ft. Lauderdale was quite an experience. With the quickly changing rules about US citizens visiting Cuba, no one really knows what the procedure should be right now. We expected to be visited by the health department and immigration to check for stowaways and rum and cigars, and any forbidden food items in our fridge/freezer. When Bob called to find out where we should go, he was given numerous phone numbers and no one at the other end of the line at any of these numbers knew what to do with us! In fact one phone number gave us nothing but a recorded message saying that this office is now officially closed and no one would be checking messages henceforth! 24 hours after arriving we got a phone call from one of our previously called contacts asking us to present ourselves at the immigration office at the ship terminal. We only needed to present ourselves, not Pandora, so we rented a car to get there, which allowed us the ability to do some shopping and dining afterward. When we arrived they did not look at all the papers we brought with us— such as our Commerce Dept. form that allowed us to sail Pandora to Cuba. They only looked at our passports, and asked us if we had a good time in Cuba.

You bet! It has been an unbelievable experience!

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Basket Man

Yesterday may have been our last day to visit Old Havana, and I’m so glad I didn’t know it then because I would have felt a need to rush about more. Luckily we had a relaxing day and enjoyed some kind of holiday celebration that was happening.

We are trying to figure out the best ‘weather window’ for leaving Cuba. We knew we’d get the window some time this week, and now it looks like tomorrow is the day. So, here is our loose game plan. The winds are opposing the gulf stream a good deal of the time right now, but for the next couple of days those winds are pretty mild from pre-dawn until midday. So we will leave early in the morning, and sail in the gulf stream until the afternoon, when hopefully we will be near Key Largo. At that point we’ll head toward shore, out of the stream, and sail near the Florida coast until early the next morning when the winds die down again. We’ll head back into the Gulf Stream to Ft. Lauderdale, where we hope to clear in. By doing this we get a boost of speed from the northbound currents in the Gulf Stream while the opposing winds are mild, and when those opposing winds are stronger during the afternoon and evenings, we’ll slip out of the stream into the calmer waters outside the stream. I’m sure I’ll be sick, but hopefully less so than during some of our passages this winter.

The US Coast Guard sent us an email the other day (right after Bob had just composed a message to them) to ask if we were still on schedule for returning to the US by May 1. Bob responded, and we are hoping to hear back on whether we can clear in to Ft. Lauderdale. I have my fingers crossed about this because it will be more convenient for us to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale than in Miami. My flight home is Tuesday morning, out of Ft. Lauderdale.

Bob has just heard that the no-anchoring bill in Florida will indeed go into effect on May 1, so our plans for arriving in Ft. Lauderdale have to be adjusted. We will go to Miami instead, not a first choice for either of us. I guess we will rent a car to get to my Ft. Lauderdale flight. That’s boat life for you….you can make all the plans you want, even at the last minute, when you think you’ve got everything in hand, but the powers that be just laugh and laugh.

Yesterday we went back into Old Havana to look for the headquarters of the Women’s Federation for Handwork. Over the weekend we found the retail shop where the garments are sold, but the workshop where women take courses and make things for the shop is closed on the weekends. Yesterday we had a bit of a run around trying to find the workshop. When we did find it, we learned that all the ‘professores’ were gone since classes only take place in the mornings, while we arrived in the early afternoon. Maybe it’s just my imagination, and a leftover feeling from my visit to the workshop in Santiago, but I got the distinct impression that there would be complications trying to get anyone to see me. Yesterday I got to speak to a custodian and a language teacher, but when I asked for a ‘manager’ they both responded that ‘this was not possible.’ After meeting the open and generous women on the Paseo del Prada, and sharing such an excitement for handwork in spite of our communication barriers, I just couldn’t muster enough energy at this point to care if I met the administrators of this federation. I don’t think their goals are quite the same as mine. Admittedly I do not have the ‘whole picture,’ but from my limited perspective I believe their goal is to promote traditional clothing and make a successful business training women to keep these techniques alive and make the garments ‘saleable.’ It is a business venture that needs to succeed, and I hope it does succeed because that just makes handwork more valuable to everyone. But my mission is to meet women who love handwork and want to share what they do. I found that in spades with the group of women who surround Adriana Martinez.

It was some kind of holiday yesterday, but I never understood what! Several people wished us a ‘happy holiday,’ and museums were open in Old Havana that had been closed during our previous visits. While we were in the ceramic museum, I asked our guide what holiday was being celebrated, and she replied that it was the national holiday for ceramics. Bob and I are not at all sure we understood this properly. All kinds of museums were open that have been closed during our previous visits…maybe the holiday was really about Cuban heritage. Anyway, our guide still maintained that it was a ceramics holiday.

The ceramic museum was in the home of an historic ceramic artist who had a workshop and shop on the ground floor and living quarters for his family on the upper floor. The building was from the late 19th century with a central courtyard, and it made a wonderful museum for a history of Cuban ceramic artists. Each room featured a different time period of artists’ works. The courtyard was devoted to vessels and large figures.

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Our guide understood enough English for me to tell her that one of my good friends is a ceramics artist who does large figures in terracotta. I took these photos for her.

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Somehow in our conversation it came about that our guide loves to knit. She took us to the entrance of the employees lounge and asked us to be very quiet since her boss was in there. She went in and came back moments later with a little bag of her knitting. It was the same ecru cotton floss type thread that the women on Paseo del Prada were using to crochet and make lace. I wonder where they get this material. Our guide told us she’d like to knit all day long, but can only find a few minutes here and there during her breaks at work. She said she never gets any time to knit at home because she has to cook and take care of her family. Sound familiar?

There were so many places open for touring or for business that had not been open all weekend long. It was a festive day, and there women dressed in traditional costumes on many street corners. You could take a photo of there for $5 CUC, which seemed a bit dear to us. Near the end of the day, Bob managed a discreet photo from a distance.



One of the places that had been closed over the weekend was a perfumerie. We had looked through the windows of this museum/shop and admired the antique brass containers used for distilling fragrances, the wonderful colonial furniture and display cabinets, and the glass apothercary jars that held the fragrances. I was thrilled to get into this shop to see things at close range! Bob took some photos while I smelled the fragrances and bought a ceramic jar of violetta for myself and lavender for my sister.

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Every store has a beautiful courtyard since they are housed in historic buildings. This is the courtyard of the perfumeria.  Bob and I had been admiring the stained glass every time we walked by this building over the weekend.

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In the late afternoon yesterday, Bob and I happened upon a young man making baskets from palm fronds. In his large basket he had a number of exquisite, small items made from the fronds….birds, and a little house with a cricket on top.

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He was easy to talk to and knew enough English that we could communicate quite well. As Bob and I were marveling at the fineness of these tiny basket creations, he offered me one of his ‘birds.’ It appeard that he was giving me a gift, but I wasn’t entirely sure. Here again was someone offering a gift and letting fate take his generosity where it would. I put the bird back in his large basket and asked him for the little house with a cricket on top. Buying that took a bit more time and frustration than we’d anticipated! First, Bob could not find his money, and as he searched we had the sickening feeling that maybe we’d lost all our money. After a few heartstopping minutes he did find his stash of money, but then we did not have exact change to buy the little cricket. The basket maker could not make change for us. So Bob went in to the local bar to ask for change, but they did not have it either. Then the basket maker left his spot to go buy a beer which would give him change. (You can walk about the streets in Havana with alcohol). He came back smiling, and yet he still did not have the necessary change! In the end, laughing, he accepted somewhat less than his price, and he still handed me the little bird as a gift.

Bob and I went to dinner with my little house with cricket and my birdie sitting on the table before us as a quirky centerpiece. We kept admiring both these baskets, and I decided I had to have another little house with cricket as a present. I hoped we’d still find our basket maker on the street where we left him by the time we left the restaurant—which was a beautiful courtyard that had once been a print shop.

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Restaurant Imprenta:

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When we got back to the spot where we’d seen the basket maker, the other street artists had just finished packing up their wares and were headed home. Likely the basket maker would soon be doing the same. But we’d gotten there just in time to ask if we could watch him make a little house with cricket on top, and he seemed happy to oblige even though he still had one already made. It took about 20 minutes for him to make, and we had a wonderful conversation with him as he worked.

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He started with two long palm fronds and crossed the fronds (north/south/east/west) over each other in the middle of the frond lengths. Starting with the ends that taper down to points, he began to fold each frond over the other in a consecutive direction. Since the fronds were tapering down to their outer ends the little box he was making got smaller and smaller, tapering like the fronds themselves. This made the roof of the house.


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Then he went back to the other half of the fronds that led to the base of where they’d been cut from the tree, and he made the same consecutive folds for making a square. This made the house itself. Very clever. He cut some frond strips to insert into the box for doors and windows.

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The exquisite litte cricket!

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As he worked we talked…. He loves to make baskets and these little figures are things he ‘invents’ himself. He is always thinking of ways to make some kind of little structure or animal out of the traditional basket making techniques that he uses to make regular baskets. He took out his phone and showed us photos of his baskets. If he’d had any of these with him I would have bought some too! He does careful work that results in beautiful baskets!

I told him that I sometimes make baskets too, but not from palm fronds since there are no palm trees where I live. Bob took my phone and began showing photos of my weaving and bobbin lace since he could not find any photos of my baskets. When Bob showed a photo of my tatting the basketmaker’s face lit up and he said his wife does this! I asked if his wife also does crochet and ‘tejer,’ and of course he said yes! He said she loves these techniques and loves to work with her hands. We had a little discussion of how it feels to let our hands work the repetitive motions of these crafts while our minds are free to ponder. Making things with our hands allows our brains time to contemplate many things.   He also told me he plays the piano and the violin. Someday he’d like to have a cello. He loves the cello most of all.

After giving me the little house with cricket he’d just made, he asked if I’d like him to make a snake. Naturally I said yes. I was curious to see what other techniques might be used to make these little figures, and the snake involved a different kind of manipulation of the fronds. When he finished he gave me that too. He really was most generous!

The only downside of our visit with him happened when a woman stopped for a moment to watch while he was making little cricket on top of the house for me. He offered her the one that was already completed. When he told her the price ($3 CUC) she said, “Big city prices….no thank you!” and walked away. We were all stunned. Yes, there are vendors who have high prices for things and who expect you to bargain, but these are mostly vendors who sell things that they have bought to sell. The artists we’ve encountered sell their work for very little, and I cannot imagine haggling with them. Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but how can you expect to pay even less for such an exquisite concoction of creativity? $3 Cuc for 20 minutes of work? Also, as a craftsman myself, I have stood in my own booths over the years and overheard people say that handwoven items are too expensive—that you can buy something just like it in a store for far less.

Well, you cannot buy a little basket woven house with a tiny cricket on top in any store that I know of. I was disappointed in this exchange. It would have been better for her to acknowledge what a little gem he’d just handed her, but that she could not spare the money at this time. It’s such a sad commentary that she felt she had to devalue his work in order to get away.

During all our cab trips to and from Old Havana we drive through modern Havana, including Embassy Row.  The US Embassy is newly opened and has never been on the avenue where all the other embassies are.  Most of the embassies are in historic colonial buildings and are quite a sight.  The Russian Embassy is the exception, although it too is quite a sight!  It is an wonderful example of Soviet architecture.

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Tonight we’ll have drinks around the pool here in Marina Hemingway with some of the other cruisers we’ve met in the last few weeks, along with Lars whom we met as we arrived in Cuba two months ago.  Some of us will walk to a local Spanish restaruant in the nearby town (Jaimentio?–something like that) to have a final dinner together.  Then is farewell to Havana and to Cuba.  It’s been great, but home is beckoning.  Bienvenidos Florida by this time on Friday!


Posted in baskets, bobbin lace, crochet, holiday, knitting, Lace, sailing, travel | 1 Comment