Category Archives: dyeing


Today is the last day of March, and even in the Caribbean it is going out like a lion. Tomorrow I will start the new month (fully spring!) by flying home to New England. I’ve been counting down the days for the entire month of March. I’m now at that final number: one day to departure.

Twice a year my life takes a sharp turn from living in a house surrounded by my looms, my spinning wheels, my taka dai, my dyepots, while surrounded by good friends and family, to living on a boat with very little space, no looms aside from a copper pipe loom, a newly acquired tiny e-spinner, knitting and embroidery, and a few friends that are not often in the same anchorage I am. I take stock. Each year in winter I take stock of the things that consumed my time at home, and now at the beginning of spring I take stock of what I managed to accomplished while living on a boat. It’s my semi-annual retrospective of my goals and my priorities.

Meanwhile, the first things I’ll do on my return are thrilling events I’ve been thinking about all winter. Tomorrow my guild’s biennial exhibition will open. I won’t be there, and I don’t have anything in that show, but I am looking forward to seeing all the works when I visit early in the coming week. I will meet my oldest friend there. For several years she had a sculpture studio at this location, the Farmington Valley Arts Center. It feels like a different lifetime when I used to visit her there. I would drive from NJ, where I lived at the time. She had a son, and I had two sons, so getting together was a rather complicated endeavor at that time in our lives, but it was important to both of us to spend time together. I expect we will reminisce about that other life we had decades ago while also seeing the works of many of my dear weaving friends.

The postcard for the Handweavers’ Guild of Connecticut biennial exhibition

On April 2nd, the day after I return home, I’ll drive up to Leverett, Massachusetts, to see an exhibit of tapestries by the Tapestry Weavers in New England (TWiNE) that will be on display for the month of April. I’m excited that less than 24 hours after getting home I’ll be reconnecting with good friends at this event! Due to the generosity of one of my friends, who offered to hold my pieces for the entire winter, I have three pieces in this show.

Looking back is always a bittersweet endeavor, and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that. When I left home in December I had one more placemat to weave on my Japanese paper weft project. The biggest hurdle about that is the weft for that last placemat had to be unwoven from a previous previous placemat that was not the color I wanted. I will take that weft and re-dye in an indigo vat that I need to make. I am excited and intimidated about dyeing the re-used paper yarn to get the color of blue I want.

Neither my Caribbean tapestry or this sweater got finished this winter, but they both made progress. That’s all I can say, and I must make peace with progress instead of completion. As this sweater grew it got hotter and hotter to hold it in my lap while knitting, which is the main reason I set it aside.

When it became clear that I would not finish my Caribbean tapestry or the sweater above, I dug out an embroidery I started more than a year ago. I bought this design because of the sheep, no surprise! And that’s all I had finished when I put it away. I have enjoyed the few days that I spent embroidering the poinsettias and snowflakes. Wouldn’t it be nice to have it finished for the holidays at the end of this year? Not holding my breath.

In an effort to look on the bright side of my not-finished Caribbean tapestry, I plan to take it to the TWiNE show on April 22, to demonstrate weaving while I sit the gallery on that date. I’m glad I found a bright side to this disappointment.

The only thing I actually finished this winter was the hot water bottle cover I made from Kate Davies recent design group called “All Over,” a collection of stranded knitted designs. I think there will be some chilly nights at home ahead when I can use it! (Also I finished spinning about 100 grams of merino/silk hand dyed fiber…but I’m not counting that because finishing a spinning project is only the beginning of whatever project the yarn is meant to become!)

Along the way of making projects and fulfilling (or not fulfilling) goals, there were plenty of wonderful distractions, like knitting underway while listening to an audio book, which was only calm enough to do one time, when we sailed down the western coast of Guadeloupe.

Drying laundry while Bob writes a blogpost.

Lunch with friends overlooking one of the pitons in St. Lucia.

So many tropical flowers and animals

Months of beautiful views

And one of my favorite visuals: windows and shutters

Look at the view out the window at the back of the room with the open doors.

This is the kitchen at Fort Napolean on Terre de Haute, Les Saintes–another great room with a stunning window and the stark reality of getting water in the 19th century fort.

And speaking of kitchens, I often enjoyed making dinners onboard. I made a version of Isabella’s quiche (from La Brasserie in English Harbour, Antigua). It’s pretty close to hers–incredibly deep and creamy.

I was overjoyed to find mushrooms–all the way from France!–in Fort de France, Martinique. That called for chicken supremes in mustard/cream sauce with mushrooms. It was a good evening!

It was a winter full of lemons and limes. Everything is better with a little lemon or lime, and fresh herbs which grow in abundance here.

In the balance of things accomplished and things experienced, I guess there was a healthy dose of each. I would have loved more time to work with my hands and experiment with some ideas that are burning a hole in my brain! —but— it’s hard to give up the amazing experiences that kept me from working. The weather did not cooperate much this year. There was too much wind which made travel difficult and working at anchor very difficult. I live on motion sick meds every time we sail to a new location, and that takes a day or so to get out of my system. I am not patient waiting to feel better. On the bright side I listened to some wonderful books. At the top of that list would be Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton.

In retrospect I wish I had more work to show for my time here, and less days feeling the drag of mal de mer. But on the bright side, and thank heaven there is always a bright side, I am filled with ideas to pursue at home and some great memories of time spent with sailing friends and Bob.

St Kitts, Thomas Jefferson, Batik

That’s an odd assortment of names in the title, yet that is the diversity of what we have seen on this island!

The weather has us pinned down off the southeast coast of St. Kitts. There are no harbors here for protection, which is the case for many of the West Indies islands in the Caribbean, and boy do I miss the protected harbors on Antigua. After sailing from Antigua last Saturday, we attempted to anchor off Nevis, but the best anchorage area was too rough! It was only 2pm in the afternoon, so we sailed about seven miles further to White House Bay on St. Kitts, and then had to move again for more protection. We were finally settled, although not comfortably, just before sunset. The winds have been quite strong, which is typical for this time of year. They are called the Christmas winds and usually last until the end of January.

The capital of St. Kitts is Basse Terre, and in the center of the city is a roundabout with a clock in the center called Piccadilly Square.



Cruise ships arrive almost daily in Basse Terre, and we can see them come and go from our anchorage, a few miles to the east. There is a hospital ship in the same area that has to leave every time a new cruise ship arrives. We learned that this ship is a medical school and that since the destruction of the medical school on Dominica this ship has taken on the faculty and students from that university. We watch it come and go every day to make room for the large cruise ships. I wonder what the faculty and students think of that. I’m trying to wrap my head around the students practicing surgical procedures on a vessel that has to be rolling around even slightly, in spite of having stabilizers.  I contemplate over each evening as we watch the sunset from Pandora.


Yesterday we hired a tour guide to drive us around the island. Normally Bob and I detest this kind of touring, but this island has many windy roads and switchbacks that lead through the mountainous terrain, and driving is on the left. It was a smart decision not to tackle it ourselves!

Alexander Hamilton was born on nearby Nevis, and Thomas Jefferson’s great-great grandfather had a large plantation here on St. Kitts. The plantation has become a historic site here, no surprise, as well as the site of a botanical gardens and a local business of women who make batik fabrics. I’m quite fascinated to learn—so late in life!—that some of our founding fathers had such exotic origins! Years ago I visited the home of George Washington’s family, Sulgrave Manor, that seemed to be ‘right down the street’ from Princess Diana’s ancestral home Althorp. Both these family manses are in Northamptonshire, in the UK, so not so exotic. Still, I was well into adulthood before I ever gave a thought to exactly where our founding fathers originated. I just vaguely thought of them all as English. History is far more interesting in the details, isn’t it?

Romney Manor was first the site of gardens for a man named Tegereman who was chief of the indigenous tribe of Caribs. By 1625 this site had become a beautiful Euorpean style home for Sam Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s forebear.


The gardens are good mix of natural landscape and cultivated gardens.


It would hard to ever leave a spot like this…..more lemonade, please!


Along with the gardens, which are well cultivated and include beautifully landscaped areas of quite a variety of tropical plants, a group of women also run a textile business on the property of the plantation. The women make wonderful batik fabrics and their business, which started in 1976, is called Caribelle Batik. After 40 years, they must be on their 2nd or even 3rd generation of women keeping this technique alive and well. I’d say I was watching the 2nd generation of master batik makers demonstrating for the tourists, since all of them were about my age.

The shop was full of about anything you can dream up to make with batik fabric.  There were wall hangings, clothing, all kinds of little containers, pillow covers.  I bought a nice selection of things to bring home for friends and family.


The designs are drawn with a stylus filled with melted beeswax.


They do intricate designs, and the best thrill of all was walking through the gardens, surrounded by exotic plants, views of the ocean, and lines and lines of batik fabrics drying in the breeze. I think this will be the highlight of my winter!

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In addition to a rainforest full of exotic native and not so native plants that have found there way here, St. Kitts also has a large colony of green monkeys. They are everywhere! Our guide told us that they were brought to the island by the French, who brought them on their ships from Africa, along with their human cargo destined to be slaves. Some islanders have taken young monkeys for pets. I got accosted by a heckler, who came up from behind and just put this monkey into my arms. I didn’t mind, but I would have preferred to be asked. I guess he knows well that if he asks, most people will say no. It’s better to just throw a monkey into your arms and grab your phone before you have a chance to think. It’s the way of life in this part of the world, so it’s best just to go with it. Cute monkey, isn’t it?….wearing a diaper, thank heaven!


We had stopped for this view when the ‘monkey man’ approached me.


How about a monkey in its natural setting.  They are pretty shy so we haven’t gotten close to the wild ones.


In the middle of our day our tour guide took us to a local restaurant–just a couple of picnic tables under an awning, with a ‘kitchen’ in an attached shed.  No refrigeration.  Our guide said all the food was prepared daily so no need to refrigerate anything.  Well, hmmm.  The choices were pretty varied, so it’s hard for me to imagine that they used everything up everyday.


Yeah, I know!  It looks pretty rough, and I’ll admit that I was nervous about the food.  It was all delicious–barbecued pork ribs, rice and pigeon peas, green salad, and Caribbean mac n cheese.  Others had baked chicken, or baked mackerel with same side dishes.  No one got sick.

I am staying onboard today. The wind has abated, although our weather guru says it’s best not to change locations until the weather is more settled at the beginning of next week. Sheesh! It’s only Wednesday! I plan to spend some time working on a small tapestry that is getting embarrassingly old, and then I will spend some time on my little Norwegian woven band. Later we will meet our cruising friends for sundowners at the beach bar, SaltPlage, where the view of the sunset will extraordinary!  Well, as you can, we already had our sundowners…I could not get this post online yesterday.


So, that’s my report. St. Kitts is an interesting and unusual mix of history, lush flora and fauna, and beautiful local textile work.  All good for me.

Nordic Tapestry in Washington Depot

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

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

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


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


A few other works of note…..



“Longing for Summer,” by Hugrun Runarsdottir


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


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


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


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


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


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


Here’s a detail shot….


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


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


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

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


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

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

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



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



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

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

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


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


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


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



As Summer Wanes

It’s Labor Day, the first truly chilly morning of the season, and I LOVE it!  There will be a few more days of summer heat before we hit the equinox, but summer is winding down.  I can feel it in the air and see it in the trees.  In spite of hurricane Hermine heading northward, I feel autumn coming.

The month of August has hurtled by me.  I had lots and lots of doctor appointments, and in between them, I tried to very hard to enjoy one workshop on ec0-dyeing and as many days of weaving and lace making as I could manage.  Looking back, I feel fairly productive!

If you haven’t tried Eco-dyeing, give it a whirl!  There is nothing like unwrapping a scarf or fabric to find some lovely imprints of leaves and flowers.  If your first attempt doesn’t suit your taste just put the fabric/scarf away and try it again on another day.  That’s what I’m doing this morning as I write this.  I have a 1-yard length of lightweight linen and one silk scarf steaming.  I used the rinse and spin cycle of my washing machine to re-wet them, and I just collected a few leaves on my morning walk:  one small branch of Japanese maple with about a dozen leaves on it, some golden rod fronds with buds ready to open rather than in bloom, and a few fronds of sumac.

When I got home I spread out my damp linen fabric and silk scarf and placed my plant materials on half of each length of fabric or scarf, because I will fold the other half over to cover the plant material.  To the things I gathered on my walk I added a few gems from my garden.  Today I am trying tall ferns that I hope are ostrich ferns, since I read that those work well in eco-deying.  I have a few dark purple oxalis leaves, some purple cranesbill flowers as well as leaves, some coleus leaves, and one small spray of red flowers from a dragon wing begonia.  As I write this I realized I meant to to pick some hyacinth bean leaves and flowers.  The leaves of the purple hyacinth vine have such dark veining, it might work very well in this technique. Drat!  My fabric is already in the steamer.


Here are a couple of sites that I found very helpful in trying this technique.  Sherry Harr did her doctoral thesis at Kansas State University on various textile dyeing techniques, and her article is quite thorough.  There are several blogs where the authors have documented their plants and techniques rather well.  Take a look at Threadborne and Obovate Designs.

In mid-August a few people from my local area guild got together and shared lots of plant material and had a go on our various fabrics and scarves.  None of us had ever done this before, but we shared the internet info we found, and a couple of us had talked to others who had taken a workshop with Amelia Poole, whose work in this technique is stunning.

With a bit of info and a LOT of enthusiasm, we plunged ahead.  We were quite lucky to have the use of Kate’s wonderful weaving/dyeing studio for this project.  Here you can see how we layered the tubes of fabric with sticks to keep them from touching.  To make the steamer there are some rocks and sticks at the bottom of the pan to keep the tubes of fabrics above the water level.


The taller tubes of fabric went in this make-shift steamer.


After 30 minutes of steaming and a little time cooling down, our tubes came out of the pot.


Unwrapping and hanging our scarves and fabric to dry on a rack. We were pretty thrilled with our results.


My first scarf turned out better than the other things I tried that day.


Look at the imprint from this giant dahlia.


I hope to compile a list of the plants and flowers that work best for me.  Some things leave behind wonderful colors, but the imprint is just a blob.  I’m more interested in the things that leave an actual impression of the leaf or flower.  So far, this is my list of A plants and flowers:

Japanese maple leaves–great leaf definition
coleus leaves–faint leaf definition and pastel colors, lovely on silk
golden rod–great definition for leaves and flowers
purple oxalis–great definition
black hollyhock flowers–a wonderful, deep purple ‘blob’
cranesbill, purple–nicely shaped ‘blob’ somewhat recognizable as a flower silhouette

One of the perks of visiting the studios and houses of other weavers, is seeing the lovely details in their living and work spaces.  Weavers usually have such a eye for beauty.


It was a glorious day for our project.


Fast forward to the beginning of September, and on this stunning weekend I spent a wonderful day at the monthly meeting of bobbin lace makers in Connecticut.  You can find us here.

We met outside in a member’s garden under a canopy of billowing, striped canvas.  Her terrace was surrounded by flowers–black-eyed Susans, phlox, and other late season bloomers, with a view of her large vegetable garden nearby, and in the distance her bee hives.  She made an English cream tea for us that we had to share with the bees. Her tables were covered with vintage white on white embroidered cloths, topped with vintage linen tea towels that commemorated Queen Elizabeth’s reign–going back as far as her silver jubilee.  I think we all felt a bit regal.

I hope Mary won’t mind that I shared this photo.  Her expression is a mirror of how much we were all looking forward to having these treats!


Our hostess made Earl Grey tea biscuits dipped in chocolate that were off the charts!


On top of this wonderful tea we all actually spent time making lace, too!

This is also the weekend of the Haddam Neck Fair.  Late summer is the time for all kinds of festivals that celebrate farming and animal husbandry.  I have never been to this particular fair before, and it was a wonder.

First there were the animals.  We watched a draft horse pulling contest, visited the goats and sheep, cows, chickens and rabbits.  The textile displays were very small, but I met a woman on the fair committee, doing a spinning demonstration, and she hopes to grow the textile area of the fair in coming years.


Look at this beautiful Dorset sheep.  Her new fleece growing back was as thick as felt and she loved attention.


Multi-colored Jacobs.


Seeing all the awards for best sheep or cow, all the way down to best cakes, and cupcakes, best flower arrangements, and best single flowers, or best zucchini, made Bob exclaim, “No one can possibly doubt humans’ need to compete!”  Along a row of bud vases that showcased individual marigolds, the judges had written such poetic comments as: “As beautiful as a sexy, 1940s film star!”  And, one a rose that no longer had a single petal left, “A stunner!  Well done!”


I particularly like this arrangement of succulents in a well used frame. Clearly the judges did too.


Some whimsical flower arrangements.  There were lots of categories for flower arrangements, and these were two in the category inspired by food.  A tray of floral cupcakes!


And a slice of mum cake!IMG_2593 The same kind of judges’ comments showed up on all the individual vegetables, from tomatoes to summer squash, to cucumbers.  If you can grow it or make it, you can compete with others at some local fair!


It was a beautiful day, and it was quite lovely to see how much care and attention can go into growing a zucchini or a marigold!

Sadly, the textile area could not hold a candle to the livestock or the flowers and veggies.  Maybe that will change in the future.  All it will take are a few textile people who want to compete!

The day is getting away from me, and I should turn my attention to Archie’s book and to that never-ending boundweave project.

I’ll end with a recap of what I learned today.  The tall ferns in my garden must not be ostrich ferns since they left no color.  I did add some hyacinth bean vine, both leaves a clusters of flowers buds, but they also left no color or imprint.

Clusters of purple verbena flowers are interesting–they turn turquoise!


And signet marigolds left an interesting imprint.  The red stripes turned black.


And speaking of flowers, I have to share one last image.  The well known, oft-photographed field of sunflowers on the north fork of Long Island.  Bob and I sailed to Sag Harbor and stayed for almost a week back in the middle of the month.  Even when compared to an amazing dinner at the American Hotel, and wine tastings along the North Fork, seeing this field was the highlight of that trip!

sunflowers long island

Now to work!






Round 2, Ready to Weave!

Teacher knows best!!

Repeat like a mantra:  Teacher Knows Best, Teacher Knows Best….

Yesterday, after painting the warp, Bob set up a heat lamp over the warp to keep the temperature as close to 70 degrees F as possible for its curing time and overnight drying period.  It worked like a charm, so this morning I have wound the warp back onto the back beam, tugging the warp firmly after each revolution of the beam.  There is no significant shifting!  Hoodah!  What a thrill to actually learn something from this process.

I now have two cardinal rules:
1.  Always blot the warp before painting, even if I cannot see any excess water.
2.  Always tug the warp when winding back on the loom.

I hope to complete the weaving today since it is only about a yard. I hope to paint the 3rd attempt tomorrow….. ever hopeful!


The word journey has been foremost in my mind for months now…. my father in law’s major journey (his life) has just ended.  He led a beautiful life, and he was as much a father to me as he was to his three biological children.  He was a great man in all the best ways possible…. devoted to his wife, his children, and a consumate volunteer which means he was devoted to all the causes he he championed.

Lately my own journey seems fraut with anxiety, too many deadlines, too many places to be in such a short time.  I feel like I’ve just returned from our long journey down the Eastern seaboard of the US and across to the Bahamas, and now we are to leave again in just a couple of weeks.  Where has the time gone?

Well, mostly we’ve been spending some very special time with Bob’s father.  It hurts to know you are losing someone, but in the long run I feel it has been a gift to help Bob, Sr. through the last months and a gift that we could be with him as much as possible for our own needs…. I think this is far better than losing someone you love without any warning at all.

During this last summer/fall/winter of my father in law’s journey I’ve been thinking about the Moirae, whose names are Clotho (the spinner), Lachesis (the measurer), and Atropos (the one who holds the scissors and cuts the thread of life).

I love Sarah Swett’s rendition of these fates “The River Wyrd.”  She has done a great job portraying them having a laugh at our small lives, our loves, our passions. At this moment in the grieving process, I’m much too bogged down in the sadness of missing him, and wonderful memories, and nostalgia and schmaltz…. to treat this subject with humor.  And I am searching for a way to find voice for the respect and love I have for my father in law’s life.

So I’ve been rather focused on images of the thread of life.   My father in law, the original “Bob” in the Osborn family, had a wonderfully long life, although not nearly long enough for all of us who loved him.  He was connected to many people, a life long best friend with his brother who died just weeks ahead of him, and a life long friend of a surprising number of others.  How many people do any of us know who can get together regularly with friends they’ve known since before a marriage of 60 years?

Anyway…. my own recent journey has been in trying to depict images of a beautiful, long life.  I’m not there yet, but impatience led me to attempt a less than fully developed idea, with a technique I learned a couple of decades ago from Betty Vera and revisited this summer with Sarah Saulson.

The technique involves dressing a loom with a warp, then pulling out the warp onto a flat surface, under tension, and painting the warp with dyes thickened with printers’ paste, or  sodium alginate.  Here are some photos of my first attempt at this.

My warp is silk crepe which I wound onto two spools for easier handling.

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I made a stencil of my design on a manilla folder.

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 Here is the warp after painting.  The dye is ProChem blue #402 mixed for full saturation with a little “New Black” added.  You can see the stencil brush I used in the lower left.  It is a wonderful tool that I found at Long Ridge Farm’s booth at Rhinebeck one year.  It is made of very tightly packed natural bristles, but I don’t know anything else about it since the attached tag is in Japanese, and Nancy Zeller did not have the information on her when I bought it.

The dye required four hours to set with moisture at a temperature of 70 degrees F.  After that the plastic film is removed to allow the warp to dry before being wound back on to the loom.

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In my haste to work on this project (I had envisioned this piece hanging from the lectern during Bob, Sr’s. funeral…pipe dream!) I did not take any photographs of the weaving process.  My 8 shaft Baby Wolf was threaded with an undulating twill, and I used a natural colored, smoothly spun silk thread for the weft.  I think both warp and weft are in the range of 20/2 silk, but neither of these silks, in my stash for decades, were labeled.  I threaded the undulating twill at 30 ends per inch. The seredipitous surprise after weaving and wet finishing was the amazing sheen of the silk crepe!  It glows.

Here is the finished piece.  It shifted more than I expected when I wound it back on to the loom, which is when I discovered that some of the heddles were not oriented properly on the shafts.  A number of heddles were upside down, and I think this opposite orientation caused a bit more drag on the threads which resulted in significant shifting.  I tried repositioning these threads by adding a bar at the back of the loom with these threads pulled around it….but as you can see from my photo, it did not help.

This is not what I had envisioned for the finished piece, but I am not unhappy with it!  Yesterday I made a new warp (and used up all the rest of my silk crepe!) and dressed the loom so that I will probably be ready to paint again tomorrow.

thread of life 500 dpi

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It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without some outdoor time, walking in the woods, putting the garden to bed, and (hopefully) having bulbs already planted. This is not the first time I’ve posted photos of these two lovely structures.  There is moss growing on the cedar shakes of this pretty barn.  I did not catch the light properly because (in real life) the moss was glowing vivid green in the soft light.

I can’t seem to walk by this house without taking yet another photo of it. It was a mostly grey holiday weekend, rainy and raw, but I seem to love the scenery along this walk in almost any weather.

The highlight of our walk yesterday was seeing the beaver that has caused so much destruction along the banks of this stream!  He has not left a single tree untouched….busy guy!  I was thrilled to see him, although I know you probably won’t!  He reall is there, right in the center of the photo, just under the branches with the green leaves! Trust me!

Moss and lichen on rocks.  Someday I’ll get just the right photo to begin a tapestry cartoon.  This is intriguing, but the light is not quite what I saw yesterday.

At home I am re-mounting my Flax Spinner and getting a new silk warp ready for painting.



It’s that time of year again…..time to head south on Pandora.  But before I go back to living onboard there is SO much I want to do on land!

My small guild always has a natural dyeing workshop in October, and I’ve been looking forward to this all summer!  Bob and I made our plans to head south based on the date of this dyeing workshop.  My 4 lbs. of goldenrod was collected for this workshop, and I also planned to reconstitute my indigo vat.

Everything about natural dyeing seems like magic and alchemy…. The recipes are as old as civilization and some of the processes seem downright absurd!  Who figured out these strange concoctions and procedures??

I mordanted two 100 gram skeins of my handspun white alpaca with alum and cream of tartar.  I had two small hanks of fine linen (80/2) which will be for sampling bobbin lace designs (one for me and one for a friend), and I had a 100 gram skein of raw silk in the lovely natural color with black flecks.  I have not mordanted linen before, so that was my first challenge.  It requires some tannin along with alum.  Sure would have been great if I’d realized that in time to order tannic acid online.  Barring that I had to find something natural growing nearby or lying about.  My only option, since I didn’t find any oak galls on my trees, was to cut some sumac.  I’m not sure I’m ready to tell that story…. suffice it to say that henceforth, I will only cut sumac that is in flower so I can see that large red/brown flower stalk of the safe sumac. … ‘nuff said….

The dyeing workshop was fantastic!  It was held in Bozrah, Connecticut, a town I’d never even heard of before this event.  The drive there was stunning for an early October morning.  I drove along my side of the river for a bit, crossed the historic Haddam Bridge, and the drove along the east side of the river before turning northeastward toward Bozrah.  It was a beautiful morning with mist on the river burning off as the sun rose higher, and the trees almost at their most brilliant autumn color.

Our workshop was in the garden of a lovely rambling farmhouse with numerous outbuildings.  The gardens wound their way through the property giving privacy to each garden ‘room.’  The tables for the dye pots were set up on a slate terrace near the kitchen door.  The hostess uses one of the prettiest outbuildings for her weaving studio, and we all sighed and wished we could weave in such a bucolic setting!

Our dyes of the day were marigold, jewelweed, black walnut, onion skin, goldenrod, golden marguerite, indigo, and an orchil lichen.  Quite a nice selection!  I dropped one skein of alpaca into the onion skin bath and put the other one in my goldenrod.  When they were finished I had a wonderful combination of deep pumpkin from the onion and a beautiful gold from the goldenrod.  I wanted to get a green by dipping my goldenrod skein in indigo.

My indigo did not reconstitute, even with the addition of both thiourea dioxide and more dyestock.  It got the slightest bronze bloom but never turned yellow green.  It stayed blue.  When we dipped a trial piece in it the blue rinsed out completely.  Ugh.  One of the other women happened to bring a little indigo ‘kit’ and we mixed that up in an extra dyepot.  So I did get to dip my goldenrod-dyed alpaca to make a mysterious, very interesting green.  I can’t say that it coordinates as well as I’d hoped with my pumpkin colored onion dyed skein, but I love both colors!

The true excitement of the day for me was that lichen dye pot.  The woman who brought it has this particular lichen growing on rocks on her wooded property in Connecticut.  Lucky woman!  She is very careful not to take much of it, and the little she takes has lasted her for years.  I could not believe what a deep purple we got when we put in our various skeins of yarn.

 The lichen she uses is the one pictured at left on the cover of Casselman’s book.  It can be light green in wet weather or grey in dry weather, but the underside of the lichen is always a very dark almost-black.

Perhaps the lichen dyeing seemed the most like alchemy to me.  Sharon said that the fibers dyed with lichen need to stay wet for 24 hours and then dry in natural sunlight!  Doesn’t that sound magical?  Well, I certainly wasn’t going to tempt fate, so I brought my three lichen-dyed skeins with me down to the Chesapeake so they can get their sunlight under the dodger on Pandora. It’s been quite cloudy in the Chesapeake so I hope that won’t affect my color.

So… after my day of dyeing I returned home to throw some things in a bag in order to leave for Annapolis early the next morning.  I’ve been on board for a few days now, and we are heading south to Beaufort, North Carolina.  I will get off the boat there and Bob’s crew will drive my car to me so they can get onboard and I can drive home!

Annapolis is such a pretty city!…although I am reluctantly missing the beautiful fall colors of New England.  It was the last day of the boat show as we left the harbor.

We sailed to Solomon’s Island yesterday and on to a little creek just south of the Potomac River today.  We should be in Hampton, Virginia, by the weekend in order to participate in a big cruisers’ festival over the weekend.  We are already seeing many friends from our trip south last year.  It is such a small, small world….

This is the Thomas Point lighthouse that we passed on our way to Solomon’s Island.

Bucket of Gold

Summer has ended with such glorious days!  Along my daily walk the views seem extra lovely, with dappled light coming through the canopy of tall trees, playing on the thick undergrowth of fern.  The light is getting long so it is particularly nice in the morning and late afternoon.  The goldenrod is glowing along the roadside…

And goldenrod is just what I need to donate to my guild’s annual natural dye day.  Bob came along with me to tote the large shopping bag as we both cut flowers.  I was aiming for two pounds, but before we knew it we had four!I sat on the front porch to cut the flowers into smaller bits. The smell of cut goldenrod is delightful!….green and sweet/spicy!

I never get tired of seeing the houses along this walk.  I like to imagine how I’d live in each of these houses, where I’d put my looms, how I’d make some gardens!

On the last full weekend in summer we finally had our first sail since returning home to New England.  We sailed down the Connecticut River, then spent a night at Fisher’s Island, then four days in Newport.  It’s been decades since either of us have toured any of the mansions.  We chose The Elms, which is considerably smaller than either The Breakers or Marble House but still quite impressive.  You can lunch in the carriage house.  The ambience is great, but the food not so much, so we opted to take a picnic to a nearby park.

I found a mansion that is just my size!  Unfortunately, it is not for sale… I can just imagine myself weaving on that upper floor…

We walked along the cliffwalk and along the harbor, where we were anchored.  We volunteered for few hours at the annual Newport Boat Show which gave us free admittance to all the exhibits.  Bob loved that!

Back at home, I am settling in to the first week of autumn.  My goldenrod dyebath is ready, my yarns are mordanted.  I’ve got a year old indigo vat that I’d like to reconstitute, and I’ve got fresh indigo ready to harvest.  That will be a new process for me!  I have a couple of tapestry designs swirling around my brain.  Bob is gathering firewood, and I am gathering apples.  I love the change of seasons!

Our son Rob visited over the weekend and saw his finished portrait for the first time.

Back at my looms, I am weaving a bit text and making good progress on the final painted warp.  It’s time to think about painting another warp!



Try This at Home

Well, I have managed to use synthetic dyes completely unsupervised in my own house.  It’s taken me at least 20 years to get up the nerve and confidence to do this.  I know….  there has never been a logical reason for this, but it’s been a huge hurdle for me to attempt this at home!

I sectioned off about 1/2″ of warp at both selvedges to paint a solid color with the burnt orange.  And then I sectioned off an inch to paint in a pseudo-ikat effect.  Each of these sections was wrapped in it’s own bit of cling wrap to prevent any co-mingling of colors.  Finally, I painted the main, center section.

After a curing period of about 6 hours wrapped in plastic, I uncovered the warp to let it dry.  The far end of the warp is now suspended off the table for better air circulation.