Category Archives: inspiration

Tying it all up

Time is short!  Bob and I are rapidly approaching our last week onboard Pandora– not only the last week of this sailing season, but the last week we may ever sail on her.  We are delivering her to a broker in New Bern, NC, tomorrow, and after that we’ll spend a week unloading 8 years of provisions we’ve put onboard– and we’ll do all we can to clean and polish her to a gleaming state so that someone else might want her as much as we did just a few short years ago.  We have enjoyed our time on her!

We have just spent a couple of days at Cape Lookout, a spot we have not visited before.  What a gem!  I think it is considered the most violent bit of sand and sea along the East Coast of the US, but it may also hold the record for the most violent bit of geography on the Atlantic.  Not certain about that—but I intend to look into it. Our photos tell a different story–peaceful and serene.

At anchor in the bight at Cape Lookout….

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The lighthouse at Cape Lookout at sunset.  The light flahses for one second every 15 seconds, and Bob managed to get it!–you have to have great eyesight to see that tiny point of light in this photo!


There is fabulous shelling on the beaches at Cape Lookout, both on the ocean side and in the bight.  Amazing. We collected quite a trove of great shells.


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These shore birds, which I can’t identify positively (they might be a type of tern–Caspian? Forster?) really scolded me for invading their territory.  I am always impressed at how fearless most birds are.  En masse these guys were determined to get me off their bit of beach!


 After many attempts to catch dolphins on camera–since we see them everyday–Bob caught this one! I hear that loggerheads come here to spawn, and that should happen pretty soon.


Tomorrow we head back out into the Atlantic for a few miles, then into the ICW near Beaufort.  If we time the tide right we’ll be in Oriental before the end of the day.  By Friday morning we’ll head up the Neuse River and be in New Bern by afternoon.  And then the chores begin taking down everything that has been our winter home for a few years now.  End of an era….

Spring on the Farm….circa 1750

Yesterday there was a lovely event at a local historic farm in Old Saybrook.  It was a wonderful way for me to celebrate being home and to enjoy the glories of spring!

The house at Bushnell Farm was built in 1678, and is the third oldest house in Connecticut (now I want to find the two older homes!).  Isn’t it a beauty?

It is privately owned by a couple who live in my town, and they are doing a fantastic job of maintaining this property as well as continually bringing various areas of the farm back to the conditions of its early history.

Several times a year they open the property to the public free of charge.  The spring opening celebrates the farm’s production of textiles which was such a vital part of life at that time.

One of the barns has a large loom in it dressed with linen toweling.  There are a number of flax wheels, lots of tools for spinning and weaving, along with all the other tools and equipment that would be in use on a farm of this age.  The Clarks have done a stellar job of collecting the daily items that would be in use on this farm.

For yesterday’s event the Clarks had arranged for two spinners from New Hampshire to come demonstrate at the farm.  The first demonstration was on processing flax into linen, and it was the main event for me.

Gina Gerhard does 18th century textile demonstrations throughout New England and she certainly knows a great deal about growing flax, harvesting it and processing it for spinning into beautiful line linen.  While I know the various stages of preparing flax stalks for spinning, I had never seen the entire process done live, right before me!  Gina made it look easy, but she has had a lot of experience, and she was only processing one bundle for us. I’m sure an entire harvest would be a huge undertaking.

Amazingly, she grows her own flax, starting with about 5 lbs. of flax seed.  In her area of New Hampshire an historic flax pond has been identified, and she hopes to use it in the future to rett (or rot) her flax bundles.  At the moment she uses a large outdoor tub to rett her flax, and it takes about 4 to 6 weeks.  Having a pond that can be dammed with shallow, still water with a bed of stones at the bottom gets the job done much faster, perhaps only 4 to 5 days if things are perfect.

Here is Gina holding one of her flax bundles.  First the bundles were dried and then retted and then dried again.  In her northern climate she harvests the flax in late Sept or Oct.  Since that is not a great time for beginning the retting (rotting, and it does get stinky as it rots!) process, she lets the bundles dry over the winter and begins the retting process when the weather gets warm, like now!

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The first step in preparing flax for spinning is breaking the flax stalks, which removes the outer and inner harder ‘straw’ that protects the fibers.

2014-05-24 10.38.26The next step is scutching which also removes more of the tough casings that protect the flax fibers within.  Gina is standing next to a scutching board with her wooden scutching knife.  The technique is to lay the bundle against the board and beat the bundle in a downward motion with the knife.  It is a motion of beating and scraping down the stalks.  She mentioned how often she sees these tools mislabeled in antique shops.  She said the scutching knife is often labeled a toy sword!

2014-05-24 10.43.39Then she moved on to her hackle stand, a saw horse with three hackles attached to it (with bench dogs, my first exposure to these marvelous tools.  Why has the modern world switched to C-clamps when bench dogs are so much faster to use and so much prettier too?).  The first time I saw hackles I understood our phrase “getting one’s hackles up!”   Sometimes an image is worth more than a thousand words!

This photo shows Gina’s three hackles (all up!), getting finer as she progresses through the hackling.  Aren’t her bench dogs great??  I talked to the blacksmith in one of the nearby barns about getting a set.

2014-05-24 10.47.19When Gina was done hackling, she had a beautiful linen strick to spin.  She could twist it into a bundle and continue processing other flax bundles, or she could put the the strick on her distraff and begin to spin.

The great take away lesson for me during this demonstration came now, dressing the distaff.  I have never understood how to dress the ‘birdcage distaff’ that we see all the time.  It just seems to me that after preparing this perfectly combed strick of linen putting it around the birdcage just gets too many of the fibers out of alignment.  Then spinning only messes up the aligment further.  Well, clearly I don’t understand it because it is the traditional way of preparing  flax to spin.  Luckily there are other traditions, and Gina uses a straight distaff on which she ties her strick so that it stays in a straight bundle.

Here are the two distaffs:  birdcage on the left, straight on the right

Here you can see how she has tied her strick to her simple distaff and is preparing to spin by pulling out just a few fibers.

2014-05-24 10.58.06Gina describes her flax as good quality (and that is easy to see!), but not as fine as the linen grown in Belgium or northern France.  She says farmers there have mastered what is necessary for producing the finest flax fibers, which includes sighting the flax field in a very sheltered place, safe from wind.  Flax plants have very shallow roots and the plants can get knocked down by wind or driving rains.  Once they are down they cannot be staked up again.  In general, in northern Europe, summer weather is mild and rains are not violent in the way that our summer thunderstorms in New England can be!

Gina spins a yarn that would make a wonderful heavy weight smooth linen fabric.  You can see just how few fibers she draws in to her yarn.

2014-05-24 11.00.40Along with her demonstration she had a lovely display of linen items.  It was such a treat to see her working, to see her display and to get to know her.  I hope our paths cross again!

Linen socks!  I’m not sure I believe these are handknit!

2014-05-24 11.13.53And a close up of each of these beauties!  First, feather and fan (okay, close up I can believe this was handknit):

2014-05-24 11.14.00…but not this one! Boy, I would love to try these on!

2014-05-24 11.14.07She had a plenty of linen fabrics to see and touch to show the difference in fineness and color.  In the stack of three fabrics at the top of this photo, you can see a set of very fine, bleached linen handkerchiefs, followed by quite a coarse fabric woven of  linen singles (perhaps tow linen), and last a heavy weight fabric of line linen which I believe is very similar to what Gina was spinning for us during her demonstration.

2014-05-24 11.14.44At the very bottom of this photo you can just see a bit of embroidery and the folded part of the fabric behind the embroidered edge.  This fabric was wonderfully soft to the touch;  it is a length of antique linsey woolsey.  Wow!

So, that was the highlight of my visit!  And of my Memorial Day weekend.  I just want to get back to my linen spinning project!  Gina has given me some great ideas on how to improve, and I’d like to get to it!

Meanwhile, other things were going on on the farm.  Wool preparation and spinning, horsedrawn wagon rides, sheep shearing.  Most of the out buildings on the propery were open.  One of them has been set up as a general store, which is not original to the farm, but makes an intriguing display of 18th century items that the owners have collected.

Some of my fellow guild members were on hand demonstrating and showing their wares.  It was great to catch up with them and watch them talk to onlookers.  There was a great turn out for this event.

The sheep shearing was almost as thrilling as the flax demonstration.   Certainly it was very thrilling for the sheep….they did their best to avoid it. The shearer was a woman, of very slight build, and rather young it seemed to me.  She handled herself with such confidence, the sheep never gave her a moment’s trouble once she corralled each one.  She sheared all the sheep, but I only documented the first one.  She never made a knick on the sheep, and the two year old ewe was perfectly calm.  Who wouldn’t love a face like this?

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And so the shearing begins…. 2014-05-24 12.28.45

Moments into the shearing I realized I was watching a master, so I had to tape it!


Now it’s Sunday morning and I am full of ideas and inspiration from my day on the farm…. although I want to spin some flax, I am partway through making that colorful warp for yardage for the napkin and lunchbag fabric that is due at next month’s guild meeting.  I’d better stick  to that today!

It’s nice to have enthusiasm for so many fun textile projects!  See you later, hopefully with photos of my finished warp!

So Much Water over the Bridge!

Weeks have passed since my last post….a combination of rough weather and lots of sailing has prevented me from keeping up here.  I cannot use my computer when I am seasick, and I’ve been seasick a lot!

But that is not to say that I haven’t had some wonderful times during the past couple of weeks.  We have had some great times on shore!

Today we are back in Staniel Cay in order to meet our son Rob and his girlfriend Kandice when they fly here tomorrow afternoon.  The weather is finally settled and promises to be springlike for the next few days! …Although at this very moment the dark skies to the southwest are rapidly approaching, and I think we will get quite a violent squall any minute now! During squalls like these we have sometimes seen water spouts….I hope we won’t experience one!

We have lots of plans for things to do with Rob and Kandice, starting with seeing the pigs on Big Major’s Spot and snorkeling in the local grotto, named after the old James Bond movie “Thunderball” where the filming took place. We have not seen Rob and Kandice since early January, so we are really excited for their arrival!

Yesterday we sailed about 50 miles from Rock Sound, Eleuthera, to Pipe Cay in the Exumas.  (Perhaps I should mention that just a week earlier I also endured a 70 mile ocean run from Thompson Bay, Long Island, to Rock Sound Eleuthera….go me!) While we were getting under way, Bob heard on the Cruiseheimers net (on sideband radio) that someone caught a big tuna, so he could not resist the temptation to try catching something himself.  He put out a line and within an hour or so he had a mahi mahi giving him a good fight.  As he got it closer to the boat we could see it was a whopper!




That fish yielded us over 8 lbs of filets! We had our friends Maureen and Bill (from Kalunamoo) over for dinner last night, and we have at least four more meals waiting in the freezer.  We will definitely have it for dinner one night while Rob and Kandice are here.

And what a wonderful time we had on Eleuthera!  This was our first visit there.  Easter weekend was lovely in Rock Sound.  We decided to visit the Methodist Church for Easter service, while Bill and Maureen went to the Catholic church….there were numerous other choices as well.  As luck would have it, just before the service started Nancy and George from Trumpeter (Nancy taught me to make Bahamian coiled baskets last winter) came and sat next to us.  They have attended this church every Easter for several years.  The service was very festive, with lots of music, a liturgical dancer and plenty of enthusiasm in the congregation.  We estimated that there were over 100 people in the congregation, about 40% white and 60% black.  This Methodist Church is one of the oldest churches on the island, and has already celebrated its bicentennial.  The sanctuary is deceptively modern, with an elaborate sound system and a power point projector.  It was a hoot!


On Easter afternoon we met Bill and Maureen at the local blue hole, right in the center of the town park in Rock Sound, for our Easter dinner picnic.  Maureen had baked some of their own frozen mahi mahi for us, along with freshly baked beer bread!  This blue hole is quite impressive since it is only a few feet shallower than Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island, which is the deepest blue hole in the world.  And Rock Sound’s blue hole sits in the middle of a lovely park where we could have our picnic right at the edge of the water, in the shade of a big tree.  It was a perfect afternoon!


We also rented a car for two days and toured the rest of Eleuthera with Maureen and Bill.  We visited the Glass Window on a mild day and were very impressed with the force of the ocean even in calm conditions. Our photo does not show how much force the calm waters have when they hit the tiny isthmus here.  It was dramatic! I can only imagine what that surging bit of the Atlantic must have looked like the day it moved the bridge about 12 feet.  Yikes!


We drove north to a spot called Preacher’s Cave, a place where some English settlers found refuge after their ship was wrecked on the Devil’s Backbone (back in the late 1600s) at the northeastern side of Eleuthera near what is now Harbour Island.  The cave is impressively big, so it’s easy to understand that it provided a wonderful refuge for those weary and distraught settlers.


Along the way on our 90-mile drive north we also stopped at the Queen’s Baths, another spot where the mighty Atlantic surges against the coast into a cave creating lots of foam and bubbles. Can you see Maureen and me picking our way across the far side of the Queen’s Baths?


Walking along these craggy shores is a lot harder than it looks in this photo.  Here’s a close up to give an idea of how rough going it is!  The rocks are some kind of very sharp limestone….lots of small (and sometimes large!) craters have formed in these rocks so getting a flat purchase for walking is virtually impossible!


The shopping and restaurant options on Eleuthera were quite a bit more civilized than we’ve experienced in the Exumas!  We had a lovely lunch two days in a row.  The first day we visited Rainbow Inn and sat on their upper deck overlooking Exuma Sound, and the second day we stopped at Tippi’s and sat in an open air dining room that overlooked the pink sand beach and the Atlantic.


And here is a shot of the pink sand beach at Tippi’s.


Eleuthera was so much more civilized than the Exumas that they even have a ‘camauflaged” cell tower.  All through the islands we recognize the distinctive red and white towers of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (Batelco) and anchor nearby these towers whenever we can so that we can have cellular internet, such as now!  But Eleuthera has a cell tower camauflaged as palm tree!


So now I am in the final stages of my winter away.  I’m not certain now much more work I’ll get done on my various projects.  Perhaps my tapestry will not be finished when I leave….sigh…  but I do have two pairs of socks finished (one of them being those fun ‘skewed’ socks!), a fair isle sweater knitted up to the armholes waiting for inspiration on how to proceed for the upper body shaping, several small table embroideries from decades back now finished!….and the last project:  Boo Knits “Sweet Dreams” shawl that I just started yesterday.  Shawl knitting is quite addictive… I often find that I knit the whole thing in one go.  I’m into the final lace area already, so I guess I would say this project is hard to put down. I’m using Verdant Gryphon “Mithral” in the colorway “Bathsheba,” which has lovely woodland shades of bronze/evergreen/burgundy that reminds me of fairies!  Queen Mab would love this shawl!

We’ll spend the next 10 days with our kids traveling north through the Exumas.  We hope to take the kids to Compass Cay to swim with the sharks and see the beautiful beach there, then to Warderick Wells for more swimming and snorkeling in the Exuma Land and Sea Park.  Bob has stumbled into a wonderful connection with the manager of Over Yonder Cay, where we may get a private tour ….if it works out I will definitely give details!

By the end of the first weekend in May we must be back in Nassau for the kids and I  to meet our flight back to the US.  I will stop in Baltimore with Rob and Kandice for a visit at their house and some time with my favorite dog, Bosun!  Bob’s crew will arrive the day I fly out with the kids, so he will begin his journey back to the US the slow way.

I am so excited to be headed home for a beautiful spring on the Connecticut River!  I hope some of my bulbs will still be blooming, and I hope I have some Danish flag poppies in bloom from the seeds I planted last fall!  On my first day home (if I can get one of the cars started!) I will be heading out to my local weaving guild meeting!  Lots to look forward to!

30 Words for Wind

….and some artistic views of it… let’s start with Winslow Homer.

He captures just how I feel at anchor today.  Luckily no sharks circling the boat just now, but otherwise these are pretty much the conditions here today.

We are stuck in another cold front with strong westerly winds, a direction that makes it hard to find good protection in this part of the world.  We are in Elizabeth Harbor on Great Exuma, but since it is a huge bay there is far too much room for wind and waves to build.  We are yanking so hard on our anchor that it’s hard to imagine either the anchor or the bow of the boat surviving this without damage.

I have made references to words for wind almost every time I have talked about sailing.  As I’ve said many times, ‘zephyr’ is my favorite wind word, and I’d really rather not sail in anything but a zephyr.  We haven’t seen a single one this winter.

One of the first things I learned about words when I began studying them, is that if there is not a word for something, like oak tree, in a language, that’s a sure sign that no oak trees grow where that language is spoken.  Duh!  And of course the opposite is true!  If there are 30 words for wind in a language, you can bet they have a lot of wind.  Like the Inuit and words for snow.

I have no idea which language has the most words of wind.  I remember hearing that ancient Greek has 30 words for it… maybe that was just a catchy phrase in Greek courses in the 70…but it has stayed with me for four decades.

I am utterly tired of the wind this winter.  It’s been spring for three weeks now, but we are still having these winter cold fronts down here with strong winds.  Bob just heard from his weather router this morning that there are at least two more weeks of this clocking wind headed our way.

Here is Sarah Swett’s marvelous “The Hut on the Rock, the Sea.”…. look at those calm waters!…..look at that lovely coracle!…’s hard for me to imagine a more idyllic time on the water than this.  I haven’t experienced a moment like this in so long I cannot remember.

sarah swett hut on the rock

And here is Barbara Heller’s “All the Diamonds.”  She’s done a beautiful job rendering the brilliant points of light on water …..again not something I’ve seen in a while since it’s always blowing a gale here.

Barbara Heller AllTheDiamondslg2

Best of all, this tapestry by Sarah Swett depicts my idea of a perfect day:  my feet firmly planted on dear Mother Earth, admiring the lovely water view….while knitting! What could be better?

sarah swett red nuns

It’s inspiring to see what a couple of wonderful artists can do translating lovely moments on the water.  I  just have to cling to the belief that there might times like this ahead for me.


Creative Outlets

Sometimes while we are hiding out from storms the waters are actually calm enough for me to work.  It hasn’t been often!  On good days, we tend to set off sight seeing and shell collecting, but on others I manage to get a bit of work done!


I started my tapestry idea (a shelf of spools) a few weeks ago by doing some sampling, and learned a lot by the time I unwove the whole thing.  I’d done about eight spools at that point and had worked out that I wanted the circles to be all different sizes and different shapes, and the little cardboard tubes and empty space inside the tubes to be fairly (but not perfectly!) consistent.

This is the first tapestry I am making without a cartoon!  …. it is very freeing! Archie Brennan is always talking about the ‘open journey,’  by which he means not making too many decisions ahead time, letting the work at hand determine what should come next, and this is my first attempt at that.  I’m doing the same with color choice, choosing colors based on what has just been done.  Naturally, I wish I had a lot more choices onboard with me, but so far I have not been disappointed to make do with what I have.

I am facing my blank warp and creating as I go.  I do ink on a freehand circle or two before I weave, and each circle I draw is based on the circles that have come before them, and each color choice for the circles is based on the colors I’ve already used as well as the loose ‘plan’ of where I hope to go.  This is really a fun journey…..I would call it a tapestry vacation!  A little side trip along an untraveled road (for me) with lots of beautiful scenery!  A playland!



My other big project onboard is a sweater that was posted on Pinterest with a link to Ravelry.

knitting kauni rainbow on ravelry

When you click on the floral sweater photo on Pinterest you get directed to this sweater on Ravelry.

Kauni rainbow squares

The floral sweater is far more appealing to me than the little squares version!  Finding the origin of this sweater was a bit challenging, but when I get focused on something I can be a bit maniacal.

The little squares pattern is by Ruth Sorenson, and her directions call for 480 grams of Kauni Effekt “Rainbow” (EQ).  I had planned to use traditional Shetland Fair Isle construction for a loose fitting jacket with front opening, and I decided to increase the amount of yarn to 600 grams. With a little searching for the thistle pattern I found this designer, who used the thistle pattern for a shawl she calls “Mrs. Barrista,”  which was available for purchase in English.  Bingo! (I don’t know if she is also the designer of the sweater, but it’s not on her blog.)

After doing a gauge swatch and determining that I’d use 10 repeats of the thistle pattern for the body, I cast on for corrugated rib and steeked the front opening, and have just been zipping along up to the armholes.  Now I am at the armhole openings and thought I’d better make a plan.


While traditional Fair Isle construction makes for such easy knitting, it is not the most flattering look on me.  I look better in sweaters that have a bit of armhole shaping, and even more importantly I need sloped shoulders.  These two issues that are quite important to me will necessitate some fiddly knitting.  Here is my sketch.

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I will bind off an inch or so of stitches at the beginning of the armscye and start the steeks.  When I start the sleeves I will pick stitches along the armhole opening, and I will work back and forth (HORRORS!) until I fill in that 1” of bound off stitches, and then I can resume knitting in the round down to the sleeve cuff.  It will only be fiddly for about a dozen rows or so…maybe less…

The other fiddly bit will be making my shoulder line sloped.  I have not yet settled on a definite plan for that, but I think that may also require working back and forth for the last several rows at the top of the body.  It shouldn’t be that bad!  I’m forging ahead with the sweater since I don’t need to worry about the shoulders for a while.  Maybe something else will occur to me by the time I get to there!  I am thinking of making a short row plan…

If there are any knitters out there reading this, please weigh in on what you’d do if you were making this sweater!  I could use some input!


I wonder how many of us use cooking as a creative outlet, especially when we can’t do what we really want to do!  I enjoy the challenge of cooking down here, where getting food is a hit or miss scavenger hunt.  Thursday, I happened to hit the pink store in Staniel Cay as they were bringing in fresh produce from the mail boat.  I got both fresh mushrooms  and a head of cabbage on the same day!  (Only someone traveling down here can appreciate the rarity of fresh mushrooms in the Bahamas!)

Cabbage, which I hardly ever eat at home, is quite a staple down here, and it always brings back great memories of cooking in college with my brand new edition of the Moosewood Cookbook.  It had a catchy name I no longer remember, but I do remember that the Russian cabbage pie was one of my favorite meals from that book.  Thank you, Molly Katzen! I’m sure I could have googled the recipe if only I had internet.  Since that was not an option, I had to do the best I could on memory alone.

I remembered the pastry crust had cream cheese as well as butter.  So I made a crust with 4 TB butter and 4 oz. of cream cheese.  I made 4 hard cooked eggs, sautéed the mushrooms and set them aside to sautee the cabbage that had been salted and left to wilt for about 20 minutes.  I seasoned everything liberally with dill and a little salt and pepper.  I layered all this in my pie shell, along with the other 4oz of cream cheese left in the brick.

Since I do not have a pie dish onboard I made this dish in my 9” springform pan.  It has come in very handily as a substitute for many other pans.  I’m glad to have it with me!


Dinner was delicious!  Who knows how far from the original I have strayed, but we enjoyed it just the same!  It does take a bit of doing to make something like this on a boat in a galley that is smaller than a NY City apartment kitchen.  If not for the space it takes to pre-cook all the separate parts of this dish, I would definitely say this would become a staple meal on Pandora.  It may become a staple in spite of the space challenge!

The Wednesday Group

A perfect first week of October…. it started with the beautiful drive to Archie Brennan and Susan Martin Maffei’s studio along the Hudson River.  The drive takes me north into Massachusetts and then west through the Berkshires.  And although it was barely October the color was already reaching peak along parts of this drive! This month the Wednesday Group was quite large, 10 of us in all.  That can be a challenging number to fit into Archie and Susan’s studio, large as it is!  They have a generous enclosed porch that overlooks the Hudson, probably 40′ long with a wall of windows along that whole length.   The views are amazing and distracting! Large ships bearing gravel power by throughout the day and night, and there is pleasure boat traffic as well.

A couple of us are very lucky to stay right nearby at the house of a friend. Doing this means we get to have home cooked meals at night  and can bring homemade lunches to class.  We eat like royalty and enjoy evenings sitting out on the terrace watching life on the river amongst the herb garden and fruit trees.  This week the weather was warm and one evening, while having wine and cheese on the terrace we were entertained (and I was amazed!) by the loon-like call of a screech owl…..over and over…  it was idyllic!


 In spite of our numbers in class, we all seem to have gotten some good work done this month.  It’s great to be together, and a larger group ensures that there is plenty of inspiration and good vibes flowing.  I came home ready to get down to work!

….but WHAT work?  I am working on a sample for some lengthy text, an excerpt from the Robert Frost poem, “Mowing.”  This poem ends with:                    The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows. 

  And I’m thinking about a photographic image that Christopher took from the passenger seat of our new car while facing backwards.  The photo was taken at dusk with with the fading light in the distance while cars are zooming along into the night, away from the light.  The image has a lot of motion and light and dark in it….it intrigues me.

The Height of Summer

…and what a summer it has been!  The heat of July is long forgotten, along with that stifling dorm room at NEWS.  In addition to the best summer weather any New Englander could possibly hope for, I spent two days at my monthly tapestry class with Archie and Susan, and I spent almost five days with two other members of the Wednesday Group.

We looked at and critiqued each other’s works, and I got tremendous input and inspiration from these friends.  We ate well and enjoyed amazing views of the Hudson from our host’s house.  Tugs and barges floated by, going both north and south, day and night, breaking the bucolic spell of this rural area with such a contradiction of noise and spectacle!

We spent an entire day driving to and from Auburn, to see the exhibit Innovators and Legends: Generations in Textile and Fiber at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center.

This exhibit is traveling around from Michigan to Auburn, New York, then to University of Kansas in Lexington, and finally to Fort Collins, Colorado.  It was curated by Geary Jones, with works from well known artists and newcomers…75 works that span several decades of fiber arts and offered a trip down retro lane as well as powerful new ideas.  We all loved it!

The one piece that has intrigued me since leaving the exhibit is Piper Shepard’s “Dome.”  Although we could not take photos of anything in the exhibit, and I was not impressed with the photos in the catalog (which was sold out anyway and had to be ordered from Muskegan Museum), I have enjoyed reading about Ms. Shepard’s work online.  Her piece titled “Dome” was made from a large sheet of muslin fabric that had been treated with gesso and graphite to have a very dark surface.  She then cut out tiny shapes in the manner of cut paper, like Scherenschnitte.  She displays these works as if they are made of heavy metal, hanging from sturdy steel brakets that hold them out from the wall.  Light creates marvelous shadows, and any breath of air gets the large work to undulate, giving the viewer the realization that this is a very light and fragile material.  It’s a beautiful blend of bold, fragile, delicate and large all at once!

My drive home took me through wonderful parts of New York state and Connecticut.  After dropping off one friend at the Hudson train station…

…my GPS directed me home entirely on back roads!  I usually get to this area of New York by taking Rte 90 through the Berkshires, which is quite scenic, but this route of Rte. 23 from Hudson to Sheffield, then Rte 7 down into Canaan, Connecticut,  and Rte. 44 through western Connecticut just can’t be equalled!

In Avon, I stopped at a local bead store and got some crystals to add to the hem of one of my recently finished silk scarves. The bead store is on the right of this lovely building.

Back in the studio, I am on the home stretch on my sunset tapestry!




Putting Inspiration to Use

Today I am working on the warping assignment for my upcoming class at NEWS (New England Weavers’ Seminar).  The class is called “Freedom of Expression,” and it will be taught by Sarah Saulson from Syracuse, NY.

Here is the class description from the NEWS catalogue:
In this dyeing and weaving workshop, we will have lots of spontaneous fun painting warps with fiber reactive dyes, after the loom is warped. This wonderful technique allows weavers to work with color and pattern in a loose, free, expressive way, creating large-scale abstract forms and opens the door to a variety of surface pattern techniques, including stamping and stenciling. We will paint enough warp to explore the possibilities of the technique, and for a scarf. We will learn how to mix our own colors working from primary colors/hues.”

The class materials include bringing an image to serve as the cartoon, or at least as the inspiration, for our warp painting.  I am having trouble narrowing down my images to one or two.

I have been taking lots of photos of my garden recently, but I would NEVER think roses should be my design inspiration.  All that pink and green would surely set my teeth on edge….far too cloyingly sweet for a  handwoven fabric! Then I happened to see this fabric on Cally Booker’s blog.  Just goes to show that I should never say ‘never.’

Here are some of the images that I may try to explore in dyeing a warp.

A Kasuri dyed panel that I’ve had for years

A large painted plate

Several wood block prints, including the nasturtiums I’ve been playing around with for a tapestry design

It might be quite nice to have bright blue and dull blue/green mixed with saturated oranges and golds.  But what would I use for weft??

The purples, greens and golds in this image really appeal to me.

Clearly, I’m intrigued with the possibility of combining blues with a range of orange/golds.

My warp is a natural colored silk from my stash.  It is has a beautiful sheen and a slight slub, and it is somewhat finer that 20/2 silk.  I am hoping that 30 epi will be a good sett for it.  If not, well….. I may have an unfortunate experience. There is not time to sample!….and I realize that is a BIG risk.

I was not able to get good lighting in my studio when I took this photo.  The silk is not this golden.

I am taking a break at the half way point in making the warp.  Now I can get back to it.

Summer Solstice

When inspiration strikes it bombards us in many forms and from any direction. …

The past couple of weeks have been full of inspiration for me, starting with the beautiful full moon on the summer solstice, which rose just shortly after dark.  It may not have been quite as amazing as this moonrise, but almost.


The heat is on now and my garden is flourishing. My roses are at their peak…the subtly changing colors as the light shifts through the day keeps delighting me and distracting me from weaving! There are green tomatoes and plenty of nasturtiums to stuff with cream cheese and herbs or to garnish salads.  These are the salad days.

I was on hold this morning with customer service for a publication and the ‘muzak’ was classical piano.  I think I was listening to Brahms….a piece that is so famous, if only I could remember what it is.  It is haunting me with its beautiful melody, and I don’t know how to identify it…

Also this morning a friend of mine shared some links to the works of contemporary mosaicists. Wow!  For years I’ve had my mind on a couple of mosaics from classical Rome with some ideas brewing for interpreting them into tapestry.  These newer works are off the charts!  If mosaics inspire you, take a look at Mia Tavonatti.  Her work gets my pulse racing…

So today I have been working on my last pear hoping I can finish and move on to more exciting projects.

In Full Swing

Everything seems in full swing now…. I am making progress on projects I missed all fall and winter, and at last (!!) I’ve connected with the interest groups in my new area: weavers, knitters, dyers, and lace makers!  It’s all very exciting and inspiring to me.

Earlier this week I met my oldest friend at the Lyme Art Association while she was dropping of her sculpture “Daughter” that will be on display as part of the upcoming exhibit by the Hudson Valley Art Association. Right nearby was a bronze bust of Robert Frost done by Jose Bascaglia. Exciting works! My friend also has a piece in the National Sculpture Society’s exhibit that is traveling this summer (Lea Ann’s piece is “Virga,” the first image on the page).

It was a soft green drizzly day , and LeaAnn and I decided to walk through the grounds of the Florence Griswold Museum where the gardens were in soft focus.

On my daily walks I pass a certain fence that is about 100 feet long and bedecked in this lovely candy striped rose.

Later in the summer this same fence will serve as support for about a million sunflowers.  The sunflower seedlings are already up!  And to add to the ambience there is a huge lawn just beyond this fence border that is home to a beautiful yellow barn and two Weimaraners who are often out frolicking on the lawn.  There is always something beautiful to see at this spot along my walk!

And in my own garden this summer I have a passion flower vine growing in a pot.  The first flower opened this morning!

Surrounded by so many flowers, it’s no wonder I’m thinking about them for my next tapestry.  I am halfway through the final pear in my ‘Trail of Pears,’ so I’ve been designing the next tapestry.  I’m intrigued by a still life based on a woodcut of nasturtiums in a bowl.

I am enjoying taking this pot of nasturtiums and putting it into an environment….perhaps with a window behind and some curtains, the edge of a table…. we’ll see.