Category Archives: bobbin lace

Promises Made

It may be the dawn of a new year, but I am not writing about resolutions.  I am writing about promises. These are the promises I made during the past year.

The first was a rather casual statement I made to my husband, Bob, after finding out that it would cost over $200 each for simple throw pillows for the main salon of our new boat, about a year and a half ago.  In spite of the fact that I’m not the best seamstress, and my blood pressure goes up whenever I plug in that sewing machine, I offered to decorate our main salon with pillows that I would make myself…. because for that price I was willing to endure the possibility of  having a stroke to make our our own decorative pillows for about 1/4 the price.  Early this year I found great fabric choices at Mac’s in West Palm Beach.  It’s great town to visit, and for me, a dip into Mac’s is the pinnacle of all the wonderful things to do in West Palm!

Time flew by and suddenly–during the week between Christmas and the new year– it was time for Bob to start packing for his long voyage to the eastern Caribbean.  I have to admit that I had not given those pillows much thought in the months since I’d bought the fabric.  It was time to get sewing.

The first hurdle was making the bias cut binding for the welting that would go around the pillows.  There is an efficient way of cutting bias binding that I can never quite grasp.  I may never get this down, so thank heaven for YouTube where I can find almost anything right when I need it.

My four pillows needed 11 yards of bias binding that would then turn into cording.  I need to hear gasps here….puh-lease11 yards.  It was a LOT of sewing, and it was daunting for me.

Just pinning the 11 yards of binding around the cording took an age.  I really need some shout outs here for enduring this effort…. And, just so you know, that box of pins was full to overflowing before I started pinning the 11 yards of binding.



YouTube to the rescue again on how to make a pillow with a bias binding welted edge AND a zipper.  Yep….that was no small feat for me, the intrepid and not so dexterous seamstress. You really can learn almost anything on YouTube, thanks to the efforts of countless folks who are so willing to share their expertise.  Here is my source for inserting a zipper into a welted edge.


Happily, the pillows are now adding a touch of elegance to Pandora–two of the four.


On to my next promise….made more recently in time.  In fact, it was April, in Havana, when I had the thought that I knew plenty of bobbin lace makers, tatters, knitters, and embroiderers who would be thrilled to share their excess stash with women in Cuba who love to work with their hands, but have so few choices of materials to use.  The generosity of the women I know through various groups was quite astounding.  The most touching incident happened during one our Cuba talks which were mostly geared to sailors.  Diane was in the audience at a local yacht club for one of Bob’s talks, and she approached me to say that her sister had once owned an embroidery shop.  When it closed Diane had offered to store some of the excess embroidery threads for her sister– beautiful threads, such as Danish flower thread, hand-painted embroidery cottons and silks from Watercolors by Caron Threads, and a treasure trove of other exquisite threads for handwork.  Huge thanks, Diane, for letting these treasures go. The New England Lace Guild also contributed fine lace threads, books on bobbin lace, tatting shuttles and threads, and even a large stash of knitting needles.  The bounty just bowls me right over.

Where’s the photo?  Well, right now it’s on the camera that is traversing the north Atlantic with Bob who is on his way to the Caribbean!  What a snafu!  He took a fun photo of me siting on the floor ensconced in piles of beautiful lace and embroidery threads.  He is out of internet range for the next 10 days, so I just have suck it up that there is no photo.

Well, now Bob has landed in Tortola (1.11.17), and is enjoying soft tropical breezes under thatched pavilions, drinking fruity concoctions with little paper umbrellas in them.  And he has sent me the photo.

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Bob packaged up all this swag in vacuum seal bags that are now aboard Pandora on their way to the Caribbean, where they will then get transferred to other sailboats that are headed for Cuba in the spring.  Mail to Cuba is not yet an option since I’ve been warned that packages get opened and raided.  These packages will get delivered directly to Adriana in Havana by various sailing friends.  I know she will share them generously with other women.  All good! A promise well kept.

I am in the midst of my most recent promise, so I cannot yet tell how well I will fulfill it.  I never made this promise out loud, but in the depths of my heart I made it, which is perhaps a more binding place for promises.  My father died over 5 years ago and left my mother in the care of my sister and me.  He died with his whole family surrounding him, including four grandchildren.  My mother has not been well since long before he passed away, and she has endured the past 5 1/2 years mostly alone….not so much in actuality, but certainly in her soul.  She was not an easy person to care for, and my father’s death was in part due to the heavy burden of caring for her. She has been hurtling toward death for the past few months.  Although she and I were not close, I felt a strong desire to help her– to be whatever she might need to me to be, in order to help her make this transition. Over the past weeks I have touched her –held her hand, stroked her hair, rubbed her shoulders– more than I remember her ever touching me or my sister.  I hope it gave her solace.  I hope she felt comforted.

Her time came this afternoon.  It is so fresh I am probably rash to write of it so soon.  It’s certainly too soon to say if I’ve kept my promise.  Neither my sister or I was with her, but perhaps that is how she wanted it.  Her favorite nurse was with her, and that means a great deal to me.  In the coming days of this new year we hope to honor her memory and scatter her ashes as she would want.

Only today I realized what I might miss most about her — her whistling.  It was a brilliant feat of delicacy and finesse. It was a mystery of nature–of human dexterity.  I hope I will always be able to hear her trilling the piccolo part of “Stars and Stripes Forever” in my memory.  I hope she’ll be whistling for others wherever she is–they will love it!



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!

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Now to work!






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!

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!


Magical Havana

What else could I possibly say about a first visit to Havana, where Bob and I found everything we’d hope to find and more that we didn’t expect, other than it was magical?

Saturday morning we took a cab from Marina Hemingway to Havana Viejo. Months ago I posted information about a woman named Adriana Martinez who teaches bobbin lace and tatting and other lace making techniques in an outdoor setting called the Paseo del Prada. This is also the area where you can find well maintained American cars from the 1950s on display.

Our taxi driver dropped us near the Capitolio (currently under renovation that will make this landmark look positively new), and I struggled to find the Paseo del Prada on our map of Old Havana. I was looking at all the little green squares that signify a ‘park,’ but in fact as we wandered, we found it before I ever located it on the map. We saw a lot of art and handwork on display on the park-like median between two large boulevards that starts right at the capitol.

There were brightly colored paintings on display and several ‘workshops’ set up for children to try their hands at painting. But there were just as many women with handwork on display, mostly crochet. I was impressed to see so many women sitting on portable chairs in front of their displays, watching the crowds walk by while their hands were literally a blur, turning out crochet projects at impressive speed. The crochet work is really fine and beautiful. Cotton blouses with lace crochet insets, crocheted shawls and dresses, many dresses for little girls—all of it done in ecru cotton.

And then, before I recognized what I was seeing, there was a group of women clustered around one woman, and about half the women were working on lace pillows while the other have were tatting or crocheting. Moments later when I took my eyes from the bobbin lace work and the tatting, I recognized Adriana Martinez from the link I had found last summer about the arts of Cuba and Joan Sperans’ photo of Adriana.


Can you imagine hearing about an artist who has a display in a park in New York (or any major city in the US) and going there and finding that very artist within moments of arriving? Maybe it could happen, but I can’t tell you how shocked I am to find the very woman, the only woman, I’d heard of doing bobbin lace in all of Cuba. I am stunned!

In this photo Adriana is helping a student with their bobbin lace project (bolillo).  Under the student’s pillow is Adriana’s project: a blouse made entirely of bobbin lace!


While I talked to Adriana and a woman named Nancy who knew a bit more English, Bob took my phone and began showing photos of my own work to the other women: tapestry, knitting, bobbin lace. I gave Adriana and Nancy my card, and then all the students wanted cards as well. I was so touched that these women were interested in me, but naturally we were all interested in each other. It is thrilling to find people in a distant location doing the very thing you love to do so much! We were all quite intrigued with each other! At one point Nancy called a man over to interpret for us, and I was shocked at how many textile words he knew. I don’t know if he was related to one of the women doing lace or if he was just someone with his own artwork on display nearby. He was a young man named Hidalgo, rather macho looking, wearing a muscle shirt and smoking a cigar, and he knew all the English words for the techniques and materials the women were using.

And speaking of men, I have to mention that every time an official has come onboard Pandora, either from the Guarda Frontera of the Health Department, or even the fishermen who have rowed these officials out to inspect us, all these men have known that the pile of yarn and needles laying about our cockpit is called ‘tejer.’ Every time, no kidding, one of the men will point to my knitting and say ‘tejer.’ Presuming I might not know what they’re saying they will often put up both their hands and make a pantomime of knitting. There’s no mistaking their pantomime for crocheting or any other handwork. And I can’t help but think of all the American men who always assume I’m quilting, whether I’m sitting in front of a loom or a spinning wheel, or holding knitting needles or have a lace pillow in front of me. When I tell them the name of what I’m actually doing, the standard response is “Quilting…knitting…whatever.” How refreshing that Cuban men know the difference!

Here is a photo I meant to use weeks ago, on my first trip into Cienfuegos. Again, one of the Guarda Frontera had seen my knitting and correctly identified what I was doing. I already knew that many women in Cuba crocheted. I had made a joke to Bob that I could not imagine what women might knit or crochet in such a hot climate. And then I saw this!

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The day only got more and more magical. Bob found lots of wonderful antique cars all along the Paseo del Prada and along the road that edges the coast and the Havana harbor. I found the location of the Quitrin shop that sells traditional clothing. I asked if the school of handwork was nearby, and they told me where to find it, although it is closed on the weekends. I hope to visit on Monday.

Every aspect of the day had a touch of magic to it. Walking through the pedestrian only, cobbled streets, we came to the privately owned restaurant (called a paladar) that was written up in the Lonely Planet Guidebook as the best restaurant in all of Havana. We were wilted from the heat and not feeling appropriately attired for such a nice restaurant. But we both felt that since we’d found it would be a shame to pass up such a chance. Paladars are a recent business venture in Cuba, a chance for Cubans to own their own business. Almost all businesses are owned by the government. There are lots of rules about running a privately owned restaurant, from how many tables you can have to who can be hired for staff. Just a couple of years ago the restaurant staff had to be family members of the owner. This restaurant, Paladar los Mercaderes, had quite a large staff, and clearly were not related.

I was asking our waiter for recommendations and also explaining that we’d like to try some traditional Cuban items when man seated at the adjacent table, having dinner alone, introduced himself as the owner of the restaurant and began making recommendations of what we should try.  After we ordered, he also insisted that we try a glass of the French Medoc he was drinking, and it was delicious, of course! Yamil Alvarez Torres and his wife and one of his cousins are partners in this venture.

Yamil owns two fishing boats, one on the north coast and one on the southcoast, which supply all the fish for the restaurant. Yamil used to live in this beautiful space with his wife and daughter, and he says he did all the renovations himself to turn it into a stunning setting for his restaurant. When you arrive you walk up a staircase strewn with red and white rose petals to a beautiful dining room appointed with ornate colonial furniture. Our dinner was octopus boiled and then grilled (very tender!) served with two sauces: one was lightly sauteed onions and the other a house-made pesto. Our main course was braised lamb with green olives, onions and small red and green peppers in a bittersweet dark sauce. The flavors were wonderful together! Tangy olives and pungent peppers in a mysterious dark, bitterweet sauce. Dessert was a layered chocolate confection with a torched sugar topping (like the topping on a crème brulee) that I simply cannot describe! It was all excellent, and momentarily after arriving both of us had lost our wilted, bedraggled feeling and were thoroughly enjoying ourselves!

Perhaps the end of the evening was the most magical part of the day. Earlier we had noticed a large park being set up for a dinner. Tables and chairs draped in white cloths (what do you call those covers for chairs?) with centerpieces of red roses filled this square near the San Francisco ship terminal. There was a stage being set up and some dancers were milling about wearing angel costumes. We enjoyed the scene and then wandered on our way. At the end of the evening we found the event in full swing. It turned out to be an American tour group. While I stood in the square transfixed by a harpist playing Debussy’s First Arabesque, Bob began chatting with a couple who’d stepped away from their dining table.


On the one hand, I could not believe I was standing in a square in Old Havana, listening to a harpist play one of my favorite pieces of music, while Bob was learning about the tour group who was having such an extravagant event on the square. It was a large group of people from the AIA, the American Institute of Architects, a group that Bob’s father was closely involved with during all the years he was publisher of “Progressive Architecture.” When I joined the conversation, the man speaking to Bob was saying that he read “Progressive Architecture” for many years.

Bob has moments almost every day when he thinks of his father and wishes he could make a quick phone call to his dad, even though it’s now been over two years since his dad passed away. We were both pretty stunned to find that this extravagant event that we’d watched being set up earlier in the day and that was now in full swing, brought Bob’s father back to us so intensely. It ended our evening in Old Havana perfectly.

Finding a cab back to Marina Hemingway late at night was not quite as easy as we’d imagined. All the taxis wanted more than twice the fare we’d paid earlier in the day. In the long run we found a taxi willing to take us back for only a little more than we’d paid in the morning.

Our driver calls himself Shrek and has a well-preserved red Chevrolet convertible with an almost spotless white interior. It was a terrific ride along the coast back to the marina.


He’d never been to Marina Hemingway before so we had him deliver us right to the side of Pandora tied up along a bulkhead. I tried to get photos of the car and Pandora together—not too easy late at night! And Shrek took photos on his phone while Bob and I did the same.


It was a fun ending to a magical day!


Mean Miami

What a bizarre experience to arrive in Miami by water!  The bright, almost acid green color of the shallow water in Government Cut juxtaposed with all the high rise buildings of Miami.  It looks like a computer generated set for a sci-fi movie.  I don’t think I could ever get used to it.



 We are getting first hand experience of what we’ve been hearing about for several years: that boaters are not always welcome in Florida waters.  With year long mild weather, some boaters have become rather like vagabonds, living on derelict boats that can’t actually leave a harbor to go sailing because they have become so run down.  These boats sit at anchor in harbors for years unable to leave.  Naturally, homeowners in the various coastal towns don’t want to look out at their water views marred with old, rotting boats.

It is a dilemma because no one owns the water.  The homeowners don’t want their mega-million dollar views marred by boats that never leave, but we crusising sailors have achorage rights in any place with enough water for anchoring.  There have been some contentious moments over this situation, and we witnessed one just the other night.  At our particularly beautiful anchorage in Sunset Lake in Miami Beach, a homeowner came outside just before sunset and began yelling obscenities at a boat in the harbor.  It was hard to tell which boat he was verbally attacking!  No one was visible on the few boats anchored here in Sunset Lake except for Bob and me who were relaxing in Pandora’s cockpit!  I was very concerned that he was yelling at us, although he seemed to be looking toward a Canadian boat right next to us.  Eventually the folks onboard this Canadian boat came up from down below and it became clear that the homeowner was yelling at them.  He threatened to sink their boat numerous times, and all his threats were garnished with profanity.  It was quite uncomfortable for all of us.

Bob motored over to the Canadian boat in our dinghy to explain to them that they were not violating any rules, and that this anchorage is written up in all the guidebooks, in case the Canadians might be unclear about anchoring rights in the US.  The Canadians decided to move anyway because it had been such a distasteful experience for them.  Bob decided to call the police since the number is given in our guidebook with a warning to expect some problems with various homeowners.  The police officer who took Bob’s call said this man has caused problems in the past so he is well known to both boaters and the police.  The officer said someone would go out shortly to give the homeowner a warning.

We later heard that this same homeowner became enraged at a boat that was anchored here on Christmas Day, and that he began shooting paintballs at the boat.  Can you imagine that?  And the police were called out then too, but just gave him a warning.  I’m wondering how effective these ‘warnings’ are.

So, here in Miami there are almost no places where boaters can go ashore.  Yesterday we had to tie our dinghy to a stone wall at an empty lot under construction, and then walk along a path strewn with debris.  It made me feel quite unwanted here.  Since then we have scoped out various other options for getting ashore, and the best one looks to be a floating dock along the canal that runs next to Dade Ave.  The Publix market that is right across the street may have put in this dock, which is quite commodious.  However, when you get off the dock you find yourself on a very busy 6-lane road with no cross walk or traffic light.  Well, it’s still our best option, so that is how we’ll get ashore today.

Our lovely anchorage on Sunset Lake.

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Along North Bay Drive, where we have anchored, the houses are certainly beautiful and have stunning gardens as well. Here is one house and garden wall that we passed after getting ashore.

Just inside this gate is a courtyard where we saw a vintage Bentley parked.



 While we were in Ft. Lauderdale, we made a new friend!  (Her parents are quite nice too!) Cricket and her family are from north of Montreal and are sailing to the Bahamas on their Nonsuch 36.  It took numerous visits for Cricket to warm up to me, but I was smitten with her  on our first meeting!   Isn’t she adorable?



On her 3rd visit she curled up against me and I was so shocked that I was hesitant to touch her.  I figured she didn’t really mean to get this close to me!  Her ‘mom’ said she almost never gets that close to a stranger.  Eventually I put my hand down on her and began petting her, and she stayed curled up against me!  Friends at last!

In the past week I have done quite a bit of lace work, and enjoyed every minute of it.  These hearts are from a book of heart ornaments by Lene Bjorn, 24 Hearts in Bobbin Lace. After doing several projects that have taken me years to finish, and being thoroughly lost numerous times along the way, it feels great to just sit down to these hearts all by myself!.  I hope to have a small collection of these for next Christmas.  They will be wonderful ornaments on the tree.




They are actually little baskets.  So the diagrams are for double hearts that are folded in half to create the basket, and they even have lace handles.  I’ll be making yards and yards of handles at some point!



Well, I think I’ve beaten this subject to death!….but I couldn’t help it!  It’s thrilling to me to be doing lace without a lot of handholding!  One more…


And my tapestry will go off on its journey sometime in the next few days.  Yesterday Bob and I headed off on a 4-mile walk to the post office in Miami Beach, only to discover when we got there that it was the Presidents’ Day holiday!  Duh!  That’s the cruising life for you….we’ll try again today, or I might have to wait ’til we get to Marathon later in the week.

I did manage to do the finishing and mounting work, never my favorite chores.  But all is well at last.  I used the half-Damascus finish from Peter Collingwood’s book, and I’ve mounted the tapestry to a small mat board that had holes punched along the edge every 1/8 inch or so.



Please note that to weigh down my tapestry I am using our heaviest book onboard, Nigel Calder’s Cruising Handbook.  On any cruising boat anywhere you are likely to find a number of Nigel’s books, including this one.  He is a well known English sailor who has circumnavigated a number of times with his wife and with their children when they were younger.  I have a bit more to say about him next time!


Getting Reacquainted with Bobbin Lace

It’s a drizzly Sunday, perfectly May weather, and I have set up my bobbin lace table in an east-facing window.

In this spot in my living room I have morning sun coming in over my shoulder.  I am quite lost at the corner of my most recent handkerchief border, so I decided to revisit a pillow with an older project on it.  It is a straight lace that I used on my linen top last summer. It only has 12 bobbins and has a sewing edge,  central spider, and scallop edge.

A great way to spend a Sunday morning!  I’ve heard from Bob via sideband radio that he has been able to sail at 7 knots for the past 24 hours.  He is now off the coast of northern Florida, east of the Gulf Stream, about 150 miles north of the Abacos.  If this kind of favorable wind keeps up he’ll be arriving home in one week!


Feeding My Disappointment

I didn’t expect to be writing a post this week.  I expected to be at the IOLI lace convention in St. Paul.  But here I am, at home, sulking a bit….

I’ve had some health issues that are too boring to write about, and I ended up in the hospital on the night before my flight.  I spent the weekend recuperating, which mostly means sleeping, and I was just barely awake for a moment or so on Saturday afternoon right when my flight took off.  Why couldn’t I have slept through that?

I’m missing a class in Chrysanthemum lace which sounds so intriguing!  It is lots of little free form pieces, mostly of a tear drop or paisley shape, that are assembled together in a technique called ‘sewing’ that does not involve the kind of sewing one would do to hem a skirt or make a seam, but which I believe involves bringing up loops through the edges of the lace that are then closed to connect the separate pieces of lace together.  I know.…that wasn’t a very good description at all.  I cannot do better because I haven’t learned it yet.

Here is a little detail of the ‘sewing’ process:

From this book….

This book cover gives a good idea of the little curved paisley pieces of lace that are made and assembled into the Chrysanthemum. I imagined myself making a simpler flower that could be used to embellish a silk blouse.  The lace was to be pale pink on my imaginary bone white silk blouse….

My class was to be each morning for the week, and I envisioned myself doing lace through the afternoons, shopping in the vendors’ hall, and seeing the lace poppy exhibit.

Today after class, I was going to rent a car to drive to the Swedish American Institute to see  Helena Hernamarck’s exhibition there.  Big, big sigh….

I only just tackled unpacking my suitcase today because yesterday the thought of unpacking brought me dangerously close to tears!  And for the rest of the day I have fed my disappointment….literally….

 I made my second batch of bread based on suggestions I got from a very interesting baker.  I bought a loaf of his artisanal bread at a local farmers’ market and learned that in addition to baking he also owns a local Italian restaurant in Old Saybrook. He bakes bread based on ratios of flour/water/yeast/salt instead of any specific recipe, and he always uses a starter.  I usually use a starter too, but my bread is not nearly as good as his!  He gave me his ratios (which he learned at the San Francisco Baking Insitute), and he gave me a large bag of high gluten flour.  He suggested two starter methods:  a ‘poolish’ which you make yourself, and a ‘biga’ which is based on using leftover pizza dough.  My first batch was based on my homemade ‘poolish,’ and the bread shown here is based on his ‘biga.’  Both techniques are delicious.  I won’t bother to describe how my husband lined my large oven with ‘reflective’ tiles, nor how I hurl a big scoop of ice cubes into the oven just after I put the bread in to bake….but these are important factors!

Along with bread, I made my first batch of pesto with basil from the garden, so dinner this evening will be pesto spread on cod filets.  Tomorrow I hope to pick the first tomato from the garden!  I will make a sandwich with my bread, spread on a little pesto,  sliced tomato, and a shaving or two of parmesan…. to assuage my disappointment….

I know this is absurdly off-topic, but really, there is nothing like a day in the kitchen to brighten my spirits….

Bittersweet Season

It is the bittersweet change of season and here is the last rose from my garden, a David Austen “Heritage” (I don’t count the ever blooming shrub roses for some reason….).

I love the change of seasons.  The days are warm, and the sun on my skin feels almost like summer, ‘though by late afternoon there is a chill in the air that clearly means summer is gone…long gone.  Yesterday and today I stood for a while in a blizzard of yellow leaves swirling all around me.

Fall is festival time, and last weekend was “Lace Day” for the Metro Chapter of the Intenational Old Lacers.  There were demonstrations, vendors and classes!

This group (of mostly, but not entirely, women) proves that lace making is not a dying art.  Their knowledge is legendary:  they can tell the difference between Torchon, Milanese, Honiton from 20 yards (not to mention about a dozen other types of laces), and they have strong preferences about bobbins:  midlands, bayeaux, honiton…again, more names than I can keep track of… The vendors had some beautifully painted bobbins and other tools that were as pretty as the lace itself.

This is just a small portion of what was on display during the event, all made by members of this group.

Look at that fan.






These lace mavens do demonstrations all year long, at historic sites and local libraries.  Somehow they manage to talk to people as they work. Impressive!





Making a lace border for a  handkerchief has been my goal since my first lesson.  Now I’m there!




Reconnecting….weaving memories

This was a week when my dance card was over full, but how could I say no to so many wonderful opportunities?

My adult ed bobbin lace class has started again!  I am on the last third of the edging for some hand towels, so I guess I’d better get busy weaving the towels!  It’s wonderful to be back with these women again, who are very nurturing to me as a slow-learning beginner!

On Wednesday I rode with a friend up the Hudson River to Ghent, where she had arranged for us to have a one night farm stay at Kinderhook Farm, which is owned by old family friends and managed by two other friends.  I had no idea what a treat we were in for.  There are chickens with a delightful roosting house.  (I did not know chickens roosted up in rafters and on high perches).  There were lots of cows….I forgot to ask how many.  And there were over 200 sheep!

This is the renovated barn you stay in for the ‘farm stay.’  It has two generous bedrooms with sitting areas that look out the large barn doors at the fields of cows and sheep, and a large kitchen in the center that separates the two bedroom/sitting rooms.

When we arrived the wind was howling and we had to close the large folding barn doors and insert beams to hold them closed!



View from the farm stay barn

This is the view of the sheep grazing from the the barn where we planned to stay!







Shortly afterward Lee came to suggest that we stay in the guest room of the main house since the night temperature was expected to be in the low 30s.  We were disappointed to miss staying in this bucolic spot with its view of all the sheep grazing in the nearby fields….but in the middle of the night we were both very happy to be warm in the heated guest room!






Before going out to dinner we watched the managers and two helpers bring the sheep into the barn.  In fact, we helped herd the sheep toward the barn.  They have two guard dogs and a donkey, but no herding dogs.


Lee caught the two new babies for us to hold.  He wants them to get used to being handled, but they were definitely not used to it yet!  And the mother of the lamb I’m holding was not happy about it either!




The next day was my first Wednesday Group class in the new location right on the river in New Baltimore!  Archie and Susan have a beautiful, renovated historic house overlooking the river.  The enclosed porch which is now their studio is 40 feet long and has spectacular river views!  The Clearwater motored down river, right in front of us, in the afternoon! Susan has filled their new house with many of her antiques, there is a 2nd floor wrap around porch for sitting outside, and the grounds go right down to the river.  She will have a garden next year!

We drove home after my class on Thursday evening, and early Friday morning I headed out to Mendham for my 2-day workshop with Daryl Lancaster called “Weaving a Memory.”  It’s been a fun two days, using the Theo Moorman technique to inlay silk habotai strips that were first ink jet printed with our personal photos.  Daryl covered the Theo Moorman technique as well as photoshop manipulation of our images.  You always get more than you can conceive of in a workshop with Daryl!  I will write more on that next time!  Meanwhile, check out what she has to say