Category Archives: spinning

Weights and Measures Onboard

Here is my working space onboard. In yacht parlance it’s called the main saloon (I have always pronounced that ‘salon’), and it is the main living space down below on Pandora. It is connected to a small galley, and there is an aft cabin toward the stern, and a ‘main stateroom’ forward of this room. That’s a glamorous phrase for where we sleep. It doesn’t seem ‘stately’ at all.! I am very good at making a huge mess of our limited living space. We had a couple of days of calm conditions in Deshaies, and I took good advantage of it to finish the first part of this tapestry that I started in May of 2020–more than 2 1/2 years ago. My heart has not been in it, perhaps because of some bad memories of that year. The odd thing is, when I sit down and work on it, I enjoy it. Go figure.

Now I am ready to slide the woven section partially around to the back of the loom in order to keep weaving. I hope to do that today, when I finish this post. The conditions in Les Saintes are not nearly as calm as they were in Deshaies, and that is why I have not gotten back to work on this piece. I’ve been lucky to knit, which was only once. Otherwise, I’m just trying to keep my balance onboard!

Weights and measures have factored rather significantly over the past few weeks. First I attempted to weight the merino/silk top I was spinning because I wanted to have an equal amount of singles spun on each bobbin in order to have equal amounts to ply together into finished yarn. Have you ever tried to weight something on a boat? The gentle, and not so gentle, up and down movements on a boat raises havoc with a scale. On the scale the read out for my merino/silk to cycled up and down by about 10 grams. I usually just try to pick the number in the middle. When baking a cake it’s far more important to get it right! Here was my guess for baking a quiche. It was not perfect, but we certainly thought it was good.

I also wanted to measure the length of that newly spun and plied yarn. Luckily Bob found PVC pipe at a hardware store just outside Falmouth, Antigua, and he made one that has a central arm of 18″. The yarn winds four times around that central core, for a total of 2 yards per single go ’round. I was able to measure that my merino/silk skein is 840 yards, plus or minus probably 10%. I can’t measure this accurately until I get home. Winding on a niddy noddy, or anything else, depends on the tension you use to wind. Too tight, and you’ve got quite a bit less yardage than you think. It’s hard to wind too loosely because of the nature of this repeated action. In general, we all tend to get tighter and tighter even when we are trying to avoid that. I took my time and tried to ‘stay loose.’ We’ll see.

This niddy noddy absolutely will not come apart, even though it is not glued. I wonder if that is due to the heat and humidity of the tropics. I padded one of the arms with a folded napkin, hoping that would give me some ‘wiggle room’ to get the yarn off when I finished winding. It worked.

We’ve been in Les Saintes for three days. The conditions here are rough, but the place is scenic. You can’t have everything. Below is a chart that our good friend aboard Kalunamoo created to measure of how UNcomfortable the ‘harbors’ down here can be. Most places are not harbors at all, simply coves or bays in which you can throw down your anchor, but there is no protection from the sea conditions. In Antigua, we were in real harbors, both in Falmouth and English Harbour. That’s a great way to start a winter of sailing, and really quite a come down for the rest of the trip. Deshaies, Guadeloupe is between a 3 and a 4 on Bill’s chart. In Les Saintes, we rarely get a mooring ball right near the village on our arrival, so we have to spend at least one night anchored between the islands of this archipelago. The roll conditions are consistently between stage 5 and stage 7. It’s awful. One night while I was sleeping a book jumped right off the shelf above me and clobbered me in the head! It was a rude awakening. The next morning I discovered that my glasses came down with the book, and I had fairly mangled them by tossing and turning all night on top of them. Bill Woodroffe writes a great blog about the lifestyle of living on a boat here.

Luckily we only spent one night on anchor, and early the next morning we were ready to head closer to shore in the village (Haute de Terre) to grab a mooring from anyone who was heading out. We were on a mooring by 7am.

One thing I measure while we are traveling aboard each winter is the home ports of all the boats that are anchored or moored nearby us. Antigua had a predominance of Union Jacks, in all the varieties that signify the colonies and protectorates of the UK. There were some number of French flagged boats, as well as Canadian, and Norwegian/Swedish/Danish, with only a few Dutch flagged boats. I saw a few Swiss and German boats in the mix. The past decade of sailing in the Caribbean has honed my flag recognition abilities. In the French islands, the French flags outnumber the British, as do the Scandinavian boats. I’m used to looking up the variations of the Union Jack when I’m curious about exactly where some of these boats call home. Yesterday I saw a variation on the Norwegian flag that caught my eye. It is currently the most beautiful flag I have seen!

I know it’s hard to see the detail on the flag. It was waving in a fairly strong breeze, as I attempted to catch it mostly open. It’s a Norwegian flag with a triple swallow tail, something I’ve never seen before. Usually swallow tail flags are associated with yacht clubs. This flag is the ensign of the Royal Norwegian Yacht Club. It’s a beauty, even though the boat is not.

The beautiful center crown and IVI design was Haakon II’s royal emblem, which he granted for use to yacht club members starting in 1906. This image shows a standard flag. The triple swallow tail has the two red points and center blue point with a narrow white outline. This image is from wikipedia.

Identifying the flags of countries in all the places we visit keeps me entertained. In these islands not many natives speak English, so using my almost non-existent French keeps me on my toes, and is something I am attempting to improve–therefore, another form of measurement. Food words are somewhat easier than everything else, since I have a moderate familiarity (and love) for French food! Everything outside of food is quite a challenge for me!

Bob measures more things than I do. He’s constantly tracking how much electricity we have made with our solar panels and wind generator, and when we are motoring, how much power the engine made. He weighs that constantly against our usage. We now have a star link gadget for the internet and that is big energy guzzler. We need to make hot water for showers, we need to make that water (!), and we need lights at night and energy to run our gas stove to cook. It all adds up, and Bob spends a lot time measuring the input and output of energy. He says he enjoys living off the grid. I say give me a light switch and instant access to heat and electricity. It’s quite a process to start cooking on Pandora, not to mention taking a shower or any of the many things we want to do daily. I am not an ‘off the grid’ kind of girl.

Here are some scenes from Haute de Terre, in Les Saintes. This was the view from our table at breakfast this morning.

Pandora is out in the distance. She’s light grey and just forward of the bow of the boat in the foreground

How about a close up?

Pandora has a light grey hull, in the distance, just forward of the bow of the boat in the foreground.

This is an idyllic place, and it would be perfect without the wind and the rolling conditions. Photographs are also a measurement of sorts. We take the ones we love, and sometimes we share them. Au revoir for now.

A new venue

As happens every year in January, I have changed venue from my messy studio in Connecticut to a tiny living space and studio aboard our boat Pandora, in the Caribbean. It’s now mid-January, and I have been in Antigua in the West Indies for two weeks.

We arrived by plane on January 30, with one day to move into the historic English Harbour for the annual New Year’s Eve’s fireworks, after first having a memorable French dinner at La Brasserie. English Harbour is where Lord Nelson protected this island’s sugar cane plantations before he was Lord Nelson. He made a name for himself here which catapulted his career. Over the past 60 years Nelson’s Dockyard has been carefully restored and is now a UNESCO site. It’s a dramatic place, and also quite lovely. There is a strong sense of the 18th century here, amidst some modern conveniences, like running water and electricity for the boats on the dock!

Dinner at La Brasserie and the fireworks afterward never disappoint!

But my real story here is how I plan to continue to work while I am living aboard. I often get lonely over the winter because I miss ‘my people,’ those I meet with at groups throughout the year. They are the spinners, weavers, lace makers, and others who work with their hands who inspire me and learn with me. Down here people do plenty of work with their hands. Just keeping their boats running is a huge job, and often there are women who do handwork as well, which includes knitting, crocheting, quilting, embroidery, and other kinds of handwork, and even more pressing work like sail repair and canvas work on their boats. Sadly, in the 11 years we’ve been doing blue water sailing, I have yet to meet another weaver.

This year a friend of mine who is down here for the first time aboard her own boat, with her husband, has started a needlework group that meets twice a week. Now, why didn’t I think of that? Every Tuesday and Thursday we meet for at least two hours. The group changes week by week as some sailors move on to different harbors on different islands, and some new comers join us. It’s been fascinating. We actually have a member who lives here in a house, although she’s also quite an accomplished sailor. I definitely look forward to this creative time with new friends each week. Thank you, Ellen, for making this happen!

The restaurant of the Antigua Yacht Club allows us to use their space to meet. How generous! Our surroundings are amazing so sometimes we just have put down our projects and admire the views.

I have been bringing my tiny Nano 2 e-spinner to some of the meetings. This is my first spinning project on this little gem, and I was concerned about stressing it by filling the bobbin too full or spinning too fast. It can handle anything I’ve done so far, and I think it’s perfect for spinning in small spaces.

The second bobbin is almost full, so Bob will soon be ’inventing’ a lazy Kate for me to hold the bobbins while I ply the the strands of yarn together from each bobbin. I knew I’d forget something! I’m looking forward to seeing how the plied yarn turns out. I believe I know what I’ll do with this yarn when I get access to my looms at home.

This old fashioned hot water bottle cover was the first thing I finished during the first week of January. I won’t need it down here, will I? Still, it was something that caught my eye before we left home, and I enjoyed knitting it! To make the opening I knit one round in waste yarn, only on the front half of the stitches, and then unpicked the waste yarn to separate the front into two pieces for an opening.

As I unpicked the waste yarn I picked up stitches on both the upper and lower sides of the knitting. Then I could knit ribbing on the lower half and ribbing plus a button hole on the upper half.

And here is the finished hot water bottle cover. I just need a button. I will block this on the actual water bottle when I return home.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I woke up to two surprises. One was a decorated main saloon on Pandora! Bob bought these fun decorations in the US before he sailed down here. How thoughtful! It feels like party, although I do not! I awoke on my birthday to some kind of very nasty bug. I hope it’s only food poison, but in the middle of the night for the past two nights I’ve imagined myself dying of ecoli or some other horrible thing. Surely, I’ll be on the mend soon!

And how about these fun knitting inspired presents? I love them! This is a journal in case you’re wondering.

In the meantime, I had a wonderful zoom call with family and a couple of close friends. The joys of keeping in touch with loved ones, from such remote places, is priceless! This year Bob has just installed Star Link. So far, so good! It’s struggling with streaming video so far, and it requires more of our battery power than he realized. Thank heaven for solar, wind, and lithium batteries. I have been trying to catch up on the videos I missed from Giovanna Imperia’s class for the American Kumihimo Society’s recent online event. But I’m not discouraged yet! It’s interesting to hear the small white Star Link disc change direction as Pandora moves to and fro at anchor.

I hope to back to normal soon so I can finish spinning and move on to other projects. I wish you well in your own endeavors in the new year.

As Summer Wanes

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


Look at the imprint from this giant dahlia.


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

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

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


It was a glorious day for our project.


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


Multi-colored Jacobs.


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

sunflowers long island

Now to work!






It’s summer and I’m thinking about Linen…


There was a recent post on Facebook that linked to a May 16th  article in the New York Times about the two brothers from Pennsylvania who wrote The Big Book for Flax.  Most anyone who attended Maryland Sheep and Wool festival a few years ago saw them there, selling their beautiful coffee table book about linen when it was first published.

The article points out the hardships these two men have faced in trying to build a commune where members would work together to live off the land, including growing flax and spinning and weaving it to make their own clothing.  Their lifestyle is modeled off the colonial Moravian communities that settled in this part of Pennsylvania a couple of centuries ago.

I’ve never been certain how well flax grows in the US.  I know Sara von Tresckow has good success in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  Her website boasts a flaxcam, although I did not see live video of flax growing!–truly like watching grass grow!  Instead there is an interesting photo essay of the whole seed to harvest process. Sara spins and weaves with her homegrown flax.  I loved her solution to the volatile weather that the midwest gets each summer.  She cordons off her fields with baling twine to help keep the plants vertical during a blow or a thunderstorm. Now that’s an attention to detail and a labor of love!

Last year I met a woman from New Hampshire who demonstrated flax preparation at the Bushnell Farm in Old Saybrook as part of an annual historic festival of ‘life on the farm’ in our area of the Connecticut River Valley. Gina Gerhard brought locally grown flax from New Hampshire along with all her tools for demonstrating  the whole process from harvest to stricks that are ready to spin.  I described the whole process last year in this blog post.

Still, I can’t help thinking that flax is easier to grow in northern Europe where the weather is more reliable, where the  light is gentler for softly bleaching the fibers to that perfect silver.

Linen is such beautiful fabric that I have always wanted to spin it.  I have made a few attempts in the past and have enjoyed it.  I have a few spools of wetspun linen waiting to be plied and then utilized in some way.  I have a lovely image of myself in a simple handwoven jacket–where I also am a perfect size 6.  It’s always fun to dream….

Last week at NEWS I saw some beautiful linen stricks at the VavStuga booth and couldn’t resist buying one. It has that beautiful color that I associate with flax from Belgium or Netherlands.   Now I wish I’d bought two–or three!  I can’t do much with 4 oz!


 Then today I stumbled on a link to a beautifully done vimeo video on current European flax processing.  After seeing so many demonstrations and videos of traditional techniques for retting, breaking, scutching and combing flax it was very interesting to see the same processes done by machine.  It still appears to be a low impact way of using a natural product–far less environmentally challenging than most cotton.  Check it out.


And there is a sequel that includes some high tech applications for using linen in the automotive industry, for sports items such as bicycles and surf boards,  and even for fishing rods!  There is exciting information in this video about quite innovative uses for linen and flax fibers,  and yet the mechanics of processing flax are fairly basic compared to other high tech fibers. Fascinating!


There is about 25 minutes of video here, and all my words.  I think I’d better stop for now!

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!

2014-05-24 10.33.00

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!

Weaving Adventures

I’ve neglected mentioning some of the events that have inspired me this fall.  First would be the 18th century tapestry series titled “Weaving the Myth of Psyche” on display at the Wadsworth Atheneum.

There are some stunning images in these tapestries.  Look at this donkey….

And the spinner….

And Cupid’s wing….isn’t that something? I am going to have some fun with this image!

The museum asked for some guild members to demonstrate tapestry that day, and three of us participated.  Here one guild member is luring in the children with her spinning.

A couple of weeks later, the state guild meeting featured the boundweave work of Rebecca Arkenberg, called “Tales from the Loom.”  Her boundweave figures are whimsical and creative, and it is obvious she is having a great time combining boundweave with a sense of humor.  She said that people often can’t see what she is portraying, and she’s learned to let that go and just enjoy herself.  What terrific advice!

Rebecca has a great knack for reducing world wide cultural images to the barest essentials.

This one is particularly fun!  Navajo women, rugs, and Churro sheep!

And how about bunnies with angora tails sitting in rows of carrots and beets?

Cat and mouse….

A highlander in kilt!

The Scarlet Letter….

I had so much fun at this guild meeting and came away buoyed with ideas for returning to my own boundweave project that has been neglected for some time now!


Is there anything with as much promise as mid-spring?  My gardens, my projects, my whole world is all hope and possibility.

I’ve completed pear #4 in my ‘Trail of Pears.’  Each pear has brought  harder color decisions, and #4 caused me to call on the advice of both my husband and younger son.  I had every shade of gold in my yarn palette out and none of them worked.  Chris helped me let go of my preconceived notion that the pear had to be in the yellow family.  That pear is a tan that I would never have considered if not for Chris. Now it’s finished and soon the background around pear #5 (the final pear) will be finished as well, which will mean making the final pear color choice.  I plan to be at my Wednesday Group class next week so I can get some input from all the weavers there.  Whew!

When I’m not weaving the pears I’ve been spinning some silk.  Does anyone remember Carol Weymar who called herself the silk worker. I can’t find her anymore! I used to buy her handpainted silk roving, so I have a little collection of them.  I always wanted a bit more than 2 ounces from her, but she never had more than that of any given painted way.  I took this as a challenge to me to learn to spin finer, hoping to get 1,000 yards out of that 2 oz.  Well, I still can’t do it!

So, to the latest colorway which I will call ‘mid-spring’ (all the colors of a spring garden, except blue) I am adding a strand of luscious 50/50 merino/silk.  The merino is a warm natural color, something I might call ‘almond,’ and the silk is a shimmering white.  Spun together I’m getting a lovely shade of cream and I hope it will be stunning plied with the 100% painted silk from Carol.  I’d like to start plying right now, but I will force myself to let the newly finished merino/silk set overnight.  Boy, I can’t wait for tomorrow!

It’s 90 degrees outside today, one of those abnormally hot spring days we sometimes have.  My basement studio is a cool respite on a day like this, and the view cool and green.

Have I mentioned that I live on the edge of a large nature preserve? May offers up so many beautiful sights there…. lady slippers are in bloom and we found a robin’s egg on the ground! There are dragon flies everywhere, and the hummingbirds arrived.  I’ve seen eagles soaring above our house.

 Yes, it’s all hope and promise around here.


There’s No Place Like Home…

There really isn’t.  And to top it off it’s May in New England.

My sister had offered to meet me at the airport.  It would just be the two of us; we’d have dinner afterward so she could catch me up on her family and her long solo stint of taking care of our aging and difficult mother.

Instead, she and my sons planned a larger family gathering to greet me.  Seven  family members were waiting for me when I arrived, and because my flight was late all the other people waiting for loved ones had gotten in on the act.  So, I arrived to a crowd of clapping bystanders, who were shouting, “Welcome home, Mom!”  I was completely confused, which is a very good thing, because otherwise I would have cried…

Mother’s Day weekend was about as perfect as possible.  The kids and I went to the annual Garden Club sale at the little park in the center of town, and we worked in the garden cleaning up the debris from winter and planting my purchases from the sale.  It was a wonderful homecoming!

Today I plied the brilliant saffron mohair that I spun in the Bahamas.  Here it is with the mohair skeins from Persimmon Tree that I plan to use with it.  I’m envisioning a fall jacket….




A few more days in Hope Town.  Sailing friends have also arrived, so we are now joined by Nati, Meltemi, and Firecracker.  Take Two is still anchored just outside the harbor. We all seem to be reluctant to leave this idyllic spot, where relaxing is as easy as breathing the tropical air…

Ways to chill in Hope Town include visiting the newly opened Hope Town Marina where everyone is welcome at the pool.

Visiting Hope Town’s famous lighthouse involves just a little more effort if you want to see the view from the top, but it’s not too strenuous…  that narrow spiral stairway is challenging for claustrophics, like me!

Lovely view from one of the windows on the way up…

Spectacular view from the top with Pandora front and center!

Other ways we have found to relax here include driving around the island in a golf cart, walking the oceanside beaches, walking through the quaint town, and eating out at several delightful restaurants! This is the bar at Firefly looking west at another wonderful sunset…

Walking the quaint residential streets in town…

I’ve gotten my spinning wheel out again (properly known as an electric spinner since the wheel is a fly wheel attached to a motor, and there is no treadle!) and am enjoying working with some intensely saffron dyed mohair.  It is the color of energy and sunshine and happiness.  Zen in my hands!

Sights on Rum Cay

Pandora on the dock at Sumner Point Marina on Rum Cay.  This is our first use of a dock in the Bahamas, and it is free!

Each day when the fisherman return with their catch and begin cleaning the fish the sharks come in.  They can be tempted right on to the shore for a treat.  Yikes!

Sunsets on Pandora!

In case you cannot find your way to the food store, which is just around the corner from this town square!

An osprey in flight right near our marina


There is lots of flora on Rum Cay.  In the gardens we’ve seen bougainvillea, hibiscus, vinca and morning glory vines which are perennial here, even an occasional rose bush. But most exciting is seeing what grows wild, like this passion flower!

These are everywhere!  I have been asking what they are, but don’t have an answer yet.  Fleshy flowers, somewhat similar to hoya flowers, but these grow on a woody plant that can get as tall as a medium sized tree.  They are in bloom right now.

There are lots of cotton plants here from the days of the loyalist plantations.  Mostly the cotton bolls are open, but I did see a few lovely yellow cotton flowers on our way to the beach yesterday.  I should have photographed them!

We found wonderful shells on the eastern beach which faces the Atlantic.  It was a calm day, and we were there at about half tide.  Low tide would have been preferable, but this week that occurs early morning and after sunset…not so convenient for us!

I spent this morning spinning, finishing up the alpaca batt I brought with me from home.  It is a blend of creamy white and fawn that is making a wonderful heathered yarn. What a delightful way to spend a morning in paradise!