Changing Gears

It’s that time of year again, and I don’t mean the holidays.  It’s the time of year when I have to shut down my house, walk away from my looms and leave behind my wonderful weaving friends,   I am about to get onboard our boat, as we do every winter, with only the most rudimentary equipment for weaving.  But since it is also the holidays, I will start with a few photos of what I love best about the holidays in New England!

Houses decorated for Christmas in Essex.IMG_1731IMG_1731 1-IMG_1732 2-IMG_1733 6-IMG_1722 IMG_17316-IMG_1722

4-IMG_1731The Connecticut River waterfront on a chilly December morning.


A sycamore tree against the winter sky.


St. Anne’s Church in Old Lyme, where we went to hear Elisabeth Von Trapp sing a holiday concert with my good weaving friend Susan.


This winter we have a new sailboat that we bought last spring as we finished our 3rd winter sailing aboard our Saga 43′ Pandora.  Our new boat is bigger (an Aerodyne 47′), which means I can bring more stuff onboard!–and it is smoother sailing so that I should be more comfortable when we are underway.  I had to get all my ‘gear’ onboard in early October, and I put two copper pipe looms down below.  One is rather large and will be used to weave a stanza from a Robert Frost poem in a font chosen by our younger son.  The other loom has the still-unfinished small Portuguese Man of War.  I sure hope I finish it this winter.  I also have my bolster lace pillow in a cabinet that would normally store clothing.  There is so much storage on this boat that I hope I never fill it up with clothes.

We had planned to sail to the Caribbean so I had to get everything onboard in early October when Bob set off Hampton, Virginia, which is where one departs  in early November to sail non-stop for 1500 miles to reach the British Virgin Islands.  Bob would return before Thanksgiving so that we could have the holidays here and then we would fly to Tortolla in late December.  Well, that did not work out….. Since this is not a sailing blog I won’t go into the details, but it was a suprise to both of us and a difficult decision to give up our plans for the Caribbean.  Bob tells the whole story on his blog.

Now we will be getting onboard our new Pandora in Florida in late December.  Our revised plan is to sail to the Bahamas yet again, but to then head to Cuba if we can get permission from the State Department.  Bob has been working on this for the past several weeks, and we shoujld have an answer soon.  I am NOT looking forward to the long crossing — 350 miles — from either the far Bahamas or the Turks and Caicos to Cuba.  I’ve never done more than one overnight at a time.   Sailing westward from the far Bahamas will allow us to visit the southern coast of Cuba (about 600 miles long).  The prevailing winds and currents make it imperative to sail westward along that coast.  We will finish up in Havana in late spring with the short, 90-mile sail back to Florida.  So that’s the plan, but we don’t yet know if we’ll be allowed to do it.

If we do go there I’ll be looking for weavers!  I am always looking for weavers, bobbin lace makers, and any other textile makers.  While I have stumbled on a few sites that describe commercial cotton mills back in the early 20th c., I have found no evidence of current handweavers.  I have found several references to bobbin lace making, and I am quite encouraged by this.  In fact one story hits so close to home I am in shock!  A few decades ago a woman from the Westchester, New York, weaving guild traveled to Cuba and wrote about meeting a bobbin lace maker.  I was a member of the Westchester guild for several years in the 1990s, and I have friends who’ve been members of this guild for many years.  I’m certain that several of my friends must know the woman who wrote this article!  At the moment I cannot get back to the website where I read this.  It’s got to be there, and I hope I find it again soon.

Meanwhile, here are two other interesting stories about bobbin lace in Cuba.  In 2013, a group of photographers associated with Foothills College in northern California had an exhibition of photographs depicting modern Cuban culture.  There is a photograph of a Cuban woman, Adriana Martinez, doing bobbin lace taken by Joan Sperans. This what Sperans wrote about this woman making lace on a traditional bolster pillow: Adriana Martinez set up her Belgian lace exhibit on the Prado at the Sunday art fair. I stopped to admire her beautiful work and we started talking. She told me she was a professor of tatting and bobbin lace. Within an hour, several women who came to the art fair to learn how to make lace surrounded Adriana.

Adriana teaches lacemaking at a nearby school. These lace artists are in desperate need of thread for their art and trade. They often use string as a substitute. Despite the use of string, their work is still beautiful and of excellent quality. We talked and made tentative arrangements for a textile-based exchange when I go back to Cuba. I am hoping to encourage some textile artists to go on Ron Herman’s next trip. Before departing Havana, I received a surprise call from Adriana wishing me a safe journey. Adriana and the other women are so sweet.

I plan to bring a few spools of laceweight linen with me, and I will be thrilled beyond description if I can meet Ms. Martinez….or any of her students.  At least I know where to look, presuming there are still art fairs on the Prado. (And I know that “bolillo” is Spanish for bobbin lace.  Knowing the words “rendas de bilros” in Portuguese certainly helped me find the lace museum in Vila de Conde. ) I also found an article about a lace maker named Ana Blanco who left Cuba in 1962.  Since she was an adult at this point she may no longer be living.  She taught bobbin lace in the Jacksonville area of Florida for many years, and won the 1990 Florida Folk Heritage Award.

A quick look at Cuba.

In preparation for leaving, I am also putting a warp on my AVL mechanical dobby.  At the last meeting of the Connecticut weavers’ guild, the Just Our Yarn women gave a presentation on using their handpainted yarns in both warp and weft.  I was quite intrigued by the effect of using entirely different colorways together in both warp and weft and quickly worked up the yardage I’d need to make fabric for a lightweight jacket.

Their 10/2 tencel yarn, called Almaza, comes in 1000 yd hanks, and I bought three for my warp that will be 6 yards long, sett at 36 epi, and about 16″ in width on the loom.  I did not want to work from balls of yarn so I decided to wind each hank of Almaza onto a spool that could be used from my LeClerc spool holder.  Each spool just happens to hold the Almaza hank with very little room to spare.  How lucky is that?


I am holding one end from each of the three spools to wind the warp on my AVL warping wheel.  I hope to finish winding on the warp today.

1-IMG_1759-002I doubt I’ll get through threading the heddles before we leave, but at least I’ll have a warp waiting for me all ready to thread when I return in May.

One response to “Changing Gears

  1. Pingback: Magical Havana | ArgoKnot

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