Taking a trip on impulse, buying something new that crosses your path, or getting together with friends on a whim are wonderful opportunities for inspiration and finding deeper meaning in the things we choose to do. October has been full of wonderful opportunities, and I feel lucky that I gave in to a number of impulses this month.
Last weekend the New England Lace Guild arranged for a tour and some presentations at the Textile Museum in Willimantic. There are only two part time employees at this museum, and although neither of them has a background in textiles, they are both committed to the history of this town and to keeping the records of the textile work done in this part of Connecticut. We had a tour of the museum and two terrific presentations on the history of the mills in the area and the working conditions and lifestyle of the mill workers.
Here is our group standing outside the museum building which used to be the mill store for the American Thread Company, where they sold cotton threads and yarn. Some of our group remember coming here as children when their mothers shopped for thread and yarn.
In the photo above we are looking across the street to the mill buildings, situated along the Willimantic River. This mill was made of stone and has weathered almost two centuries quite well.The museum houses the equipment that was used to clean, comb and spin cotton threads and yarn, as well as some of the equipment used in other mills that wove fabrics.
Naturally, I was most intrigued with taking photos of the looms.
….and the collection of vintage sewing machines.
Note the vintage wooden thread spools. The museum has a machine that made these spools.
The attic is a stunning room that houses the archives and library of the museum.
It was a beautiful fall day with wonderful views from every window!
As luck would have it, later that week at our regular bobbin lace study group, Mary had found a website for a sewing pattern company in England that uses names from the age of textile mills to promote their designs. The company is Merchant and Mills in Rye, Sussex County. The clothing designs are modern, but the names are historic–such as the “landgate,” the “foreman,” “Ellis and Hattie.” They also have a couple of patterns for traditional work bags from that time period. On impulse (no surprise!) I ordered one of the patterns. They have beautiful fabrics too, but the shipping is pretty steep so I refrained from ordering anything heavier than a paper pattern.
This weekend one of our local guild members hosted a Japanese tea ceremony (Chado) at her house. She has met a Japanese woman who has started taking weaving classes. The Japanese woman is married to a man who is not Japanese but has become intrigued with Japanese culture and has been studying tea. Anthony and Noriko conducted the tea ceremony wearing Japanes kimono. The clothing alone would have entertained us and stimulated a lengthy session of questions, but the tea ceremony took it all to another level!
The ceremony took place on Sally’s enclosed porch that has beautiful views of her gardens and the surrounding woods. On this late October day, the sun was as brilliant as the golden leaves floating down from the trees. Anthony brought all the accessories to make this event special, including the shoji screen and tatami covered table and the tea stand. The vessel heating the water is a cast iron kettle set on a bronze base. The light coming through the shoji screen was beautiful.
Here are Anthony and Noriko together during the ceremony. It was quite a feat for Anthony to prepare about 15 cups of tea for us because each cup is brewed individually.
Here is a closer look at their kimono!
We were all intrigued with the tools and implements used in the ceremony. Everything has has a function while also being an example of beautiful craftsmanship. One of the implements used in the ceremony is a small ceramic stand that holds the lid to the kettle while the host is pouring the hot water into the tea cup. The stand he chose to bring for our ceremony was fashioned to look like a silk reel. It was a delicate thing, and he chose to bring this particular piece to acknowledge that his guests were weavers. This is the kind of attention to detail that is at the core of a tea ceremony.
Perhaps the item I loved most was the small silk drawstring bag that held the tea caddy.
I love the Japanese sense of color! I love the way the braid has been laced to the bag, and the braid itself is so ingenious!
Can you see that the bitter end of the braid is twice as thick as the rest? I believe the braid was started leaving a length of unwoven silk at the beginning, braided in the narrower design. When the length needed to encircle the bag had been woven, the two ends of the narrower braid were brought together to finish in a thicker braid. The drawstring can be closed by making a loop in the thinner part of the braid and slipping the thick end through the loop. When the drawstring is tightened it will not come undone. I also think the braid has to be inserted through the lacing before the braid is finished, when the two ends of the thinner braid are brought together to begin the thicker braid. I’m not an expert, but this is how I would attempt to do this…..and I hope to give it a try next spring when I return home!
Our hostess for the tea ceremony venue also surprised us with a hot meal after the ceremony! This gave us some additional time to get to know Anthony and Noriko a bit better and ask them questions about Japanese culture and their traditional textiles. It was also a wonderful time to be together and share a meal. It’s yet another day spent with weavers that will be a treasured memory for all of us.
It’s almost time for me to slip my moorings at home and join Bob on our floating winter home. He is in Hampton, Virginia, now, waiting for November 1, and a good weather window to sail to Antigua. I will join him there in mid-November. So I am beginning the process of winding down things at home–gardens, projects, preparing to close our house. Sometimes when my list of chores gets overwhelming I start something new as an escape from the things I’d rather not do! This week I found myself pulled to make more throw pillow for our boat–this time for the cockpit–our outside sitting area, what you might call our outside terrace, if you will. Here are the fabrics I chose when I made an impromptu visit to the fabric store earlier this week.
I am making two pillows that are 18″ x 18″ out of the shell fabric with the striped fabric used for piping along the edge.
Here is one of them–a bit odd to see this summery shell fabric against a backdrop of fall decorations. Today I plan to make two smaller, rectangular pillows (12″ x 16″) out of the coordinating striped fabric. Photos to come soon, I hope! Since Bob has already left, I will deliver these pillows and a trove of other things we forgot to put onboard, to one of Bob’s crew members. He is renting a car and driving to Virginia on Tuesday. It’s my last chance to put bulky things onboard. The list is long, and I hope Jim is renting a BIG car!
The last impulse of this impulsive month was a purchase! I bought a tape loom on etsy. It’s a little gem made by a woodworking woman who calls herself Handywoman. She makes the looms out of cherry then embellishes them with images. The one I’ve chosen has images of England and Scotland on each side, and there is even a carrying bag made out of flag fabric! I can’t wait for it to arrive. There should just be time for me to put a warp on it before I have take it with me. I will have to plan my packing carefully to allow room for traveling with this loom!
It’s raining buckets today, so it’s a good day for chores. I will make the last two pillows and then tackle some more lace for the christening gown. Time to get down to work!