It was a banner day when we got ourselves back to Montserrat and managed to visit the Sea Island Cotton studio. First, it was my birthday. Second, Montserrat is not an easy place to visit, even by ferry as we’d done the week before. It was a miserable sail there, and I suffered a bad case of mal de mer. Predictably, the anchorage had some waves rolling through, and getting on the small dock with our dinghy was less than ideal. But once I stepped ashore the possibility of getting to meet the mother/daughter team of Sea Island Cotton buoyed my enthusiasm!
Look what a charming place it is!
Hey, Baltimoreans and bird lovers! Take a look at the local oriole.
Anne Davis, the mother of the weaving duo, started this business in the early 90s, when her studio and home were in Portsmouth, the capital of Montserrat that was destroyed in the eruption. After that eruption, she lost everything and had to relocate and start again. About two-thirds of the inhabitants who lost their homes decided to take advantage of government funding to move to the UK. The island population still has not recovered from this large exodus. Anne never considered leaving the island. Her studio and house are now located in the small village of Salem, which is not particularly close to where tourists arrive by ferry or by their own boats. You’d have to know about her from guidebooks and get a cab to visit.
Back to the start—Anne learned to weave from a local weaver resident who was originally from Canada. The government provided funding for this Canadian weaver to teach local women to weave. I didn’t get many of those details about that project, but Anne said she is the only student who continued to weave after the course finished. Anne and her daughter Lovena now have two looms: a LeClerc counter balance loom with a weaving width of about 36”, and what looks like an ancient 4-shaft Baby Wolf by Schacht. The identifying herd of sheep that is branded into the castle on the loom is mostly gone. Perhaps it’s just the tropical climate that makes the loom appear older than it may be! Both looms were empty when I visited. Anne was planning to put a warp on the LeClerc in the next day or so. Lovena weaves on the Baby Wolf.
Only Lovena was in the shop when we arrived. I called ahead, using the phone that the cab driver offered when I told him where I wanted to go.
The hanging rods had many beach cover-ups, scarves and shawls, all woven in what looks like a gauze structure to me.
Then there are shelves and shelves of table linens in many different structures. It was hard to choose, but I was not going to leave empty handed. All the table linens are finished with fringe, which is a bit of pet peeve for me. But they were all so beautifully woven, with great selvedges and in beautiful weave structures and colors, I had to overlook the fringe. I’ll deal with hems when the fringes begin to wear out.
Unfortunately, there is no longer any sea island cotton to be had. The cotton industry died along with many other things after the eruption. Anne and Lovena order cotton yarns from Camilla Valley Yarns in Canada. Wow!—same company I’ve used on numerous occasions! Small world. Lovena didn’t seem to think shipping from Canada took long, but I imagine she has a more easy going outlook than I do! We have exchanged email addresses so I think I will give her links to a few of the larger US weaving suppliers– and maybe some of the not so large vendors that I enjoying using.
Bob surprised us all by inviting Lovena to come out to Pandora for a glass of wine when she closed the shop. She accepted the offer and decided to close early and get her mother to join her. I wasn’t sure what they’d think when they arrived at the harbor in Little Bay and saw how large the waves were coming through the bay. Anne showed some concern and wanted assurances from Bob that the dinghy would hold all of them! I’m impressed that both women braved the unknown to visit us.
The most interesting part of our conversation was when we told both women that we’d been on Montserrat about a week earlier and mentioned our disappointment that our tour guide would not stop for a visit. Lovena remembered seeing both our faces in a passing van! She remembered mine from the middle of the van–a woman who looked bugged eyed at her as we passed. And she remembered Bob in the very back of the van, looking back at her as we passed. She told her mother she was certain that they were about to get van full of customers….and then they didn’t….
I’ll post a photo of my treasures if I can get them loaded. Everything about this post has taken ages (speaking of
We’ve definitely started an acquaintance, and I’m looking forward to a budding friendship with both women. What a birthday treat! It doesn’t get any better!