On Impulse

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.

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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.

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Naturally, I was most intrigued with taking photos of the looms.

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….and the collection of vintage sewing machines.

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Note the vintage wooden thread spools.  The museum has a machine that made these spools.

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The attic is a stunning room that houses the archives and library of the museum.

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It was a beautiful fall day with wonderful views from every window!

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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.

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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.

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Here is a closer look at their kimono!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!





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On the Weavers’ Trail

Over the weekend I visited the Working Weavers’ Studio Trail in Massachusetts, with my friend Jody.  We only had part of the day on Saturday, so we chose three studios that are about 1 1/2 hour drive from our part of Connecticut.  All three studios we visited were in Florence, Mass, just north of Northampton, the home of WEBS.

First we stopped at Scott Norris’ studio, which he calls Elam’s Widow.  He works mostly with linens which he dyes himself with fiber reactive dyes and mordants with soda ash and salt.  I am curious to try dyeing linen, and he generously offered to give me some tips to help me get good results. He weaves linen towels in several sizes, including large bath towels–in wonderful color combinations.

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Jody and I both bought plain weave hand towels, like the ones in this photo.  I also bought a silk handkerchief–can you imagine?  Such a luxury, that I’ll never actually use!  It happened to be a huck pattern that is similar to one I’ve woven myself as napkins, in 40/2 linen.  Here is a photo of the two together.  This pattern really sings in silk! I wish you could touch it too.  Amazing!

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Nearby was a wonderful old manufacturing building, called the Arts and Industry Building, that has been turned into artists’ studios.  Two weavers have studios there, Christina Hammel and Paula Valeta.  Chris’ studio is on the 3rd floor and the stairwell is part of the experience of visiting.  The stairwell is full of light where plants are growing, and the stairs and banisters are original vintage, well worn wood.

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There is a philodendron ivy that hangs from the 3rd floor and has grown all the way down the stairwell.

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Chris Hammel’s studio has lovely views of the far hills.  What a great place to work!

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Chris is an instructor at the nearby Hill Institute, and maintains her own studio in this historic building.  Along with items for sale, she had a display of various weaving techniques for visitors to see.  I loved these shadow weave table linens, especially the orange borders!

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I love the color choice in these towels and the little woven turtle in the book.

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This little top for a child has inspired me to think of things I can make for Tori as she grows.  At one point Chris had considered starting a clothing line of handwoven garments for children.  I will consider it a great accomplishment if I can keep my own little one in handwoven outfits!

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At the left hand corner of that photo you can just see a bit of shadow weave and some small woven bands, both Andean pebble weave and kumihimo.  Here is a better look.

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Along with looms, Chris has a taka dai set up in her studio.  Her husband made it for her from plans by Carol Miller Franklin.  My husband started building me a taka dai about five years ago, based on Rodrick Owen’s plans.  That project got set aside when we packed up and moved to Connecticut.  He has had problems with it anyway, since some of the details require metric tools that he cannot find here.  Carol Miller Franklin’s taka dai measurements call for tools that are more readily available here.  I am excited by the possibility of finally getting a taka dai of my own–even if I have to wait for Bob’s return to woodworking next spring.

A short ways down the hall and up a half flight of stairs brought us to Paula Valeta’s studio.  She also has large windows with views of the surrounding hills that are starting to glow with autumn colors.  She has created a wonderful display of her woven samples, using embroidery hoops.  This is a great idea that I plan to use in the future.

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If life weren’t so crazy these days, I would have taken the whole weekend to visit all seven studios on this Weavers’ Trail.  They plan to do it again next year, and I plan to make time for the whole thing!  There is nothing like a bit of contact with other weavers and a good dose of inspiration to fuel ideas for future work.  We saw weaving acquaintances from other guilds, and I had the happy surprise of bumping into my New Hampshire friend, Emily! Jody and I topped off the day with lunch at Paul and Elizabeth’s restaurant in Northampton.

This weekend I hope to have another dose of inspiration when I take a field trip with my bobbin lace guild to visit the Windham Textile and History Museum in Willimantic, Connecticut.  I may not be weaving much these days, but I am stocking up on inspiration for some future ideas.


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The Toroise and the Hare

Sometimes it’s bit off-putting when my husband Bob recites his long list of accomplishments at the end of a day and then asks me what I did.  Most of the time I can only reply that I wove a couple square inches of a tapestry, or made one inch of lace.  Sometimes I feel more like a slug than even a tortoise!

If I had this conversation with other weavers and lace makers we’d all be high-fiving each other for getting such a LOT of good work done in a day!  Wouldn’t we?

The slow march to having enough lace for Tori’s christening gown is enjoyable time for me, except when someone else tells me the 10 things, or 100 things they’ve done in the same amount of time.

–Which brings me to the list I made ages ago on the relative amount of time it takes to do various handwork.  Here it is, in my order of fastest to slowest.

  1.  Machine sewing!  It’s down right warp speed compared to all the others!
  2. Loom controlled weaving.
  3. Kumihimo/Knitting….zoom, zoom–I think it’s a tie.
  4. Embroidery
  5. Tapestry weaving
  6. Bobbin Lace

Sometimes I get a little down that I am attracted to doing things that move so slowly.  Sometimes I don’t care at all.

During September and October we spent almost two weeks with Tori.  She is a bundle of giggles and smiles interspersed with an occasional stunning tantrum.  I love every minute of being with her!  Here she is wearing the Debbie Bliss sweater that I knitted last spring.  She has almost outgrown it, so it’s time to think of her next sweater!

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I often see a lot of Tori’s mother in Tori, but this photo seems all ‘Butler’ to me.  I see my father, my sister, and even me!–so, of course that means I see her father too.

It’s time to find the next knitted garment to make for her.  Years ago I bought the pattern and yarn for this Dale baby sweater.

I have had this pattern for years and have hesitated to make it, wondering if it’s a bit too busy for such a small person. I think it might be cuter as a dress, knitted from the top down, with raglan shaping so the shoulders fit better.  The ladybug pattern would have one repeat around the torso and upper arms and another near the hem of the dress.  I am leaning toward the bright green for the background color, with perhaps the little Fair Isle pixie stripes here and there with yellow background.  One ladybug pattern on the purple background, and the other on the bright aqua.  I have to take a look at the yarn I purchased for this sweater and adjust the amounts since I would be changing so much of the design.  Luckily Dale baby yarn is super wash so Tori’s mom won’t have to be too careful with caring for this.  I’m getting a bit enthusiastic, so I’d better make the plan and get the yarn onboard before we leave!

Meanwhile, I have started the actual christening gown now.  I have 49″ of the larger lace and am trying to make an inch or two each day now.  By the end of next week I should have all the lace finished!  The fabric that Kandice chose for the dress is stunning!  I originally bought white linen at Britex, but Kandice sent me a photo from Pinterest of a dress made of silk shantung that she loved.

It is beautiful fabric!  On our way down to visit them last week, I made a quick stop at Banksville Fabric in Norwalk and was thrilled to find they had it!  The dress in this photo is basically the same as the pattern I’m making, with a slightly fitted bodice and an attached gathered skirt.  Now can you picture this with my lace?  I might put the larger lace along the hem as well as at the lower edge of the bodice.

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Well, talk is cheap….I’d better get to work on making the last few inches of lace.  The tortoise only succeeds by keeping at it!




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So Late….So Little!

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There is only week left to see this exhibit!  That’s bordering on cruel and unusual treatment for me to write about this so close to the end.  Sorry!  I loved the exhibit and just didn’t get to my computer in time.  Two weavers, Norma Smayda and Jan Doyle, have a beautiful display of work at Hera Gallery in Wakefield, Rhode Island.  It’s a women-founded, artist-run, non-profit endeavor that started over 40 years ago.


Norma’s and Jan’s work hang well together, with Jan’s signature large, mantle-type coats in each corner of the room, while Norma’s undulating wall hangings flowed across two long walls.  Jan works in a traditional Finnish double weave, and she had some smaller pieces on the walls along with her impressive coats.  Here is Jan standing in front of one of her garments.


Up close…look at all that work.  I can’t imagine how long it would take to weave this.  It is stunning!


Here is another one of Jan’s coats/mantles wtih a self portrait on the wall nearby.  Now that’s a double weave masterpiece!

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Norma has been working with an ondule reed for several years now, and she has experimented with various weave structures while also writing a book about this.



Norma’s book should be available in November.


So, as you can see this mix of works made a striking exhibit.


Back at home, I’m nearing the end of the lace I’ve been making for little Tori’s christening dress.  Bob and I will be visiting our son’s area later this week to participate in some of the events at the Annapolis boat show–in specific Bob will be presenting what he has put in place for the long distance sailors when they arrive in Antigua in November–so, after that, we will be spending most of the weekend with our family.

Today I made a mock up of three different sizes for the bodice so I can try them on Tori to see which size is the closest match for her.  Hopefully, there won’t be too much to adjust! I dragged the ironing board over to my lace pillow to see what the lace (still attached to the pillow!) would look like.  I am happy!

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I tried out the narrow lace around the neck, and the wider lace for the bottom of the bodice and for the hem of the dress.

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Here is the petal sleeve that comes with this pattern.  I don’t know if Mom likes the sleeve yet.  I think it is SO sweet!

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My rather obscure title refers to how late I am in writing about the weaving exhibit and how tiny little Tori’s dress will be, whichever size ends up fitting her.  It’s a challenge for me to sew on that small a scale!  Hence, so late, so little!  Off to Banksville Fabric on our way south tomorrow to hopefully find a beautiful white fabric for this dress, since the white linen I bought at Britex did not get chosen.





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Weaving with Tori

We’ve had some whirlwind times since we returned from New Bedford — ten days on the West Coast, a week at home, and now a few days in Baltimore with our granddaughter.

Tori is quite interested in the Harrisville Potholder Pro loom that arrived in the mail just before we drove down here.  I decided to bring it with me.


She likes the colors and running her hand across the warp.  I think she’s got potential! Meanwhile, Bob is not so enthusiastic.  He burst out laughing when he saw the box.


The first words out of his mouth were, “Potholder PRO??? Is it possible to be a ‘pro’ at potholder making? Does it come with a wheelchair?”  Funny guy.  I have no idea why I’m attracted to this thing, but if it will give me some pleasure onboard or while visiting family, that’s no joke!  I’ve been wondering how I’d ever bring a loom to either of our son’s houses.  Well, this is a start!  I’m making one a bit like the one shown on the box, since it came with the purple, aqua, and lime green loopers.  I also bought a gigantic bag of loopers in ‘designer’ colors.  There’s a lot of potholder possibilities in those looper bags!

Anyway, before I went down this path, I had 10 days in San Francisco and points north with our younger son.  In San Francisco I visited two terrific shops– ImagiKnit and Britex Fabrics.  I can’t think of a more creative name for a knitting shop than ImagiKnit!  Their summer window display lived up to their name.  There were knitted ice cream bars on sticks, knitted cupcakes with elaborate frosting decorations, and a box of knitted donuts!  There was too much afternoon glare on the windows for me to get good photos, but you get the idea.


It’s a big store, with two long rooms divided by fiber.  One room holds yarns made from animal fiber and the other yarns made from plants fibers.  They’ve been around for about 15 years, and it looks like a successful venture!

Then there’s Britex in Union Square, another shop that is not to be missed on any trip to San Francisco!

Can you say ribbons and notions?  Oh my!

To say nothing of floors of fabric!  They have downsized a little (I think) since the last time I visited, more than 10 years ago.  They are downsizing more in November, when they will move to a smaller building, although they will still be in the Union Square area, and you can add on a visit to the Apple store while there.

I got lovely white linen for Tori’s christening gown that will be accented with the two bobbin laces I’ve made.  I also got a fine white cotton batiste for the inner slip and some tiny buttons for the back of her gown.  Sewing will commence soon….


During the week in between visiting the West Coast and now visiting Maryland, the first meeting of the year took place for the Connecticut guild.  The featured  speaker was Anastasia Azure.  I was lucky to get one of the last spots in her morning mini-workshop on weaving with paper.  She is known for her woven jewelry and larger woven pieces that are sculptural.  It turns out she knows how to have a lot of fun with paper too.  Check out the difference between her two renditions of the photograph below.



We had a great time making our own small paper weavings that can be mounted on a greeting card.  Anastasia’s afternoon presentation was about her jewelry and sculptural work.  You can learn a bit about her here.  I remembered her name from someplace, and by the end of our morning workshop, I realized she had been the juror for HGA’s gallery exhibition when Convergence was in Providence, where Anastasia now lives.  She was the juror who accepted my tapestry of “Sunset on Wilson Cove” into that show.

On the home front…. organization continues to be one my biggest struggles.  I am just not good at it.  I always have to rely on others to spark ideas for how I can organize my own space.  Recently I got just that when I visited a friend from both the weaving guild and lace guild.  Clare’s looms sit out in one of her living spaces, enhancing the room.  That could never happen in my house.  I asked her where all the ‘stuff’ was that you’d expect to be right near the loom.  She said she has converted one of her bedrooms into a stash room.  She then gave me a tour of the cabinets and shelving she uses to organize her stash.  Bingo!  I went right home and told Bob.  My stash is not yet under control but it’s a LOT closer!

First, I got rid of the bins in my stash room and bought a wall shelf unit from Ikea.  These two walls had floor to ceiling mismatched, plastic bins that were quite an eyesore.  And even worse, whatever I wanted to access always seemed to be in the bottom bin, so I had to UNstack everything to get what I needed.


Here are just a few of those bins piled up in the studio, waiting for the wall unit to be built!  You know the saying that to make things neater, you have to endure a much bigger mess.


Ikea packages everything so concisely.  It’s to imagine that there is wall of shelving in those two boxes.  Actually, it was four boxes.


Bob finished building this wall unit in less than an hour.  By the end of the day I had all the blue canvas baskets full of my stash.  I now have 25 canvas containers holding all the stash of wool, silk, cotton and novelty yarns that used to be in mismatched bins stacked to the ceiling.  My next purchase is going to be a flat file for all my shuttles and bobbins.  Thank you Clare for getting me motivated!


Well, I want to get back to that potholder!  Tori has had a nap and an afternoon outing, so it’s time for both of us to get back to it!



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Getting to “Plunge” and “Thou Shalt Knot”

Wedged between two trips that Bob and I have planned for a while now, we took a lightning speed trip to New Bedford to see two interesting exhibitions that are right down the street from each other.

The first was “Plunge: Explorations from Above and Below” an exhibit of artworks inspired by the sea that was curated by the couple who make up Brown/Grotta Arts.  It’s on view at the New Bedford Art Museum. There were a number of pieces done in fiber techniques, which is what intrigued me to visit.  Foremost is Helena Hernmarck’s large tapestry “New York Bay, 1894,” and joined by quite a few other works in fiber.  There is a beautiful catalog for exhibition that you can buy here.

Helena Hernmarck’s “New York Bay, 1894”

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The details are marvelous!

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There are a number of works by Karyl Sisson, and I was drawn to all of them.  In three of them she has used miles of zipper tapes to create organic, aquatic shapes.

“Reaching Out”

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Here’s a detail, so you can see the zipper tapes and more accurate color.

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“Growth II”

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“Opening Up,” made from cotton twill tape and wooden spring loaded clothespins.

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“Long Lines” by Annette Bellamy is a hanging created with twine and ceramic hooks.  It dangles over a plexiglass plate and the gentlest breeze makes the entire piece move.  I know, I blew on it ever so lightly.

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It worked well viewed with the piece behind it, and that was signature aspect of this exhibition.  Often the pieces enhanced the works around them.

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Behind “Long Lines” is Gretha Wittrock’s (Denmark) “Artica” made of sailcloth that has been dyed with indigo and cut and shaped.

There were quite a few works in fiber.  There was a large hanging made up of many silk threads that were hand painted with dye.  There were three marvelous little boat shapes made of plant paper and willow by Jane Balsgaard (Brooklyn, NY).

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The entire exhibition is beautifully displayed with spectacular pieces.  It is on view until October 8, so there’s time to get up there.  If you do, don’t miss a visit to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Right now there is a temporary exhibit about Clifford Ashley, the master of knots who wrote The Ashley Book of Knots, a book you’ll find down below on almost any blue water sailboat.  We’ve had our copy since the late 70s.  It covers knots used in other applications (I’ve used it for tying interesting knots with my kumihimo), but it’s a knot bible for sailors.

It turns out that Ashley had about 7,000 knots in a collection he made for the book.  His daughter now has that collection and loaned it to the museum for this exhibition.  Ashley was also a painter, and I enjoyed seeing what a good artist he was.  He studied with Howard Pyle in Brandywine during the same period that N.C. Wyeth studied with Pyle.  The exhibit has photos of Ashley’s family life, his paintings, and lots of knots.

Quite a clever title for the show…and great graphics.

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Here’s the book.

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A photograph of Ashley standing in front of one his paintings


Just a few knots….along with harpoon.


And I could not resist a photo of some lace bobbins, tatting shuttle and lovely ivory fid displayed on a piece of machine made lace.

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Upstairs at the museum you can see a vast amount of ivory things. The walking canes alone must number in the hundreds!  There were no shortage of handwork tools and household items that men carved for their loved ones.  While I enjoyed looking at all the rolling pins and pastry cutters, I confined myself to photos of items for handwork.

A cabinet full of top shelf swifts!

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The crown jewel of sewing accessories….pin cushions, spool holders and lots of little drawers for supplies.

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My favorite– an ivory knitting basket, with ivory and ebony knitting needles.

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Into our 36 hour trip we also crammed in a visit to the well known Nantucket basket supply store called DELS, where I purchased some of the missing items from a Nantucket purse I started about 7 years ago.  Maybe I’ll be carrying it by next summer.  I’ve always wanted to see this shop in person.  It is a treasure trove of basket temptations.

The counter display of ivory, bone, and acrylic decorations could have entertained for me for an entire day….

There were shelves and shelves of basket molds to choose from and all the cane and staves you need to weave.  And all the tiny finishing hardware necessary for these baskets.  I thought I should make a plan for my next basket while I had the attention of an expert (Melanie) to guide me.  I settled for a small, narrow tote.  They will gather up the necessary items and ship them to me in a couple of weeks.  I’ll put it on Pandora to weave this winter.  And then I’ll be just like the real McCoy!–making a Nantucket basket aboard a boat!

So here’s the shape of my tote.  Just imagine it without the salt and pepper grinders and the center divider, and with  short leather handles for carrying.  It’s going to be just the thing! I’m making mine with a cherry base, rim, and staves.

This trip came about because of one thing Bob had scheduled to do– a tour of the Coast Guard air station on Cape Cod.  We had a 12.30 appointment to meet one of the helicopter pilots–a female lieutenant.  We met her earlier in the summer when she spoke at Bob’s SSCA event and we arranged this visit.  She is still in her 20s and has been a pilot for four years already.  Impressive!

When we arrived at the air station we learned that all the planes except one helicopter and two planes had been called to Houston to deal with rescue efforts in hurricane Harvey.  There was a pilot left on the station to man the remaining helicopter, and he graciously gave us the tour.  We have incredible armed forces, and it was fascinating to learn a bit about the Coast Guard.  Bob and I have seen two presentations on how the CG goes about search and rescue.  Visiting the air station and getting to see the actual equipment was really the frosting on the cake.  These guys can keep a helicopter level in order to lower a cable and a basket onto a boat that might be rocking to and fro and rising and falling in 50 foot waves.  That helicopter is experiencing the same wild winds, and yet the crew know how to keep control of the rescue procedure during all the uncontrollable elements in a bad storm.  The men who handle the rescue operation know how to do things that seem far beyond humanly possible.  Honestly, I don’t know how they can do it.  And what a nice bunch of people to boot!  There are quite a few women at the air station, but most of them had been called to Texas.

Lieutenant Podmore is showing me the remaining M60T helicopter that he flies.

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The hangars are ridiculously clean.  I’m not sure what this plane is…Bob and the Lt kept talking about C-130s…

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The rescue swimmers work out every day….as you might imagine.  Hard to see, but some of these guys were doing things that I (again) did not think humanly possible!

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It was a whirlwind trip–barely over 36 hours.  I have been worried about everyone down on the coast of Texas, but of course, worried about my own family most of all.  It was especially moving to me to meet these soldiers who have such an important role in the ongoing storm and will continue to help through the aftermath.  I don’t have a way to reach my relatives who live in Galveston, so it was very comforting to think that these soldiers are down there helping.  My relatives further east on that coast were managing at the end of the weekend, but have now just been hit by the 2nd landfall of Harvey, and again, I’m thankful to have seen first hand the kind of rescue and help that is down there.


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Nordic Tapestry in Washington Depot

The day after the eclipse marked one month left until the vernal equinox.  We are on the downward slope of summer.  These next few weeks will hold the last of summer’s wealth….

Last weekend my friend Jody joined me in visiting the opening for the Nordic Tapestry exhibit in Washington Depot.  What a lovely town that is, and the venue for this show of works was quite beautiful, which made a great backdrop for the wonderful tapestries.  The artists are a group of students of Helena Hernmarck, mostly from Sweden, with one from Iceland and a couple from the US, who organized this event to honor Helena during her 75th year.  What a great birthday present! ….and well deserved.

This is one of the Swedish weavers, Stina Fjelkner-Modig, standing in front of her “Poppies in a Wheat Field.”  She has certainly done wonderful things with Hernmarck’s technique for creating texture.


This may be my favorite tapestry from the students’ exhibition.  It is “Autumn” by Anneli Forsberg.  Jody and I enjoyed talking to her about Sweden and working with Helena. It’s stunning, right?– with the same marvelous use of floats and thick bundles of weft.


A few other works of note…..



“Longing for Summer,” by Hugrun Runarsdottir


Two of the artists/weavers admiring the crocus. The artist for this tapestry is on the left.


Both exhibit spaces were on the green in Washington Depot.  This is the building where the students’ exhibition was on display.


In the back is a lovely sunken garden where they served refreshments. By the time Jody and I found this spot the opening was over and the clean up had started.


At the other end of the green was the display of Helena’s work.  I loved the setting and the way this building is open to the outdoors.


The last time I saw Helena, at her studio, this piece was newly finished.  It is double woven with a layer of plastic strips on the back.  When it is hung in a way that allows viewing on both sides, it has a luminous, transparent effect.  The plastic on the back side creates a sparkling effect on the front.  On the back side the effect of the woven plastic strips is very glossy and dazzling.


One of my all time favorite pieces is Helena’s “Anemones.”  Her use of floats and big bundles of weft is what makes her dramatic use of focus and out of focus effects.  Looks like I had trouble focusing on holding my camera straight!


Here’s a detail shot….


At the end of our visit, dear Jody got a photo of Helena and me together.  I treasure this!


It was Jody who thought to take this fabulous photo of two of Helena’s works together.


This was the BIG event of my summer, and I’m looking forward to seeing another work of Helena’s at the “Plunge” exhibit in New Bedford, later this weekend!

Backtracking a little, I made contact with one of the award winners from the juried exhibit at NEWS.  The basketmaker, Barbara Feldman Morse.  I’m rather certain I saw another of her baskets awarded two years ago.  Now this year she gilded the lily by also weaving a liner for her latest basket.  Brilliant!


I had no way to contact any of the weavers whose works I admired, but I happened to stumble on Barbara on Facebook, so I tried contacting her through FB messenger.  Well, it took a couple of weeks for her to see my message, but when we connected at last I found a most interesting woman!

Over the 40 years that I have been weaving and getting to know other weavers, I’ve often found that weavers lead fascinating lives.  They are often gardeners, artists in tw0-dimensional techniques, like painting, and often good cooks too.  Many weavers seem to love cats.  It turns out that Barbara loves to cook and in particular she bakes madeleines!  What wonderful little luxuries!  She has published a cookbook on madeleines and her madeleines were sold at Ghiradelli’s Chocolate in San Fransciso, at local  Starbucks, and they have been used in films.  All that baking success is quite a feat on its own, but she is also a master weaver and accomplished basket maker.  I am happy that I have crossed her path.  You can read her here and also get a few madeleine recipes!

And summer marches on …. Bob and I participated in a “Conquer the Current” paddle on the Connecticut River last weekend.  He did the conquering and I kept cool and out of the sun by holding my umbrella.  Bob rowed 9 miles down the river!  We put in at the Haddam Bridge (think Goodspeed Opera House), and ended at the Connecticut River Museum, in Essex, where the museum staff treated all participants to a wonderful Sunday brunch on the grounds of the museum–even me–who didn’t do a thing!



The gardens I see along my walks are just beginning to show signs of slowing down, but are always still a wonderful part of any venture outside.  It was a hazy August day-after-eclipse that I took these.



The eclipse seemed to have an oddly productive effect on me.  Before it started I dug out some linen fabric that I had eco-dyed last summer, unsuccessfully.  Actually, I eco-dyed it twice and still did not get a pleasing outcome.  So on eclipse morning I brewed up some French marigold flowers that have been stashed in my freezer from last year’s garden.  I simmered the linen fabric for about an hour, then let it cool in the dye bath for the rest of the day.

This photo is about as hazy as my garden shots above.  The color is actually darker and quite interesting.  The fern prints from eco-dyeing that barely showed up now stand out considerably more!  Win, win!

First the marigolds, so you can see the color of the flowers.


And here’s what I got…although darker than this photo.


After the eclipse I brewed up a batch of peach jam.  That’s a lot of productivity for me in one day….. it had to be some lunar/solar energy vibes.


It’s been a good week in my little world.  I hope it’s been good for you too!



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Summertime Weaving and other Arts

This is the summer of regional weaving conferences all over the US, and I enjoyed a day trip to Northampton, Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago to visit the exhibits and vendor hall of NEWS, the New England Weaving Seminar.  This is always a great way to rekindle and rejuvenate my love of weaving.  There are so many weavers, even just in New England, who are doing inspiring things!

One of our Connecticut guild members, and a good friend from my local weavers’ group, has made a fabulous doll this year. This is not her first miniature figure, and she is definitely honing her skills as time passes! In her travels she acquired a porcelain doll head of a Japanese male.  She and her husband began sculpting hands and feet out of polymer clay to go with the head.  Then they began the daunting task of making a soft-sculpture, pose-able body for the figure.  And then came the weaving!  This fellow has a full set of traditional Japanese undergarments in white, all handwoven!  His kimono is a dark indigo plain weave, and his obi is also handwoven–even the thongs on his handmade shoes are woven!–in the same pattern as his obi.  It’s an amazing piece, and I’m so glad it got such a prominent place in the gallery.  Being in the front window you could easily view from all sides.


The lighting is challenging for getting a photo that shows the details of his woven garments.  He is holding an origami crane, also made by Sally.  Really, isn’t he fabulous??  I doubt the judges knew what to make of this!  And I wonder if they opened up his kimono to see his handwoven undergarments.

The guild exhibits were quite good this year.  The space was light and large so that each guild table could be seen well from multiple directions.

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Maybe it was not the most creative use of space, but the displays themselves were quite inspired.  Very enjoyable.  This is the display for the Weavers’ Guild of Boston.

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It was a wonderful day for me, and far too short.  By the time I caught up with friends and had a dash through the vendor booths it was past time to head home.

My favorite place in the vendor hall is upstairs, where Vav Stuga and Pro Chem share a space.  I always find way more than I meant to buy in these two booths.  This year Pro Chem had a deep basket full of stamps for printing fabric, and Vav Stuga had a bundle of past Vav Magazine calendars at a discount.  Who could resist either of those?  Not me!

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There was a new vendor this year, Lofty Fibers from New Hampshire.  On top of selling some wonderful linens and the Jaggerspun wool/silk blends, they have developed a small gadget called a “Tempo Treadle” that keeps track of your treadling sequence and will alert you if you make a mistake.  Isn’t that a handy thing to have?  I would like to have one for my AVL mechanical dobby, which has a very bad habit of not lifting all the shafts that are pegged or lifting one too many.  It’s a mysterious –and pervasive– problem, and I would love to have an alarm system for this! Barry said he’ll look into making one for AVLs.

There was a wonderful 3-woman exhibit of works by Norma Smayda, Jan Doyle, and Antonia Kormos.  All three women are Rhode Island weavers, although my small area group in Connecticut claims Tony too, as well a number of other Rhode Island residents who regularly come our meetings.  Tony is in her 90s and still doing fabulous work in many complex weaves as well as bobbin lace.


Changing gears a bit, but still celebrating inspiring works of art, the next photo is of a gift that Bob and I recently gave each other.  Back in June we celebrated our 40th anniversary.  Pretty amazing to both of us! We enjoy looking at art together, although we are not wealthy enough to actually as much art as we’d like. We count ourselves  lucky to have some accomplished artistic friends….because of that we heard of an artistic exchange between the US and Russia, where a group of Russian painters came to the US last spring to paint plein aire along the coast of Maine.  Bob and I sailed coastal Maine for 16 years before we started sailing in the Caribbean for our winters, so images of Maine bring back some wonderful memories of summer travels during our increasingly long marriage (I mean that in a good way!).

One artist in particular captured one of our best memories with this depiction of a lobster pound near Stonington, Maine.  Almost every summer we would stop and anchor near Stonington, just off from Billings Marina.  We’d take our dinghy ashore and walk into town, which included walking right by this very spot.  It’s the still water of the pond that just undoes me.  It looks wonderful close up and at any distance.  We have hung this in a spot where we can view it from close up as well as all the way to the other side of the house, and we love it from all the vantage points.

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The artist is Olga Karpacheva, and she has an impressive background of achievements in Russia.  She has work in five Russian museums, and I found images of her work online that make me think she has special ties to the Volga River.  She is also well known for her work in restoring art.

But this is the best thing I found about her online!  –a photo of her painting the piece we bought!  She is on the left.  What a thrill for me to see this!

The summer offers a couple more exciting venues for seeing artwork, both woven and not woven.  Here is my list!

I regret not posting this before the opening….but it’s still on, so try to get there!  It was quite a thrill to reconnect with Helena after six or seven years.  Her students included about a dozen Swedish weavers, one Icelandic, and two US weavers.  No one lives near Washington Depot, so it was impressive that these students organized the event from so far, and almost all of them managed to get to the opening.  The exhibit has been at two venues in Sweden before coming to New England, and the students organized these exhibitions as a tribute to Helena.  What a wonderful event, and I’m so glad I was able to attend.

It was there that I learned of this exhibition, currently at the New Bedford Art Museum.

The couple who own Brown/Grotta were at the tapestry opening.  They are quite excited by their current show of works which you can read about here.  As luck would have it, Bob and I are visiting the New Bedford area in a few days, so it will be easy to add this to our itinerary.  Yes, I feel lucky!

And I also met a pastel artist at the Nordic exhibition who shows work annually at the Lyme Art Association during their annual pastel exhibition.  It’s interesting that I’ve seen this woman’s work for several years before now getting to meet her.  The opening for the Nordic Tapestry Group was a convergence of how interwoven our artwork and relationships are.  Lucky, indeed!






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Summer Weaving

Summer is a time when my weaving projects must take priority since that’s when I’m home to work!  Yet summer offers SO many wonderful distractions!  The garden, family and friends visiting, lots of conferences to attend.  I want to kick back and enjoy the season, but I also feel the pressure to make as much progress as possible before I leave home again.

These are the scenes that greet me each day on my walk along the Connecticut River, although the peonies and iris have shifted to roses, and now the roses are being overtaken by hydrangea.



It’s been a banner year for roses in my own garden.  I have to give all the credit to Bob since he has fertilized every time I’ve asked, and he’s also used some kind of eco-friendly spray when the gypsy moths fell out of the trees on to the rose bushes.


We have a granite wall that is about 100′ long and planted in pink and yellow roses, interspersed with lavender, daisies, and boxwoods.


I’m going to back up a bit and reminisce about the trip I took to Tennessee to attend the Southeast Fiber Festival back in April.  Back in April?  Time flies!  I took three weeks to drive down to Gatlinburg and back.  It was a perfect mix of relaxation and adventure.  After spending Easter weekend with my new granddaughter and her parents, I continued south to meet my good friend and tapestry weaver AnnaByrd to make the rest of the trip together.  We had a wonderful 500 mile drive through the Shenandoah Valley and into the Smoky Mountains.  Both going and returning we stopped in New Market, Virginia, and enjoyed lunch in a cafe at the civil war museum there. We were both taking a 3-day class with Jon Eric Riis on Coptic tapestry techniques.

In spite of the terrible destruction in Gatlinburg by last autumn’s fires, Arrowmont is still a stunning place.  There is plenty of evidence of the chaotic and destroying force of fire, but I was relieved to see that there was still plenty untouched. This view is not the direction of the fire came from.


A view of the main building from the dining hall.  The dining arrangement is the best I’ve had at a conference.  I wish I’d photographed the dining room.  It is cafeteria style, and the food is excellent.  You sit at real wooden dining tables that have real chairs.  Although there are a lot of tables in this large room, it feels quite like gathering in a home situation because the food is excellent and so obviously prepared with care, and the setting is so comfortably home like.  Well done!


My few photos from this trip are not memorable, but the memories they conjure for me are too good not to use.  Here is Jon during his keynote address for the conference.


The slides of his work covered most of his weaving career.  I had no idea he’d been weaving for 50 years–how can he be old enough to have had such a long career?  I have always loved his Icarus tapestries, and I no idea just how many works he’s done over the years.  Look at this assemblage of pears! I know, it’s a bad photo– what can you expect of a photo of a projected slide during the presentation?


AnnByrd took this photo of Jon and me together, and it’s a great memory for me, even though blurry.  Some day the memory of the workshop will become like this photo….a bit out of focus–but hopefully not too soon.


On display in the instructors’ exhibit were a series of partial faces that Riis wove entirely in metallic yarns.  I don’t know HOW he got such a beautiful surface with such challenging materials.  On the last day, after this work was crated, he unpacked a few and let us pass them around.  Look at the curve of the chin–and the shading!



There are 20 partial faces in this series that hang together in a grid.  The piece is called “Diaglogue.”  You can see it here.

About 10 days after I returned home from this adventure, I was off to the Cape with a couple of lace making friends.  We were headed to the Sacred Hearts  Retreat Center in Wareham, Massachusetts, for the annual weekend  retreat of the New England Lace Guild.  It’s a wonderful setting near the beach, all our meals are served to us family style at big tables in a large dining room.  We have private rooms and shared baths, and we can stay up all night making lace if we like, go for walks, take classes, and even buy stuff from the Van Scivers who always come. For the past two years I’ve opted not to take a class, and instead, filled my days sitting in the sunroom with a couple of my own projects that needed uninterrupted attention. There are plenty of other lace makers who do the same.

I spent the weekend working on this project while also keeping track of the eagle cam that was following the eaglet Spirit, on the Anacostia River, just off the Potomac in Washington, DC.  You can just see Spirit at the edge of the nest (upper right) on my computer screen.


Here is one of the two classrooms….. since the center is in a large Georgian house, the rooms are generous and furnished from decades past.


Back at home, with the summer unfolding, we’ve celebrated our 40th anniversary, and been treated to a long weekend with both our sons and daughter in law, along with cherished new granddaughter Tori and a few good friends.  I’m working on a couple of floor loom projects and two tapestries.

One tapestry is the line of text that our son Christopher asked me to weave.  As of this week, I am 20% done.  It seems like an insane thing to weave, and even Archie tried to dissuade me from this project, in spite of having woven quite a lot of text himself.  Yet I find it both relaxing and challenging.  Chris made the font and then hand manipulated the spacing of letters for my cartoon.  I am not making any marks on the warp, since I’ve found that I have more success working from a cartoon when I let the cartoon be an idea of the weaving, rather than trying to actually follow the cartoon slavishly.


And here is the work in  progress on the design I created in Riis’s Coptic workshop.  The workshop was titled “Unraveling Coptic Weaving,” and we were to bring family photos to reinterpret in a Coptic style.  I balked at that idea and brought a lot of other images that intrigued me more–Minoan dancers, Greek vase paintings, and one of the bas relief religious figures from the facade of St. John the Divine Cathedral in NYC.  Anyway, after playing with those compelling ideas, I settled back on the idea of a family member…..dear little Tori.

The warp is sett at 16 epi, which is considerably finer than the finest sett I’ve ever used before — 12 epi.  Between the fine sett and the neutral color of the warp thread, I am struggling to see what I’m doing!  Still, when I pick the right threads, the weaving is also compelling.


It was a good challenge for me to draw this cartoon.  Tori will be surrounded by clouds with hearts in the corners….schmaltzy for sure, but I hope to balance that a bit by using some tertiary colors. Each cloud and each heart is somewhat different from each other….the only way I can do it. We’ll see.

This morning I measured the lace that I started at the retreat.  It’s also for Tori.  I just photographed it after I put away the measuring tape.  It is now a whopping 32″ long!


So I’d better get back to work on these projects so I can get some of them finished before the season changes!





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When Weaving and Sailing Converge

The month of June is shad season all along the East Coast of the US.  This is the time of year when many communities have shad festivals.  Our festival in Essex took place over the weekend, although Bob and I were not able to take part in it.  The day after the festival, we happened to be visiting the Connecticut River Museum, where Bob enjoys volunteering.  We visited the new exhibit on shad fishing along this river, and  I learned that the town of Moodus, just across the river from us, used to be the twine making center of the US. Amazing that there is such a thing!  The twine making center of the US, in quaint Moodus. There were numerous mills for making gill nets, the type of nets used to catch shad.  These nets work by trapping shad right behind the fish’s gills, in a way that they cannot free themselves by swimming either forward or backward.


Many tapestry weavers use cotton seine twine for warps, and it is getting harder and harder to find. Most of us rely on a Swedish brand of twine that comes in several sizes.  I had no idea that this very type of twine was made in this part of the world.

Here is the gill net making machine invented by Wilbur Squire around 1872.


A close up of the knots

The twine made in these mills was also used for warps for rag rugs that were woven on industrial looms in this area, for sewing sails for boats,  and a finer cotton yarn was used in commercial sock making, and even the cotton string used inside yo-yos!  If this kind of history intrigues you, you can read more here.

The Moodus River is a tributary of the Connecticut River. It’s a small, fast flowing river that feeds into the Salmon River, which flows into the Connecticut River at Haddam.  In the hey day of twine making there were 15 mills along this small river.  If you happen to be in the area and want to take at look at the remains of some of these mills and the dam that used to harness the power, travel along Rte. 149 to the East Haddam Land Trust’s Hidden Valley Farm Preserve, and also  Grist Mill Road off Route 149 just east of its intersection with Route 151. The Bernstein Preserve is on Falls Road/Route 149.

Here is some of the interesting information about the  twine mills and net making on display at the Connecticut River Museum.


These are netting shuttles that are used to make nets by hand.  The very day that the shad festival was taking place in Essex, I was at the monthly meeting of my Connecticut lace group, and one of my good friends was teaching herself how to make netting with a shuttle just like one of these–an interesting coincidence!


Another member of our lace guild made several small pieces of netting for Mary to for use in the centerpieces for our annual lace retreat on Cape Cod.  That little piece of netting makes just the difference, doesn’t it? It is just the right size to go with Mary’s driftwood sailboat with lace embellished sail!– and the tatted the tatted sea turtle!  Pretty impressive! Mary takes making these centerpieces very seriously! Each year she makes five or six centerpieces for our annual lace retreat that takes place on Cape Cod.  There is always a beach or seaside theme.


I am intrigued by the interesting history of my new home along the river.  Ship trade in the Caribbean gave Connecticut it’s name “the nutmeg state,” and the area around Willimantic had a number of silk mills, where local farmers tried their hand at raising silk worms for a few years in the hey day of the Industrial Revolution.  Although it’s not unusual to have textile production and ship trade coexisting in a community from that time period, it is interesting to me to live in such an area now, where I can enjoy the textile history and Bob can enjoy the maritime history.

I took this phoe of the Onrust at her new home on the river,  from the 3rd floor shad exhibit at the Connecticut River Museum.


A walk along the river at any time of year is beautiful, but maybe June wins because of the wealth of spring flowers. In early June azaleas and rhodies are at their height.

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Peonies and iris are a fleeting burst of color in late May and early June.

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And the first roses of early June along the river.




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