Antigua, Ho!

My trip to Antigua went smoothly.  Once I arrived at the airport in Baltimore, I connected with another sailing friend, Judie.  We made our connection in Miami, and even enjoyed a couple of leisurely hours in the American Airlines member lounge!  There is a saying among sailors that “nothing goes to weather like a 747.”  It’s certainly true!  While Bob had his easiest passage this year, there was still one long day when he and his crew had to schlog through 20 squalls.  My passage was much shorter and much smoother than Bob’s!  His journey took 9 days, 23 hours.  He had estimated 10 days, so how’s that for accuracy on something as hard to predict as sailing conditions and boat speed?

It is shockingly hot here, but lush from all the rain during hurricane season.  Antigua has had little damage compared to its close neighbor Barbuda whose entire population has now been evacuated.  We spoke with a waitress who is from Dominica who said that the rainforest, the best in the Caribbean, has been flattened.  No one here has gone untouched by this year’s violent weather.

I have made things as cozy and homelike as I can for the moment.  I’ve put out the little woven table mat that I bought from Chris Hammel during the Greater Boston Open Studios a few weeks back.  It is just right for our dining table aboard Pandora.  I hope she knows how much I love it!  Bob got fresh bougainvillea for the table to greet me when I arrived, as well as a vaseful of pale pink oleander.  He knows I love flowers!

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The day before I left home I visited the Hartford Artisans’ annual weaving sale with my friend Jody.  We both bought some great treasures, and I bought this kitchen towel to put onboard to help me remember fall at home….there are no naturally occurring autumn colors in the Caribbean, so this feels a little like New England in November. It’s the towel on the left.

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Our mascot, the little sailing mouse, French Louie (who came from a shop in St. Martin, but is originally from Denmark!), has a new hammock.  My friend Mary made it for me when she was trying out her skills at net making.  She did a fine job, and Louie and we love his new spot for relaxing! Thank you, Mary!  Sadly, we will not be visiting St. Martin this year due to the hurricane damage suffered there.

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Before he left on the long passage, Bob made a lot of entertainment plans for the boats arriving here.  There has been cocktail party one night, and a ceremony by the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Navy Tot Club last night.  We were guests at their daily meeting, where in historic fashion one of the members reads from the logbook various events that took place on this day over the past 700 years or so, then toasts enemies and lost friends (Thursday’s toast-there’s a different one for each day of the week) and the health of the Queen, and THEN we each take a tot of rum, all in ‘one go.’  For men, a tot is an 1/8 of a pint.  That is 1/4 cup of rum, straight, all in one go!  For women guests the tot is half that.  Well, let me tell you I failed at getting it down all in one go, and I decided not to attempt the rest of it.  I gave it to Bob, who was successful at his own full tot.  Sheesh!

Here is Bob in the white shirt at center, thanking the Royal Tot members for their hospitality in hosting us for their daily ceremony. It’s a beautiful setting in the Copper and Lumber historic site that is now an inn and restaurant.

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Tonight, Saturday, Bob has arranged another dinner, the first of three. Tonight we will be having fresh sushi, Caribbean style.  There is a traditional Caribbean dinner coming up on Monday to welcome the rest of the arrivals–boats who had various equipment problems and boats that are simply slower or had weather issues getting here.  One of the restaurants here in Falmouth Harbor is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday for all of us who will not be home for that holiday.  There are plenty of English and Canadians in our sailing group who will join us for this holiday dinner. Other boats in the harbor are flying home port flags from Sweden, Holland, and France.  As the weeks go by there will be more and arrivals from many other places.

For the moment Pandora is in Falmouth Harbor, where we spent a few days on the dock, enjoying the ease of stepping ashore for me, in addition to being plugged into electricity so that I had some air conditioning to help acclimate to this tropical climate!  Now we are off the dock and anchored out in the harbor.  There is plenty of breeze, but it still takes some getting used to!

This lovely water garden is near the entrance to English Harbor, just a short walk from Falmouth.  I would love to add something similar to my own garden next summer. I know I’ll have to settle for something far less interesting than this giant iron pot that might have been in use when Lord Nelson was stationed here.

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My last post had a photo of Pillars Restaurant where we had dinner after my arrival.  Pillars is equally beautiful before the sun goes down.

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Before I left I had three wonderful days with our son and his wife, and our adorable granddaughter Tori.  She is getting cuter and cuter as well as bigger and bigger! I’m so glad we will see her again over Thanksgiving weekend.

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In fact she will be our Princess Tori when she has her christening day on Sunday after Thanksgiving.  And speaking of royalty, we have been hearing for days that Prince Charles will be visiting Antigua today as part of a tour to see the hurricane damage among islands that were once British subjects.  I am keen to see him!  Wish me luck!


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Changing Gears

Tomorrow at this time I will be in the air heading for Antigua. Hard to believe that time marches on as it does.  For weeks now I’ve been entirely focused on other things–things with deadlines that had to happen before I took off to warmer shores.

First!  The dress fits!  Can you imagine what a relief this is???  I am not an experienced seamstress, and not particularly knowledgeable about how quickly a baby grows during the six weeks since I fitted the muslin to my granddaughter.  I thought she might get taller, but I was counting on her NOT getting wider in the chest.


She is such a beauty!  –not that I’m partial or anything!  I owe the success of making this dress to my sewing teacher Marie, and to my lace mentors, Mary and Clare.  This dress was beyond my limited sewing skills, so I’m lucky to have found such a great teacher!

At this point I don’t even remember what projects I put onboard Pandora before Bob left to sail south.  I will have fun discovering what’s waiting for me.  I will bring Tori’s Mini Mouse dress to finish during the 10 days we’re there.  I decided not to bring my new band loom on this trip.  I’ll wait to let Bob help me with the logistics of that when we return at the end of December.  We will be in Antigua for only 10 days before we come back for Tori’s christening and to spend the month of December celebrating her 1st birthday and the Christmas holiday.  Our younger son Chris will come out for both the christening and Christmas, so I’m thrilled we will all be together twice in one month.

Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be arriving here.  Bob says we are one of only a handful of boats on the dock right now.  It won’t last as the super yachts will be arriving everyday now, until the docks are full of mega-yachts.  We’ll move off the dock and out into the breezes in the middle of the harbor after I arrive.  But tomorrow I will move aboard while Pandora is at the dock…

…and we will enjoy dinner together at Pillars on my first evening there.

I imagine I will have a bit of culture shock as I transition from all the conveniences of living on land along with the transition of late fall into tropical weather.  Now I’ll be in permanent summer, while living off the grid.  When I get used to it, it does have its pleasures, but I never get entirely beyond missing home.  One thing I cannot live without these days is good internet!  I need to get photos of my Tori Tiny Super Moon at least once a week!

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Internet Shopping

Boy, have I had fun shopping in cyberspace lately.  Remember the old days when the ‘modern’ thing to do was ‘let your fingers do the walking?’  This is lightyears beyond that!

Internet shopping is hardly new, but the wealth of websites devoted to weaving/spinning/lace making/sewing….etc…etc has expanded into a galaxy of  wonderful places to shop!

A couple of posts back, pre-christening dress dilemma, I wrote that I had ordered a tape loom on etsy.  Well, it arrived!  And it was beautifully packaged so that opening the box was like a well choreographed dance.  I enjoyed every moment of unpacking this treasure!  I hope I can get a warp on it, and figure out how to get it to Pandora, now that she sailed away with Bob–OR rather, Bob sailed away with her.

The woman who made this loom and all the accessories that go with it calls herself HandyWOman. What an attention to detail!  My loom has images of England and Scotland branded (?)/burnished (?) into it on all sides, inside and out!  The accompanying bag (sold separately) is so well made– it shows the kind of sewing expertise that I am trying to attain in my classes!  Just take a look!

Here is the box with the first bit unpacked.  She made the drawstring bag that holds some small items you’ll see shortly!

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I enjoyed the unpacking process and had to document it! The rigid heddle is embellished with a Tudor rose.

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The set came with this little Scottie dog comb–adorable!

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Everything unpacked and displayed on the kitchen table! I wish I’d gotten a better shot of the London skyline on the side of the loom that is being blocked by the instruction papers.

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You need to see a closeup of the tote bag that holds all the pieces with plenty of extra room for other stuff. Note that HandyWOman’s logo has been machine embroidered on the top of the bag.  What a great touch!  I’m finding it hard to believe that she can be such a good wood worker as well as such an accomplished seamstress.

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I can’t wait to try weaving on it!

Going back a couple of weeks now:  my lace group made a trip to the Windham Textile and History Museum in Willimantic. My friend Mary descends from some mill workers and foremen, so she has particular interest in this time period.  She was searching the internet for some mill related information and found the clothing designer Carolyn Denham (of Merchant and Mills) who makes timeless yet modern clothing with a nod to the mill workers of years ago.  I couldn’t resist ordering this pattern, and today I found it in the mailbox! There’s no time to make it now, but hopefully I can tackle it in the spring when I return.  In fact, I hope Mary makes it while I’m away so she can give me pointers on the process!

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Last week I went to an extra sewing class on a day I don’t usually go.  There were students there I hadn’t met before, and lots of projects to sigh over.  One woman is making her granddaughter a quilt out of large and small panels of woodland animals drawn in a wonderfully graphic style.  I love the owl and the fox and think that Tori would love them too!  So, of course, I had to go hunting for them, letting my fingers do the walking so to speak, across the keyboard rather than the phone dial of old….and they were easy to find! They also arrived in my mailbox today! (The panels are from fashionable fabrics)

There are actually four animals in this set.  I’m smitten with the owl and the fox so that’s what I’ve photographed.  There are also a bear and a bunny.  I bought the coordinating fabrics at the top of the photo at a local fabric store in Glastonbury called Close to Home.  I’d never been there before, but I will be going back in the future. I just love the addition of that kiwi green and hope Tori will too.

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The arrival of these treats could not have come at a more opportune time!  It’s post-christening dress trauma and just in time to plan things to work on when I return home in the spring!

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Calm after the Storm

This morning I sewed on the newly bleached lace to the front bodice of my granddaughter’s christening dress.  What a relief that it looks good to these old eyes of mine!

Here is the front of the dress, looking rather golden because of my kitchen lighting and the cherry cabinets in the background.  Trust me, this dress–and the lace!–is bright white!

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Here is the back.  As you can see, I cannot finish attaching the narrow lace to the back until I’ve done the buttonholes.  That will get done on Wednesday at my sewing class.  Actually, my teacher is going to do that….if you mess them up the dress is ruined, so that is WAY out of my comfort zone.

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I tied off the the rest of the lace on the pillow and have just finished bleaching and soaking it in hydrogen peroxide.  When it dries I hope I will find that it got as light at the lace I did yesterday…my fingers are crossed and I’ll just pause here a moment to go throw some salt over my shoulder!

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Alrighty then!  It’s a damp fall day here, drizzly and dreary.  It will get dark an hour earlier than I’m used to this evening.  I have taken a moment to enjoy what will be close to the last things blooming in the garden.  It’s been such a mild fall, and surely the first hard frost can’t be too far away now.

These are the last few roses in the garden.

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I couldn’t resist cutting a few of them, along with some lavender, to bring inside.  The summer colors looked quite out of place in the house.  I’ve moved them to my bathroom (of all places!) where a bit of pale pink, bright pink and purple look better.

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It’s almost time to bring in my extended sheep family.  During the winter they stay warm in front of the fireplace.

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The birds who lived here are long gone, along with all the hummingbirds who were attracted to the red mandevilla and sat on the wire waiting for a drink at the feeders.  The mandevilla doesn’t have much time left, so it’s singing its swan song.

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I’ve already brought in some of the plants I want to keep for the winter.  l didn’t realize this  geranium cutting had a bud on it.  It is sitting on the window sill above the kitchen sink, and it opened yesterday during my trials with bleaching.  Today this bloom seems like a benevolent onlooker to yesterday’s events.

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Lastly, here is the kitchen table.  It hasn’t been used much lately for eating!  While Bob is off sailing to Antigua, I haven’t felt much like cooking for one and sitting down to a meal at the table.

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Mostly I’ve been using the table as I am now, to write emails and blog posts, with morning coffee or a glass something stronger in the evening.  I’m feeling pretty lucky that I had the opportunity to write this particular post.  The storm is past, and it’s looking pretty likely that there will be a christening dress worthy of dear little Tori, my tiny super moon!

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Oh Dear! OH DEAR!

I did not end up posting this on the day I wrote it.  It all happened yesterday, Sunday of the first day of standard time… thank heaven for that extra hour!

There is a textile crisis going on in the Osborn house this morning!  If you are my husband, either of my two sons, or any of their acquaintances, reading this, you are probably scoffing!–or laughing!  Bob says a dropped stitch is an adventure for me!  (not true)  Those of you who know me will know how serious this is.

I began sewing the larger lace to the christening dress this morning, starting with a 12″ length that is getting attached to the bottom of the front bodice.  Earlier this week I noticed that the first inch or so of this lace, which I started months ago, had discolored a bit.  When I showed it to a few other people this week we all agreed that it probably was affected by the darling walnut lace holder I’d been using to wind the lace as it came off the pillow.  This prevents the lace from hanging off the the back of the pillow and possibly hitting the ground or getting caught on something.  Perhaps the tannins in the wood leached into that first bit of lace that wrapped around the wooden cylinder (just right of center in the photo below).

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Last night I soaked this lace in a mild solution of Eucalan, a gentle cleaner that I use for washing wool locks that I want to clean before spinning, as well as cleaning my handspun yarns.  This morning I took that bit of lace outside to get a good look at it to see if it had come clean.  To my horror, I discovered that the stain was not just in the first inch of lace… was a discoloration that ran the length of the lace in a distinct pattern.

Somehow, when I started this lace, I managed to wind bobbins with two different colors!  One was pure white, and the other was half-bleached.  So I’ve got two colors running through the whole length of my lace–almost 2 yards.  That lace has taken me over  100 hours to make, and I hate the mottled look of the two colors.

How could I have done this?  I still cannot imagine the scenario.  Surely, I must have been interrupted as I wound the 36 bobbins needed for this pattern.  But I know I would have left the spool of linen with the unwound bobbins.  How did I manage to get a 2nd spool of linen into the mix?  It’s no use wondering how this happened.  It’s time to decide what to do about it.

My first reaction was to make peace with it.  I pinned the cut piece of lace to the dress.  I took it to different rooms as well as outside to look at it in various lights.  When I’m in a gloomy room and cannot see the problem, I don’t mind it.  Anywhere else, where I can see the color changes, I hate it. I think this photo does a reasonable job of showing the color problem.

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Solution #2 is to tea dye it and make the whole thing off white.  I cannot get onboard with this.  The dress is a bright white, and the smaller lace at the neckline is also.  I just can’t go there….and what if the lace still looks mottled after the tea dye?  It could very well look dirtier!

So, as I’m writing this I am taking desperate measures. I am soaking the small bit of lace for the bodice in a weak solution of bleach.  Yikes!  I’ve done a futile internet search on bleaching linen and come up mostly empty handed.  I called my friend Clare, who is a far more experienced lace maker than I am, someone I hoped might have had a similar situation.  And she has! She bleached some vintage lace in the past, and it worked while not harming the old fibers.  My linen threads are new and should be able to take this treatment.  I’m following her lead.

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Fingers crossed….

Tick tock….  I have stopped the bleaching three times now.  First time was 10 min.  Then I did an additional 3 minutes.  Now I’m watching the timer for another 5 minutes. Each time I’ve rinsed the lace and put it into a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution.  Both the bleach solution and the hydrogen peroxide solution are about 1:10 ratio, chemical to water.

I will not go beyond 30 minutes total.  I think the lace looks whiter, but it still doesn’t look quite right against the dress.  It’s a dark day here, and drizzling, so I’m blasting my two brightest Ott lights at my little container of diluted bleach, hoping I can get as good lighting as possible for seeing some change!

One last try…. I added 1 1/2 tsp more bleach (1/2 TB) to my solution and am trying again for 5 minutes.  I think I will have to make peace with this and not go further. Ha!  I added another 2 minutes when the timer went off.

The almost verdict:  the lace is still damp so it will get slightly lighter when it’s completely dry.  The lace is noticeably lighter than its unbleached counterpart that is still attached to the lace pillow.  I can still see a color difference running through the lace, but it is less obvious.  I’m hoping it will be even more subtle once the lace is dry.   I bleached it for a total of 27 minutes, and do not want to chance doing more. I must make peace with this ……MUST!

I’m trying to convince myself that the dress will still be a lovely thing in spite of its flaws.  I expected some sewing flaws, but I did not expect the lace to be the focal point of my disappointment.  I hope the love embedded in the dress will make up for the visual flaws…

It’s now a couple of hours later.  The lace has dried, and looking at it with my two brightest work lights I cannot see any cream color now!  Whew!

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That was WAY too close to disaster!  I feel undeservedly lucky.

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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!

Jan Doyle

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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