A week in St. Martin

We’ve been here a week now and have enjoyed many of the local attractions.  Yesterday was a particular highlight for me since it was the weekly open air market.  There were plenty of stalls with cheap, manufactured souvenirs , but on Saturdays the locals set up stalls with handmade items, like hot sauces, spice blends, shell creations, beaded jewelry, watercolor paintings.  It was a colorful market, and I bought some fun things.

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We bought several kinds of spice blends and several bags of nutmeg,–of course!  We now live in the nutmeg state, so we had to have some straight from the source. The reason our state has this distinction of being the nutmeg state is because the early trading ships along the Connectiuct River sailed to the Caribbean and brought back spices.

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This was a fun purchase!–a peyote stitch, beaded starfish made by a woman who had set up a booth at the yacht club on the Dutch side, which overlooks the drawbridge where all boats enter and exit Simpson Bay Lagoon. Bob and I had stopped there for a drink to watch the drawbridge open and see what big boats might go through.  Finding the tables of beaded jewelry was a bonus for me.  I just know my beading friends Karyn and Janet will either already know how to make this little gem, or will quickly figure it out when they see this.  The both live on beaches, one on the Jersey shore and one on the Cape, so I think they would enjoy making something like this.


After years in the Bahamas, I have to say that the best thing about these Caribbean islands is the food!  And on St. Martin it’s mostly French food!  I do not know how they can make bread and pastries as delicious as their mother country when it is so hot and humid here.  The baguettes are amazing and the croissants are too!  At the markets I’ve been able to buy food that looks like it was picked locally each morning, even though it has been flown here from France.  Such fresh baby heads of lettuce…tiny romaine heads and heads of red leaf lettuce.  Cooking is so much more enjoyable with these beautiful ingredients!

Here is the pastry case at Serafina’s boulangerie et patisserie.  Are you salivating?

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Earlier this week we had lunch at a beach bar, and my lunch was so beautifully displayed, and such good food, that I had to take a photo of it.  In the US, you can imagine lunch at a beach bar as a greasy hamburger and fries, or a hotdog, or maybe fried clams on a roll.  Look at this and weep!

Shall I describe what is on the plate?  First, three big prawns with a bit of aioli for dipping. Then a half dozen little snails with a muslin covered lemon to squeeze on them.  Then there are two glass containers stacked at the far end of my plate.  That top dish is a salad of crabmeat topped with alfalfa sprouts and caviar in a lemon vinaigrette.  It was fabulous!  Underneath is fresh guacamole to go on the toast points.  There was also a remoulade sauce not shown here… so a collection of shellfish, served with 3 sauces, a salad and bread!–and a view of the beach to set the mood!

St. Martin is a must stop destination for all cruisers, so whenever you are here you will meet boats you’ve seen in other locations.  Thursday evening we had a farewell party for some couples who were headed in other directions, both back north and further south.  There were 12 of us for dinner at LeCanal, a wonderful French restaurant that sits on a canal on the French side, run by a husband and wife.  They also live on a boat and hope to make a go here for a few years, before returning to France.  They have a beautiful 3 year old daughter who came out to greet us during dinner.


We are going back today at noon to enjoy crepes for brunch.  Sarah makes the crepes at your table, while I believe the fillings are made by her husband back in the kitchen.  I’m looking forward to this!  The idea is to have a savory crepe first and then a dessert crepe.  There was a time in the distant past when I made Julia Child’s crepe batter almost every weekend.  It’s been a few years since I’ve made crepes.  Today will be a treat!

More later when I have returned from another fun visit ashore in St. Martin!

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More photos, less words…

This year’s trip started with a revisit to a romantic hotel we stayed in 31 years ago.  Where did the time go?  In some ways it definitely feels like a different lifetime ago, but I am stumped at where all that went…so quickly! It’s still a very romantic spot, and dinner here was quite wonderful.  30 years on, I am even more appreciative of a stunning setting and excellent food.

The road in front of the Sugar Mill runs along the coast and looks north to Jost Van Dyke.  Last time that didn’t mean much to me, but this time we visited that island shortly after our evening here, so now I know a little about Jost Van Dyke.

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We made sure we got here in time to enjoy the sunset, which is beautiful from this lovely Victorian porch with cushioned settees for relaxing.  It was very relaxing.  To mark the occasion I had a Pimm’s Cup to remind me of spring evenings in England with my dear friend Lesley.

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The dining room is just as I remember….the stone walls of the old mill yet open air to the ocean.  That’s me at the back of the room on the right, deciding what to have for dinner!

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The Sugar Mill does not show up in any of the guide books we’ve got with us, which is rather baffling.  It is listed in “Romantic Inns of the World,” but that might not be the place you’d look if you were researching where to stay on Tortola.  Anyway, clearly they are doing something very right.  We would have loved to see the owners from 30 years ago, Jeff and Jinx Morgan, who wrote for “Gourmet Magazine” for many years.  We missed them by only a year or two.  I hope that they are well, wherever they are these days.

We are now in St. Martin/St. Maarten which is new territory for me.  The island is a range of tall volcanic mountains, some so steep that there are no roads and no inhabitants up those slopes.  Part French and part Dutch, there is lots to see and do, and two rather different cultures to enjoy.

Here we are at the top of one of the highest points.  We drove partway up with our rental car, then walked the rest of the way.  Our friend Bill took this photo which looks idyllic.  You cannot tell there is a gale blowing up there, and we were afraid to go any closer to the edge for fear we’d be blown right off!

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Aren’t these pretty?  The petals are so like an oncidium orchid that flutter in the breeze, but those long stamens are definitely NOT an orchid. These flowers come in yellow and orange, and my favorite here, a blend of the two!  They grow on a somewhat shrubby plant that has leaves similar to a maiden hair fern.  I would love to have a plant onboard, even a red geranium.  So far, I have not found a nursery where I can buy something green. My friends aboard other boats suggest I get over this.  If I get a plant it will just be taken away when we enter a different island nation.  Sad face….

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Along that road to the top of the mountain were some very impressive villas, and some houses that looked like they’d been built by hands that did not know much about building a house!  I think some of these diy houses were hideouts for people who no longer wished to be known.

Along with wild goats and chickens that roam the roadsides, here there are also wild cows.  They do not cross the road quite as quickly as goats or chickens.   

On our way down we stopped at a large park called Loterie Farm.  It is preserve for wild monkeys, iguanas, and had a maze of zip lines for use in getting a wonderful view of the flora and fauna from some thrilling heights.  That is a bit too much of a thrill for me, but I enjoyed seeing the views from the tree house style tapas bar, where I had a tropical drink with a salad and a crab cake.  Far more sedate than zip lining!

I was happy to enjoy the restaurant views, rather than experience them from the tree tops on a zip line!

Next time it would be fun to rent this tree top cabana near the pool.

We ended the day at the beach right near Princess Juliana Airport, where some of those adventurous zip lining people line up at the end of the runway to be blown off their feet whenever a jumbo jet lands or takes off.  There is no end to the risk taking you can experience on St. Martin.  I’m happy to watch from the safety of the nearby bar, thank you.




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Traveling with Friends

It is early February, and I am writing from Simpson Bay Lagoon on St. Martin in the Caribbean.  We are later this year in slipping our moorings in New England and moving aboard Pandora.  Lots of things contributed to the delay, but we are here now, anchored near some dear sailing friends who are introducing us to others who will become friends as the months and years pass.

After entering this harbor on the first bridge opening this morning, we anchored near the ketch Kalunamoo, whose owners are friends who took us under their wings five years ago to lead us through the Bahamas on our first trip down there.  Now they will surely be our tour guides though the Windward and Leeward Islands.  We see each other each summer when our boats are back in north Atlantic waters, but this is our first winter rendevous in three years.  It’s so comfortable being together again by water.

Before I left home another dear friend, one I’ve known as a weaver and land-based friend, sent me her map of St. Martin.  She and her family spent a couple of weeks here only a month ago, and she wanted to share with me a map highlighted with the things they enjoyed doing, the restaurants they visited, the boat excursions they took.


Now that I’m here and am beginning to get my bearings, it’s wonderful to see the places she visited and know that I will follow in her footsteps.  It’s going to be a fun part of this trip, finally visiting places that some of my friends have been before, even if they traveled very differently than Bob and I are doing.  It should help me feel less isolated this year than I have in the past–especially last year, in Cuba.  That was a wonderful trip in many ways, but it was also the most isolated place I have ever been, since at the time, the US allowed no communications with Cuba.

We left home a week ago, and already I get daily photos of my new granddaughter, the Tiny Super Moon named Tori.  She is such a joy to both Bob and me.  He still gets teary every time he sees a new photo of her.  I get the lightest feeling in my chest….such happiness!  Here she is beginning to celebrate her 2nd month birthday, although she won’t actually be 2 months old for another week!  I guess it was a great photo op for her parents. 1-IMG_0293 Before I left I tried my hand at a bit of embroidery that I found on Facebook.  It’s astounding to me what I stumble on perusing fb.  I’m glad to know this technique–I think it will come in handy for all kinds of projects.  I embroidered this little onesie as a practice, and clearly I need more practice.  But I’ll get it eventually.  I’ll do some spring colored onesies in this technique soon.  Hmmm….no photo.  Where did it go?

I have started a little sailor sweater for Tori.  It is one I made a few years back for my niece.  It’s a design by Debbie Bliss and uses her soft eco cotton.  This time I am using a soft green/blue color that I call faded robin’s egg, with cream.  I love it.  I’m still stumped by what I feel is a bad design for the collar.  Sorry Ms. Bliss, especially since I love your designs! It’s the focal point of the sweater and I still cannot make peace with wrong side of striped garter stitch showing.  For my niece I knitted the collar in a single color.  I am debating what to do for this version.  I have time to decide.

After 4 days in the BVI, making very quick visits to West End, Jost Van Dyke, and Bitter End on Virgin Gorda, we have made the long, 100-mile passage to St. Martin.  The weather has been challenging for the past month (since before I got here), and our weather router suggested that it is quite UNlikely that there will be a good time to head east for the next several weeks.  So we took the lesser of bad weather days to slog eastward yesterday.  It took us 15 hours to travel 100 miles, in fairly rough conditions.  They were very rough for me, but nothing like what Bob and his crew endured getting down to the BVI.  I was very sick for the full 15 hours.  We anchored out in Grand Case Bay on St. Martin, which I understand can be very lovely in calmer weather.  Last night there was quite a swell rolling in there that kept us rolling side to side.  We entered Simpson Bay Lagoon on the first bridge opening this morning….not a moment too soon.

We have reconnected with our good friends and will join them for dinner tonight at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Little Jerusalem, where we will start to meet people we’ve heard of many times through various groups, and whom we’ve spoken to on the radio.  The beginning of new friendships.  I wonder if I’ll meet a knitter or a weaver.  You never know.

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Promises Made

It may be the dawn of a new year, but I am not writing about resolutions.  I am writing about promises. These are the promises I made during the past year.

The first was a rather casual statement I made to my husband, Bob, after finding out that it would cost over $200 each for simple throw pillows for the main salon of our new boat, about a year and a half ago.  In spite of the fact that I’m not the best seamstress, and my blood pressure goes up whenever I plug in that sewing machine, I offered to decorate our main salon with pillows that I would make myself…. because for that price I was willing to endure the possibility of  having a stroke to make our our own decorative pillows for about 1/4 the price.  Early this year I found great fabric choices at Mac’s in West Palm Beach.  It’s great town to visit, and for me, a dip into Mac’s is the pinnacle of all the wonderful things to do in West Palm!

Time flew by and suddenly–during the week between Christmas and the new year– it was time for Bob to start packing for his long voyage to the eastern Caribbean.  I have to admit that I had not given those pillows much thought in the months since I’d bought the fabric.  It was time to get sewing.

The first hurdle was making the bias cut binding for the welting that would go around the pillows.  There is an efficient way of cutting bias binding that I can never quite grasp.  I may never get this down, so thank heaven for YouTube where I can find almost anything right when I need it.

My four pillows needed 11 yards of bias binding that would then turn into cording.  I need to hear gasps here….puh-lease11 yards.  It was a LOT of sewing, and it was daunting for me.

Just pinning the 11 yards of binding around the cording took an age.  I really need some shout outs here for enduring this effort…. And, just so you know, that box of pins was full to overflowing before I started pinning the 11 yards of binding.



YouTube to the rescue again on how to make a pillow with a bias binding welted edge AND a zipper.  Yep….that was no small feat for me, the intrepid and not so dexterous seamstress. You really can learn almost anything on YouTube, thanks to the efforts of countless folks who are so willing to share their expertise.  Here is my source for inserting a zipper into a welted edge.


Happily, the pillows are now adding a touch of elegance to Pandora–two of the four.


On to my next promise….made more recently in time.  In fact, it was April, in Havana, when I had the thought that I knew plenty of bobbin lace makers, tatters, knitters, and embroiderers who would be thrilled to share their excess stash with women in Cuba who love to work with their hands, but have so few choices of materials to use.  The generosity of the women I know through various groups was quite astounding.  The most touching incident happened during one our Cuba talks which were mostly geared to sailors.  Diane was in the audience at a local yacht club for one of Bob’s talks, and she approached me to say that her sister had once owned an embroidery shop.  When it closed Diane had offered to store some of the excess embroidery threads for her sister– beautiful threads, such as Danish flower thread, hand-painted embroidery cottons and silks from Watercolors by Caron Threads, and a treasure trove of other exquisite threads for handwork.  Huge thanks, Diane, for letting these treasures go. The New England Lace Guild also contributed fine lace threads, books on bobbin lace, tatting shuttles and threads, and even a large stash of knitting needles.  The bounty just bowls me right over.

Where’s the photo?  Well, right now it’s on the camera that is traversing the north Atlantic with Bob who is on his way to the Caribbean!  What a snafu!  He took a fun photo of me siting on the floor ensconced in piles of beautiful lace and embroidery threads.  He is out of internet range for the next 10 days, so I just have suck it up that there is no photo.

Well, now Bob has landed in Tortola (1.11.17), and is enjoying soft tropical breezes under thatched pavilions, drinking fruity concoctions with little paper umbrellas in them.  And he has sent me the photo.

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Bob packaged up all this swag in vacuum seal bags that are now aboard Pandora on their way to the Caribbean, where they will then get transferred to other sailboats that are headed for Cuba in the spring.  Mail to Cuba is not yet an option since I’ve been warned that packages get opened and raided.  These packages will get delivered directly to Adriana in Havana by various sailing friends.  I know she will share them generously with other women.  All good! A promise well kept.

I am in the midst of my most recent promise, so I cannot yet tell how well I will fulfill it.  I never made this promise out loud, but in the depths of my heart I made it, which is perhaps a more binding place for promises.  My father died over 5 years ago and left my mother in the care of my sister and me.  He died with his whole family surrounding him, including four grandchildren.  My mother has not been well since long before he passed away, and she has endured the past 5 1/2 years mostly alone….not so much in actuality, but certainly in her soul.  She was not an easy person to care for, and my father’s death was in part due to the heavy burden of caring for her. She has been hurtling toward death for the past few months.  Although she and I were not close, I felt a strong desire to help her– to be whatever she might need to me to be, in order to help her make this transition. Over the past weeks I have touched her –held her hand, stroked her hair, rubbed her shoulders– more than I remember her ever touching me or my sister.  I hope it gave her solace.  I hope she felt comforted.

Her time came this afternoon.  It is so fresh I am probably rash to write of it so soon.  It’s certainly too soon to say if I’ve kept my promise.  Neither my sister or I was with her, but perhaps that is how she wanted it.  Her favorite nurse was with her, and that means a great deal to me.  In the coming days of this new year we hope to honor her memory and scatter her ashes as she would want.

Only today I realized what I might miss most about her — her whistling.  It was a brilliant feat of delicacy and finesse. It was a mystery of nature–of human dexterity.  I hope I will always be able to hear her trilling the piccolo part of “Stars and Stripes Forever” in my memory.  I hope she’ll be whistling for others wherever she is–they will love it!



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I’m in orbit around the moon!

The first real snow of the season is falling, and I’m watching it out the window next to my computer, as I drink coffee late into the morning.  It’s the end of an exhilarating week, and we’re all in free fall toward Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa, which fall so close together this year.

Our grandchild arrived on Monday evening this week!  We were on the Jersey Turnpike , heading south, admiring the rising supermoon when our son called to say the baby is a girl!  She has a lovely moonface, and I’m calling her Tori Tiny Super Moon.


She’s blessed with a full head of hair, isn’t she??  –Just like both her parents.  Rob’s hair fell out when he was about 4 months old, leaving behind lots of blond peach fuzz, but Mom kept her head of thick hair.  We’re very curious to see what happens to our Tiny Super Moon’s head of hair.

Also, she has dimples!  I didn’t know that babies could have dimples when their cheeks are so well padded to help them suck.  Well, she’s got big ones!  Her parents were wondering where on earth the dimples came from– and then I arrived!  When I smiled at Tiny Super Moon they both noticed!  Voila!  She has a little something from me.  You cannot imagine how happy this makes me!

Like the heavenly lunar body she is, she wakes up in the evening and shines all night.  She sleeps during the day.  We are satellites in her orbit.



That last photo was taken in her adoring Grampy’s arms.  I happened to have caught the ring that Bob got from his father when his father passed away.  Boy, would he have fallen under her spell.

When we left to drive to Maryland, I had not yet finished Tiny Super Moon’s Christmas outfit!  Horrors!  I figured I’d knit in the car on the way down, but I completely misjudged the high state of emotion I would experience!  Then came the days of visiting in the  hospital, running errands for the parents, doing a few little chores at their house.  No knitting!  Finally, on the night before the new family were to come home I got out the little sweater and knit ’til it was done….ran all the loose yarns into the wrong side of the sweater and lightly blocked it.




On the drive home I found that my hands were itching to knit something else for my little lunar gem.  I just happened to have brought some yarn and this little book with me–yeah, just happened! I never go anywhere without at least two extra projects on hand!  I started the sheep, Spud….and as the years go by, maybe I’ll knit the whole barnyard!

This is not a good photo of the book.  I took it as it lay on my lap in the car! Isn’t Spud adorable?


When she’s older I will knit Chloe, giving her the appropriate hair and eyes of our tiny one.  I am so looking forward to watching her grow!

If Tiny Super Moon and her dad are sleeping it must be daytime!


We are going back exactly one week from today (not that I’m counting the days or anything) to visit for Christmas.  Uncle Chris will join us from San Francisco.  Tiny Super Moon is so excited about her first Christmas, and mostly about seeing me again!



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A Matter of Scale

Our first grandchild is arriving in only 3 weeks, if not sooner.  I am over the moon with anticipation at seeing the child of my son and his wonderful wife.

Can you imagine how I’ve been knitting for this new little Osborn?  First, a sweater by Stephanie Pearl McPhee called “Nouveau Ne” that made my heart race.  How perfectly she has interpreted the delicacy of babyhood without designing something too feminine. Little rows of brioche stitch separated by a garter ridge…lovely!  You see, we do not know what gender this little Osborn will be, so this pattern strikes the perfect note of sweet babyhood without femininity.  I think this sweater is just luscious, made even more sentimental to me by my addition of buttons made from shells that we collected in the Bahamas, where this baby’s mother and father visited us for two winters in a row. The yarn is a wonderful blend of superwash merino and silk.


Then came a baby blanket, a lace design by Eugen Beugler called “Lace Plumes.”  I don’t think it’s too feminine of frilly either.  It is a slightly heavier weight of superwash merino and silk.  Only the finest for our new Osborn!


Little Nugget (as we’ve been calling her/him for some months now) will be arriving anytime between now and December 14 (you may ask how I know that!  …because if Nugget doesn’t arrive by then she/he will be brought into the world on the doctor’s schedule, due to some conditions that are a little worrisome), so of course Nugget needs a Christmas sweater! And Nuggets’ mom has asked for knitted baby pants to go with a Christmas onesie.

I’ve just finished the pants but will wait to adjust the elastic waistband when I know what size to make it. I liked the proportions of this knitted fabric which was made with Cascade “Forest Hills.”


Yesterday I started the Christmas sweater, a design by Sorren Kerr called “Anders.”  It is adorable…. but it called for sport weight yarn.  Hmm….

..I’m not so pleased with how the yarn looks at this scale.  It seems a tad bulky for a baby.  So I started it again in the same yarn I used for the baby pants–Cascade “Forest Hills.”  This yarn is a 50/50 blend of merino and silk.  It is not superwash so there could be some disaster in wait on its first wash.  I’m willing to take that risk.

Here’s the difference between a sport weight version and my lace weight version.  I have re-written the pattern to get the size right in the lace weight yarn.  I like it!


I got the Ewe (love) Ewe at Knit New Haven when I visited the Andean weaving exhibit at the Yale Art Gallery back in September.  I think this yarn would be fine for a toddler or pre-schooler so I’ll just save it ’til then.  Meanwhile, maybe I’d better see if I can get another ball in the same dye lot so I have plenty for that larger size.

So….just saying….I prefer fingering or lace weight yarn for babies.  This means I have to re-write the whole pattern for Little Nugget, when time is short.  Still, what a nice way to spend my time as I await the big arrival.




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Keep on Keeping on!

Years ago I knew an editor who said that we must all find a rhythm in life that we can maintain for at least 30 years.  I’m still struggling with that.  My last birthday put me into a new decade, and at this age I’m not sure I will ever learn what speed I can maintain.  So must settle for the mantra to just keep on keeping on….

This was an excessively busy week which seemed perfectly do-able when I first signed on to participate.  First came a 2-day workshop on rep weave with Lucienne Coifman who recently published a book on this subject.

Setting up my Baby Wolf for this project was rather daunting.  A pre-workshop on Lucienne’s method for warping a rep weave project should be a must-do in order to have a stress-free experience.  I think that’s entirely possible if you take an on-going class with her.  This was her traveling 3-day workshop crammed into 2 days for our guild’s annual November workshop.

There were 18 participants in a round robin class, where each of the looms had a different rep weave structure, from traditional Swedish designs to Lucienne’s designs. It was impossible to weave all 18 designs in the space of 2 days, so it was somewhat stressful.  Most of us skipped breaks of any kind, including eating lunch.  But look what we got!

This is Lucienne’s sample of the structure she gave me to put on my loom.  This is in her new book.


Other designs we wove:



The little tags were for identifying different treadling methods.


There were more wonderful designs choices to weave than there were hours in this class.  As the last hour approached we all had a moment of disappointment at the designs we did not get to try.  When we cut off the yardage on our looms we brought them all to the front table.




Lucienne gave a number of lectures during the two days.  It was hard to tear myself away from weaving to listen and take notes, but all the information was important so I had to do it!

I still have a bit of warp on my loom with which I will weave some samples for the women who did not get to my loom.  And I sure hope there will be enough warp left over for me to weave a little something useful–perhaps a book cover–for myself!

So Friday evening we all packed up our looms to leave–no simple feat.  I unloaded my car and then reloaded with the tapestry paraphernalia that I needed for the next morning’s talk at the state guild meeting.  I was to give a program for the morning open lecture that is part of our regular meeting agenda.  My talk on images in contemporary tapestry was well received.  I was quite nervous about doing this talk, mostly because I had almost no time to prepare for it.  But I slept well the night before, especially after two intense days of weaving rep weave on strange looms!  I woke up Saturday morning calmer than I’ve been in months for which I was very grateful.  A couple of good friends promised to attend to give me moral support, and nothing beats that!  Quite a few people signed a list to receive more information from me on how to get started learning how to weave tapestry, and that was the point of the whole thing!  So I guess that means it was successful!

The afternoon program this month was given by Norma Smayda about her experiments weaving ondule fabric with a fan reed.  Schiffer Publishing will soon be coming out with Norma’s new book on this subject!  I can’t wait to get it.

Norma took us through her entire process, and that gave me quite a bit info for doing my own experiments.  I have almost bought a fan reed from Sara von Tresckow of the Wool Gatherers twice but balked at spending so much on something I had no idea how to use well.  Look what Norma has been doing with it.

If you plan your stripes you can accentuate the movement of the reed.  You can also get undulating selvedges or straight selvedges, depending on how your thread your reed.


After buying a reed that had fans going across the entire width, Norma then ordered some fans she designed herself with straight pins for part of the width and fanned pins for the rest.  It allows her to have areas of straight weaving and areas of undulation.  Quite beautiful! The blue/orange wall hanging is all one piece, with straight weaving on the left and undulations on the right.  Try to ignore that bit of another woven piece in red at the right edge of the photo.  I did not want to touch Norma’s work so I could not get the red wall hanging out of the way.


And here is the red piece from the corner of the previous photo–it’s so graphic it vibrates!


Norma is wearing a vest that she designed.  I don’t remember who sewed it for her, but she did a fabulous job!  There is a placket at the back of the jacket where the seamstress inserted one repeat of the ondule fabric…such a wonderful touch!



As you can see, I’ve had quite a week!  I went to bed at 8.30 last night because I could not keep my eyes open any longer!  My head is full of ideas — now just to find the time.  I just have to keep going, even if it’s slower than I’d like.


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Such a Long Absence

Where has the fall gone?  To traveling…. for Cuba talks, for visits to the publisher of the “Archie book,” and to our son and his wife who live in Maryland.  I can barely keep up and while there is so much I wanted to write during this busy time, I now feel burdened by chronicling all that has happened in the past two months.

Perhaps I just need a photo journal of what has sluiced over the dam in the past weeks.

In September I visited  the Yale Art Gallery twice for the exhibition on Pre-Columbian textiles. I was most impressed with the edgings on many of these textiles, even beyond the incredible weaving which we still do not fully understand!





Look at these 3-dimensional bird figures!


It was powerful to look at these textiles that have survived the centuries, some of them even a millennia.  It was not always obvious which ones were from the current era (meaning 6th through 14th centuries) and which ones were truly ancient. Could anyone stand before these expertly woven, richly colored and imagined figures without thinking of the hands that wove them, the ever succeeding generations of hands that reinterpreted these cultural symbols, and the climate and care of handling that have preserved these textiles for so long.


There have been glorious fall days for walking along my favorite river, but not any time yet to put my own gardens to bed.  Funny how chores don’t go away; they just wait for us to finally pay attention to them.  Autumn skies dominate the views at this time of year.




I photograph this garden gate several times a year.  I love the changing seasons in the garden it encloses, from roses to hydrangeas, and the lichen that grows on it.


At the height of the fall color I had a chance to visit Lavender Pond Farm and see the fields of purple flowers against a background of autumn trees and a sky full of puffy white clouds.


Bob and I were gone more than half of the month of October.  We visited Archie Brennan and the Schiffer Publishing twice during the month and gave a number of talks about our extended visit to Cuba last winter.

Schiffer always does a such a nice job of welcoming us.


The camera equipment they loaned to us in order to do our photo shoot was really massive.  Bob is repacking the car in order to fit the mammoth carrying case of 3 strobe lights and 3 reflective umbrellas in our little station wagon.  The publisher is located in a beautiful farming community near Lancaster, and they have a lot of artwork on display in the surrounding fields.


It was a daunting job to photograph the tapestries that still reside in Archie’s possession.  We had two long days getting set up to take the photographs, take the photos, and log all the information into a spread sheet.  We are pleased with how well it went, and Archie was quite a trooper.  We could not have done it without the help of a local friend and Wednesday Grouper and her partner.  Huge thanks to Alta and John who have now helped Archie get all those tapestries back into storage.

The week before the photo shoot Archie showed me his works and reminisced about many of the pieces. He has certainly lived a fascinating life and has countless interesting stories about every tapestry he has made.  What a creative mind he has! You can partially see that we are surrounded by works still in packaging from storage.


Getting down to business!  John and I are holding up “The Lymerer,” a reconstruction of part of the “Hunt for the Unicorn” series.

Archie and I are tired but happy at the end of a long day.

There is lots more work ahead on this project, but this was a major accomplishment on the road to having a book!

Bob has now given more than a dozen “Cuba talks,” and I have participated in a small way in some of them.  He has written an article for “Blue Water Sailing,” and I have an article in the current newsletter of the New England Lace Guild.  Every time I see our photos from the trip I still get a thrill.  As Bob says, we lived it once and can tell the story forever.

At this particular event, there was a Cuban themed dinner to go with Bob’s talk.  We wanted our picture taken with the chef!

And or course, our personal lives go on, filled with lots of family happenings.  We are now only a month away from welcoming our first grandchild into the family fold.  There was a lovely shower for the mother to be in October, and we attended that in between our trips to the publisher and to Archie.  I have been knitting like any enthusiastic grandmother and will soon be finished with my first attempt at knitted pants.  My good friend Mary, who often factors here as my lace making mentor, has shared an idea of hers for doing embroidery along the neckline of a onesie.  I will have to embroidery at least one onesie to go with the knitted pants.  Then there will be a Christmas sweater too.  It’s all fun and very therapeutic as we wait for Baby Nugget’s arrival.

There has also been a wee bit of weaving.  Well, not actually weaving, but preparations to weave.  I have taken quite a hiatus from my next Just Our Yarn project of weaving yardage.  I’m about 7/8’s done with dressing the loom.  Initially this yardage was planned for an origami top, but who knows.  I just want to weave and can barely ever focus on what the fabric might become.

Later this week I will participate in a workshop on rep weave with Lucienne Coifman,who recently published a book on this technique.  She is a well known teacher in Connecticut, and I’m looking forward to learning her technique during the class.

She requested that I make two warps for my assigned rep structure, and she also insisted that I warp front to back.  Well, it was a challenge dealing with two layers of warp and going front to back which I haven’t done in about 30 years.  Thank heaven I have a good friend who has done lots of rep and always puts her warps on front to back.  Otherwise, I might have been pretty embarrassed when the first day of class rolls around.

First warp, solid grey:


Second warp is shades of purple into red:


Getting the two warps on my Baby Wolf. There is only one thread that broke during winding on, and it is hanging off the back in the midst of the grey that is on the lower left.  I will rejoin it when the other broken end shows up during weaving.  I am ready to go!


So, lastly I’ll end with a couple of personal notes.  Bob finished renovating the master bathroom–yahoo!  It only took 4 1/2 months!  It’s a lovely place for displaying some of our shells from the Bahamas and Cuba.


I framed my tiny tapestry “Postcard from Home: January Fog on the St. Mary’s River.” The name is certainly longer than the size of the tapestry!  After it’s trip to the Orkney Island and a bit of Scotland, it now resides in our older son’s living room, on a table he built himself.  I should talk about his stellar cabinetry making sometime soon. I should  have taken a photo that showed the beautiful walnut slab he used to build this table.


There was one glorious day when I joined a friend on a trip to New Hartford and stumbled on this sewing/quilting/felting/spinning shop that had a wall of merino rovings to choose from. It’s called Quilted Ewe.


Slowly I’m getting ready for winter and hopefully there will be some weaving before we head south for warmer weather.  Meanwhile, my main focus will be the “Archie book.” The text is done and many of the photos are already keyed into the text.  Just need to keep plugging away at it.




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As Summer Wanes

It’s Labor Day, the first truly chilly morning of the season, and I LOVE it!  There will be a few more days of summer heat before we hit the equinox, but summer is winding down.  I can feel it in the air and see it in the trees.  In spite of hurricane Hermine heading northward, I feel autumn coming.

The month of August has hurtled by me.  I had lots and lots of doctor appointments, and in between them, I tried to very hard to enjoy one workshop on ec0-dyeing and as many days of weaving and lace making as I could manage.  Looking back, I feel fairly productive!

If you haven’t tried Eco-dyeing, give it a whirl!  There is nothing like unwrapping a scarf or fabric to find some lovely imprints of leaves and flowers.  If your first attempt doesn’t suit your taste just put the fabric/scarf away and try it again on another day.  That’s what I’m doing this morning as I write this.  I have a 1-yard length of lightweight linen and one silk scarf steaming.  I used the rinse and spin cycle of my washing machine to re-wet them, and I just collected a few leaves on my morning walk:  one small branch of Japanese maple with about a dozen leaves on it, some golden rod fronds with buds ready to open rather than in bloom, and a few fronds of sumac.

When I got home I spread out my damp linen fabric and silk scarf and placed my plant materials on half of each length of fabric or scarf, because I will fold the other half over to cover the plant material.  To the things I gathered on my walk I added a few gems from my garden.  Today I am trying tall ferns that I hope are ostrich ferns, since I read that those work well in eco-deying.  I have a few dark purple oxalis leaves, some purple cranesbill flowers as well as leaves, some coleus leaves, and one small spray of red flowers from a dragon wing begonia.  As I write this I realized I meant to to pick some hyacinth bean leaves and flowers.  The leaves of the purple hyacinth vine have such dark veining, it might work very well in this technique. Drat!  My fabric is already in the steamer.


Here are a couple of sites that I found very helpful in trying this technique.  Sherry Harr did her doctoral thesis at Kansas State University on various textile dyeing techniques, and her article is quite thorough.  There are several blogs where the authors have documented their plants and techniques rather well.  Take a look at Threadborne and Obovate Designs.

In mid-August a few people from my local area guild got together and shared lots of plant material and had a go on our various fabrics and scarves.  None of us had ever done this before, but we shared the internet info we found, and a couple of us had talked to others who had taken a workshop with Amelia Poole, whose work in this technique is stunning.

With a bit of info and a LOT of enthusiasm, we plunged ahead.  We were quite lucky to have the use of Kate’s wonderful weaving/dyeing studio for this project.  Here you can see how we layered the tubes of fabric with sticks to keep them from touching.  To make the steamer there are some rocks and sticks at the bottom of the pan to keep the tubes of fabrics above the water level.


The taller tubes of fabric went in this make-shift steamer.


After 30 minutes of steaming and a little time cooling down, our tubes came out of the pot.


Unwrapping and hanging our scarves and fabric to dry on a rack. We were pretty thrilled with our results.


My first scarf turned out better than the other things I tried that day.


Look at the imprint from this giant dahlia.


I hope to compile a list of the plants and flowers that work best for me.  Some things leave behind wonderful colors, but the imprint is just a blob.  I’m more interested in the things that leave an actual impression of the leaf or flower.  So far, this is my list of A plants and flowers:

Japanese maple leaves–great leaf definition
coleus leaves–faint leaf definition and pastel colors, lovely on silk
golden rod–great definition for leaves and flowers
purple oxalis–great definition
black hollyhock flowers–a wonderful, deep purple ‘blob’
cranesbill, purple–nicely shaped ‘blob’ somewhat recognizable as a flower silhouette

One of the perks of visiting the studios and houses of other weavers, is seeing the lovely details in their living and work spaces.  Weavers usually have such a eye for beauty.


It was a glorious day for our project.


Fast forward to the beginning of September, and on this stunning weekend I spent a wonderful day at the monthly meeting of bobbin lace makers in Connecticut.  You can find us here.

We met outside in a member’s garden under a canopy of billowing, striped canvas.  Her terrace was surrounded by flowers–black-eyed Susans, phlox, and other late season bloomers, with a view of her large vegetable garden nearby, and in the distance her bee hives.  She made an English cream tea for us that we had to share with the bees. Her tables were covered with vintage white on white embroidered cloths, topped with vintage linen tea towels that commemorated Queen Elizabeth’s reign–going back as far as her silver jubilee.  I think we all felt a bit regal.

I hope Mary won’t mind that I shared this photo.  Her expression is a mirror of how much we were all looking forward to having these treats!


Our hostess made Earl Grey tea biscuits dipped in chocolate that were off the charts!


On top of this wonderful tea we all actually spent time making lace, too!

This is also the weekend of the Haddam Neck Fair.  Late summer is the time for all kinds of festivals that celebrate farming and animal husbandry.  I have never been to this particular fair before, and it was a wonder.

First there were the animals.  We watched a draft horse pulling contest, visited the goats and sheep, cows, chickens and rabbits.  The textile displays were very small, but I met a woman on the fair committee, doing a spinning demonstration, and she hopes to grow the textile area of the fair in coming years.


Look at this beautiful Dorset sheep.  Her new fleece growing back was as thick as felt and she loved attention.


Multi-colored Jacobs.


Seeing all the awards for best sheep or cow, all the way down to best cakes, and cupcakes, best flower arrangements, and best single flowers, or best zucchini, made Bob exclaim, “No one can possibly doubt humans’ need to compete!”  Along a row of bud vases that showcased individual marigolds, the judges had written such poetic comments as: “As beautiful as a sexy, 1940s film star!”  And, one a rose that no longer had a single petal left, “A stunner!  Well done!”


I particularly like this arrangement of succulents in a well used frame. Clearly the judges did too.


Some whimsical flower arrangements.  There were lots of categories for flower arrangements, and these were two in the category inspired by food.  A tray of floral cupcakes!


And a slice of mum cake!IMG_2593 The same kind of judges’ comments showed up on all the individual vegetables, from tomatoes to summer squash, to cucumbers.  If you can grow it or make it, you can compete with others at some local fair!


It was a beautiful day, and it was quite lovely to see how much care and attention can go into growing a zucchini or a marigold!

Sadly, the textile area could not hold a candle to the livestock or the flowers and veggies.  Maybe that will change in the future.  All it will take are a few textile people who want to compete!

The day is getting away from me, and I should turn my attention to Archie’s book and to that never-ending boundweave project.

I’ll end with a recap of what I learned today.  The tall ferns in my garden must not be ostrich ferns since they left no color.  I did add some hyacinth bean vine, both leaves a clusters of flowers buds, but they also left no color or imprint.

Clusters of purple verbena flowers are interesting–they turn turquoise!


And signet marigolds left an interesting imprint.  The red stripes turned black.


And speaking of flowers, I have to share one last image.  The well known, oft-photographed field of sunflowers on the north fork of Long Island.  Bob and I sailed to Sag Harbor and stayed for almost a week back in the middle of the month.  Even when compared to an amazing dinner at the American Hotel, and wine tastings along the North Fork, seeing this field was the highlight of that trip!

sunflowers long island

Now to work!






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Weaving Connections

Today is Tuesday, August 2nd, and Convergence, the biggest gathering of weavers in the US,with lots of attendees from overseas as well, began over the weekend.  Facebook is full of posts from the many participants.  Do I feel left out?  Well…..maybe… just a little.

My tiny part of the world had its own weaving weekend though. On the hottest Saturday of the summer (so far!) members of Area 4 of the Handweavers’ Guild of Connecticut had a beautiful display and did demonstrations of weaving and spinning at the Historical Society during Old Lyme’s 30th annual Old Lyme Festival.  It was steaming hot, but we all had a great time.  We heard that we were the most popular event at the festival, and I have to admit that I’ve never seen such a crowd at any of my past demonstrations in New Jersey.  Although the historical society headquarters are not yet air conditioned (supposedly next summer it will be), I wonder if being in an historic grange building with lots of fans (that would be rotating, air circulating fans–not enthusiast fans!) was still more enticing to the hordes than being outside in the 90-degree sun.  Or maybe we just really were a compelling option for visitors.

The local online newspaper, The LimeLine, covered our event and got a shot of our group working on the behemoth, 9-ft Clemens loom.  I think this may be the moment when Jody (in the b&w stripes) began the tedious process of mending broken warp threads. She generously allowed visitors to try a bit weaving at the loom, and there was an incident of over zealousness that led to some broken warps.

These photos of our exhibit are pretty pedestrian.  I’ll just whine and say that I was very busy spinning!  It’s not a real excuse, but I hope you’ll accept it. This is just part of a display of our members’ work.


Stephanie has a business making rugs and blankets of all sorts and teaching classes in both techniques.  She brought a loom to demonstrate weaving and had a lovely array of rugs for sale.  Right next to her is a rack of her indigo dyed shibori silk scarves.


I know there are lots of better photos taken by others, but I haven’t see them yet, so these will have to suffice for now.  It was a very worthwhile event.  The folks who run the festival said we were the most popular participant, and they hope we will continue to be involved in the future.  And knowing this building will be air conditioned next year makes us all think, oh yeah, we’ll do it!

The next day a few of us drove together up to Kingstown, Rhode Island, to take a look at the extensive weaving stash of our dear friend, Kathi Spangler, who passed away a few weeks ago.  She has been on my mind so much this summer.  When I went to see Kate Barber’s exhibition in Providence, I realized we were so close to the convention center where the last Convergence was held.  When I left the gallery where Kate’s work was on display, the first corner I walked to had the building where ATA housed our tapestry exhibition two years ago.  Kathi wanted to make sure that visitors to Providence would know they had reached a building with a weaving exhibit inside, so she filled all the large main floor windows with works by Rhode Island weavers.  It was quite dramatic and such an undertaking to gather all the woven items and display them so creatively.  I had a strong sense of her presence as I stood at that corner remembering the scene from two years ago.

Screenshot 2016-08-02 18.53.12

At Kathi’s house, Susan, Sandy, and I spent a couple of hours looking through Kathi’s handwoven fabrics.  Some things were finished items, like hand towels, scarves and shawls, and table runners.  I was intrigued with several lengths of fabrics woven for samples of techniques.  This one in particular caught my attention.


Sharon and Jan who had organized all of Kathi’s stash and who were on hand to let friends in to look through Kathi’s treasures, said this piece was called the ‘chicken project.’  Boy, I am SO curious about that.  What comes to mind is that the color of golden yellow is rather like a baby chick.  Sometime I’ll have to ask Jan how this project got its name.

I took a wonderful table runner in natural linen with a bit of overshot in red at each end.  I found two more runners in the same pattern with forest green at both ends that I took for Jody.  Kathi had a lot of beautiful sample pieces, and I wonder how many of them became finished projects.  The red runner underneath the overshot runner has Christmas trees in huck lace.  It just needs hemming.


I was so moved to see that she had finished her wonderful jacket from Sarah Fortin’s workshop.  Jan and Sharon had thought to put it on a dress form for visitors to see.  Why didn’t I photograph it?  Of course, it turned out beautifully, and I hope Kathi wore it a few times before she got too sick.

Speaking of yardage, I am very close to finishing my JOY project.  I rewarded myself with about an hour of weaving today after working on Archie’s book.  It is really stunning fabric, and I will cherish it even if it never turns into a garment. Those JOY women, Diane and Cathy, have really created something wonderful with their line of handpainted tencel, and using these yarns as both warp and weft is amazingly dramatic!  Weaving it has been very therapeutic, as weaving should be.

I neglected to mention what I’m dreaming up for my next project!  Sharon has shared with me all the details that her Rhode Guild has discovered about weaving and constructing an origami top based on Virginia West’s examinations of garments constructed from narrow widths of cloth used diagonally.  I have an assortment of fine silks that I will soon make into a warp.  Photos to come.





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