Tag Archives: gardens

Will It EVER End???

It’s those placemats woven with Japanese paper yarn. I’ve hit yet another hurdle. It took me three different dye sessions to get all the paper yarn dyed to a color I like. That means there are three different dyelots, but since each batch was UNwoven from a single placemat I naively thought I would get a new woven placemat out of each batch. I did happen to notice that the yarn was compressed a bit when I unwove it. I didn’t really unweave it; as I showed in at least two previous posts, I cut it out of the warp since the placemats had already been cut off the loom.

It was such a pale, boring blue against the white/natural warp. I was very happy with the newly dyed indigo paper yarn. When I wet the yarn before dyeing it fluffed up again. I’d say it UNcompressed itself, or so I thought.

I began weaving and was zipping along nicely. I allow 1 1/2″ at the beginning and end of a placemat for a turned hem. That is 3″ total. Sometimes I weave the hems with a different weft, but not usually. I did give that a moment’s thought, but I was pretty sure the weft from each placemat would weave a full placemat. Well, it didn’t. And the worst part is that when I ran out of weft I was exactly 3″ short. Just the amount I could have woven as hems with a different weft! Poor me!

Now I’m faced with UNweaving this placemat and starting again with a different weft for the hems. It’s laborious. I think I am about 4 hours into it, and I have only UNwoven half the placemat. I’m treadling backwards, throwing a shuttle, and winding the yarn onto the pirn after every four picks. It’s the most efficient way I could think of, but if you know a better way, please give me a shout–soon! I hope to finish today. So that’s how I’m spending my day before Independence Day. Hmm…

I realize that I am stubborn and refuse to be defeated by this project! The kitchen (paper)towels were a cinch to weave, but that was because the paper yarn was a perfect color for what I wanted. This has been quite the opposite–a nightmare for sure!

But it’s summer and June offered so many pleasures to balance my weaving debacle! My hollyhocks are huge this year! They seem to have taken some kind of steroids over the winter. I don’t know how they got so big. They are same ones I replant every year. I just take the seeds from the current flowers.

The lamppost inside the hollyhocks is six feet tall. The hollyhocks must be nine feet tall! When the flowers began to open I had just discovered ‘the dogwood dyer’ on instagram. She uses flowers to create sharp images on cloth through eco-dyeing. I am intrigued. She suggests drying the flowers first to get sharp images. I have a flower press, but when I couldn’t find it I began to think I may have loaned it to someone–decades ago? So, Bob to the rescue. I now have a new flower press with several hollyhock leaves and flowers being dried. My vision is to have a line of flowers and leaves running up one side of the front of a t-shirt. I’ve got the t-shirt, and I used Botanical Colors no-heat aluminum triformate for a mordant–for the first time. I’m ready to try this technique! I sure hope it’s more successful than my placemats!

Bringing flowers into the house is one of my joys of summer.

This week I cut all the flowers from the nepeta (catmint) and the lavender, hoping to get another flush of flowers in August. The bees were working just ahead of me as I cut the nepeta, and the scent was luscious. Lucky bees!

I saved the lavender and have made little bouquets for the guest bathroom and powder room, and I made a little wand to decorate a birthday present for a friend. It smells great right now, so I hope I see my friend soon.

Ten days ago I gathered my dearest weaving friends together to celebrate our long weaving history, both each person’s weaving history and our history together. Friends came from New Jersey, New York State, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. It was a beautiful day. I loved every minute of it. Personally, I was celebrating my almost-golden-jubilee of weaving. I started weaving in fall of 1975. Struggling with these torturous placemats seems ridiculous after that much weaving history. After half a century things still don’t always go as planned!

Here is most of the group.

I gave books to the two newest weavers in my circle of friends. This is Melody!

My editor at Schiffer Publishing is the other newest weaver. She arranged for Schiffer to send six books for me to give away. Below my friend Judy just got a book on making paper baskets.

Melody took this wonderful photo of my book, which also was given away, with the various bouquets that were about to get placed around the seating areas before guests arrived.

We also had a show and tell. This is Janet who makes bobbin lace and often creates her own patterns.

And Gretchen who wove this overshot shawl

Bob took a photo of most of us gathered on the steps that lead down to the terrace off my studio. What a wonderful bunch of women who have nurtured me over so many years!

I had party favors! Key fobs made from ribbon and webbing from Renaissance Ribbons, cute stork scissors donated by Schiffer, and some bookmarks. Of course I looked for ribbon with weaving images, but this was the closest I could get. Everyone went home with some goodies.

So it’s time to get back to UNweaving. With a lot of luck I might finish today. Then I’ll move forward hopefully for the last time on this project!

April in New York!

It’s wonderful to be home! I got here in time to see my swathe of daffodils and pick armloads of them. The hellebore are blooming, and the back garden had more celandine poppies than I’ve seen in previous years. I guess they are spreading. The bleeding hearts are starting to bloom. I bought pansies for my window boxes.

But nothing at home beats April in New York, so Bob and I were delighted to spend the Easter weekend with our son Chris and his partner Melody at their home in Manhattan. Central Park, the gardens at St. John the Divine, the peacocks at St. John’s, and the Hungarian Pastry Shop all made for a memorable reunion! Throughout the gardens around St. John the Divine are quiet places to sit.

The peacocks are named Jim, Harry, and Phil. Phil is the albino peacock and perhaps somewhat more famous than his two friends.

I don’t know how to tell the difference between Jim and Harry, but I’m sure others do.

We enjoyed the cleverly written signs throughout the gardens.

The sidewalks throughout the gardens are stenciled with peacocks!

I haven’t been here in quite a few years, since Chris left New York to move to California, about seven years ago. I enjoy taking photos of my loved ones taking photos!

We had breakfast at the Hungarian Pastry Shop two days in a row. That was a rare treat!

Central Park was equally beautiful, but far more crowded, especially on a multiple holiday weekend.

Then we were off to Maryland to visit our older son’s family, where we get plenty of play time with our three grandchildren. The oldest has decorated herself with ‘gems.’

The next oldest, the first twin, has grown weary of listening TeePee (grandpa’s name) read the newspaper.

The youngest of the lot is happy to participate in whatever activity is on offer.

It was a whirlwind week, and I came home terribly sick with a bug from visiting these small germ breeders. These days my bouts with colds and flu are pretty rough. I don’t know if it’s from being isolated for two years, or if it’s the gift of advancing age. I don’t like it!

Now life begins again in earnest. I will be teaching two classes in early summer and it’s time to start getting ready. The first class starts this week at Wesleyan Potters. (I know!–That doesn’t sound like a place that would offer weaving classes, but in fact, they offer classes in weaving and jewelry making as well as pottery.) Then comes a shorter class in July at Hartford Artisans. I’ll be at Convergence this summer too–to talk about Archie Brennan’s book. All good!

The bane of my winter was trying to make a small tapestry for the “Tiny but Mighty” exhibit at Convergence in July, that is hosted by the American Tapestry Alliance. The deadline for registering to participate in this biennial, non-juried event is May 1, today! I managed to finish the finishing work on this tapestry yesterday and get a photo for the registration by last night. This piece is 9″ by 7.5″ and is called “Mind the Risk.”

I’ve always wondered what April in Paris might look like. My visit to that city took place in September a few years ago, and that was quite impressive. There were still roses blooming everywhere, and the weather was mild. The only Aprilgla anywhere near Paris that I experienced was April in Strasbourg, 15 years ago. Storks were nesting on the rooftops, and that was certainly more memorable than either daffodils or roses! –a close contender with peacocks in Manhattan. Happy spring.

Mother Nature Always Has the Final Say

The pre-modern world is still very much on my mind after seeing that ancient, worn piton and imagining the fearsome sea monster it would have seemed to an ancient sailor. Lately I’ve been thinking how ridiculously removed I am from nature in the modern world. I turn up our heat, turn down our air conditioning without a thought, I store our food in near perfect conditions in our freezer and fridge–even on a boat! I mostly leave home in the cocoon of my little mini cooper, so that there is not much weather that keeps me confined at home. Anyone who camps or lives on a boat knows that weather rules everything we do.

This morning, while having breakfast at a cafe right on the dock in English Harbour, Antigua, we all felt the wind gather speed. One person at every table jumped up to run back to boats to close hatches so our beds would not get wet in the coming squall. Meanwhile, we all continued to sit at our dockside tables, out in the weather, rain or no.

On our sail back to Antigua from St. Lucia we experienced a moment of epic nature that has stayed with me over the past two weeks or so. The low angled light of morning is perfect for watching flying fish jump out of the water as the keel of Pandora slices through their fishy schools. It’s amazing to watch them leap out of the water, their winged fins flapping furiously. In that perfect light their fins sparkle like diamonds and remind me of what fairie wings might look like, similar to a dragon fly’s wings, but entirely white. I’ve never seen a dragon fly with white wings. Some of these fish can fly so far, it is quite remarkable, like skipping stones made of faceted diamonds. I spent a lovely hour watching them glide above the water as Pandora’s bow sliced through the waves. Shortly after the fish started flying we were visited from above by several brown boobies. I thought they were gannets, but I’ve now found out better.

There was such a symmetry between watching the fish glide through the air, skimming over the surface of the indigo water, while birds glided high above us and swooped down so close to our bow and our sails. Those birds are great navigators maneuvering so close to Pandora. I wished I could see in all directions at once to follow the swooping birds and keep an eye on the flying fish. It was not possible. I saw that Bob had our camera out, trying to follow the exciting trail of just one bird.

If only Bob had gotten a photo that showed how close these birds got to us. They are so agile. In this photo you can see the blurry outline of our forestay.

I don’t think I do anything as hard as what the boobies and flying fish were doing as I watched. All that work for a such a small meal of fish with very little meat and so many tiny bones. And all that work for such tiny fish to fight for life–avoiding the giant boat hull lumbering at them, escaping from the depths to be attacked from above. What a hard life!

This has been an exciting season for experiencing nature’s extremes. The cruisers down here have all noted how much windier it’s been this year. Almost all of us have been visited by porpoise on our voyages, and several cruisers have seen whales. Bob and I think we saw a whale breach…in the far, far distance. No photo.

Bob is currently writing about his extreme experiences racing in the Classic Yacht Regatta aboard Columbia. That was extreme sailing! Everyday a few of the crew were swept down the deck by the force of the waves crashing over the bulwarks. The experienced crew were well versed in grabbing people as they slid by. Bob got tossed down the deck on the first day of sailing and was caught by a crewman who apologized for getting so ‘personal.’ Bob was thankful to be grabbed. A friend of ours got swept away on the 2nd day — not overboard, but he did have his pants ripped off entirely, and he got a nasty rope burn down his chest (and etc.) from the line he was desperately clinging to as he made that voyage down the deck.

One of the professional photographers sent these two images to Bob. No one is in charge at all, except the force of nature!

I can’t even tell where the bulwark is in this photo!

The islands of the West Indies are extreme in the best and worst that nature offers, although nature doesn’t make judgments like that. Nature just is. There are volcanic mountains and remains of pitons, rainforests, incredibly blue waters, skies and rainbows, and hurricanes. And when things go down it’s on a different scale entirely than when I decide to head home in my car, park in the garage, and get inside my house for comfort. Safety isn’t even on my radar. I just want to be warm and dry!

And thinking of home, we head home in three days. On Sunday night I’ll sleep in my cloud bed, and when the sun rises on Monday, I’ll be outside checking my gardens. With a little luck my flower boxes might hold miniature daffodils and grape hyacinths. The daffs at the top of our hill might be starting to bloom. I have to start preparing for Easter the things I want to share with our NYC kids and our grandchildren in Maryland. We have a short tour of the Eastern seaboard to take within a week of getting home. It’s all pretty exciting to this weary, and reluctant, sailor.

Earlier this week I looked at a few years’ worth of garden pictures, missing home, but also getting psyched for the return. I found this photo of a bouquet of my first rose of the season, with other spring flowers, from a few years ago–hellebore, tulips, bleeding hearts. I’m looking forward to all of these!

Ever the goal seeker, I have to make an accounting of the projects I have finished during the Caribbean season. I finished that blue sweater, knitted sideways, from cuff to cuff, more than a month ago. I have finished the orange vest, but cannot bring myself to put it on for a photo. For one thing, it really needs wet finishing to complete the look of the knitted lace. And I don’t have the proper clothing to set off this pretty vest! Some time ago I finished a Nanucket basket vase that needs a bit sanding and a coat of varnish at home. Not a bad showing for four months away from home.

The bigger news is that I have completed everything I can do down here on my small tapestry. I now realize that I love embellishing things! The last time I added ‘bling’ to a tapestry was in 2015, when the Wednesday Group made portraits on chop stick warps that Archie made for each of us. I did a triptych of Greek characters: Artemis, Theseus, and the Minotaur. The best part of that project was thinking up non-woven ‘accessories’ to add to the weaving. Now, I am having the same fun embellishing my current small tapestry. I’ve added needle weaving and knitting so far. At home I will make a length of kumihimo in a pattern I know that uses three colors and looks a bit like snake skin. There are slits in this tapestry, and I plan to thread the braids through various slits.

And one final thought on nature. My friend Stephanie on Hero took a photo of this sign we both saw during our time together in St. Lucia. So true.

Homeward bound, back to modern life.