Tag Archives: sailing

Famous Knitter or just Famous?

Each year at some point in our Maine sailing adventures we go out to Allen Island, a lovely getaway for the well known Wyeth family where they have very nicely placed a few moorings for visiting boaters to enjoy.  Last year I was thrilled when Betsy Wyeth arrived at the island and waved to me from her launch.  But this year’s visit topped even that.  Betsy sat outside her house with a basket of knitting; I sat aboard Pandora with my knitting.  We each sat knitting and watching the other knitting.

Knitting with Betsy Wyeth!

So,  Where in the world were my Signature Arts knitting needles?  At Allen Island, a rather private place only accessible to those with means of traveling on the water, where they rubbed shoulders with Betsy Wyeth’s needles!

And, by the way, there are about 100 sheep on Allen Island….and it  is the spot where George Waymouth landed with his ship Archangel in 1605.

Betsy (on left) knitting

And that was the day I finished my “Garden Tank” by Deborah Newton.  Deborah’s designs are extremely attractive and wearable for many body shapes which makes her one of my favorite knitwear designers!

What I love about this design: the simple lace pattern that does not overwhelm the sweater, the flattering boat neck, the A-line ‘swing’ shape, the armhole shaping, the way the lace creates a scalloped edge at the hem!

In Interweave Knits the sweater was knitted with Manos del Uruguay “Serena” (60% alpaca, 40% cotton).  Now maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t alpaca one of the warmest fibers?  So even with the addition of 40% cotton, wouldn’t this be too warm for a summer tank top?  I decided to use raw silk, and since this yarn has virtually no elasticity I made the top with zero ease.  I’m very happy with the fit!

Wild Kingdom!

I spent most of yesterday watching the bird life around Snow Island.  There are several ospreys in the area, more than I’ve seen in one place before, and they all seem intent on ridding themselves of the eagles in the area.  The ospreys worked together to dive bomb the eagles, and I’m not sure if they were just claiming their hunting territory of if the eagles pose some additional threat.  I know some birds steal the nests of others.  Clearly, for reasons I may not fully understand, the ospreys do not wish to cohabitate with eagles!

eagle at Snow Island

This eagle sat calmly in the tree while a group of ospreys hurled themselves and dived down on her/him!  Right nearby was the eagle’s nest complete with adolescent eaglet.




Eaglet on the nest

Well, I know this eaglet is hard to see even if you ‘bigify’ the photo…nest is near the center of the image.  I marveled at the parent eagle bringing food to this baby whose sharp beak and claws surely must make parenting difficult!


Yesterday was one of those Maine days that is so clear everything appears super-focused. I took photos of water and sky, and I hope someday they will be useful to developing a cartoon for a tapestry.

And I finished one of my summer books….

Summer reading:

This is a fascinating history of New York before the English, when it was the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.  The author gives vivid images of life in this colony through the written records and correspondence of that period and shows that the Dutch culture has lived on to the present time in current New York culture.  His premise is that New York is still more Dutch than English, and that the Dutch culture of the 17th century is the core of American culture. He does a great job!

Amazing book!…too moving to describe.  I highly recommend it! I bought it for reading on board, but I finished it the day I took sneak peak at home….





I just finished this yesterday, while watching the bird life here.  A wonderful story written from the point of view of three different women during the year before American involvement in WWII, during the blitzkrieg of London and the rounding of up Jews throughout Europe.  I put this near the top of very few books that I will always treasure!


Just started this yesterday, and I’m hooked.  I don’t normally stumble on so many good books all at once!  I feel incredibly lucky….





And I’m looking forward to Water for Elephants that is on my phone.  I can’t see the movie until I read (or listen to!)  the book!

The day will end with a dinner of fresh local veggies and local cheese from the this quaint farm stand in Five Islands Habor….oh, and a bouquet of dark red dahlias, feverfew, and love in a mist!

Five Islands Harbor Farm Stand



Inspiration in Maine

Typically Maine, the weather changed every couple of hours yesterday, and the sights made me think about trying to capture the essence of a place in imagery…..which made me think of Joan Baxter’s tapestries. She has mastered conveying a sense of place for Scotland, with tapestries that are full of mists and myth and mystery. After 15 summers in Maine maybe I am getting a sense of this place….also a place of mists as well as brilliant sun and sharply focused views.

As we sailed out of the Basin and Cundy’s Harbor yesterday, the sky behind us grew very dark, and shortly into our trip we were overtaken by a squall.  Twenty minutes later the shoreline and islands glowed in the fresh new light and sparkled from the rain. We were headed to Snow Island, and just as we approached we saw an eagle soaring overhead!  He (she?) landed on a rock right nearby to dry his wings.

Eagle on Snow Island

In the trees just to the left in this photo was another eagle!  We could not get the two birds together in one photo!

After anchoring another quadrant of the sky darkened, and another squall passed through.  The quality of light is decidedly Maine to me, and something I’d like to capture in a future tapestry.

Approaching Squall

Can you see the eagle in the lone tree just right of center in the photograph?  All in all, we saw three eagles at Snow Island.

Before heading to Snow Island I spent a good part of the day working on another sweater…. Deborah Newton’s “Greenhouse Tank” which is in the current issue of Interweave Knits.

Deborah Newton's Greenhouse tank

Deborah Newton is one of my favorite knitting designers.  Her designs are lovely and fit beautifully!  I am really hoping this will be more flattering than my Plymouth “Kudo” sweater!

I am working this sweater in raw silk from Tess Designer Yarns in a colorway called Bahama Bay.



Deborah Newton’s “Greenhouse Tank” knitted in Tess Designer Yarns “Bahama Bay” raw silk

More about this sweater in another post…..

Coastal Living

I’ve been  living on the water for one week now.  The weather has been beautiful, the coastline of Maine stunning!  On the trip up Bob saw a whale and a big basking shark. Together we’ve seen seals, and lots of shore birds: egrets, herons, ospreys, storm petrels.  Yesterday I saw eider ducks for the first time!

During the first few days on board I finished this sweater which is a monstrous failure!

Plymouth yarn "Kudo" knitted into Plymouth's pattern 1977

So, what went wrong?  Well, maybe the yarn is just too bright for horizontal stripes?  …especially in larger sizes!  Although it was a very quick project to knit, no knitting project goes quickly enough not to feel a sharp pang of anxiety when it proves to be a failure!

Also, here is the photo on the pattern:

Plymouth Yarns #1977 for Kudo yarn

My biggest gripe is the look of the sleeves in the cover photo.  They are clearly 3/4 sleeves.  The pattern knits up as short sleeves.  The pattern does say that if you want shorter or longer sleeves you must adjust your stitch number to achieve this.  The pattern says that the stitches called for in the instructions will result in elbow length sleeves, but it does not say whether that includes the seed stitch border.  To me the sleeves in the cover are elbow length before the seed stitch border was added, so I presumed that the pattern photo showed the sweater knitted to the specifications in the basic pattern.  Wrong. The finsihed sweater looks decidedly dumpy with the short sleeves.  I tried the seed stitch border and didn’t like it.  So I ripped it out and tried a crocheted scallop, also dumpy, as the photo shows!  I cannot just do the sleeves over, making them longer, since the entire sweater is knit in one piece, from the bottom of the front all the way to the bottom of the back, increasing for the sleeves and working the neck as you go.  This would basically mean knitting the sweater again from almost the beginning.  A little note in the instructions saying that the sleeves in the photo had been lengthened would have helped immensely!  But still, I don’t know if I could carry off those bright horizontal stripes, so I’m not too enthusiastic about doing this sweater again anyway!

Paul's awesom mud oven in the shape of fish!

On a more positive note…. we went to a party on Bailey’s Island, as guests of guests. Our host Paul built a mud oven shaped like a fish with its mouth wide open to accept his culinary creations.  He made 32 pizzas that day!  Delightful combinations like pear and gorgonzola, eggplant and green salsa….even a couple of dessert pizzas with chocolate chunks, marmallows and strawberries!  I think there will be a mud oven in our future at home!

Bailey's Island granite cribstone bridge









This bridge is built Lincoln Log style out of granite pieces that are resting on each other, no pins or cement of any kind.  Amazing! It was originally in 1927-28 and a recent rebuild was just finished this year. According to local knowledge, there was only one other bridge like it in existence in the 20th century, and that was in Scotland.  That bridge was dismantled during WWII so currently the only cribstone bridge is this one on Bailey’s Island.  We were anchored right on the East side of it!


“Pandora” from our host’s gardens on Bailey’s Island
Lunch is ready!

As I write this we are leaving Cundy’s Harbor where we visited good friends with a lovely house and garden right on the harbor.  Their neighbor, a seasoned lobsterman, motored over to us in his boat Life After... while we were headed to the well known “Basin,” and he passed us four lobsters in a bucket!  We will feast tonight!




Handwoven Home

…or home away from home.  My husband and I spend some weeks every summer sailing on board our sailboat Pandora.  This year, just weeks before we moved on board I spent a week at Becky’s Vavstuga taking her Vavstuga Basics class.  This is an absolute prerequisite for any of her other classes, her way of making sure that students have the same basic training before moving on to her more specific classes. This session’s basic class had five projects: a false damask small table square, a small (30″ x 30″) tablecloth, a dishtowel, a bathmat, and a blanket.  I decided that all these projects, except the bathmat, would be used on Pandora!

one of the small tablecloths

one of two dishtowel warps

second dish towel with blue blanket in background






Student Susan sleying reed for Blue blanket

Ilona working on the green blanket


The block weave project

The bathmat project

Andi and Patti working together

Andi and Patti working together

Becky Ashenden’s lovely studio and student residence is furnished entirely in Swedish style (mostly from IKEA) with her handwovens adorning every horizontal surface as well as all the windows!  The whole place could be a scene from a Carl Larsson painting. In our bedrooms we each had a handwoven coverlet for our bed and handwoven curtains.  In the main sitting room/dining room/kitchenette, there were wool blankets on the backs of the comfy chairs, a tablecloth on the side table in the sitting area, and curtains on the windows.  All the curtains had handwoven tapes as tie-backs.  We had breakfast each morning up in the residence dining room.  Breakfast was made and delivered by Susan (Becky’s business partner), who brought up a different tablecloth each morning, while wearing a matching apron.  I have a new appreciation for aprons!


Breakfast with one of many handwoven tablecloths!

Class started each morning at 9am after breakfast at 8.  Monday we made color wrappings for dishtowels and chose the two designs we liked best.  Then we began warping for them and also making the warps for the other projects.  By the afternoon we were putting the warps on the looms.  I will put details of Becky’s Swedish warping techniques on the weaving page.  At 11am each day we gathered at a large table in the studio for drafting exercises.  All of us except one student were experienced weavers.  Some of us had been weaving for decades, and one student had even spent a year at a Swedish handcraft school just like the one where Becky herself had studied.  Still, making drafts by hand on graph paper was a useful exercise for all of us!

The studio lights went off promptly at noon signalling lunch.  There was one hour to enjoy an amazing lunch with lots of choices served smorgasbord-style.  The class information stated that while Becky could not accommodate specific diets, most people on restricted diets could still get plenty to eat.  It was true!  Each lunch included a platter of raw vegetables, like radish and cucumber, a green salad, a cheese tray, a basket of crackers, a basket of Susan’s still-warm homemade bread, a plate of sliced deli meats and various dishes that were freshly made for that day’s lunch.  These main courses included shrimp/fennel salad one day, a wheat berry salad with vegetable and dried fruit another day.  It was a feast!


The dining room table set for lunch

Dinner always included the same assortment of platters holding cheeses, raw veggies, sliced meats, etc.  And there would also be a hot main course.  There was another loaf of Susan’s delicious bread.  We loved it so much that we demanded a photo of her with bread before she sliced it!  Becky made a fresh dessert each day to serve after dinner.


Susan with her homemade bread, wearing a handwoven apron

The studio re-opened at 1pm each day, so after lunch there was time for a short walk or for perusing the extensive library of weaving books….or shopping in the retail section of Vavstuga!  We re-gathered at the table at 3pm each afternoon for another session of instruction which included looking at innumerable handwoven items.  I have never seen so many handwoven items in one location. It was exhilarating!


Afternoon class examining some of Becky's handwoven tablecloths

Dinner was at 6pm each evening, and again the studio lights were turned off to bring us all to the table together. The studio re-opened from 7.30 -9 pm for evening weaving.

Gathering at the table

Our days had a definite rhythm because of Becky and Susan’s hard work and organization.  After working together to warp four of the five projects, we were all weaving by Wednesday morning. We warped each project in groups of two which made beaming, threading and sleying a breeze.  It is really quite enjoyable to warp with another person (and I’m someone who loves the warping process and looks forward to that time alone!).  I want to see if I can institute a warping group when I return home in late summer.


Warping mill with view of the Deerfield River

Each day Becky wore a handwoven dress, and we all enjoyed hearing the plans for her summer solstice wedding, including her handwoven fabric design for her wedding dress.  She was to be married just a week after our class ended, and I hope there will be photos on her site when she returns!  While we did not get to see the dress, we saw the fabric leftovers after the pattern pieces were cut….stunning!

Becky’s studio sits at the entrance to the Bridge of Flowers which is an incredible place in mid-June.


Bridge of Flowers


Students' work on Friday afternoon

The class with our finished projects!

Susan and Becky

So…..back to Pandora and my handwoven home on the water…..


False Damask table square on cockpit table
Handwoven tablecloth and blanket from my week at Vavstuga

Ooops! I think I left the hand towel at home, and the bathmat was made for our upstairs guest bathroom.