We are approaching the last weekend in January, which means I’ve now been a live aboard for a whole month. In some ways it seems longer than that, in other ways less than a month. We have been in the small village of Deshaies (pronounced Day’ay) on Guadeloupe for several days. It is a charming place, if a bit run down. The shabbiness lends itself to chic-ness here. Very French Mediterranean here, in an ‘every man’ sort of way. Although, there is one big yacht that anchored behind us last night. They played some very loud music for less than 5 minutes (thank heaven!), and then turned on these amazing blue lights just as the moon was setting in the West. Those blue lights cast a huge aura around us.
One of the highlights of a visit to Deshaies is the botanical garden that is just outside the village, up a steep hill. Every year at the garden is slightly different. This year the heavier rains have made the place look close to perfect. Even the flamingos have benefitted. Last year we worried that they might not live another year.
There is also an aviary full of parrots.
After walking the gardens, where Bob took a lot of wonderful close-up shots, we had lunch with friends, Lynn and Mark, at the scenic restaurant.
Along the way, Lynn took some photos of us.
On our last morning in Falmouth, Bob walked to the hardware store to by a length of PVC pipe so he could make me a niddy noddy that would allow me to wind a skein of the yarn I had spun and plied on my little Nano 2 e-spinner. The niddy noddy will not come apart, so I thought I’d better pad one leg of it with a napkin to help me get the yarn off when I finished winding.
It worked well! I now have 840 yards of 2-ply lace weight merino/silk blend. I love it!
I’ve been looking for ideas for a short ruana to utilitze this yarn. This will be a lightweight fabric, using stash of my handspun waiting at home, added to this skein, and perhaps some merino/silk zephyr in dark blue. I may weave with zephyr that I have on hand in a lighter, sort of “Wedgewood” blue. This is one image I found online that I rather liked. I will sew the side seams closed on mine, and I simply must have a braid to embellish the neckline. I have also seen (somewhere!) sleeves added to a ruana. I’m intriuged by that. I’ll have to do some sampling.
Now that we’re here in Deshaies I have got a photo of the church that identifies this village for me, and which I’ve wanted to add to my Caribbean tapestry. I took the photo this morning. I will be finishing up on an octopus and a few fish before I tackle my view of Guadeloupe by weaving this charming church. Of course, I need to eliminate all the clutter in the foreground and show the full height of the mountain behind. Poetic license.
I need a photo of myself (horrors!) for an upcoming date on Textiles and Tea. I sent in a photo of me holding the Archie book, in which I was actually hiding behind the book. HGA rejected that, so I’m faced with getting another photo. Bob took this one this morning. I hope it will work. I’m still trying to hide, this time behind my loom, but it’s less obvious.
That’s the news from here. Bring on February, when we’ll head down island to Dominica and Martinique. Before that lies Les Saintes at the southern end of Guadeloupe, which we would never miss.
Like many people, my work space is my living space onboard. I’ve posted plenty of photos over the years of projects underway in the main saloon or cockpit of Pandora when she herself is not underway! I cannot work when we are sailing, only when we are anchored or at a dock.
Here’s a look at how I manage my projects onboard. This is where most of my supplies are stored. This 3-shelf cabinet extends back further than I can illustrate in a photo. This year it is holding three knitting projects–the hot water bottle cover and two sweaters– my little Nano 2 e-spinner plus merino/silk fiber to spin, a rather large supply of tapestry yarn for weaving as well as another pile linen yarns for experimenting on a new tapestry design, and various tools. I have two copper pipe frame looms onboard, and they are stored in the hanging locker that holds Bob’s clothes. They couldn’t possible fit in my hanging locker, and luckily Bob is a very good sport about my need for equipment and stash!
On the bottom right of this photo there is a folded maple contraption that is my new tapestry stand! I have great expectations that this will make weaving onboard more comfortable. There will photos in the future.
Here are two little gems that hold tools. The first is a wonderful woven envelope by Lucienne Coifman (of rep weave fame), who is a member of my weaving guild. I have a number of small items from her that she makes from samples. Her hand finishing is exquisite.
There is a embroidered loop for the button similar to the loops that hold the scissors in the next photo. Lucienne’s finishing work is equal to her fine weaving.
Then I have this small tin full of handy tools.
This is the best small tool kit I’ve ever owned. It even has a ridiculously tiny pair of scissors. Can you see them? On the upper right of the tin, with pink handles. You can see that there is a tape measure, a needle gauge and various needles, along with a small crochet hook for picking up dropped stitches (although I never pick up stitches that way). What you can’t see are various stitch markers.
Having extra knitting needles onboard along with tools is worth far more than their tiny weight and size. Ellen, who started the knitting group, has given me a little envelope of dental floss threaders which will get added to this tin.
We’ve also had a change in venue for two days last week, which merits showing. Life onboard can get pretty small. I’ve always called it “Living small, with a big view.” Back in November when all of the sailboats that rallied together arrived in English Harbour, the national parks administration here threw a celebratory dinner to commemorate the arrival of so many sailboats. You can see some great photos of this on Bob’s blog. At that event the Minister of Tourism gave Bob the gift of a two-night stay at the historic Copper and Lumber Inn that is part of Nelson’s Dockyard. It’s a place where the Tot Club meets weekly, and this is a photo I took when Bob invited the fleet of our boats to be guests at a tot.
Tots take place in the courtyard of the Inn. I have only been up on the balcony once, last year, to get a similar photo before the tot ceremony began. This year it was a thrill to actually get to stay in this beautiful, historic spot.
There were three large double windows, which had stunning views. In the previous photo the drapes are drawn because the light completely washed out the interior. But of course the views were the best part!
Copper and Lumber is particularly beautiful at night. Above the entrance are the three windows of our room.
And back on Pandora, we have some new views this year. I brought one Christmas ornament from home since I wasn’t ready to give up the holiday when we came back here.
We also found orchids for sale at the local market! We could not resist getting one since we left our little family of phalaenopses and a paphiopedilum at home in the care of Melody and Chris.
I’ll close with a video Bob took of how my little Nano 2 spins. I am enjoying it, and I’m using the time to think about how to proceed with the tapestry experiment I want to try. Soon.
Life onboard is well underway this year. I hope it will be productive.
Oh, boy! Last night I got quite riled up about people’s attitude toward wool. Bob sent me this article from the Times of London. It’s called “Shear Waste,” and it covers the dire situation of sheep farmers across the UK. This year many farmers burned their fleeces or added them to their compost. For years I’ve heard that farmers expend more energy and money in caring for sheep than they get when they sell the fleeces at market. This year the new low was 33p per kilo, which I learned does not even cover the expense of shearing. This is heartbreaking. Seriously, I am crestfallen by this situation.
I went looking for more information, and I started with the Campaign for Wool. I had no idea this endeavor is now 10 years old. Time flies. How have things gotten worse instead of better? It seems that many people in the UK feel that wool is only useful for rugs these days. Whoa! I have had the pleasure of spinning some wonderfully soft wools from the UK, and nothing–absolutely nothing!–gives me more pleasure than knitting or spinning Wensleydale or Shetland wool. Am I mistakenly under the impression that everyone in the UK knits? …at least for a few years as a child? Don’t they need fresh supplies of wool and the ability to try the many breeds that are grown all around them? Aren’t designers, especially of men’s suiting, always in need of wool?
A few months ago I read the book Wild Dress: Clothing and the Natural World, by Kate Fletcher. The author is Professor of Sustainability and Fashion at the University of the Arts London. She has written other books, but in this one her writings are autobiographical. She explores the relationship between garments and our human connection to nature. The chapters read like essays to me, and in one she marvels at people who spend time in nature by hiking through the landscape. She notes that nowadays, you have to dress the part of someone who spends times in nature by wearing the most unnatural clothing. If you aren’t wearing a polyester fleece made from recycled plastic bottles and elastane-nylon pants, you must not be a serious outdoorsman. Kate Fletcher writes, “As garments go, there are few pieces less natural than a polyester fleece pullover. Nor are there many pieces that act to distance the world outside more than those made from filaments of hydrocarbon with their high resistance to micro-organisms, poor heat isolation and low water absorbency. The things we are wearing to arrive in nature do not, cannot, let nature in… We keep her at arm’s length, or more literally at sleeve’s length, with hydrophobic fibres, an impervious fabric membrane and garments so durable they will outlive us all.”
Wool has so many uses. It can keep you warm and is fairly water resistant. Through millennia of sheep breeding wool can be soft enough for undergarments and tough enough for weatherproof yurts. It can insulate houses, hang on the wall as a beautiful way to keep out drafts. It can become stunning clothing and household items when knitted or woven or felted. I thought there were many millions of people clambering to have excellent sources of wool. So how can these farmers be in dire straits right now? I am worried that they will soon give up sheep farming and turn to something else. What will I do? I can’t possibly be the only one who fears this.
I own exactly one polyester fleece pullover which I bought at least 30 years ago to support a non-profit group I had joined. I still have it, and I wear it only occasionally, although never out in public. I have a wardrobe of sweaters I knit myself that I love to wear out in public. Most of my friends and acquaintances also love the sweaters and other garments that they have woven or knitted. Even if you yourself do not knit or weave, I bet you know at least a handful of people who do. We are everywhere.
About a decade ago I joined the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers in the UK. Ten months of each year there are online workshops to take. One month we focused on breeds of sheep that are not well known. Each participant got a small amount of fleece directly from the farmer to comb or card and then spin. I got some Ronaldsay fleece from the Orkney Islands off Scotland. I got some Bowmont-Merino fleece from Leslie Prior’s farm in Devon. That was an amazing bit of fleece to spin. She has the only Bowmont sheep farm in the world, and at one point there were only 28 sheep at her farm. I felt so lucky to get a bit of this wonderful fiber to spin. Since then I believe she has prospered with this breed. She has an outlet for getting the yarn spun in the UK, and made into garments and household items that are manufactured in the UK.
When we had the fleece workshop through the UK Guild, those of us outside the UK did not know for certain if we’d ever receive our fleece samples, or how long it might take to receive them. The ones I chose all arrived at my house, and I think the longest delivery time was only three weeks, which is fast considering these packages had to go through the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. The inspectors have the right to send back anything they deem unsafe. After playing with various fleeces from the around the UK, I ordered a kilo of Ronaldsay from Orkney. I washed the wool, combed it and spun it before knitting it into a sweater for my younger son Chris. I’d love to spin some more Bowmont now!
This is my long winded way of saying that I hope there is some way to save the wool industry in the UK. I read that half the wool stays in the UK, but the other half gets exported throughout the world. One quarter of the wool goes to China, and this year, due to the pandemic, no wool could be sent there. In the article I linked at the beginning, I also learned that British wool is used in carpets on airplanes and cruise ships, and those industries are certainly suffering at this point in time. To me, wool can be such a luxury item that we should all cherish it. I don’t want to lose that. What can I do?
I’ll end this with some stunning wool products and some links.
The weather has been wild in this part of the world, not unlike many places these days. We are having multiple squalls a day (and night), with high winds and torrents of horizontal rain to go with it. At night we open and shut our hatches so many times, first to get a bit of a breeze in order to sleep, then to shut things down so our cabin doesn’t get drenched. We both lose track of how many times we get up in the night, and at this point we are both suffering from sleep deprivation. So, when I found this recent article from the BBC online, I could not help but notice the similarities, even a world away from here.
The article is about Ronaldsay sheep on Orkney Island just off the northern coast of Scotland. Another article called Orkney “a freckle off the north coast of Scotland.” How true. Ronaldsay are small, hardy sheep who’ve managed to live on a seaweed diet for quite some time now, ever since the sheep owners cut the sheep off from pasture.
Cute sheep, isn’t she? About a decade ago I ordered a kilo of white Ronaldsay fleece from Elizabeth Lovick on Orkney. She has a venture called Northern Lace, and she teaches and designs knitting patterns in traditional Orkney lace work. It took a long time for my fleece to arrive. When she mailed it, she mentioned that I might never get it, if US customs should deem it unsafe. Well, it did arrive, and I enjoyed the process of washing and combing it before spinning it. When at last I had a medium weight, 3-ply yarn, I knitted it into a fisherman’s gansey for my younger son Chris. No, it’s not traditional. The yarn was, but I made up the sweater pattern myself, attempting to satisfy Chris’ needs and style. At the time he was an undergrad student in Rochester, NY. Later he took the sweater, along with several pairs of wool socks that I also knit for him, to Manhattan while he continued his studies there and then worked for a few years. At one point, he lived in an unheated hallway in Chinatown (yes, he paid rent for this dwelling; yes, it was illegal). That sweater came in handy for a few years. Now he lives in the Bay Area has no need for such a garment!
But back to the sheep. Close to 200 years ago, the sheep farmers built a stone wall around the entire perimeter of the island to keep the sheep on the beach so that other livestock could feed on the pasture. The sheep have become accustomed to, and have actually thrived on, their seaweed-only diet. Occasionally a sheep will get through a broken or weak part of the stone wall, and you know if one sheep gets out it’s not long before they are all out.
The article is about the new sheep dyke warden/shepherdess who’s been hired to maintain that wall and keep an eye on the sheep, as well as what scientists are learning about a seaweed diet. It turns out the seaweed-eating sheep do not emit methane when they belch. It turns out that methane gas is 30 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. Think of all the ruminant livestock throughout the world, adding so much methane to the environment. While it’s certainly not a cure-all for our problems, it could be one of many efforts to ease things. These diminutive sheep have led scientists to research the possible benefits of adding seaweed into more livestock diets. The North Ronaldsay Trust began looking for someone to fill the position of sheep dyke warden during the past summer, 2019. Sian Tarrant who is from East Sussex, and has a degree in marine biology from St. Andrews, seems to fit the bill. She wanted the job, and the island folk wanted her. She has already worked on a number of National Trust projects, recently studying seals on one of the uninhabited islands in the Orkneys as well as in the sub antarctic off the coast of South Georgia. Want to read more about this interesting woman? Here you go!
All this makes me want to comb and spin some Ronaldsay again. This time, I’d go for the darkest brown fleece. Maybe I would use it for tapestry. So many ideas, so little time! Meanwhile, the wind is howling here on this Sunday afternoon. We won’t get frostbite from it, or die of hypothermia, but it is still pretty extreme weather.
My last few days in Maine will be spent riding out what remains of hurricane Irene when she hits these shores. Hopefully she will be spent by the time she arrives, but everyone has to be prepared for the worst!
We are in a small island harbor called Pulpit Rock in Penobscot Bay. There is a big rock formation at the mouth of this natural harbor that does look a bit like a pulpit. More than looking like a podium this rock is famous for having a 200+ year old osprey nest at the pinnacle of the pulpit.
Our preparations for the storm are almost complete. We have two anchors out to keep us from swinging when the winds increase, all the sails are furled and lashed down, loose items have all been stored below. The larder is well stocked so I intend to cook some comfort food today, perhaps an egg/veggie/cheese timbale, onion soup, and warm homemade chocolate pudding!
Chocolate Pudding from Cook's Illustrated
Thank heave there is a good internet signal because I got the chocolate pudding recipe from this month’s Cook’s Illustrated!
Also on my agenda after we have finished our storm preparations, is watching a couple of good spinning DVDs I have on board while doing some spinning! I have Margaret Stove’s “Spinning for Lace” and Judith McKenzie’s “A Spinner’s Toolbox,” both from Interweave Press!
Handpainted cotton roving "Phoenix Garden"
And in my large bin of toys I have some handpainted cotton roving fromGirl Meets Spindle in a colorway called “Phoenix Garden.” Now doesn’t this sound like a good plan for riding out a tropical storm?
So I’m hoping that wherever you are you are safe and dry, and doing something fibery on this stormy weekend.
Gallery Exhibit at NEWS Conference, July 20-23, 2023. First place “Miscellaneous” for a Nantucket style basket, with 2 special awards for “Best use of Historical Inspiration and Best Use of Off-Loom Weaving.
OVER, UNDER, AND THROUGH THE WARP: The Art of Tapestry Weaving, April 1-30, 2023, The Barnes Gallery, Leverett, MA. www.barnesgallery.org. An exhibition of works by Tapestry Weavers in New England (TWiNE). My works “Entangled 1,” “Untitled 1,” and “Mind the Risks” are in this exhibition.
TINY BUT MIGHTY Unjuried, small format tapestry exhibit, hosted by American Tapestry Alliance at HGA Convergence, July, 2022 Knoxville, TN
INTERLACEMENTS: Artistic Expressions in Weaving. Juried Biennial Exhibit of the Handweavers’ Guild of CT. River Street Gallery, 72 Blatchley Ave., New Haven, CT.
March 30 – May 5, 2019. Awards: 1st Place Wall Hangings, HGA Award for Outstanding Fiber Art.
CROSS SECTIONS: Works in Fiber by the members of North Adams Fiber Artists. Sept. 7 – Oct. 8, 2018.
Opening reception, Friday, Sept. 7, 5pm – 8pm. Gallery hours: Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, 12pm – 5pm.
A CELEBRATION OF FIBER ARTS: Arts Center East, Vernon, Ct, October 11th — November 7th. Opening reception Oct. 11th from 2-4pm. Gallery is open Thurs–Sunday from 1-5pm. “Sunset on Wilson Cove” and “Hudson River Idyll” are both there for this exhibition.
AWARDS FROM NEW ENGLAND WEAVERS’ SEMINAR: for “Sunset on Wilson Cove”: 1st Place Tapestry and Transparency, Judges’ Choice, People’s Choice, Textile Arts Center “Best in Tapestry,” Rebecca Dea Award for First Time Entrant. NEWS 2015.
NEW ENGLAND WEAVERS’ SEMINAR: gallery exhibition, Smith College, Northampton, MA. July 9 – 12, 2015.
“THE WEDNESDAY GROUP” at Garnerville Arts Center, Garnerville, NY. May 30 – June 4,2015.
“CONTEMPORARY HANDWOVEN TREASURES,” 2015 Biennial Exhibiton of Conneticut Guild of Handweavers, Lyman Allen Museum of Art, New London, Ct; April 4 – 26.
“POSTCARDS FROM HOME,” Invitational Gallery Exhibition of small tapestries by artists in Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, and New England. Northlight Gallery, Stromness, Orkney Island, Scotland. March 25 – April 25.
August 2015, Torshavn School, Faroe Island, Scotland.
“A LIVELY EXPERIMENT,” Gallery Exhibition of the Handweavers Guild of America (juried), Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence, RI. July 16 – 19, 2014.
“SMALL FORMAT TAPESTRY: Untitled/Unjuried,” sponsored by American Tapestry Alliance at HGA, Convergence, University of Rhode Island Feinstein Campus Gallery, Providence, RI. July 16 – 19, 2014.