Boston, City of My Heart

Do you have one favorite city that trumps all the others you enjoy?

I admit, I haven’t been to most of the cities that would come to minds. I haven’t been to Paris or Rome, or even to London, in spite of having been to the United Kingdom a number of times.

I love Dublin. I adore New York and like San Franciso, from what I’ve seen. Montreal and Ottawa have their distinct and undeniable charms.

But the city that has my heart is Boston.

If you’ve been here, hanging out with me for a long time, you knew that, because almost every time I go I seem to feel the need to write about it.

I love the history of Boston, as one of the cities where American liberty was born.

And my own family history is connected to Boston. My many-times-great grandfather lived on this exact site, at the corner of Washington and Essex. He owned this land 125 years before the Liberty Tree was the gathering spot for the Sons of Liberty. Might he have planted the Liberty Tree?!

img_4858

I love that Boston is surrounded by water. For the first time, we had a view of the water from our hotel and also took advantage of the location and went on a harbor cruise.

I love the sights and sounds of Boston. Like all big cities, there’s always a festival, a gathering, lots of unusual and quirky details.

And I love the museums. We go back to the same museums every single time and visit our favorite pieces and find new treasures, like this glimpse of infinity. Each side of this work had only about 10 glass vessels in a space about one foot deep. The artist,
Josiah McElheny (American, born in 1966), created a brilliant vision—I could look all day.

I know that, when I have an opportunity to travel, I should go new places. I know I would love those other great cities and find them thrilling and intoxicating, too. I know I would expand my horizons and knowledge by visiting more, different cities.

And I know I’ll go back to Boston. In fact, I can hardly wait!

So, how about you? What city inspires your affection? Should I go there soon?

A Week in Motion, Making

This was a harbinger for a week of weaving to come:


We saw sheep and we saw wool. And the world’s cutest angora bunny. 


And we had the pleasure of meeting a long-time blog friend, Jennifer, of Heron Pond Designs, selling her beautiful scarves. 


Now, these are some of our creative inspirations for the week:


I hope you’ll stick around! If I can manage this mobile phone version of WordPress, I’ll show you more!

The Vavstuga Way

 

IMG_0080

My husband and I spent last week at a most special weaving school and were introduced to the Vavstuga Way. Vavstuga was founded on the Swedish and Scandinavian styles of weaving and teaching, and offers a number of really cool workshops each year. We were there for Weaving Basics.

What is the Vavstuga Way? Well, by the numbers:

One excellent school, in two locations, in one small town in rural Massachusetts. One pretty river runs through the town.

IMG_1854

One incredible teacher, Becky Ashenden. Becky is the founder and the heart, the soul, the electricity, the flame—choose your favorite metaphor to convey “life force”—of Vavstuga.

IMG_2066

Eight students in a Weaving Basics course. Six women, two men, some very experienced, some completely new to the craft. All congenial and happy to be sharing the week together.

FullSizeRender 7

photo by Bettie Zakon-Anderson

Five days of weaving, for 10 hours a day.

IMG_1872

Eights looms. Four projects for each of us to finish—two towels, a small tablecloth, a wool throw.

 

Three times a day the bell rang, to announce yummy meals provided for us.

Swedish fiddlers—two; dancers—several.

 

IMG_2133

Almost too many to count:

  • Lovely handwoven items to use and learn from
  • Choices of colors in threads of cotton, linen, and wool
  • Tools and gadgets to purchase
  • Books to peruse and inspire

Innumerable

  • Mistakes made by students and fixed by Becky
  • Confused looks during drafting lessons
  • Laughs
  • Aches and pains
  • Doubts about finishing
  • Sighs of relief at finishing
  • Thrills at bringing our work home

The Vavstuga Way, by the impressions:

Maybe there are really two aspects of the Vavstuga Way. One is based on the use of a specific kind of Swedish loom and the details of using them—setting them up, adjusting them for ergonomics, weaving on them successfully.

My husband and I don’t have this kind of loom at home so some of what we learned will go unused.

But far more important than the specifics of looms and loom dressing is the other aspect of the Vavstuga Way. I see it as an attitude toward weaving.

I brought these lessons home:

  • The equipment and materials should be treated with respect but not awe. We learned to be less obsessive about each tiny detail of weaving and to focus on the larger process—good technique, quality materials, solving problems in ways that work for each of us, and our individual styles.
  • Natural is better. We used only the sorts of natural fibers that have been used for millennia—cotton, linen, wool—and to fully appreciate the qualities that have guaranteed that longevity.
  • Simple is beautiful. We did some of the most straightforward kinds of weaving possible and used color and thoughtful, consistent weaving to make lovely items.
  • Upbeat and energetic saves the day. Becky, our instructor, taught by example. Nothing fazes her; no mistake can’t be fixed; no frustration can’t be leavened with a quick joke and positive action.
  • I will worry less in the future about weaving the “right way” and using my loom the “right way.” I feel much more willing to re-think my system, to see what works for me, and be creative about what doesn’t.
  • What we make is meant to be used. We slept under handwoven coverlets, wiped our hands on handwoven towels and napkins. Every meal featured different handwoven table settings, each lovelier than the last. The curtains at the windows, as well as the tieback ribbons, the cushions on the benches, the rugs, our teacher’s clothing . . . all woven by hand, all being used with respect and enthusiasm.

Our intense week at Vavstuga is over and neither my husband nor I have touched a loom since we got home. But we spent much of the drive home and our time since talking about weaving, thinking about it, planning for more. And we’ve admired our work repeatedly!

And, of course, we are already thinking ahead, looking at the course listings for more advanced weeklong workshops, to continue our exploration of the Vavstuga Way.


For more information about the Vavstuga Way, visit their website and the blog Tammy Weaves, written by a member of the inaugural session of the Vavstuga Immersion program.

 

Singing the Blues

IMG_0007

Not the chilly, grayish blue of upstate New York but the happy, warm Florida blues!

Can you guess which blue is my favorite blue?

A Weavers’ Road Trip: Two Stops in Maine

So . . . Maine.

Crashing ocean waves. Rocky shore. Pine trees. Mountains. Autumn color.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

That’s all very nice, I hear you cry, but what about the important stuff?

Shopping!

In truth, I am not a shopper. My usual stance is that if I can’t buy it from the LL Bean catalog, I don’t need it. And, of course, LL Bean’s flagship store is in Freeport, Maine, and yes, we did go there.

But of the gazillion other retail and outlet stores in that area, we bothered with only one and then we got out of there as fast as we could.

But that doesn’t mean we stopped shopping. Oh, no, not at all.

Within 60 miles of each other, along Route 1 in Maine, two shops make the hearts of weavers, and all enthusiasts of fibers and textiles and beautiful American crafts, sing.

These two shops, Swans Island Company and Halcyon Yarns, are very different and both well worth a stop.

Swans Island, in Northport, is a place to go to feast your eyes on exquisitely hand-crafted textiles made the old-fashioned way. It’s a place to go to appreciate that some people still dream of living in a small community and engaging their fellows in traditional work, sharing values of doing the work by hand, doing it exceedingly well, and doing it together.

When John and Carolyn Grace began the company in the early 1990s, they “decided to create wool blankets by hand using time-honored and still-remembered traditions. They found people who raised sheep and learned to make their own dyestuffs, to weave on hand looms, and gradually discovered how to produce beautiful blankets.”

The company now offers other items in addition to their blankets, including their yarn so the rest of us can enjoy it in our own creations. The shop is serene and spare, the textiles are simply displayed, and the quality and authenticity of the work is undeniable. I could live there.

If Swans Island is an oasis, a place apart from 21st century hubbub, Halcyon Yarns is a carnival of color and creativity and “oh-my-goodness-I-want-it-all-and-I-want-it-now-now-now.”

Halcyon Yarns, in Bath, caters to all of us who make things from fibers. Spinners? Yup. Crocheters? You bet. Felters? Uh huh. Knitters? Got you covered. Weavers? Yes, yes, yes!!!

We’ve purchased yarn from Halcyon’s website and catalog but there’s nothing like going to the store and wandering the aisles. The feel is sort of like an old general store, with not a lot of attention paid to fancy displays. The floor and shelves are bare wood and there’s lots of stuff just sitting around on the floor.

But there is beauty and inspiration everywhere you look! Walk in the door! Look up! Look down! Walk around a dozen times and see something new with every pass.

It’s actually pretty overwhelming. As usual, all ideas of actual items I might want to weave flew from my head and I spent an hour wandering around with a cone of black cotton thread.

My eyes were dazzled and my mind was boggled.

Eventually, of course, I chose some yarns, almost at random, thinking that since they were all pretty they could certainly be turned into something pretty.

The ones I chose and the ones my husband chose have been added to the pile of yarns we bought on our previous weavers’ road trip to Maurice Brassard. The pile is getting a little embarrassing, truth be told.

But we also bought a new book, full of tempting project ideas, and we have a long North Country winter ahead. We have plenty of time and inspiration to help us use up that stash of yarn.

And we have no weavers’ road trips planned in the future. Oh, except that one in April . . .


If you can’t make your own road trip to Maine, both Halcyon and Swans Island have good websites and I know from my own experience that Halcyon has excellent customer service.

Maine in Late October: Good Planning and Good Luck

It could’ve been a disaster, a birthday to remember for all the wrong reasons. A trip to the northeast corner of the United States at the end of October could’ve been all about cold rain (or snow!), gray skies, closed shops and restaurants, and desolate landscapes.

But, through a combination of decent planning and excellent fortune, our trip to Maine turned out to be memorable for all the right reasons.

To me, the most important part of planning is to mine own self be true. We know ourselves well enough to know that crowds (too much people!) and shopping and go-go-go aren’t fun for us. So we planned a trip that matched our temperaments.

We went to Acadia National Park in Maine. The park, mostly situated on Mount Desert Island, is 47,000 acres of granite, mountains, pines and birches, and crashing waves. The park is wild and lovely, with scenic roads to drive but also trails and paths and carriage roads to walk. (You can click on any photo to savor the details!)

IMG_9225 IMG_9373

The island shore is mostly rocky—I love a rocky shore better than most anything.

But for those who prefer a sandy beach, the park provides one perfectly perfect Sand Beach.IMG_9405

And Acadia also provides a new candidate for world’s most perfect mountain.

IMG_9243 IMG_9251 IMG_9259 IMG_9298

Cadillac Mountain isn’t that high but it is the tallest mountain within 25 miles of the ocean anywhere in the eastern US. It has a bare peak, with views all around. A winding, thrill-inducing road means one can drive up the mountain but a number of trails also allow climbing.

One of Cadillac Mountain’s claims to fame is that it is the first spot in the US to be touched by the rising sun, and every morning throngs of people gather to watch that sunrise. With our good planning, we had every intention of being on the top of Cadillac for the signature moment but . . . planning isn’t everything. More on this in a moment.

When it comes to accommodations, my husband and I tend to be seat-of-the-pants travelers, trusting that we can find a place to sleep when we find an area that we like well enough to stay. This time we actually planned a little, though, and found ourselves a cottage to rent right on the ocean’s shore. We watched the tide go in and out, we saw the mist from the cold air drift over the warm water, and, each morning, I watched the full moon set, plop, into the water.

That full moon was part of our good fortune. We had no idea! The first night we were in Maine, we drove to the town of Bar Harbor for dinner. We came over a hill and saw the enormous almost-full moon rising over the ocean. We gasped out loud!

And therein changed our plans for watching sunrise on Cadillac Mountain. The full moon was the next night and, instead of going up for sunrise, we drove that twisty, turny road at dusk to watch the sun set on one side of the mountain. Then we turned our backs on the last bit of light from the sun, to see the pink cuticle of the moon beginning to rise on the other.IMG_9314

IMG_9321IMG_9329

Beyond the magic of a full moon over the sea at twilight, we were lucky in other ways. We liked that the touristy town of Bar Harbor was less overrun with people than it is most of the year but it hadn’t occurred to us that this would also mean that most of the restaurants we had targeted wouldn’t be open. MUCH of the area simply closes for the winter! So, we counted ourselves lucky that we still managed to eat reasonably well.

The best of our luck came as a gift from Mother Nature, though. Except for one wicked day, we experienced the best that late autumn could offer. The days started with a crispness that only added to the beauty and drama of the setting and stayed clear and sunny throughout. Many of the trees still had their cloaks of radiant leaves, leaves that glowed against the foil of dark fir trees all around. The ocean and sky burned blue and dazzled. The hot, red foliage of the blueberry bushes contrasted with the cool gray of granite.

Is there a prettier place than the coast of Maine?

I guess you can see, we were pretty pleased with ourselves! We had the good sense to plan to go to a place we could love and the good fortune to find it at its most lovable when we got there!