Weaving with children

Many years ago, I  was going through my Mother Earth phase, and I was expanding my weaving projects slowly one by one as I could afford to buy materials.  My daughter Kate was fourteen months old, it was a very warm, humid day in Pennsylvania, and I decided to spend some time threading an overshot piece, 24 threads per inch.  I had completed threading about 240 threads and because  I was in a good threading rhythm, I failed to tie off the threads (one of those fundamentals you should always remember to do).  As I focused on the threads right in front of my nose, I was only vaguely aware my little one was cruising along the edge of the loom.  Kate lost her balance and in an effort to remain standing she grabbed about 150 of those threads in her chubby little hands and pulled them all out. I wanted to cry, till I remembered that she was 14 months old and I was the grown up.  I folded my loom up and put it in the closet, promising myself I would get to it when she was older. It was more important for me to enjoy her than get frustrated over having to start over.  It took me 3 decades to get back to weaving.  I sold that particular loom although my Sally loom is just as nice, what I really miss are the young and flexible knees!

209Years have gone by, Kate’s babies are now teenagers, and we have a new little grandson in the family.  Will is enthralled by the moving parts of the loom, from the harnesses to the treadles to the big beater he can move back and forth. Some of the barn looms look like playground equipment to him, and it is the joy of this Grammy’s life that eventually I will have one of my looms threaded with a grandson project. Something we can weave together if his interest holds.

Right now as a country we are going through “politics with children”.  Every day I am appalled at the latest mistake the President makes.  He has used one excuse after another for his behavior. He tweets statements that are not difficult to disprove and seems to not recognize that they are what we all call lies. When excuses fail to work he falls back on his election win reminding everyone else that he is the President.


It is clear he thought that running the country  would be like running one of his businesses, that he could say what he wants and everyone would agree,and if they did not he could fire them.   Who knew that passing healthcare legislation is so complicated? Who knew that the President cannot just decree something is done and it happens?  Who knew it would be hard to appoint quality people to various positions within the cabinet and in important agencies? Who knew that our relaionships with other countries are complex and take finesse?   Who knew?  Well, some of us did,  that is why the majority of voters voted for someone else.   What shocks me is that his core group of supporters will still defend his lies,  his inexcusable behaviors towards women,  and anyone The Donald considers “lower” than himself. Who knew how deeply the men in his administration, including himself, were tied to Russia and making obscene amounts of money, such as selling a Florida home to a Russian CEO at the height of the real estate collapse for a cool profit of 60 million dollars?  A home in which Trump never lived, nor did the Russian CEO.   Follow the money folks.  President Trump has been referred to as a Toddler for his limited span of attention, his childish grasp of relationships, and his belief that the world revolves around him and his infamous tantrums.  While weaving with children can be fun, I assure you governing with children is absolutely scary.

Keep praying….






Room for one more….

IMG_2783[1]Today I brought home my eighth floor loom.  It is not that I need or want another one but the family really wanted someone to take it, so I thought I might if for no other reason to take it to a demonstration and give it away.   I thought all I would have to do is store it, and then discovered 1) it was really hard to get in and out of my house and 2) there is work to do before it can be given to someone else and 3) it has such a cool story.

This loom began its life in California and was custom-made for its owner, much like my Sally loom. It was made in the 20’s by the grandfather of the man who gave it to us. As I understand it, his grandmother worked in a psychiatric institution after WW1 and taught herself to weave and then taught her patients to weave.  This man’s father learned to weave and wove on it over the years.  He has since passed away and so the son and his wife inherited the loom and a large metal box stored under his bed with his stash of yarn.

A four harness counterbalance loom which is  90 percent intact, but missing one critical piece of information.  How does the brake work with the warp beam? All my others have either metal toothed discs and brace arrangement which hold the beam in place or the

IMG_2784[1]older ones have brakes which drop in between pegs. This one has neither. It has a rope arrangement to a foot pedal- it appears the rope went around the warp beam which is sectional and the foot brake set in the down position would tighten the rope around the warp beam.  Except for the fact that we cannot quite figure out  how the rope fastens around it.  Are we missing a clamp or some sort of fixture which would act like a clamp?IMG_2785[1]  It will take some studying, so it looks like this little guy is going to stay at our house. The gentleman had carefully wrapped the spare reed and the shuttles he used as well.  It is not often that I come upon an old loom with not one but two useable reeds!  So, our computer room, now has a floor loom in the corner next to the fireplace.

Familiar foods from the past

I started to write familiar foods from home, but honestly, PA stopped be home a long time ago.  It is a place where I spent many years of my life, where two of our children were born, where I went to college, entered the working world and was led by God to seminary. Once our kids had all graduated and Dave could take an early retirement, we made plans to move to Maine- the place we had longed to be for so many years.

However, besides some of our friends, there are a few things I miss from PA.  The million shades of green that mark the fertile fields of south central PA.  I miss Martin’s potato rolls, Weaver’s sweet bologna, and most of all, Rocco’s Italian Subs.  No one in Maine makes sub rolls like Rocco’s.  They are delicious, and we have them for lunch or supper as often as we can when we visit.

This visit we learned that Arlene Leathery, our neighbor and friend, had passed away.  Arlene and Carm, her husband, welcomed us to Red Run Church Rd when we moved there in 1978. We attended Zwingli UCC and shared in a lot of wonderful years there.  Our kids called her Grandma Leathery, and even now in their thirties and forties, they remember her great fondness! Arlene always asked after my Mom, who is a few years older, and if I was able to visit over a Sunday- Arlene would be in church,  with her daughter Lisa, and Millie Sauble, another old friend from Zwingli.  How I enjoyed my time in the kitchen with these two ladies!

We stayed a short time to visit friends and see Carolyn’s new room on her house.  We usually stay with Carolyn in the winter time- I had seen the plans in January, but it is getting reasonably close to being done now.  She was waiting on windows, and interior painting and some last-minute exterior work.  She is such a great decorator-  I cannot wait to see the finished project.  Projects at Carolyn’s get done directly-she does not rest till they are done- I, on the other hand, take years to finish said projects.  Much to Dave’s horror after 15 years we still do not have the upstairs rooms painted yet- never mind the floors refinished or painted as needed. When I get the hall and three bedrooms done it will be time to redo the living room and kitchen.  We discovered we had to jack up the house two winters ago and when we did, cracks appeared everywhere so it is just part of having an eighteenth century house.  We keep finding other more pressing things to do (either out of necessity or preference, and they take precedence). For me, a house is a home – it is a place, especially now,  where the family gathers where we eat and laugh and have fun, and yes when old cars are involved some tempers get high.   Yes dust collects or more attention should be given to renovations, but over the fifteen years we have been here, I confess I would rather play with my grandchildren or read a book rather than strip wallpaper and patch walls.  With hot air heat dust is a constant battle.

We also visited Mary Jane and Sterling and caught up on kids, health, winter plans, etc.  They go south every winter to Florida.  Of course we love the snow and so we are on the opposite ends of the east coast during that time. We talked a lot about this trip and our plans to make them a bit shorter and centralized on one area at a time so less driving is involved. How we will get to see the National Parks in the northwest I am not sure, but we are  years away from that.  Michigan, West Virginia again, and the Outer Banks are calling us.

It is pouring rain so we started home midday and decided to stay at a motel tonight.  It worked out well, we made it to NY state, and found a great place to stay. Tomorrow is a reasonable shot towards home, and we cannot wait to pull into our yard and stop moving for a few days!!  I miss the dogs (even if Dave does not) and Dave misses his clock room and his recliner!

More soon.

My Old Kentucky Home

After leaving the National Quilt Museum, Dave and I drove across the beautiful state of Kentucky.  There was history, lovely old houses, some awesome log houses, an amazing “Scottish” castle in Versailles KY and of course lots of beautiful horse farms surrounded by miles of white board fences.

We talked about staying at Fort Knox – Dave was stationed there in 1968 before he went to Vietnam.  I came down for his graduation, thanks to the generosity of his parents who paid for my plane ticket and were my “chaperones”.  In the end we decided to continue east to get closer to West Virginia and there we found “My Old Kentucky Home State Park”.  Yes, that is really its name!

Along with a lovely golf course and the campground, is the home of Stephen Foster, author of the song My Old Kentucky Home.   This beautiful brick mansion was the inspiration of his song.  I never knew there was a Bourbon trail- it goes from one distillery to another: Jim Beam, Four Roses, Makers Mark, etc.  Dave and I are not drinkers and so we did not do the tour, I can imagine if you got a little taster at every stop you might need a designated driver by the end. Bardstown KY, where the state park is located is a pretty cool town- lots to do and they have several events during the year which sound like so much fun! Dave and I had fun taking in all the restored log houses in this area.  Way back when, before Kate was born- Dave and I took down a log house in East Berlin, and moved the logs to our house.  We had hoped to reconstruct it and restore it, perhaps to become part of a “new” house for us (put all the amenities in the new wing), keeping the house as original as possible.  We kept the beams for several years, but life was really hard for us then and we could not forsee a time when that fit in our plans. We sold them to a man who was going to put up an addition using the logs.  We were glad the logs were being repurposed.

On our way across Kentucky,  just west of Lexington- we saw the Martin Castle. It looks like a 62d7a1c9dc64c1d4e97a845808283472Scottish castle enclosed by a large stone wall with turrets on each corner!  It is awesome in size.  I discovered that the original builders got the idea from traveling in Germany, but part way through the building they were divorced and so the castle was not finished. A lawyer and his wife, who I believe is a neurosurgeon,  were the next owners and they did extensive renovations only to have a fire start in the area they were renovating.  The family did rebuild that part and now use it as a bed and breakfast or event property.  Four of the seventeen bedrooms are in the turrets! (I am assuming each has a bath as well). I call it a Scottish castle because I associate castles with my ancestors from Scotland- but Irish, German or Scottish I hope to see some of those castles in Europe before I die!

We have moved on to West Virginia, a state where straight roads are as rare as curvy ones are in Nebraska and Kansas. As we took in the beauty of W.VA especially the flowers, and red bud trees,  I have doing some baby blanket prepping.   At the Yarn Barn I purchased some cotton to make a two toned Lavender blanket for baby Harley in a huck weave. Cotton is great for summer, can be thrown in the washer, and gets softer with age. I have an overshot pattern that would be great for a winter blanket, and I have an idea for a baby blanket for Grace’s cheering coach who is due in four weeks!

Dave has been ready to go home for two weeks and I confess I am ready to get home as well.  I have ideas for the looms, and are still contemplating how to use the churro yarn I picked up in New Mexico.  I am ready to have my pups home and sleeping on my bed. We are having a good time but both of us know we are ready to get back to Maine. I think we will plan shorter trips in the future- perhaps a two-week trip out to Michigan or a two week trip to Outer Banks. Less driving, less stress for Dave and still the opportunity to see places we have not visited yet. We really like West Virginia and are considering finding a state park to base our camper in and then planning some trips to see the amazing artists blowing glass (I can remember going to see them when I was about 7 or 8), visit Lewisburg and see the site of the Barnwood Builders, and take a tour of the Appalachians on an old train. Of course we will visit with Bert and Harry Wright and enjoy Shepherdstown which is a treat in and of itself.

This year when we visited we were not able to spend any time on “Harry’s river” the Potomac- but hope that our next trip will allow for time just to sit and take the river in.  Watching moving water is guaranteed to bring down the blood pressure a few points that is for certain. We did get to see their home in Shepherdstown, and it is as unique and lovely as they are!  We were treated to a dinner at the Bavarian Inn, owned by the family of their son-in-law David Asam and got to meet him and see Adrienne again!  David is an incredibly gracious host, and just is the perfect person – juggling so many things while making it look effortless! If you want a beautiful place to stay by all means choose the Bavarian Inn!

We are closing in on home- next stop PA, then Maine!

Spring in the Plains

As Dave and I turned and headed our camper home we still had some places on our “bucket list” to visit.  In order to get to Kentucky, and with a nod towards the unpredicable spring weather of the Plains we headed south out of Wyoming. As we crossed Nebraska and dropped down to Kansas the weather was warm and pleasant.  Between Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas, I was reminded of the movie “Dances with Wolves”, mile after mile of rolling hills and flat prairie and some really successful looking farms.

Lawrence, Kansas is the home of the Yarn Barn- a weaving shop that has advertised in my Handwoven magazine.  I expected that it might be located outside of town near the interstate, given the amount of online sales and shipping it does. However, my GPS, otherwise known as Lola (what ever Lola wants, Loala gets) led us down town.  Dave (driving a truck and 21 foot trailer was less than  enthused but was a patient man and found a place to park the rig while I made a dent in the stock at YB. I will give YB credit – their shop was incredibly organized so I could find the weight and ply of the cotton thread I was looking for.  Two reeds, a stretcher, and several pounds of cotton later and we were on our way.

As we descended through the state of Missouri, headed for the Paducah KY area, we noticed the greening of the landscape, the deeper roll to the hills and more trees and actual forests.  We also noticed an increased level of humidity as we approached our evening stop- an out of the way State Park perched along the cliffs above the Mississippi we watched a rain shower approach from the south up the river.  We watched the boats and barges in their 24/7 job of moving goods up and down the river and enjoyed an amazing sunset.

The next day we spent a couple of hours in Paducah so I could visit the National Quilt Museum. While I am not a person who could ever make a quilt, I love textiles of all sorts and the antique pieced quilts in particular , were just beautiful.  One of the exhibits called WOW- featured small detailed quilts each about 12 ” x 12 ” in size.  They were spectacular- every single one.  In some museums pictures are allowed but the NQM does not, which saddened me because my former secretary at First Congregational Church in Pittsfield is an extraordinary quilter and I know she will not be able to visit given her family situation.  Of course, pictures would not do it justice so all I can do is try to paint her a word picture!

Tomorrow- a Scottish Castle and Bourbon!

Peace Be With You Tom Johnston

TJ Thunder A week into our trip I was alarmed by a notification on my Facebook feed that a popular TV weatherman from Maine was missing.  Tom was a guy who always had a smile on his face, he absolutely LOVED the weather and being outdoors.  He was in his 40’s, had a new baby boy, and was handsome and very charismatic.  Maine is a big state in area but a small state in people and so we feel very connected to our TV personalities.  It is not unusual to see them driving down the interstate, at the local grocery store, the capitol building,  a cheerleading competition, or a football game.  A few months ago,Tom had done a promotional piece for Storm Center and said that he was not from Maine but he got here as soon as he could.  Also from being away, I could identify with that- our shared love for our adopted state.

Unfortunately four days later, someone spotted his new car parked in a remote area of Auburn.  The police and the game wardens began to search the nearby woods and found Tom, he had apparently committed suicide.  We learned after the autopsy that he had injured himself but became unconscious and the cause of death was hypothermia.  As I watched what news shows at his station explain what happened the shock and pain his colleagues and friends were feeling was evident.   Over and over his coworkers repeated how he loved being a meteorologist,  how he loved Maine.  No one realized he was in such pain.

Tom, like many others, was good at covering up his real feelings. It seems to me that as kids we are taught from the time we are small that sadness and tears make people uncomfortable.  Boys are taught to buck up, and girls (at least my generation) are told, “stop crying or I will give you something to cry about”. We may not have understood about stigma associated with mental health issues, but it sure doesn’t take long to figure out not to talk about our feelings, whether its bullying, a problematic boyfriend/girlfriend, sexual abuse etc. Unspoken, it does not take long before some folks begin to believe that they are at fault for the bad things that happen.  Even with adults suicide is spoken about in only hushed tones.  Tom’s “celebrity” status overcame the stigma and if there is something good that came out of this situation it might be an increased awareness of mental health problems and that all is not what it seems sometimes.

As I sit here in the family camp of FE Warren AFB it is easy to remember a time in my life when my heart was broken and I was not sure life would ever be good again. I did not know then that the emotional pain would get worse over the next two years or so, looking back I am certain it was probably a good thing that I didn’t. Despite the decades between then and now I remember how easy it was to spiral deeper and deeper into depression.

Working in mental health, I served people who are regularly suicidal, as a team we worked together to pay attention to our clients and intervene if necessary.  What a shock it was when my boss, who was my best work friend and mentor, committed suicide one June day.  She had invited me to come and see her for supervision that day- we spent a couple of hours together – made plans for the next three weeks she would be covering for me for vacation, and I had some goals to become more literate in mental health regulations for our state.  I thought she agreed to “tutor” me, but in retrospect she agreed I should learn this to be a better supervisor but she did not exactly agree to teach me.

I miss Barb, all the time.  Its been more than twenty years and I still wish she could come visit me in Maine- she would have loved it. I thought her calm and peaceful demeanor that day was a sign she was doing better- instead I realize she had simply made up her mind and come up with a successful plan.

To Tom, Barb, Kay and Bob- I will miss you all.  I wish you were still with us.  Each of you brought a joy to those who knew you.  Your knowledge, your sense of humor, your integrity, we appreciated more than you ever realized,    When I hear a forecast and hear the words, ” Here’s the Thing…” I will think of you and I hope Finnley grows up knowing what a great guy his Dad was.

P.S. I wrote this while traveling in Wyoming back in early April but did not post till I was back in Maine.  Just after I posted this, police announced that Tom was going to be charged with sexual assault after an evening of drinking. His sister points out he cannot defend himself. Others point to this event as the reason he took his life.  My heart hurts for all involved.  His friends and admirers are stunned. So many lives forever changed.

Rocky Mountains

Since we first traveled north from 1-40 and the flat desolate high desert of New Mexico, we have been surrounded by beautiful white, mountains.  They see to be on both sides of us, sometimes in front of us and sometimes in the rearview mirror. We have watched as the snow squalls sweep across their peaks and learned that each of them is part of a smaller range of mountains. It has been a while since I have seen the Rockies and they certainly are breathtaking.IMG_2548


I wondered what it would be like to look at them every day.  I wondered if one would become used to them? I saw familiar towns on signs (Aspen, Telluride, Park City, Sundance) and remember hearing about all the fancy folks that go there for winter fun.  Of course, I remember being enamored with the varied colors of green in a Pennsylvania spring.  Each crop was a slightly different shade- I could only imagine the Crayola people trying to repeat those colors and come up with new names for them!  When we moved to Maine, the rocky coast called us and we expected to love somewhere near Blue Hill.  We realized the winters were milder there and we had come to Maine to watch it snow in the winter and so we searched inland and found this wonderful old house along the Kennebec River, where we often see eagles flying overhead, we have seen a moose in the back yard and prehistoric fish called sturgeons jump several feet out of the waters of the Kennebec.  Some of them are six or seven feet long, bigger than any fish I want to be kayaking next to – even if they are friendly.  I guess no matter where you are there are things that make you say ….”ahhh” . Wonders that continue to catch us by surprise with their beauty.

Of course there are things that seem harsh to us as well.  The dry brown dirt that is ever-present in the spring wind. The people’s houses that have dirt right up to their door- we are used to grass and flowers, the plain dirt seems to leave the house looking a little forlorn at least to my New England eyes. I wonder about the lives of some of the people in those houses, particularly the ones that are a little (or a lot) run down.  I wonder how they feel about the political climate in our country.  A lot of these states we have driven through on this trip were politically red states, and supported Donald Trump.  I wish I could ask the residents if they feel America is getting great again and if so what changes have happened?  Do they have more in their paychecks, better healthcare, stronger schools?  Are the people in their town as friendly as they used to be or was this division always there but just under the radar?  Is there an underlying distrust of education, immigrants, and the Golden Rule.  I wonder if they look at our Maine license plates and think we are those wacky liberals for the East- which by and large we are, yet we do not live in a city or even remotely near a city,  We are retired on Social Security and some pensions (however small) and we count ourselves fortunate. Yet I go to bed and I worry about who is next to be bombed and who will Trump insult tomorrow.


This is a non weaving blog. Tomorrow I will think about the looms, the colors, the warps and the wefts and the beautiful blankets, rugs and scarves waiting to be made.  Today I will look at majestic peaks, and pray that God will watch over us and good will prevail.