Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Westport Island Quilt: A Piecework Story

Quilt presentation at the Old Town Hall (04/11)

Quilt presentation to the community (04/11)

Stories are told in many ways – ballads, books, ballets…blogs. Westport stories have been told in song, poetry, and prose: on canvas and through the lens. The most recent notable story of the Island took the form of a community quilt completed last year.

Eighteen women: twenty pieces of a story. The artists were women with generational roots on the Island as well as women originally “from away”. All came together and shared their personal pieces of Island inspiration, sewing tips, and mutual encouragement. Although they didn’t start with an overall design, there were no duplicate images crafted. A 19th woman donated muslin to the project. With the deft skills of Jill Cooney and Sandra Besecker, the various pieces were sewn into a whole that provides an inspired narrative of “Island soul”.

The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Colorado had donated fabrics to the Island’s History Committee which were incorporated into traditional blocks on the reverse side of the quilt. The donated fabrics were reproduced from vintage fabrics on an historic Westport quilt in their collection — adding to the new quilt’s historic significance.

Thank you to those women who shared their time, their artistry, and their inspirations for the benefit of neighbors and the generations to come…

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A Westport Top o’ the Morning

St. Patrick's Day GreetingOnce again, Ken Shepherd, master woodturner, offers up some Island spirit of the day.

The Irish — and Scots — had a notable influence on the early settlement and culture of Lincoln County. Cora Tarbox writes of one such influential Westport family in her recently published history, Westport Island Maine 1605-1972: the McCarty family like others of “Scotch/Irish ancestry…enjoyed music and dance. Fishermen were known to enjoy music and a little dancing after a long day or when a full catch had been obtained. The art of playing an instrument had been passed down from one generation to another. A fiddle was the most common instrument used.” A little fiddling and dancing at the old Town Hall might be an apt celebration of St. Patrick’s Day today — with thoughts of spring that the day portends in these parts…

In the 2000 census, about 15% of Island residents identified themselves as Irish.

Note: Cora Tarbox’s history of Westport Island is available for purchase at the Westport Island Town Office Building.

Tug Pudding or Buffalo Head?

A Page In the Helen M Story

Boats are a fixture of island life. A passion for open water, fishing, sea life, water sports, and nautical crafts attracts a mixture of fascinating life stories here on Westport. Bruce Whittemore, a neighbor and retired Wakefield, MA, fire fighter, is right up there on the “check it out” meter. Although he did not grow up on an island or around boats, he is a woodcraftsman, who decided 20+ years ago that it would be cool to build a tugboat, so he could cruise with his family during summer vacations on Lake Winnipesaukee.

Although the children are now grown and gone, the boat is still a family mission. Bruce and Suzi retired to Westport where they now have more time to pursue their crafting passions, one of which is the tugboat “Helen M.” My husband, Roger, has joined the mission, contributing electrical and problem-solving skills, as well as some assistance with the heavy lifting. Between family and friends, Bruce’s mission to hit the water with the Helen M will be accomplished this summer.

With this in mind, Roger decided the Helen M needed, what he initially believed to be, a “tug pudding.” Contrary to what a friend speculated, a tug pudding is not an edible made with “scrap fish” or “marine grade oily residue.” A tug pudding, also called a bow mustache, is a large, manila rope fender to protect the tug’s bow.

With some internet research, Roger found Barbara Merry at Marlin Spike Artist and commissioned what turned out to be a “collision mat” aka buffalo head — unique to tug boats — which protects the tug’s bow fender or its pudding from wear and tear with the many work missions of a tug.

Barbara Merry is a rope artisan in Wakefield, Rhode Island, who makes nautical puddings and collision mats by hand. She grew up in Newport, CA, around her dad’s wholesale import-export marine hardware business. Through her dad’s business, Barbara became interested in marine knotting. Initially, she focused on macramé, and developed a small crafts business. When macramé went out of vogue, she tried her hand at other fiber arts, but returned to her passion for knotting. Barbara tried to support herself making fishing nets in New Bedford, MA, but soon turned to “splicing,” the art of joining line. Perfecting splicing, because of its specialized applications, is what made her passion a self-supporting avocation.

Barbara Merry has written “The Splicing Handbook,” a reference primer on marine rope splicing. She has taught at the WoodenBoat School in Brooklin, Maine; at the Northeast Maritime Institute — and she may visit Westport Island this summer during the Rockland Boat Show to view her most recent buffalo head decked on the honorable Helen M.

See the handover from Barbara to Roger preceding the buffalo head’s transport to Westport Island, and the presentation to the Helen M’s Captain and First Mate, Bruce and Suzi Whittemore:

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Snow Day!

In like a lion! …A snow day at last.

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