Maine-ly Textiles

I know many of you are sick to death of winter, but living in Texas, knowing that days – weeks – months of 100 degree heat are about to descend upon me, I enjoy a chance to shiver a little.  Somehow I feel that if I can bank enough coolness into my system, it will tide me through the next six months of heat.

So when my husband had a business trip to Portland, Maine, I was happy to tag along.  I didn’t have a chance to do a lot of research before this trip, but that’s okay – we have a basic travel template of how we spend our time, and we both enjoy whatever we see, without worrying about what we might be missing.

We got to Portland Sunday evening, and it was still light.  If you ask me, Portland has a perfect layout – the historic area is on a peninsula, easy to get to, but away from the main highway.  As you are trying to find where you are going, you don’t have that feeling that you are holding up traffic and stopping the locals from getting someplace important.  After we checked in to our hotel, we wandered around – there was so much to see and lots of restaurants to choose from.  We picked a pub and had our first sample of locally-brewed beers and lobster melts!

We only had two days to visit, but we saw some wonderful sights. On Monday, we went north to Bath. On the drive up, I was surrounded by so much Maine gorgeousness – granite, birches, solid white houses and sturdy brick buildings – that I couldn’t choose what to photograph, and ended up without many landscape pictures.

In Bath, we visited the Maine Maritime Museum.  Many of the outside areas were closed because it was still icy, but the inside had interesting displays.  I managed to find lots of textile-related items.

shoreline and snow

Quintessential Maine – everything I hoped for!  This is the view from the Maine Maritime Museum.

1824 figurehead

I love it when fashion is captured in a dated work of art.

umbrella swift

This umbrella swift was made from whalebone!

Our next stop was just for me.

Halcyon Yarn building

So understated outside…

store front

…Yes, look closer, it’s 12 School Street – Halcyon Yarn!

yarn on shelves

– home to all this.  There are about 12 more shelves like this one, stuffed full of yarny goodness.   Maybe more – I was too dazzled to count.

I have ordered yarn from this place, Halcyon Yarn, for about 30 years!  but never thought I would actually get to visit. It was just as wonderful as I had imagined – so many choices, so organized.  I limited myself to one cone of cotton, and three magazines, because after all, I was going to have to carry it all home, and they do ship – but I just had to buy something in person.

We checked out some local galleries and antique shops, went further north to the Owls Head Transportation Museum, and then went back to Portland for another dose of microbrewery beer and lobster rolls.

I was loving the cold weather, especially since I was only out in it for 10 or 15 minutes at a time.  But what was driving me crazy was my lack of a system for dealing with my cold weather gear!  I couldn’t work out a comfortable arrangement of my purse strap and camera strap around the hood on my coat.  Also the hood kept flying off in the wind.  (It wasn’t until the last day that I figured out that that hood has Velcro and elastic loop closings to help it fit closely – I have never needed those features before!)  Whenever I go somewhere, I am used to keeping track of my keys, wallet, phone, reading glasses, and camera – it’s bad enough when I have to add “room key and map” to my checklist – the addition of “hat, gloves, scarf” was too much for me to remember.  As a result, I kept setting things down and forgetting them.  I could have used some cargo pants with big pockets.

Tuesday was the day my husband had business meetings, so I spent most of the day in the Portland Museum of Art, soaking up inspiration.  It is a lovely museum with a good variety of artists, eras, and styles represented.  I especially liked one gallery of American art, where paintings, furniture, and decorative items were displayed all together.

From an upstairs window at the museum, I saw a little used bookstore, so I headed over there.  The owner was a little rude, but I did find a textile book treasure.  It’s called The Heritage of Cotton, and it is unlike any of my other vintage textile books, because it actually shows examples of items made from cotton, from around the world, instead of just British and American cotton machinery or portraits of inventors.

reading material

Three magazines from Halcyon Yarn, and a 1948 book, The Heritage of Cotton.

Peruvian textiles

Plate of Peruvian textiles from The Heritage of Cotton.

I decided to walk back to the hotel.  I quickly figured out I was a little lost, and I had already lost one glove and my phone that morning, due my aforementioned lack of a system.  But I wasn’t worried, because I was on a peninsula.  At some point I would end up at the waterfront, and then I could find my way from there.  I’ve been lost in Athens, Rome, Amsterdam, Denver, Rome again, Las Vegas – I really never mind getting lost when I’m walking.  It’s a great way to see more of the area.  (There were taxis, but I figured I would get in, tell the driver my hotel, and then find out it was only a block away.)

Finally I got back.  My husband was already in the room, as was my phone!  I don’t know where I had left it, but the housekeeper had found it.  We had a very late lunch (more local brew and some lobster stew!) and then had time to explore the neighborhood.  And we found this!

book store shelves

Do you hear the angels singing?

It was close to closing but the owner told us to take our time.  Along with books, there were old maps, prints, and all kinds of little odds and ends.  This is Carlson and Turner Antiquarian Books, my idea of heaven on earth. I found some wonderful books, including a two-volume set by Alice Morse Earle, Two Centuries of Costume in America.  Here are some chapter titles:  A Vain Puritan Grandmother, The Venerable Hood (if only I had had that to read before wrestling with my hood!), and Pattens, Clogs, and Goloe-Shoes.

I had really been hoping that since Maine was settled so long before Texas, I would uncover a very old handwritten weaving notebook stashed in some dark corner, and the store owner would say, “Oh, that old thing?  Those are a dime a dozen around here.  I’ll be glad to get it out of here.”  That did not happen, but these books are a pretty good consolation prize.

book spines

Yummy books and a textile print stamp from India at the top of the stack.

book cover

Don’t you love the artwork on this 1949 book cover?

gown illustration

Illustration from 1903 book, Two Centuries of Costume in America.

1775 illustration

1775 illustration from Two Centuries of Costume in America.

After one more delightful evening (local brews and crab cakes, in a daring change of cuisine), we headed back to Houston.  It is already 80 degrees here, but I am hoping that my mental images of beautiful Maine will keep me feeling cooler this summer.  And now I’m off to find out what Goloe Shoes are!