Tags Posts tagged with "winter"


Listen carefully, everyone, and remember the following: This summer, when the temperature and humidity rise higher and higher, and we are all feeling like oversoaked sponges, exhausted as the heat saps us of all energy, no one, absolutely no one, is allowed to say, “Oh, I can hardly wait for winter and colder weather.”

Meanwhile, half of what used to be our free time has been eaten up by shoveling our way out of our houses and to our cars to enable us to be mobile again. But just be grateful if your job does not involve having to be able to access the streets and side roads across the Island, perhaps to deliver heating fuel, packages, mail, or even medical assistance. If I had to write an essay on “How I spent my winter,” it would read: “Look out window, sigh, shovel, work on jigsaw puzzle, read four books, cancel appointments, build wood-stove fire as subfreezing temps cause my heat to fail every few days, keep letting dog out, keep calling and looking for dog who is enamored of all the snow and apparently feeling she has to check on every tree in the woods in back of the house, and of course, open refrigerator door every hour on the hour.”

The work on the new Oak Bluffs Fire Station is creeping along, and how they are able to work in this weather is beyond me, but working they are.

Carol Carr Dell and a few friends decided to head to the Plane View Restaurant at the airport last week. Suddenly, one of the group said, “This is the first time in a month I have been out of Oak Bluffs.” I am sure this has happened to many people these past months. They were treated to a few humorous signs when they arrived at their destination. The first was a sign on a snow-covered bench outside the entry to the Plane View looking toward the runway that read, “No sitting on bench until summer.” Then someone told them that the previous sign read, “Snow View Restaurant.” At least some still have a sense of humor in this mess.

School has reopened after winter break, and students have returned to school and town. On Tuesday, March 10, there will be a professional development day; all students will be dismissed at noon.

Our Oak Bluffs library offers some interesting programs. At 1 pm on Tuesday, March 10, you can enjoy Movie Afternoon, featuring the family comedy, The Boxtrolls, which is rated PG.

Also on Tuesday, the Graphic Novel Book Club will meet at 7 pm. This month’s selection is Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer.

And you can enjoy more movies at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse on March 9 at 7:30 pm, with the film Desk Set, a delightful 1957 comedy about a TV research department being replaced by computers. A battle of wits ensues between the department head and the computer firm’s engineer.

There’s a couple of great events coming up for the animal lovers out there, courtesy of the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging. On Monday, March 9, the OBCOA hosts a “Service Dogs Demystified” program at 1 pm. Service dogs are a valuable tool for helping those with disabilities, but do you really know what defines a dog as a service dog? This is a one-hour presentation on what makes an animal a service animal under the current regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as on some of the tasks service animals can be trained to perform. Then on Monday, March 23, at 1 pm, the OBCOA will host a program about ”Building Simple Mental Enrichment Toys for your Companion Animal,” which will show you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create toys for the animal friend in your home. Both programs will be led by animal handler Karen Ogden.

Pat and Kerry Alley, accompanied by their niece Kati Alley, traveled to Glastonbury, Conn., last week to visit their daughter and son-in law, Sarah and Jack Lavolette, and their children. They too have been inundated with snowstorms this winter. After a few days in Connecticut, the group went to South Hadley, where they were the guests of daughter Rachel Alley, Greer, and their children, Jonas and Drew. Former Oak Bluffs residents Charlie and Gaynell Downs joined them for dinner one night, and everyone had a fun evening catching up on the latest news.

We send birthday smiles to Bill Rankin on the 9th, Vicky White on the 10th, and Cindy Krauss on the 11th. Willie deBettencourt, Pauline Gregory, Janice Rose, and Molly deBettencourt share the 12th. Enjoy your week. Peace.

Chappaquiddick is isolated in the winter. The miles of sand beach that attract visitors in the summer are deserted. But the snow and ice do not slow changes to the natural landscape. That is most evident in the dynamic changes taking place at the breach that separates Wasque Point and Norton Point Beach.

In a cycle centuries old, Norton Point Beach is beginning to overlap Wasque Point as a prelude to sealing the breach that has left Chappaquiddick an island in fact as well as in name.

Carl Treyz, a seasonal Chappy resident and skilled amateur photographer, captured the changes using a drone on Feb. 18. His dramatic aerial video can be seen above.

Woody Filley, a Chappy resident who has been closely monitoring the breach, provided an update in an email dated March 1.

“The width of the opening is down to about 150 feet, depending on the tide,” Mr. Filley said. “The growth of Norton Point to the east between Jan. 3rd and today was approximately 690 feet. The beach on the way out seems pretty stable, with some scouring on the ocean side. As you get closer to the Chappy side, the beach gets thinner in some areas, and in some places is not much higher at the ocean side than the bay side. Unfortunately, a good extra-high spring tide and some strong northwest winds could threaten another opening. But time will tell.”

This map shows the change in the beach recorded by Woody Filley.
This map shows the change in the beach recorded by Woody Filley.

Chris Kennedy, Martha’s Vineyard superintendent for The Trustees of Reservations, said there’s a good chance the opening may close by this summer, but it is unlikely beachgoers in over-sand vehicles (OSVs) will be able to travel onto or off Norton Point via Wasque, as there is still a sizable cliff to contend with along the Wasque shoreline. “I expect that OSVs will have to travel from the Dike Bridge down Leland Beach to drive onto Norton Point Beach where it attaches at Wasque Point,” he said.

The current cycle began in April 2007, when a one-two punch of storm-driven ocean waves and powerful spring tides knocked open a cut in Norton Point Beach. The result was two long, narrow spits of sand stretching east and west toward one another. Over the course of the past eight years, the cut has continued to migrate eastward to Wasque Point, in a natural cycle, recorded many times in the past four centuries, in which the cut eventually disappears into Wasque Point.

The breach as seen from the Wasque bluffs  last week. Photo courtesy TTOR.
The breach as seen from the Wasque bluffs last week. Photo courtesy TTOR.

This cycle was described in detail as part of a report prepared in connection with the relocation of the Schifter house from the edge of the disappearing Wasque bluffs.

Following months of preparation by a team of engineers, contractors, and builders, in July 2013 International Chimney Corp. of Williamsville, N.Y., a company that specializes in building relocation, moved the 8,313-square-foot, seven-bedroom seasonal home of Richard and Jennifer Schifter of Washington, D.C., including its foundation, basement bowling alley, and massive two-story chimney, back from the brink to an adjoining lot 275 feet away.

The Woods Hole Group (WHG), an international environmental, scientific, and engineering consulting organization headquartered in Falmouth, prepared an eight-page analysis of the historical shoreline changes and coastal geomorphology for the south-facing shoreline of Chappaquiddick for Mr. Schifter. Dated Dec. 11, 2012, the report provided a historical context for the breach.

A chart from 1894.
A chart from 1894.

The report described the three-stage natural history of periodic breaks in Norton Point Beach, the two-mile-long barrier beach that separates Katama Bay from the Atlantic Ocean.

In the first stage, ocean waves and tidal levels combine to punch a hole in vulnerable spots in the barrier beach.

During stage 2, the inlet begins to migrate east toward Chappaquiddick, and the dominant easterly-flowing shoreline current causes the Norton Point spit to grow. As that spit extends to the east, the barrier beach on the Chappy side of the inlet tends to shorten and erode.

The process of easterly inlet migration and barrier spit growth occurs until the eastern barrier is completely eroded and Norton Point begins to overlap the southwest corner of Chappaquiddick. During this middle phase of stage 2, the absence of a sediment source from the west, in combination with tidal currents directed against Chappaquiddick, causes rapid erosion of the south-facing shoreline.

In stage 3, the tidal channel that connects Katama Bay to the Atlantic Ocean eventually closes, as tidal currents are not strong enough to flush sediment from the opening. Waves gradually push the Norton Point barrier spit to the north, and the beach eventually welds onto Chappaquiddick.

Finally, during the last part of stage 3 the beach/dune system begins to retreat as ocean waves, tides, and currents cause erosion. The process continues until a new breach in the Katama Bay barrier forms, and then the cycle starts over.

Local restaurants satisfy Sunday-morning cravings.

A “Bozo on the Bus” from Black Dog Tavern. —Photo by Michael Cummo

If anything can get me through this winter, it’s going to brunch. Brunch is the one time it’s acceptable to have mimosas and bloody marys before noon on a Sunday. And for those of us who love to sleep in, we can can still wake up in time for our favorite weekend meal.

But where did brunch come from? Were breakfast and lunch not enough for us hungry people? Well, as is the case with many other food stories, historians can’t seem to agree on where or how it originated. Three of the most popular theories are: It was rooted in England’s hunt breakfasts of lush, endless courses; it derived from Catholics fasting before Mass, coming together for a big Sunday meal afterward; it started in New York City, considering the rich history of brunch items that were created there. But no matter where brunch comes from, I’m just happy it’s here.

Brunch is a great meal to connect with friends, come out of hibernation, and relax while having a great meal off-season. Wondering where you can congregate during these winter months? Check out our list of trusted brunch spots on-Island.

Park Corner Bistro in Oak Bluffs: Make your way to this Sunday brunch haunt, and start your meal with a freshly squeezed blood orange mimosa. People rave about almost everything on their menu. (Serving from 11 am – 2:30 pm)

Oysters complement a Water Street brunch at the Harbor View Hotel. – Photo by Eli Dagostino
Oysters complement a Water Street brunch at the Harbor View Hotel. – Photo by Eli Dagostino

Water Street at Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown: This is probably the only spot serving brunch 52 Sundays a year on the Vineyard; it’s a seasonally inspired brunch with everything from cheese platters to made-to-order omelets, prime rib, and more. (Serving from 10:30 am – 2:00 pm)

Lucky Hank’s in Edgartown: Back from a short winter break, they offer a variety of breakfast items like local cod cakes and eggs, crepes, and eggs Benedict, among other tasty offerings. (Serving from 8 am – 2:30 pm)

Black Dog Tavern in Vineyard Haven: The latest brunch you could have if you’re still in bed at 3 pm (which is a separate story in itself). Classics like their Fishcake Supreme — poached eggs on a fish cake with Black Dog marinara — are bound to get you out of bed earlier! (Serving from 7:00 am – 4:00 pm; lunch items start at 11 am)

Little House Cafe in Vineyard Haven: This is the brunch for those of you too busy on Sunday morning: They serve it on Saturdays! Definitely the place to go for delicious pancakes served with Northern Lights Farm maple syrup, making it a sweet start to your weekend. (Saturday brunch served from 7:30 am – 11 am; restaurant reopens March 2)

Scottish Bakehouse in West Tisbury: If a burger for brunch is your thing, you can’t afford to miss out on “The Local,” featuring local farm-raised beef. Their breakfast burrito is also a must-try; order it with linguiça and sriracha if you like it hot. There’s not much seating in the winter months, but take it to go and you’ll be glad you did. (Serving 6:30 am – 5:30 pm)

7aFoods in West Tisbury: More of an early Sunday-morning breakfast option. Head up-Island for one of their famously delicious egg sandwiches on a homemade biscuit. It’s worth the drive, I promise. (Serving from 7 am – 11 am; restaurant reopens March 10)

State Road restaurant in West Tisbury: Their famous brunch pulls out all the stops. There are ricotta pancakes with blueberries, or their heavenly brioche French toast with maple-glazed apples, if you want something sweet. If savory is your thing, their Sunday hash changes weekly, but is consistently delicious. (Serving from 8 am – 2 pm; restaurant reopens at the end of March)

There you have it — two months of brunch options to get you through the rest of the off-season. It’s a great way to start a Sunday for anyone, unless you’re a chef — because after a busy Saturday night, no chef wants to get up early to create a lavish meal for several hours. So don’t be too fussy at brunch, and be ever so grateful for that bottomless cup of coffee.

Reports from an epic winter

Oak Bluffs harbor, still (and still frozen) after winter storm Neptune.
Oak Bluffs harbor, still (and still frozen) after winter storm Neptune.

Winter storm Neptune blew off to Downeast Maine, and Vineyarders have reported snowfall totals between 8 and 10 inches as of Monday morning. With wind chill temperatures in the negative teens, the National Weather Service has posted a wind chill advisory which is in effect until 10 am on Monday.

Winds are expected to taper off Monday evening, and forecasters are predicting another storm, Octavia, could drop between 5-8 inches of snow on Martha’s Vineyard on Tuesday.

The Island’s winter palate is spare and exquisitely subtle.

Skimmias take well to propagation. – Photo by Susan Safford

Celebrate winter

As I emerge into winter and the newly born year (from the holiday haze, cleverly designed to coincide with the solstice stupor), I find the sun stronger, the cold deeper, and improved mental clarity.

Appropriate to the Vineyard winter, the Guardian’s Alys Fowler wrote about her love of winter, and expresses it wellhere: theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/29/some-like-it-cold

“If you embrace our winter in all its dripping wetness, its desolate cold, its bleak grey, then it’s possible to find happiness in the places you least expect. … There is a loneliness to the winter landscape; the whole story is no longer on show, entire chapters are now stored underground.”

Winter’s palette

Dwellers in the temperate zone enjoy four seasons, and many play the game of “favorite one.” I used to feel my favorite was whichever we were currently in, because they are all good. No, wonderful!

In actuality, I always had an affinity for Island winter. I love its stillness, and the Island’s winter palette is spare and exquisitely subtle. Take away the contented opulence of summer, and what do you have? It’s green all over. Take away spring’s fragility and rich promise, and one may be weighed down with the sense of Time’s onward rush.

Autumn comes a close second to winter’s appeal, with its golden light and deeper blue skies and the unstated tension of the coming changes. However, I delight in the spaciousness of winter skies. The contrast of their vast cloudscapes with the Island’s intimate landscapes wins my senses, over and over.

However, our requirements for the winter scenery of our domestic spaces often dictate greater coziness; we employ evergreens to contradict the hardness of winter and mitigate its bleak aspects. Evergreens break Venturi effects’ icy blasts around buildings, and provide wildlife with someplace to take shelter.

I enjoy the beautiful shadings of browns and grays of the native woods around my house, but even more so in contrast to the white pines, hollies, yews, rhododendrons, firs, spruces, and skimmias planted nearby that soften them.

Deer will browse some of the above over the course of winter, but not the charming muffin mounds of the skimmias. They will be left intact. I fail to understand why skimmias are not more widely planted here on the Island, where they associate well with rhododendron, azalea, and holly, and do a good job of fronting them in shrubberies. The ideal planting site is in moist, well-drained soil, in shady spots.

The usually suggested forms of these dioecious broadleaf evergreens, in the Rutaceae family, are a heavily fruiting female cultivar such as S. japonica “Nymans,” and a good male pollinator such as “Rubella.” My male skimmia is covered with flower panicles of a deep dusty red, and is very decorative. The female, however, surpasses it in sheer red and green power, and takes the eye from several feet away with its clusters of large, shiny red fruits, surrounded by glossy mid-green leaves.

As seen in the image, planting in partial sunshine may have led to yellowing of the foliage.

Skimmias may seem pricey at the nursery, but a little secret is that they take well to propagation, either by layering or rooted cutting, or by sowing fresh seed, which germinates well once cleaned of the fleshy drupe.

In the garden

Winter days on the Vineyard can be exhilarating and beautiful, and having some outside work to do is a great antidote to stale, dry indoor air. There is always more to do, small jobs and details, as an excuse to be outside.

Alys Fowler’s column continues, “But I most love getting to know my local trees. It is now that they show off their secrets, the hidden nests and hollows, the comic twists of their limbs, how they tap on their neighbour’s [sic] shoulder, how they let the ivy wrap them up — or not. …

While you’re looking up, take in the winter clouds — snow-laden waves of cotton fluff perhaps, but more often ominous sheets of ash and lead. … For once you start to celebrate winter for what it is, there’s not nearly enough of it.”

The lack of cold temps has brought tips of narcissus and snowdrops, among other bulbs, to the soil’s surface early. Mulching these with something — old straw, leaves and leaf litter, or evergreen branches of cut-up Christmas trees — may help avoid winter damage to them during the Island’s notorious freeze/thaw cycles.

Many small branches and twigs with clusters of leaves attached, I find, have also rained down from the oak trees, a result of various twig-pruner insects such as cynipid gall wasps and carpenter ants. Clear them away and add to compost piles; their addition is valuable due to a high ratio of bark to wood.

It is gratifying to observe how one’s plants have grown, but many will have added growth that may be headed in the wrong direction. Improve it with human intervention. Winter pruning may take place at any time now; observe basic pruning rules.

1) Usesharptools: pruning saws, loppers, and clippers. 2) Locate the branch collar, the slight fold where a branch diverts from its parent limb. Correct pruning cuts are made just outside this fold, leaving a small bump or nub that will callus over. 3) For any pruning requiring a saw, make an undercut to prevent injurious stripping of bark.

Clear “leaf muddles” from evergreen shrubs such as yews, box, skimmia, and shrub hollies. These leaf muddles catch snow and ice. When frozen, these weigh plants down and split them open.

A small branch of hybrid witch hazel, Hamamelis x intermedia “Jelena,” has chosen to burst into bloom, early but welcome. Many flowering shrubs such as witch hazel, or the familiar forsythia, force well. Try some!

A season of Wampanoag cookery.

Among the Wampanoag, winter months are known as the Time of the Long Moon. – Photo by Steve Myrick

For earth-wise indigenous peoples, intimate and profound knowledge of the seasons form the rich foundation of cultural sustainability over millennia. The traditional cookery of the Wampanoag of the Cape and Islands evolved in harmony with what the land and sea could provide, with the innovative techniques the people employed to yield a rich bounty, and with the cyclic turning of the dramatic New England seasons.

wampanoag_cookery“We began planning for the cold season long before it arrived,” writes Chief Flying Eagle of the Mashpee Wampanoags in the Cape Cod Wampanoag Cookbook, co-written by Betty Breen of Falmouth. “The pole beans would be tied together with the squash and corn to unite the Three Sisters. Most onions, carrots, and beets were kept in the salt hay and soil in the cellar, but some were left in the ground under salt hay to sweeten with the first frost… Meanwhile, because of the cold, we’d be getting ready to slaughter a pig.”

Winter months, or Quinne Keeswush, Papsaquoho, Paponakeeswush, are also known as the Time of the Long Moon, the season when the darkness of night has seized the sky and the cold of winter has seized the land. In traditional times, dried legumes, berries, vegetables, cured meats, and seasonings would be collected and stored carefully in pits, near or inside the wigwams. Wampanoag Cookery, published by the Boston’s Children’s Museum in 1974, says that people “lined the pits with mats, carefully put in their dried vegetables, meats, and nuts and covered the pit with another mat and heaped earth on top of all of it. When people needed food in the winter, they would get it from these pits, with the exception of a fish caught through the ice or animals taken in traps.”

Recipes survive as a complex interplay of oral and active traditions. Foodways evolve with modernized techniques and ingredients, yet seek to replicate the essence of how a dish tasted the first time, way back, in our unalterable cultural sense-memory. “Winter is the time when the land rests,” says Wampanoag Cookery, and yet the simple abundance of the traditional table should be admired for the inspired dishes that sustained and warmed people as the wind and ice wrapped the darkest days of the year.

Deer Stew
Recipe by Helen Attaquin, as it appears in Wampanoag Cookery

Brown two to three pounds of deer meat cut into pieces in bacon fat. Add two large sliced onions and continue browning. When nicely browned, stir in 3 tbsp. flour and place in baking dish. Add 2 tbsp. vinegar, 3 tbsp. ketchup, 1 tbsp. sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the meat with water and bake at 375ºF degrees for two to three hours, until the meat is tender, adding water if necessary to keep the meat covered. When done, thicken the gravy and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

Gay Head Beach Plum Porridge
Recipe by Rachel Jeffers, as it appears in Wampanoag Cookery

First parboil raisins (beach plums) and pour off the water. Then add fresh water and boil until tender. Heat milk and add sugar to taste, also butter and nutmeg. Then add a bit of flour thickening.

Wild Duck
Recipe by Earl Mills Sr., Chief Flying Eagle, as it appears in Cape Cod Wampanoag Cookbook

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Stuff duck cavity with sliced apples and celery tops. Place strips of bacon over the breast and add 1½ cups of water or chicken stock, along with the neck and giblets, to the pan. For a well-done duck, roast 15 minutes per pound, basting every 15 minutes with the fat stock in the pan, along with a mixture of 2 tbsp. of butter and ½ cup red wine.

Goodin’ Puddin’ and Goodin’ Puddin’ Pie
Recipe by Ruth Ellis and Norman and Shirley Stolz, as it appears in Cape Cod Wampanoag Cookbook

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Grease 8” by 4” by 4” loaf pan with 2 tsp. cooking oil. Add 1 cup cranberries, ¼ cup sugar, and ¼ cup chopped nuts to loaf pan. Beat ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup melted butter, and 1 egg until smooth. Fold in flour and pour mixture over berries. Bake for 45 minutes. You may double the recipe and bake in a deep-dish pie plate, for 6 to 8 servings.

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The Windemere Nursing Home in Oak Bluffs. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Say happy birthday to Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at its 20th anniversary Winter Wonderland open house this Sunday, December 14, at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. The free event, from 1 to 6 pm, will include holiday decorations, tours of the Center, music, and seasonal refreshments. Guests will have a chance to meet with the staff and listen to informational presentations at 2:30 and 4:30 pm. For more information, visit windemeremv.org.

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Martha’s Vineyard knitting groups create more than scarves and hats.

Knitter Martha MacGillivray tries on her mother Marcia's unfinished hat. — Photo by Susan Safford

Knitworks in Vineyard Haven was cozy and welcoming as several women arrived on a chilly Tuesday evening for their weekly drop-in knitting group.

Martha’s Vineyard knitting groups create more than scarves and hats.
Martha’s Vineyard knitting groups create more than scarves and hats.

A vintage Island home with a comfy lived-in feeling, the shop boasts several small rooms, each overflowing with yarns in every conceivable color and texture.
The skeins and balls include custom-dyed exotic fiber blends from around the globe and sturdy Island-grown yarns in natural earthy tones.

There are knitting needles of every size, crochet hooks, buttons, ribbons, miscellaneous notions, books, patterns, and fiber magazines.

Hand-knit sample items — scarves, hats, a toddler’s dress, a glamorous shawl, multicolor gloves, fluffy afghan — are displayed, examples of how the yarn can be used, inspiring even the novice knitter to give it a try.

Making the atmosphere especially enticing was the sweet aroma of a traditional chocolate babka baked by Liz Toomey, an assistant at the shop and experienced fiber artist who shares hosting duties for the groups with store owner Alix deSeife-Small.

An accomplished knitter and textile designer, Ms. deSeife-Small began the shop in 2010. Along with yarn and supplies, she offers classes and custom-made knitted clothing.

A tea kettle whistled softly and a bottle of red wine stood ready for pouring as knitters settled down at the round kitchen table, pulled out projects, and got to work.

Celine Segel, a web designer with MVOL, spread her vibrant orange lacework shawl out on the tabletop as she counted stitches. There was a chorus of admiring compliments from the others.

Close-up of Macia MacGillivray's knitted hat.
Close-up of Macia MacGillivray’s knitted hat.

Ms. Segel, who also designs chainmaille jewelry, said she originally learned to knit from her grandmother as a little girl growing up in France. Now 34, married, and settled on the Vineyard, she took the craft up again four years ago, when she was deeply missing her grandmother. Along with affirming that warm connection, Ms. Segel admitted knitting helps her sit still.

Two mother-daughter pairs were at the table. Stephanie Thibert, Ms. Toomey’s daughter and Toy Box staffer, was casting on green yarn for a hat pattern she had just discovered. Ms. Toomey was working on a scarf in a textural “linen stitch,” using a wool and silk blend.

Marcia MacGillivray, a familiar smiling face at the Toy Box for years, was pluckily knitting away on a creamy beige hat, while her daughter, Martha, was beginning a black and white alpaca one. Both were modest about their knitting skills, poking affectionate fun at themselves and one another.

Close-up of Liz Toomey's knitted scarf.
Close-up of Liz Toomey’s knitted scarf.

Martha, who works with young special needs children for an early intervention program, said they are making hats for gifts. Inspiration came when one of her brothers requested a hat this Christmas. Mother and daughter worked hard, but after three rejects, only one was “wrappable.”

“This is the beginners’ side of the table,” she quipped. “We only can do hats.”

Martha MacGillivray recalled knitting sweaters when her grown children were little. She picked up her needles again after moving to the Island where her mother and father, legendary fisherman Donald MacGillivray, have lived for years. “Now I’m here with Mom; it’s [been] our winter project.”

When Marcia’s hat was nearly done, her daughter modeled it, needles still in place, for all to admire.


A day earlier, the Monday afternoon group gathered, begun by knitters who prefer daytime meetings. Sunlight filtered through the kitchen windows, making the yarn glow.

 Carole Early at the Monday afternoon group.
Carole Early at the Monday afternoon group.

Carole Early was triumphantly nearing the top of her navy blue “mutt beret.” “I combined two patterns,” she explained. A busy volunteer with Vineyard Committee on Hunger and the Island Food Pantry, Ms. Early started knitting 14 years ago.

Hospice grief counselor Susan Desmerais immersed herself in a cloud of fluffy mossy-hued yarn flecked with brilliant accents called “Spiceberry,” fast becoming a fashionable scarf.

At another Monday meeting, newcomer Ljuba Davis had just finished casting on stitches of gossamer soft mohair, “Primrose” pink with twinkling silver sparkles. It would be a scarf for her daughter. “She’s very soft and has tinkley laughter,” said Ms. Davis fondly.

Nancy Weaver’s attention was consumed by an elegant avocado-green cardigan. Finishing the sleeves, she left the table several times to consult with Ms. Toomey about a challenging stitch pattern.

Needles clicked, stitches were counted and recounted, dropped and retrieved, rows added up, progress measured, patterns studied with intense concentration.

“I like the company of other women,” said Ms. Desmerais. “There’s something about the rhythm of knitting that relaxes people. The conversation can be light-hearted but also can become very deep.”

Ms. Early agreed heartily. “But also if you get stuck with something, someone can show you.”

Susan Desmarais (right, with Ljuba Davis) said the rhythm of knitting relaxes people.
Susan Desmarais (right, with Ljuba Davis) said the rhythm of knitting relaxes people.

Conversation drifted from knitting to work, travel, family. Over the course of three meetings, women mulled the fate of the Malaysian airliner, joked about consulting Siri on their iPhones, critiqued several Island eateries, shared thoughts on Buddhism, changes at the VNA, a tempting tip about a French bakery in Falmouth, pictures of grandchildren. One member was nervous about a Boston medical treatment that week. Others offered encouragement, and began planning a celebration dinner out for when she returned.

“We talk about anything and everything,” Ms. Desmerais said. “We don’t gossip, though.”

All were unanimous that since conversation can be distracting, it’s smart not to bring complicated projects.

At all the meetings, eventually talk circles back to knitting again, especially when someone has a problem, question, or is confused about a next step.

“It’s all knit and purl, knit and purl,” Ms. Toomey said, reassuring the women that even the most elaborate and involved pattern is made up of those basic stitches. Learn to knit and purl, she implied, and nothing will be beyond your reach!

More knitting

There are many other opportunities on the Island for knitters and needle workers to get together for advice, support, and companionship. Drop-in groups are free.

At the Heath Hen Yarn & Quilt Shop off State Road in Vineyard Haven, knitters gather the first Tuesday of each month for an “Unfinished Project Night,” and a summer evening drop-in group meets weekly at Eastville Beach.

Fiber Folks of Martha’s Vineyard meets the second Sunday afternoon of every month, September to May, at the Ag Hall in West Tisbury. Handcrafters of all kinds, all levels are welcome (508-274-9696). Informal knitting groups are often held at Island libraries, senior centers, and elsewhere.

For the novice, or experienced knitter seeking to learn more, classes and lessons are offered at Knitworks, Heath Hen Yarn Shop, and Island Alpaca Farm in Oak Bluffs. Tuition is charged.

Information on groups and classes: Knitworks, 508-687-9163; Heath Hen, 508-693-6730; Fiber Folks, 508-274-9696; Island Alpaca Farm, 508-693-5554.