My parents, Jerry and Geri, raised me and my three siblings in the Pacific Northwest, in a small town far north of Seattle. My dad owned an auto parts business there and when he wasn’t needed at work he focused on his many hobbies: gardening, carpentry, photography, and model railroading. I’m so aware that my artistic ability and my visual perception come from him. So, too, did my love of Whidbey Island, the place where he was born and where my paternal ancestors immigrated and farmed in the late 1800s. I think it was his favorite place. A long piece of land in Puget Sound, it is accessible by ferry ride from near Seattle on its southern end or by bridge from the mainland at its northern end.
My family made this crossing many times over the spectacular Deception Pass bridge. Then we’d picnic down below on the beach and enjoy the drama of boats passing through this narrow turbulent chute. Windy, often cold, always exciting - I have so many memories of playing on this island’s western beaches. We fashioned forts with huge driftwood and gathered whatever smooth stones and other treasures the tides offered up. We brought picnics, made sandcastles with our cousins, invented seashore games, and built beach fires.
I guess it’s not surprising that these memories of our family time in such a beautiful place would find expression in my work. So I think of this Penn Cove design as a tribute to my dad and the incredibly full life he lived before passing of cancer at the age of fifty back in 1990.
Penn Cove is my knitwear expression of Whidbey Island, a dynamic maritime place I was so fortunate to enjoy. Like my previous shawl design, Boundary Bay, it includes motifs from gansey fisherman sweaters as a nod to my Dutch ancestors settling on the island. This time I’ve chosen a lace interpretation of a chevron pattern, which looks to me like mountains and evergreens. The zigzag and bramble stitch patterns are more literally from the seafarer pullovers of the Netherlands. Finally, the garter stitch wavy edge is my own creation, with cables leaning both right and left to form a unique undulating edge.
Because of my dad’s passion for everything about American railroads and his own beautiful model trains, I chose a railroad bridge near my home here in Michigan as the location for this photoshoot. I know my dad would be proud of my work. I also think he’d be tickled that I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to show it off while walking on some rails.
Some timely collaboration helped to bring Penn Cove to life. I had been planning this piece for some time, and with the suggestion of my sister, I had already named it Penn Cove. Then a friend told me about Lydia Christiansen’s Abundant Earth Fiber mill on Whidbey Island. Yarn spun on Whidbey Island for a knitwear design born from memories on that island? I knew that I needed to introduce myself to Lydia! I did, and she graciously supplied the Sacred Ground base (sport weight 100% merino) and the Wool Tincture dye colors for my samples.