“Winters are long here, so women take up weaving to pass the time and to make some money.”
Francine runs the gift shop and boutique at the 100-year-old lighthouse at Cap Madeleine on the north shore of the Gaspe Peninsula. We were at the lighthouse, not because it is a historic site or to tour the building, but because we were engaged in the perennial quest of the traveler–a cheap place to camp and a wifi hotspot.
This lighthouse had both—camping on the lawn for $10 and wifi for $2. Can’t beat that with a stick.
Plus, Francine was a smart and witty lady who spoke good English, but who was also completely comfortable letting us click away in silence.
The gift shop was chock-a-block with handwoven stuff—placemats, table runners, small rugs, even bedspreads. Most of the item were woven with rag-type strips, but there were tablecloths and runners made with fine thread as well.
We had been seeing handwoven stuff ever since we left Quebec City. It was in every gift shop and boutique. Madam Hughette, proprietor of Boutique Rose in St. Joseph de la Rive and a very tart and sassy lady, did a bunch of weaving for her shop. I bought a dishcloth and a table runner from her.
Madame Marcelle, however, was a true artisan.
We wandered into her shop in San Simeon while we were waiting for the ferry. It was full of handmade items, from crocheted slippers to the heavy woven bedspreads. Four looms of various sizes were set up with work in progress.
Despite explaining that my French is very limited, Madame Marcelle launched into what sounded like a thumbnail autobiography. She worked hard; the work was hard. She held up her arthritic hands in evidence. I thought she said that one son was living with her and another had died.
“Décédé?” I asked, a trifle incredulous.
I had reached the limit of comprehension. So I nodded for a while as she talked. Julia bought a runner for a table she doesn’t have, and then we went to wait for the ferry.