Series of hooked rugs depicts Winter Harbor Knockabouts

Posted Sept. 14, 2009, at 6:01 p.m.

COREA, Maine — Ever hear about the Winter Harbor Knockabouts? They’re a group of all-one-design sailboats that race each week in July and August at the Winter Harbor Yacht Club.

This year, a series of hooked rugs on display at Chapter Two studio and gallery depicts the Knockabouts. Rosemary Levin of Corea, owner and operator of Chapter Two, organized the project and designed “Cloverly,” a hooked rug version of one of the nine Winter Harbor boats.

“I kept visualizing a series of rugs that would showcase the individuality of nine different rug hookers,” Levin said.

The first step in the project was to create a Knockabout pattern. Tweaking the Cloverly design she had created for Sturgis Haskins, a hooker and member of the Cloverly crew, Levin drew an original pattern that features a central representation of a Knockabout racing in the waters of Winter Harbor.

The Winter Harbor Knockabouts were designed in the first decade of the last century, when Fredrick O. Spedden and George Dallas Dixon Jr., commissioned Starling Burgess and his partner, Alpheus A. Packard, to create the boats. Spedden and Dixon had met at the Grindstone Neck summer resort colony in the Schoodic Peninsula town of Winter Harbor in 1906. They came to believe that the fledgling Grindstone community and Winter Harbor Club would benefit from having a unique fleet of sailboats designed for racing in Maine waters.

In 1907, Burgess and Packard delivered seven boats. Gaff-rigged with 465 square feet of sail, the Winter Harbor Knockabouts measured 30 feet, 9 inches overall. The boats were greeted with excitement and soon became the toast of the community. On Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, the owners and their crews would take to the water for racing and socializing.

In 1922, an eighth Winter Harbor Knockabout was built, and two years later, the ninth and last of the series was delivered. Then, in the early 1940s, as the nation and world dealt with the political and economic upheaval of World War II, the Winter Harbor Knockabout fleet slowly split up and became dispersed throughout New England. By the late 1940s, only two boats remained in Winter Harbor.

In 1981 Alan Goldstein, a new resident of Grindstone, was invited to sail on one of the two remaining boats — and fell in love. He determined to find, return and restore the Winter Harbor Knockabouts, and initiated a campaign to bring the fleet back to Winter Harbor. By 1990, all nine of the boats had returned to the Winter Harbor Yacht Club and once again were competing weekly in the waters off the Schoodic coast.

In the Knockabout rug-hooking project, the nine crafters each received an identical design, except for the number and name of the boat. Each of the rug hookers was provided a label cross-stitched by Virginia Saleme of Winter Harbor to be attached to the back of each finished rug.

“I encouraged each hooker to make their rug personal,” Levin said. “I wanted them to select their own colors and to hook in their own style. As they got into the project, each conceived their own details — buoys, crew members, clouds, waves, trees, rocks — to add to their knockabout design.”

The following are the rug-hookers and their crafts:

— Paul Richard of Tucson, Ariz., and Steuben, Knockabout 1, “Mystery”

— Bob Shoemaker of Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Gouldsboro, No. 2, “Whippet”

— Nancy Fitzgerald of Gouldsboro, No. 3, “Cloverly”

— Pam Armour of Prospect Harbor, No. 4, “Riddle”

— Ann Barton of College Station, Pa., and Corea, No. 5, “Water Witch”

— Barbara Stewart of Corea, No. 6, “Rambler II”

— Sally Weaver of Prospect Harbor, No. 7, “Sphinx”

— Kate Berry of Lamoine, No. 8, “Sole” and

— Hazel Carter of Harrington, No. 9, “Elfitz.”

The nine rug hookers, although they usually work from original designs, represent a spectrum of experience, artistic vision and hooking style. While many of the nine worked on their rugs during the winter, several hooked their Knockabouts while “away” and completed them before to returning to Maine for the summer.

“I was eager to participate in the project because, as a new hooker, I really wanted the challenge,” said Weaver. “I learned so much hooking my Knockabout. I loved talking with other hookers, sharing ideas and tips, working on my techniques. I really got into trying to express myself in my colors and hooking style.”

Richard said, “I was really excited to be involved in a group hooking effort that focused on a unique element of our area’s history. It provided an interesting opportunity for folks to learn a little bit about our heritage and the art of rug hooking at the same time, which I think is very exciting.”

A tenth rug complements the nine Knockabouts. Levin, in addition to organizing the project and creating the Knockabout pattern, designed and hooked a unifying rug called “The Fleet,” a 46-inch-by-18-inch piece, which depicts all nine Knockabouts racing in the waters between Winter Harbor and the eastern shore of the Schoodic District of Acadia National Park.

“I was stunned when I saw the entire collection hung at Chapter Two,” said Ann Barton. “The rugs were so diverse, it was hard to believe they all came from the same pattern. I was awed by the different ways people hooked the backgrounds — the water, sky and landscape were so different from rug to rug. And the personal touches that hookers added to their rugs are almost like signatures.”

Garry Levin is married to Rosemary Levin.

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