Tag Archives: New England

The Hammock

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In honor of National Hammock Day, it’s only natural that we take a look at this icon of summer relaxation. Defined as a sling made of fabric, rope, or netting that is hung between two points, the hammock was originally used by natives of Central and South America. During the Spanish Conquest, Spanish colonials noted how comfortable the hammocks were for sleep and rest. By being suspended, the sleeper was protected from the hazards of their jungle environment: snakes, mosquito bites, biting ants just to name a few. Christopher Columbus introduced the invention to Europe when he returned home with a few from what is currently known as the Bahamas. Around 1590, the hammock was adopted by sailors aboard their ships to maximize space and comfort. The navy’s canvas hammocks swayed with the ship, helping with motion sickness and keeping sailors in their beds (in heavy seas sailors would be rolled out of their bunks). It was also adopted by explorers and soldiers travelling through wooded regions as it was easy to hang the hammock between two trees, and much more comfortable than sleeping on a bed of roots.

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Today, the hammock is an icon of relaxation. Growing up in Maine we had a rope one hanging from the posts of our covered porch. I have pictures us three kids napping in it together. When we moved to Vermont, a hammock was the first thing we added to the backyard (forget garden design, a hammock takes priority). To me it’s the symbol of lazy summer afternoons swinging with a good book and maybe a dark and stormy in hand.

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If you’re looking to procure your own hammock, Ten Thousand Villages has a couple that are handcrafted by artisans in Nicaragua. Why not support a good cause while you relax.

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Sugaring in the 1940s

Stumbled across these amazing vintage snapshots of sugaring in the 1940s on Modern Farmer. Makes me long for the snowy mountains of home in Vermont and a simpler life.

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Lotuff Leather

Lotuff Leather Trunk Duffle from Lotuff Leather on Vimeo.

Nothing beats a great leather bag. Especially one designed and made in our own little region of the world. Lotuff Leather has built a fine reputation on making well crafted leather goods right here in New England. I had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Joe Lotuff and get the insider scope on what inspires the brand, what being a New England based company means to them, and their commitment to offering a lifetime guarantee on their products.

Q. Tell me a little about the history and tradition of Lotuff Leather (and maybe a bit about its ties to New England).

A. I started this company because I was seeking something I could not find – well-proportioned leather items of high-quality materials, impeccable craftsmanship, and subtle appearance.

My brother and I are third generation New England manufacturers. We learned early to value quality as a key differentiator. We’ve discovered we could work to produce things of value – briefcases and leather bags of the quality and nature that we’ve come to expect from other fine things. Our deepest ties are to central Massachusetts, where both of our grandfathers were American manufacturers.

Q. How do you guarantee quality and craftsmanship for your customers?

A. In order to achieve our guarantee of quality and craftsmanship, we establish standards, techniques, and methods that have been proven over time to work.

We enable and encourage our team to do the very best they can, and we work with people who want to be proud of the items they produce. It is crucial that they do their very best without the constraints of time or quotas. We apply this philosophy throughout the entire process – from designing each product to tanning the leather to constructing each bag in our workshop. There is no satisfaction or confidence until we know we’ve achieved the desired result.

We all grew up in New England surrounded by frugal Yankees who never like to throw anything away. Therefore quality in materials, design, and construction must be top notch.  When one of our items needs to be repaired after some time and wear we are happy to do so. It is much better to repair than to replace. We believe our items are thoughtful purchases that will conserve resources because of their extended useful life and easy maintenance. The items we make enhance life through the richness of their materials and the function of their design.

Q. What is your best selling design and can you elaborate on the design and production process that goes into it?

A. Our English Briefcase seems to have hit the right chord with people. It is inspired by the English schoolboy book bag or the briefcase in that favorite picture of your grandfather. We see it as a bag you might give to your son and then his son or daughter will “borrow” it. Like all of our items, it is made using our sumptuous vegetable-tanned leather. It’s a balanced, useful, and masterfully crafted piece.

Q. Silhouettes are timeless – what are the main inspirations for the designs?

A. We embrace the golden rule of classic proportion and modern functionality. Because they are so traditional and seemingly simple, you really don’t see them around much anymore. It’s a constant recreation of ours to look into the past and find things that appeal to us, whether it’s a cowboy saddlebag, a pilot’s case, or an old portfolio.

We gain inspiration from New England sporting life, the American West, and the items used by American leaders to shape, protect and enjoy this Republic. I like to imagine Teddy Roosevelt and his band of surveyors carrying something similar to one of our bags as they made their way across Wyoming and Montana seeking to preserve vast tracts of untouched land. And at the same time, I see Teddy during his Harvard days walking around Cambridge with our English Briefcase. It’s that mix of New England heritage and the Western frontier with a fresh ‘can do’ spirit that really appeals to our sense of aesthetic and actually inspires what we do.

We’ve also got a bit of a rebellious spirit. It comes from being bold enough to maintain traditions and doing things the way they don’t do them anymore.

Q. Lotuff Leather is made in America. Why is it important and in what ways does it define the brand?

A. As sons of a family that has made in America for three generations, it is of the utmost importance to continue that tradition. We are disappointed with the condition of American manufacturing and the volume of inferior products imported into this country.  In essence, we are betting on the American craftsman. By doing so, we hope to inspire others to be proud of an American job well done. In a small way, we hope to make a positive impact on our associates’ lives and, through them, their families, our community and, ultimately, our country.

PS Head over to Facebook and “like” the Lotuff Leather fan page. They’ll be giving away a duffle once they hit 1,000 likes!

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New England Icons

Photographer Greg Premru recently introduced me to the book he had published, New England Icons. Premru’s stunning photos of New England’s historical icons accompany 22 essays by Bruce Irving (former producer of the popular PBS show This Old House). Irving’s writing paired with Premru’s photography beautifully illustrates the significance of New England staples such as stone walls, lobster boats, skating ponds, and saltbox houses. It’s a celebration of what makes this corner of our country valuable, historically and culturally. And for many of us, home. Above are some photos from the book, courtesy of Greg Premru. I have a feeling this will be a common present this holiday season.

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Hilton’s Tent City

The infamous Hilton’s Tent City has been a Boston landmark and a premier destination for all of New England since 1947. With four floors chock-a-block with hiking, camping, skiing, and all around rugged apparel and necessities, it’s a mecca for any outdoorsman.  This tried and true shop doesn’t only provide you with the essentials you need to get you up and down Mt. Katahdin or along The Long Trail, it offers you the best of the best and at unbeatable prices. After my visit I walked away with a solid pair of Chippewa boat shoes, a red bandanna, jug of Dr. Bronner’s soap, and a handful of old school North Face pins for $50! Deals aside, the true essence of this shop is its nostalgiac atmosphere. Thanks to their resident “archivist” Jason (not sure if that’s his technical title, but it might as well be!), you’ll find gently used pieces from the glory days out on the floor alongside more current pieces. The store has closets full of treasures and Jason has the lucky task of sifting through the archives and picking out the real gems. Thanks to his investigative work, you may find the same hiking boots you wore as a kid or the exact same puffer coat that got you through highschool. Jason and the rest of the members of the fantastic team at Hilton’s Tent City will make you feel right at home on their four floors.  And if you’re at all like me, you’ll certainly get lost in the splendor of neon rucksacks, vintage made in the USA Carhartt and Woolrich, and old school outdoorsman posters.

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