Skip to content Skip to footer
TitleCaptain Bennett’s Final VoyageDesigned byPris ButlerHooked byNancy QuallsInspirationa family storyDimensions43" x 29"Materialswool on linen, with wool roving, cording, acrylic yarn, and buttonsHonorsCelebration 33Share

Captain Bennett’s Final Voyage

Some years ago, I contacted Pris Buttler to purchase her whaling pattern. She was happy to change the lettering from “The Captain” to “Capt. Bennett,” my 2x great grandfather, revered and storied whaleship captain. But the mat sat untouched for ten years until I realized why – I was averse to hooking the hunting elements of the rug. So I modified the design to tell the vivid and remarkable story about the circumstances that led to Capt. Bennett leaving his lifelong career on the sea.

He lost his 19-year-old wife, Donna Maria (the angel), five days after their twin sons were born at sea. He had to leave the newborns with Hawaiian missionaries and finished filling the oil barrels. He then picked up his toddlers, signed over his ship to another captain, sailed home, and married Donna’s older sister agreeing to the stipulation that he never return to sea. Their first son is my great grandfather.

My vision for this rug was to portray an icy, windy, dynamic, and choppy seascape. Icebergs are the only motionless elements. My color plan was for a variety of analogous blue color families in countless values for the ocean, with lighter values in the foreground and deepening towards the horizon. The sky was hooked in a lighter, cooler blend, starting lighter at the horizon, and deepening upward. The angel is helping to create the wind while watching the family on their way home to New Bedford.  To break up all the blues and define sky and sea, I added a complementary warm low sky, depicting a lingering post-sunrise glow.

To achieve the desired detail, I drew and punch-needle-embroidered the captain and twins in typical attire. The angel’s wing feathers are attached via needle-felting. I found a brass spyglass and faux leather button for a ball. I dyed the cording for the rigging. Shades of gray roving were lightly needle-felted horizontally to the whales’ backs, like water flowing off them when surfacing as well as the water falling off their flukes. (The roving also made the whales appear smoother.) Seagulls were felted as were the splashing waves against the ship. A shiny bright white acrylic yarn was used
for white caps and highlights in the glaciers. When teased, it made for perfect glistening whale breaths.

Postscript: Whilst searching for the year of this voyage, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of genealogical history that our family had never known.

About the Artist

Nancy Ecklund Qualls began hooking in Florida in 2006. In 2016, she relocated to New Hampshire, She is a member of ATHA, White Mountain Woolen Magic (Co-VP 2020-22), and Green Mountain Guild, as well as a juried member of the League of NH Craftsmen. She has had three pieces appear in Celebration.