Why We Hook the Animals We Love

This is my Welsh Corgi, Tru.  (If you really want to get to know her, she has her own Facebook page here.)  As you can see, she was sunbathing this morning while I was putting the finishing touches on the first pattern for the Parris House Hookers’ Circle subscription service, shipping this week.   As I posted on our Facebook page this morning, I am painfully aware that Tru is now about twelve years old, and that most of my time with her is behind us.   I never thought I could love a dog this fiercely until she came in to our lives, but here I am, pondering a post-Tru world even though as of right now, she is still happy, active, and healthy.

For this reason, I have been thinking lately that I need to gather up all the photos I have of her (there are many!), and also sit quietly with her, make a sketch of her sweet face, and hook it.    Now, I have never hooked an animal in a detailed way, the way I want to hook Tru’s image.   I want to capture the glint in her eye that still exists even though I see the encroaching cloudiness of cataracts.  I want to hook the pretty combination of “red” and white and maybe now a little gray that defines her face.  I want to add the teeny tiny white eyelashes and delicate fur in her ears.  I think this project is going to have to be refined and textural and multimedia, but since I can see it, I know I can make it a reality.

Prior to this I have not hooked many animals.  One of the most popular patterns in the shop is “Tesla’s First Snow,” which, rather than a late-in-life portrait, is a depiction of our big orange tabby, Tesla, as a four month old kitten seeing his first snowfall out the window.  After being initially perplexed, he wanted to “catch” the snowflakes as they cascaded down.   I snapped a picture of the scene and the result was this:

As you can see, this is a very primitive rendering of Tesla.  His back is turned to us so that, frankly, I didn’t need to deal with the detail of his face, although that is still true to the photograph.  This was done in 2012.  I learned to hook in 2011.  I was simply not ready to take on the complexities of Tesla’s face!   (In case anyone is wondering, he is named for Nikola Tesla, the scientist/inventor.  This happens when you have four sons who dig science.)

I also hook animals for Beekman 1802, and it is absolutely true that I love these animals I’m depicting.   I actually met Polka Spot back in 2014 on the day Jen and I first presented our work to Josh and Brent.  They kindly sent us on a farm tour with Megan, who was then their artisan coordinator, and we were thrilled to see the baby goats, Bubby the cat, Onder the dog, and, as they say, “every living thing at Beekman farm.”   Bubby passed away since then, and Polka has also “gone to Paris,” but both of them had distinct personalities.  Polka was one of the most regal animals I’ve ever encountered, and it was clear that she took her watch over the goats seriously.  Bubby was just one giant furball of love, demanding our attention while Onder ran in and out of the barn playfully.  Here is the menagerie I hook for Beekman 1802.

Last year I had a major commission for a customer’s beloved Pharaoh Hound.  The story on that is here, and the result is below.

Why are we willing to put so much time and effort in to these portraits of our favorite pets or animals?  Or, if we aren’t artisans ourselves, willing to commission someone else to create them?   I think it’s about the innocence, unconditional love, and nobility of character we so often find in our pets.  I don’t say that to anthropomorphize animals.  As my biologist/ecologist son, James, likes to remind me, “They don’t think the way we do.”   And, of course, he’s right.  They don’t think the way we do.   In fact, it’s impossible for us, really, to get inside their heads.  They are coming from an entirely different reality, biology, instinct than we are.  And yet…it is so easy to make important connections with them, and they with us.  We want to immortalize them in art because we know – we are so painfully aware – that their lifespans are much shorter than we’d like and that our own lives are so much better with them by our sides.

Sometimes they’re exasperating.  Tesla wants to kill my knitting if I don’t put it up and out of the way.  Tru wants to be directly under my feet if I’m preparing chicken for dinner.   Tesla is incapable of having a hairball in any location except on a carpet.  Tru occasionally gets so excited over visitors she pees at their feet.  Yeah.   And the fur.  It’s everywhere.  No vacuum on this planet is its equal.

Yesterday, my oldest son, Robert, shared this picture of his and his girlfriend’s, Tracy’s, cats peering out their apartment window in much the same way Tesla peered out at his first snow about five or six years ago.   They are Valentine and Playdough, respectively, and both are well under a year old.   Just the beginning of another generation’s connection with animals.

I hope you will share pictures of your animals and also pictures of artwork you’ve done inspired by them.  Feel free to tell their stories and what they mean to you.  I look forward to learning all about them.

Happy hooking! – Beth

Tesla one-upping Tru and snagging the sunny spot.

 

Giving Back – Our Choice for 2017

Back in the late fall, I announced that Parris House Wool Works was going to choose a worthy non-profit to support in 2017.  I knew that I could not give much – Parris House Wool Works is still finding its feet – but I wanted to give something, as much as I could.  I got a lot of absolutely great suggestions through the company page and my personal page, and I hope that by putting those threads out there all of those organizations got a little boost.  But ultimately, something really clicked for me just this month when my friend Betsy Brown posted an appeal for a girls’ camp here in Maine.  Betsy works at this camp, knows its strengths, its benefits, and most importantly, its girls.

Let me tell you a little bit about me, and it may become clearer why this cause hit me just right.

When I was a little girl growing up in southern NJ, I spent summers on Little Sebago Lake in Gray, Maine with my grandparents.   Many of you have read one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written on that experience.  If you haven’t, it’s here.    At any rate, I was phenomenally fortunate to be able to leave a situation in NJ not without personal problems and pressures and spend my summers lakeside with people who showed me unconditional love, who believed in me without exception, and where I could have new and empowering experiences like swimming, hiking, learning about plants and animals, cooking and baking, or just having the time to reflect.   Later, while raising my own sons, I would bear witness to the summer camp experience at Camp Hinds on Panther Pond in Raymond, Maine.   “Hinds,” as so many of us call it, is a Boy Scout camp where Scouts from all over the country spend weeks or more in the summer.  These boys are coming from a variety of life situations, and the experiences at Hinds can be life changing for them in the best possible ways.  My third son, Peter, an Eagle Scout, spent the most time there, but all of my sons experienced it in some way.

Fast forward to just the past few years when I have taught at the Squam Art Workshops, which is basically a wildly creative summer camp for grownups, attended mostly by women.   If you want to know what that was like, you can check on my previous post here.   I titled that post, “And the Universe Said Yes” because that is what it was like for me…decades…as in four decades…after my experiences on Little Sebago with my grandparents, I still needed and benefited from the empowerment (there’s that word again, but it’s irreplaceable in this context), camaraderie, unconditional love, and art and skill building that are the hallmarks of Squam.

And where do I go when I need to be creative, centered, feel my best about myself, and maybe discover more about myself?  I go to our own cottage on Little Sebago, Sunset Haven, and allow myself to breathe.

The benefit of a good summer camp with a loving staff, especially for children and young people not normally exposed to nature, empowering skills and activities, or even broad and caring acceptance, is immeasurable.  I know, because even though my “summer camp” experience was in a private home, it saved me in a number of important ways.

Some of the kids who need this experience most come from families who can not afford to pay for it.  One two week session at the camp I am about to introduce you to costs $1,450, which, to me, seems like a bargain given everything that this camp offers.  Take a look for yourself as I introduce you to West End House Girls Camp on Long Pond in Parsonsfield, Maine.

Photo courtesy the WEHGC Facebook page.

This introduction to West End House Girls Camp is taken from their web page:

Welcome to West End House Girls Camp. We believe in the power of camp to change lives.

For many girls, summer camp isn’t in the cards. That’s where West End House Girls Camp (WEHGC) comes in.  Building on the 100-plus year history of Boston’s West End House, WEHGC offers need-blind summer camp opportunities for girls and young women from all walks of life, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have this experience.

WEHGC opened its doors in 2011 alongside the West End House Camp (for boys) on Long Pond in Parsonsfield, Maine.” We now support over 140 girls per summer and have plans to grow to accommodate over 300 girls per summer.

What do girls get out of our camp? On the surface, the things everyone gets from camp: Sunshine. Laughter. Campfires and new friends. But for these girls, camp is also a chance to feel safe, be themselves, and experience a judgment-free zone – things they may not experience elsewhere. They learn to make independent, responsible decisions when faced with challenges.

Ultimately, our goal is for campers to develop in a variety of ways. Whether it’s new skills, self-confidence, or a side of themselves they may not have known before, we want them to carry something special with them beyond their days at camp, into the real world – life-changing experiences.

I would encourage you to go their website and surf around.  Look most carefully at the “Values” page, where you will find a list of everything we need more of in this country and this world today, and perhaps some of the things these girls need most in their lives as well.   Their testimonials about what the camp has meant to them are here.

Girls and women need to know that they are valued, that they can achieve at a very high level, and that in spite of the challenges they face, they have within themselves the power to make a better life for themselves.  No matter what childhood situation we are coming from, we need to know that, and more importantly, be shown that.  I believe that West End House Girls Camp does exactly that, and I believe we are at time in America where this is as vitally important as ever.

I have made an initial pledge to West End House Girls Camp for $1000 this year, with a goal of another $450 if I can which would round out the cost of one entire two week scholarship.  I am humbled by the fact that I can not yet give more, but it’s a start, and if I can surpass the $1450 goal with the kind of growth I’m looking for this year, I absolutely will.  Chances are also good that I will not feel as though my support of WEHGC is over at the end of the year, and I will continue my support in to the future, hopefully in bigger and better ways.

If this is something that interests you as well, you can find the West End House Girls Camp donation page here.  I will be bringing you news and updates about the camp throughout 2017, especially on our social media.  You can follow them on Facebook by clicking here.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you will be moved to either support WEHGC also, or some other worthy nonprofit of your choice.  Our country and our world need a heavy dose of all that is right, good, empowering, and compassionate, one person, one act, one donation, one hour at a time.  It’s up to us.

Happy hooking! – Beth

Logo courtesy the West End House Girls Camp Facebook page

Save the Date! New Hook In Event in Belfast, Maine – April 22nd, 2017!

Beautiful downtown Belfast, Maine.

Looking for a new event to ring in the arrival of spring this year?  Get your calendar or digital device out and save this info!

When:  Saturday, April 22nd, 2017, 9 am to 3 pm

Where: The First Church in Belfast, UCC, 8 Court Street, Belfast, Maine

Featured Speaker: Rose Ann Hunter!

Sponsored by:  207 Creatives

OK, so you probably have questions…

Who is/are 207 Creatives?

207 Creatives is a collaboration formed by Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Designs, Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking, and me, Beth Miller of Parris House Wool Works.   It is our aim together to bring you the very best of fiber art and creative events, rug hooking patterns, supplies, & finished hooked pieces, and more.   Together we have three times as many ideas, resources, and experiences to pool than we would have alone, and we plan to use that to help make your creative experiences even better.

Tell us more about the featured speaker…

We are so excited to present accomplished fiber artist Rose Ann Hunter!  She will be doing a presentation called, “Enhancing Your Hooking with Historical Techniques.”   In her presentation, Rose Ann will share with us how she mixes and incorporates historical techniques in her rug hooking. Her imagination knows no bounds and you, too, will soon be talking about standing wool, quillies, shirring, tambor, and more.  Rose Ann’s bio on her webpage reads as follows:  “Rose Ann Hunter has been a textile structuralist for the last thirty years. She was chosen in 2005 as craftperson-in-residence at Old Sturbridge Village in traditional rugmaking 1790 to 1850 and lectures at various museums, conferences and guilds throughout New England and the US. She has adapted and developed over 30 techniques of rug making by recycling fabrics that are sewn, knitted or crocheted into folk art.”

Will there be great food?

YES!  There will be wonderful food at this hook in, provided by For the Love of Food & Drink.  If you have attended the Paris Hill Hook In for the past two years, you will be familiar with this wonderful catering company.  A fresh and delicious breakfast, lunch, and dessert, served by the friendliest people in catering, will be provided.

Will there be vendors?

Indeed.  There will be vendors, to be announced, who will have everything you need for the craft.  Yes, we know you already have stashes bursting down your doors, but hey, we’re hookers.  You know how it is.

What is the venue like?

People have been worshiping in this beautiful church in seaside Belfast for over two centuries.   The church hall where we will be hooking is spacious and light filled, and we are sure it will become a favorite hook in space.

Is this hook in replacing the Paris Hill Hook In in November?

NO!  The Fifth Annual Paris Hill Hook In sponsored by Parris House Wool Works will still be there this fall with bells on (or a bell in the church tower, that some of you have actually rung…).  I will be selecting a date for it soon and will get that information out to everyone.

How do we sign up???

We will be providing sign up information very soon, so please watch this page, our Facebook pages, and all of our social media for that.  In addition, we will be sending post cards for those whose addresses we have, and I will be putting the info in The Street Corner email newsletter.   If you are not sure we have your contact information and you would like a post card or email, please email me at parrishousewoolworks@gmail.com and we’ll put you on the list!

And there’s more…

We are still working on more fun details for this great new event, and will share more as we finalize those.   We hope you are as excited as we are and will come out and spend some time in one of the prettiest towns in midcoast Maine.   For more information about Belfast, please visit  Our Town Belfast.  

Thanks for reading, happy hooking, and we hope to see you in April!  – Beth

 

 

 

 

 

Maine Craft Weekend & Registration for the 2016 Paris Hill Hook In Happening Now!

exterior1 The Fourth Annual Paris Hill Hook In is not yet filled!  Join us on November 5th for a hook in that past participants describe as one of the best (and sometimes they say “the best) hook ins they have ever attended.  I chalk this up to our warm, welcoming, and historic venue, our amazing locally catered fresh food, and, of course, the good company of over 60 hookers coming together for a wonderful fall day.  We also have an informal rug show, the ringing (by you!) of the historic Revere Foundry church bell, and this year only we will pull the winning ticket for our Maine Medical Center raffle rug.  Don’t have a ticket for that yet?  No problem.  You can buy them now by clicking here or you can even buy them in person the morning of the hook in.  Once again we will be welcoming Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes and Cherylyn Brubaker of Hooked Treasures as our vendors, along with, of course, Parris House Wool Works.  There will be door prizes as well (it’s not a hook in without door prizes).

You can get a hook in registration form HERE, but there’s a doubly fun way to sign up.  You can join us this coming weekend for Maine Craft Weekend!  We will be participating by having the Maine studio open both days, Saturday and Sunday, October 1st and 2nd, from 10 AM to 4 PM.  Here is what you can expect:  Parris House Wool Works is located in the beautiful Paris Hill National Historic District of the Western Lakes & Mountains Region of Maine. You can find us at the 200 year old historic Parris House at 546 Paris Hill Road, Paris and we will be open both days to introduce you to the heritage craft of North American wool-on-linen rug hooking! Join us for refreshments, demonstrations, lessons in rug hooking, and a studio filled with everything you need for the craft, including hooks, frames, original patterns, and wool, as well as assorted finished decor pieces to purchase. You will also be able to buy a raffle chance on a 3’x5′ hooked rug to benefit the Maine Medical Center Kidney Transplant Program; drawing November 5th. Feel free to walk the historic village while you’re here! Walking tour maps will be available.  

2016-me-craft-weekend-logo4

We have recently added a variety of classes and events to our new calendar, and you may notice that the website is completely, beautifully re-imagined.  This creative work was done by Jacks McNamara of Root & Blossom Design.   Her services were extremely professional, but also warmly collaborative so that the site ended up looking like Parris House Wool Works, not a cookie cutter version of other sites.  I highly recommend her!

So, hopefully you will join us for Maine Craft Weekend, the Paris Hill Hook In, or any of the other fun classes and events we have scheduled for the fall and beginning of winter.

Happy hooking, and see you soon! – Beth

Headed to Squam – Maine Studio Closed June 3rd through June 7th

Well, the time is almost here!  I’m headed to teach my class, Modern Heirloom, at the Squam Art Workshops on Wednesday morning, and as a result, the Maine studio will need to closed from Wednesday, June 3rd through Sunday, June 7th.  I will be open regular hours on Monday and Tuesday, June 1st and 2nd.

While class registration for the spring retreat has been closed for quite some time, it’s not too late to plan to come to the Squam Art Fair and Ravelry  on Saturday evening, June 6th, from 7:30 to 10 PM!  Come see me there!  I will be there with THIS amazing list of other vendors.

If you would like to follow my social media posts and those of other attendees just look for these hashtags:

‪#‎squamartworkshops‬
‪#‎squamlove‬
‪#‎squamwardbound‬
‪#‎squam2015‬

FMI about Squam, should you want to join in for a future retreat, click HERE.

Have a great week, and happy hooking! – Beth

An Approximate Recipe for New England Clam Chowder, or Maybe Just Parris House Clam Chowder?

ChowderHousePic

As most of you know, we had a blizzard here last Tuesday.  Jen was visiting from Tennessee (and took all the pics for this blog post) and we decided that clam chowder was the best defense against the elements.  By the way, this is what a Southerner looks like braving a blizzard…not bad, actually…

ChowderBlizzardJen

I will be the first to admit that I was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in New Jersey, and went to college in Delaware, so maybe I should be making Manhattan Clam Chowder.  We all know that would be wrong, though.  I also fully expect some New England native to look at what follows and find at least half a dozen things I’m doing “wrong.”  I’m fine with that.  I’m also fine with the fact that everyone loves my clam chowder, including natives.  😉

People ask me a LOT for my clam chowder recipe.  And I never have one.  I’m not being coy or secretive.  I literally don’t have one.  I don’t measure, I don’t think the chowder is ever quite the same twice, and like all soups, it’s always even better the second day. I’m going to attempt to show you how I make my chowder, but please accept the fact that it’s ok to make soup without a precision recipe – in fact, sometimes it’s better to – and have fun making your own approximate chowder recipes.

ChowderCollage1

First thing I do is put a little olive oil in to the bottom of a very heavy stock pot.  This one belonged to my husband’s grandmother.  You can also use butter (yay, butter!), or any oil of your choice, but I like the flavor of either olive oil or butter.  I then cut up some bacon (or salt pork), and start cooking it in the oil in the pan.  This adds a little bacon or salt pork fat to the soup as well for flavoring.

ChowderCollage2

Next I chop up a good sized onion and put that in with the saute-ing bacon.  You can also add carrots and celery, but I did not have those in the house on this occasion.  I even put kale in to the finished soup, but a dear Maine native friend of mine (who loves kale in other contexts) says that is positively taboo.

ChowderCollage4

Next I dice about half a dozen potatoes and add them to the pot.  I then add chicken or vegetable stock in enough quantity to cover the potatoes, depending on what I have in the house.  This is a great reason to make stocks out of your vegetable bits or poultry carcasses or ham bones or what have you and then freeze them so that you can use them on the fly in soups.  I did not have any left in the freezer, so I had to use store bought.   Let everything simmer in the stock until the potatoes are just fork tender.

ChowderCollage5

When the potatoes are fork tender, it’s time to add enough milk or half & half or cream (this is entirely up to you and your cholesterol levels) to make the soup creamy, but not so much that it makes the soup too thin in terms of vegetable to broth ratio.  If you go with milk, which is inherently less creamy, you can use a little corn starch to thicken the chowder. Add a bottle of clam juice, and the clams.  I used both fresh frozen chopped clams and a can of whole clams.  Do not boil the soup vigorously or cook it too long after this step because you do not want your nice tender clams to toughen.

You can season this soup in any way that makes you happy, although I would avoid really strong flavors that will overpower the delicate taste of the clams.  I just use sea salt (when needed) and freshly ground black pepper (not too much).  And, as I mentioned, I like garnishing with cooked kale, although this is anathema in some circles and perhaps a safer bet is garnishing with oyster crackers (especially if you have a native Mainer at the table).

Chowder13

So, this is what it looked like by the time we sat down to eat.  (Please excuse the chipped bowl.  These were my grandmother’s dishes from her camp on Little Sebago Lake – see our blog post about Maine lake culture – and I can’t part with them even when they chip.)  We served the chowder with mussels marinara (perhaps another blog post?), Teriyaki steak strips left over from the night before, a green salad, and my son’s home brewed cinnamon vanilla porter (definitely will be another blog post on that).

This is old fashioned home cooking.  I am not a chef.  I have no formal training.  One of the things I love about making soups is that it is analogous to rug hooking in some ways.  Hooking is forgiving in ways that knitting, cross stitch, quilting, and other precision crafts are not.  There is so much freedom in hooking, so much room for experimentation and expression.  So it is with soups.  So just see what you’ve got sitting about in your fridge and have fun with soup making.

Happy cooking and happy hooking!  – Beth