My second son, James, is a biologist/ecologist, a recent grad of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is at home right now, teaching biology and environmental science at Hebron Academy. He also serves on the board of the Center for an Ecology Based Economy in Norway, Maine. He is here until his Canadian girlfriend, Beth, graduates also this spring. Then he’ll be gone to Canada to start his life with her. But…for the time being, he’s home, and we have learned a LOT from him about nature, plants, soil science, composting, climate change, birds and animals, and more.
As a result, we were not surprised when he announced he was going to try to make a bread meal out of acorns, which is something native peoples did prior to the arrival of Europeans on this continent, and which people who like to try this sort of thing still do today. It’s a long process. The primary issue is that the tannins need to be removed from the acorns before they are fit for human consumption. Tannins are found in every day beverages, like tea and coffee, but acorns are extremely loaded with them. This makes them not only bitter, but prone to causing the types of gastrointestinal upset not spoken of in polite company or professional blog posts.
To get the tannins out, James needed to soak the acorn meal for an extended period of time and change the water frequently. He told me that some people will even put their bundle of acorns in to a running stream to let the tannins be leached out over time in the moving water. Before he could do the leaching process, he had to crack the acorns open, pull the meat out of the shell, and then grind it all up in the food processor. When he reached the point where he needed, “a cotton dish towel, or cheese cloth, or something” to hold the meal, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. I said to him, “How about if we wrap it in white wool and see if it will dye it?” Fortunately, he was game. And I knew that the water would be changed so frequently (several times a day in the beginning) that the wool would not get weird or stinky on us.
So the process began. The water was changed frequently over the course of weeks. Every once in a while we tasted the meal. Sure enough, the bitterness was dissipating, and the wool was getting more and more nut colored. I knew that at the end of the process, when the meal was ready for drying and baking, I’d have to mordant the wool, but this could obviously not be done while the acorn meal was still wrapped in it.
Finally, one day, James declared the meal ready for baking. He took it out of the water, and the wool, and dried it on sheets in the oven. The dried meal was then frozen in jars until he baked a bread with it at Christmas time. It’s…an acquired taste. There was some residual bitterness, but it also had an earthy, nutty quality that I very much liked. The reviews were mixed with the visiting brothers, girlfriends, cousins, and grandparents. If you’d like to try processing acorn meal and baking with it yourself, there are many resources on the web that can guide you.
I took the wool, mordanted it as best I knew how in a hot bath of white vinegar (I know there are better mordants for a natural dye like this, but this is what I had on hand), rinsed it, and dried it.
I like the color. It’s a soft, nutty, slightly mottled tan, a little darker and yellower where the meal actually sat all that time, and I have a half yard piece – or I can put it in to fat quarters if you prefer – to sell. I will be pricing them at $14/fat quarter. (Contact me if interested!) This wool is truly one of a kind as I don’t think I’ll be processing acorns again anytime soon. Or maybe I will. Maybe I will find a process more suitable to dyeing specifically and give it another try. This was serendipitous, kind of akin to the Thai iced tea dye I did a while back after noticing how brilliant the color of the tea was when it spilled on my counter top.
Natural dyeing is not my area of expertise. I do not currently teach it, because I feel that I don’t know enough about it. I do plan to invite someone wonderful who does, however, to the Parris House in the summer or fall, so keep an eye on “Classes & Events” for when I can get that scheduled.
On Saturday, November 4th, we had our Fifth Annual Paris Hill Hook In and I would say it was a great success. We changed things up quite a bit this year. Responding to feedback from hook ins that I’ve been an organizer and/or a vendor for, we reduced the number of guests from 62 to 50 this year in an effort to give everyone more space. We also went from three vendors to four. These are, to be honest, risky steps to take from the business side of conducting a hook-in, however, I would say that a good day was had by all and we plan to continue with these changes in coming years.
I would like to extend a bunch of “thank-yous” to the many people who made the day a success.
Firstly, I’d like to thank our guests for once again supporting this event, supporting our vendors, and being the reason the Paris Hill Hook In exists at all. Thank you, all!
My husband, Bill, and 24 year old son, James, gave a herculean amount of assistance in setting up and then breaking down the hall. They did lots of hauling, moving, and configuring on both ends of the event and I am very grateful for the help.
I’d like to thank the First Baptist Church of Paris and its Pastor Mary Beth Caffey for once again welcoming our event to their beautiful venue. Given the choice between getting a larger venue to make space or scaling down, I chose scaling down because I believe traditional hooking events, in venues with history, character, and grace are becoming rare. Our hooking heritage includes gathering in small, community spaces and supporting our home towns and villages. Because First Baptist Church is willing to have us every year, we can continue that tradition.
For the Love of Food & Drink, our caterers, knocked it out of the park again with an outstandingly delicious breakfast and lunch. Their kindness, conscientiousness, skill, and culinary excellence are a major part of what makes this event successful.
Our vendors are amazing! A huge thank you to Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking, Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking, and Cherylyn Brubaker of Hooked Treasures. And, of course, I was vending there too, and am very appreciative of everyone who shopped at my table yesterday. Did you miss the event this year? Click on all of our shop or web pages and shop the wonderful wares, just in time for the holiday season!
I am never able to get really great pictures at an event I’m personally running, so please excuse the lack of precision here. However, you will get a feel for how the event unfolded and hopefully see some faces you are familiar with. (To advance the slideshows, click on the arrows to the sides.)
Here are the pictures from setting up the day before. The church was so silent, in contrast to the busyness that characterizes the actual event.
And here are the pictures from the day, complete with beautiful sunrise over Paris Hill.
Finally, here are the rug show pictures. I was concerned that by scaling this event down the rug show would suffer, but no. Our guests delivered with a great number and variety of rugs. It goes without saying here that any design you see may not be copied without the artist’s/designer’s permission, so if there’s one you just love and want to track down ownership of, send me a message and I can try to get that information. Some of them I know right off because they are either my design and/or hooked by one of the Parris House Hookers/Tuesday Group members, but others I’d need to make a few contacts on.
Were you there at the Fifth Annual Paris Hill Hook In? We’d love to see your pics and hear your comments too. Remember, if you are using social media to post about the event, include the hashtag #parishillhookin so that we can all find one another’s posts.
Thanks to all, again, and keep an eye on the website’s Paris Hill Hook In tab for information about next year’s event.
I haven’t posted anything on the blog since May of this year, after being reasonably consistent about popping something new up for you at least a couple of times a month. May was around the time small and a few big things started to go wrong around here, starting with my Corgi Tru being diagnosed with terminal liver disease and cancer. Tru was my steadfast companion for the past eleven years and the dog our four sons were raised with. To watch her sicken, with one capability after another taken from her by the cancer, was both heartbreaking and demoralizing. On June 13th, it was clear that prolonging her life was not in her best interest, and I had promised, from the day she arrived to our home, that she would know nothing but love and care for all of her days. Our amazing friend and veterinarian came over that evening, and Tru passed away very peacefully outside on the grass with many of her loved ones holding and surrounding her. I didn’t really get off the sofa for about three days – not for any length of time anyway – and from there it’s been a summer of more minor mishaps, from the annoying to the comical. I will spare you most of those, but if you’ve been following the Facebook page you know that it’s included one of my bee hives swarming, having a lot of my inventory damaged in a microburst at a show in Portland, and then coming home that same night to find my favorite witness-tree birch on fire from a lightning strike, necessitating its felling. A friend of mine said, “Girlfriend, burn some sage at your house!”
I feel like I’m starting to recover now. Things are going a bit better and my spirits are always lifted as fall approaches. It’s my favorite season here in Maine by far. For a variety of reasons, summer is my least favorite season, plus, for me, fall is like my new year. Instead of spring, or January, my new beginnings often happen in the fall. This year especially, I am feeling the need to get back to learning, growing, changing, and moving forward.
So, let’s do a little catching up first.
One good thing that happened this summer was that we bottled our first batch of Tovookan’s honey from the Parris House beehives. We had about sixty pounds altogether and while I have sold quite a lot of it, I do still have some jars left. If anyone is interested in a one pound jar, they are $10 and available at the Maine studio, OR they can be shipped. Be aware, however, that shipping is running around $7 – $9, so I leave it to your discretion as to whether or not you’d like a jar from a distance.
I have also had the privilege of working with three publishers who I have long admired. Down East Magazine currently has some of my rug hooking kits and finished pillows in their Summer Pop Up Shop at their headquarters in Rockport, Maine. If you are traveling along the beautiful Maine Midcoast for the remainder of this summer and in to September, please stop in to the shop right on Route 1 to peruse not only my things, but a great selection of Maine Made products.
The holiday issue of Rug Hooking Magazine will also feature my pattern and project article as the centerfold pull out. I remember when I first started hooking thinking it was a really big deal to have that role in an RHM issue, and now here I am. As always, linen patterns and kits will be available for purchase through RHM when the magazine comes out.
Finally, I have a really lovely and fun project coming out in the fall issue of Making Magazine, assembled and edited by the talented and hard working Carrie Hoge, a fellow Mainer. I don’t want to put any spoilers here, but the theme of the magazine this fall is “Lines” and my project was designed accordingly. I loved making it and loved working the Carrie, whose outstanding photography truly captures the beauty of any project she’s shooting.
My work is also on display in the Maine Made kiosk at Bangor International Airport. It’s so fun to know that busy travelers going in and out of the airport can take a moment to see my bee pillow in the kiosk. It’s my hope that it brightens someone’s day.
I also just launched two new hooked pillows for Beekman 1802, a bee and a pink pig, continuing with the theme of animals you might find on the farm. My Instagram post of the bee is the most liked post ever in the history of my IG account, so I’m expecting it to do well in the Mercantile. It was also “liked” by one of my hooking heroines, who I will not name here. 🙂
So, let’s look forward to what’s coming up the last few weeks of the summer and in to the fall…
I have a beginner rug hooking class coming up at The Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, this Sunday, August 27th that you can still sign up for! We will be doing a double heart scented buckwheat pillow; this is the prototype, to the left. For more information and to sign up, click HERE.
On September 2nd we will have another of our SUPER FUN beginner dye classes here at the Parris House. To sign up, click HERE.
Once again, I will be participating in the Sharon Springs Harvest Festival on September 9th and 10th in beautiful Sharon Springs, NY! I will not be down in the vendor area this year, but rather I will be at Beekman Farm demonstrating and teaching rug hooking for our Beekman Neighbors who come to the farm tours. I hope to have some of my exclusive-to-Beekman 1802 pillows for sale in the Mercantile, however, for any neighbors who want to shop for them on the spot at Harvest Festival. Normally they are made to order and purchased online with a 2 week completion time.
I will also be having a beginner class at Scarborough Adult Ed (Maine) starting at the end of September. Follow the website and FB page for more information on that as it becomes available. We will be doing Maine forest/camp themed projects, so this is not to be missed!
On October 7th, we will have a soap making class again here at the Parris House. To sign up for that, click HERE.
The Hampden Hook-In, sponsored by The Keeping Room, will take place on October 21st this year and I will be there again vending. Hope to see many of you there!
Last, but not least, for events, the Fifth Annual Paris Hill HookIn is set to take place on Saturday, November 4th. If you have not signed up already, please do soon. I have reduced the number of participants this year to fifty. That’s a reduction of about a dozen spots because I am hearing so very many complaints at hook-ins about inadequate space. If the majority of hookers feel that more space is needed at these events but still want to enjoy the more down-home and charming venues, then the sacrifice has to be made in the number of attendees. Therefore, I only have a limited number of spaces left. For all of the information on this event, click HERE.
The Parris House gardens were not their best this season. In speaking to a friend of mine who is literally a professional farmer about how relatively poorly I think my tomatoes are doing, she said right away that the nights have been too cold and the days of high heat too few. I will say, though, that the Parris House apple trees are absolutely loaded, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for those!
And so we move forward. Not every year is our best year, but in looking back over just what I’ve written here, I realize that some very good things have happened. And just about two weeks ago, one other very good thing happened…
Meet Wyeth, our new five month old Rough Collie. (Yes, he’s named for NC, Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth – I’m an art geek.) My husband grew up with Collies and loves them, and since we have had the good fortune to live with my favorite breed for the past eleven years, I thought it was his turn to live with his. Wyeth was born in Georgia right around the time his breeder family (Morris Oaks Farm) was making a move to Maine, and that’s why he came to us so relatively late for a puppy. But this is perfect for me as he is already so well trained and socialized and best of all, housebroken! He already loves the attention of our Tuesday group hookers, although I do my best to keep him both out of their hooking bags and away from their lunches. Dog lovers everywhere will know the complexity of my feelings as I fall in love with this new puppy. I still shed tears for Tru, and at the same time find joy in getting to know Wyeth.
I will be getting back on the regular-blogging wagon. Tell me in the comment thread any topics you would like to see covered on the blog (can be fiber art, travel, gardening, beekeeping, whatever!), and if I choose yours I will give you an online or in person coupon for $5 off any purchase of $25 or more. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, which I will also be getting back to, by using the sign up box at the bottom of the web page.
Not everyone can join us in the Maine studio to hook together on Tuesdays. In thinking about how we could create an online community to bring people from all over the country (and possibly the world) together in a common project, I came up with the Parris House Hookers Circle.
As some of you may know, we shipped the first pattern for the Parris House Hookers Circle in March of this year. If you’re not aware of it, here’s how it works. Every quarter (March, June, September, December) I will send out a new surprise pattern or kit (you choose!). You can pay all at once up front and receive a 5% discount on your subscription, or you can pay in installments. The details are explained on the shop listing HERE.
So far, we have had three brave hookers sign up, and two of them, Pam Congdon Springer and Carolyn Cooke, have been participating regularly on our Hookers Circle closed Facebook group. They signed up without having any sneak peek at all at what they might receive, but lucky you, you’re about to get a look at the first pattern we shipped in March and what two of these lovely women did with it. Keep in mind that they chose the pattern-only option, not a kit with cut or uncut wool, so the color planning was all theirs.
When I set about designing a pattern for the March shipment, we were in the midst of some serious winter storms with spring nowhere in sight. I thought it might be nice to do a pattern inspired by some of the woodland plants we see here in Maine in spring and then in to the summer, so I chose lady slippers and trillium. On any hike in the woods of Maine you are pretty sure to see trillium, but the lady slippers are rarer, so much so that it is literally illegal to pick them. I’m not sure why anyone would, but the state actually protects them as a relatively rare plant.
So here’s what my hookers circle members got in the mail…
Each member received an image of the original sketch as a jumping off point for their own color planning and hooking.
Each member also received a pattern drawn on the grain on high quality linen with 4″ edges all around.
They also received a special little extra in their packages, which for March was a bar of our handcrafted soap.
It took Pam and Carolyn no time at all to get started on their projects, but they posted progress pics throughout their hooking that were fun to see. We were able to bat ideas around as the projects developed and offer constructive opinions and kudos on the work. Another benefit of joining Hookers Circle is that mutual support as the projects unfold.
So, what did the finished projects look like? Of the three members, I have finished pics of two, and permission to post so…without further ado…
This is Carolyn’s finished rug. She chose unconventional colors and a beautiful whip stitched binding that coordinates with the primary background. Her use of purple on the stems of the flowers, and then echoing it in the corners of the design, I thought was brilliant. I think she achieved a really beautiful result here, thinking outside the box.
This is Pam’s finished wall hanging. I absolutely loved the way she incorporated a natural object that you would absolutely find on a walk in the woods as part of the hanging apparatus. She used a coordinating button flaps to attach to the twig and then set the whole thing off with the proddy fringe along the bottom. I think her color choices are lovely. This is another spectacular result I would never have imagined when I was sketching the pattern.
So, this is our fledgling start to the Hookers Circle, a group I hope to grow to at least one hundred members. No, I’m not kidding. I really want to get Hookers Circle to at least one hundred members. I know that that would require employing several people for about a week or so a quarter to draw, assemble, and ship the kits, but I think it would create a big version of the camaraderie that is already developing on our Hookers Circle Facebook group.
If you like this pattern, it will be available for general purchase one year from when it was released, so March 2018. Hookers Circle members enjoy exclusive access to every pattern for at least one year. Members can join at any point in the year and subscriptions will run on a rolling basis. Want to join us in time for the June shipment? Join here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek at what’s been happening in the Parris House Hookers Circle. I think spring is finally arriving here in Maine. There’s still snow on the ground, but I think its time is short, and I will have to start thinking about warmer days and summer sun to inspire the June pattern and kit.
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.
Last weekend I had the good fortune to take a beginner weaving class with Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers. Some of you may know that Rabbit is an extremely well known and highly respected weaver, with an extensive knowledge of her art and so many related topics and disciplines. For a more complete portrait of who she is and what she has done, click here. Rabbit is a fellow Beekman 1802 artisan, and it was through Beekman 1802 that this particular class was offered. The extremely imperfect scarf shown at left was the result of my first go at weaving, showing many errors on my part, but I fully intend to wear it anyway as a reminder of this fantastic experience and some of the larger life lessons it brought to mind.
Rabbit is a generous, patient, and effective teacher. It is nothing short of miraculous that she is able to take a room full of absolute beginners and, at the end of two days, send them off with wearable, lovely silk & worsted scarves of their own making. Mine was by far not the best example in the class; one in particular looked flawless to me. While as a student I was mainly focused on process, not result, I know that when I am teaching I take a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing my students produce something truly beautiful. I think Rabbit does too, and she certainly achieved successful results.
I think there are often life lessons embedded within any creative pursuit, and weaving is no exception. Here are just a few that came to mind as I learned the rudiments of weaving.
Small actions can have lasting consequences. We spent the entire first day of class learning how to wrap the warp and set up the loom. I had previously known nothing of the painstaking work required to prepare a loom for weaving, and these were relatively simple four-harness looms suitable for beginners. Once the warp was placed on the loom, we needed to carefully thread each heddle in the correct order, one strand at a time, to achieve the correct pattern in the final result. Following that, each thread had to come through the reed in the correct groupings. Needless to say, for a beginner it is very easy to make a mistake at some point in this process, and I did. A couple of my errors were visible right away to Rabbit, who corrected them, but another was only apparent once the weaving began. Rabbit was able to fix the latter to some extent, but there is still an imperfection all along the warp in that section of the scarf, a reminder that just one small mistake can have lasting consequences. But I don’t want this to only be read in the negative. It is also true that one positive act can have far reaching and lasting consequences for good. There is a ripple effect in many things that we do, and being focused and present even in the smallest of things can matter a great deal.
Bringing your best to whatever you do is a wise investment and multiplies your efforts. Rabbit provided us with beautiful silk and worsted thread with which to weave our scarves. She knows what I also know as a teacher: if you do not provide your students with the best materials for their very first project, they will not get a result that will encourage them to continue in the art. Additionally, they may actually have a harder time learning, because cheap, low quality materials do not perform well in an artisan’s hands and can be uncomfortable and frustrating to work with. Whether you’re a beginner or a master, bring your best to every endeavor and share that best with others if you want your message, your passion, your art – whatever it is – to become a contagious force for good.
Sometimes, we seemingly create something from nothing, and when we do, it is deeply rewarding. One of the many wonderful conversations that took place over the weekend was about the almost inexpressible satisfaction that comes from having a real, three dimensional, thing of beauty come in to being under your own hands. Ideas are powerful. In the course of our weaving weekend, ideas became scarves. In my own work, a fleeting glimpse of a landscape or the issue behind a protest may take root in my mind as an image or an idea. From there it will make its way on to paper as a sketch, then on to linen as a pattern, then through wool and handwork it ends up a work of fiber art, tangible, tactile, real. All it was at its inception was an idea, and it becomes a physical thing, but it doesn’t end there. It becomes a thing that generates more ideas and feelings, and may even become part of someone else’s story, which may in turn generate more inspiration that becomes some other new thing. Archaeologists have unearthed woven fabric that is thousands of years old, fabric that started out as someone’s idea. This manifestation of creative thought presents itself thousands of years after the death of the thinker. In some ways, creative making is the closest we get to immortality while also being reminded of our own personal impermanence.
Don’t judge anything too early in its story. The hookers in the audience know that it’s impossible to truly judge a rug prior to the steaming process. In fact, when I teach hooking, I confidently promise my students that upon steaming, their rug will subtly, and yet dramatically (yes, I mean that contradiction), change for the better. Imagine my delight to find out that finishing is equally – possibly more – important in a woven piece. Rabbit taught us a variety of finishing techniques for our scarves. In the case of mine, she sprayed it gently with water and ran it through a vintage rotary iron. After the steam pressing, she handed me my scarf and it was amazingly, tangibly, thrillingly transformed. It was softer, my weaving errors were less apparent, it had developed more of a sheen, and it was just significantly different. This is a great reminder that often it is best to withhold judgment, especially during moments we are most compelled to judge. Judging too early can lead to giving up too soon. It can lead to unfairly dismissing a project, an idea, or at worst, a person, long before we have enough information or legitimate reason to.
Believe you can. To be honest, when I first signed up for Rabbit’s class I was not at all sure that I would be able to come home with a scarf even as good as the one I have, even with the mistakes its sporting. Weaving is a precise, intricate, mathy, technical, and yet endlessly creative art form. It seems to me to require a Renaissance mind, one that is equally comfortable with traditionally left and right brain thinking. I am infamously weak with mathy pursuits. I somehow passed calculus in college, but I remember none of it, with the exception, perhaps, of the trauma the class inflicted on me. I knit…a little…but, oh please, do not ask me to design a knitting pattern or fix an error three rows back. My chosen art, the one I’m so passionate about, is way more abstract, like painting with wool. I can handle that with relative ease. Why on earth would I think I could do something with such strong spatial and technical components? Well, on one hand, I correctly believed that Rabbit was simply a fantastic teacher and that she’d seen the likes of me before. On the other hand I simply chose to believe that I could do this. This is a discipline in itself, and one I learned later in life. As humans, we really do have limitations, innate characteristics that might really prevent individuals from doing some things. However, I believe that we have to sort out the real limitations ( I will never be an Olympic athlete) from the lies we tell ourselves (I’m not left brained enough to weave). The best things that have happened to me in the past several years have come about because I’ve learned to silence the inner voice that fabricates limitations, and listen to the one that objectively recognizes realistic opportunities and possibilities.
Creating things creates community. This needs very little explanation. On Saturday morning, we four students and Rabbit had never met before and, except for Rabbit, had never woven before. By the end of the weekend we had chatted about our lives, our families, things we love to do, and watched and supported one another with the challenges of learning a new art. We shared our experiences to our wider communities on social media and spread the word about this incredible workshop. Today I showed my new scarf to our Tuesday hooking group, and the circle became wider. Humans are innately driven to create and share in the creative process, and I have to think that this is not only because that drive is somewhat evolutionary – a means to physical survival – but also because it binds us together in communities that meet our needs for connection and belonging.
There are so many more lessons within the lesson, but these were foremost in my mind as I drove the six hours back to Maine from upstate New York. I am very grateful to Rabbit for sharing so much of her time and resources with us, and to Josh and Brent of Beekman 1802 for arranging this experience. I am also grateful to my three weaving classmates who were inspirational in their own right, creating beautiful things out of “nothing” as well. If this is something that would interest you also, follow Thistle Hill Weavers on Facebook where Rabbit posts her upcoming classes. Also follow Beekman 1802 on Facebook for notifications of other upcoming Artisan Experiences as they are offered.
I’ll share some other pictures from the weekend, from Rabbit’s gorgeous studio, and from the Beekman 1802 Mercantile below (click the side arrows to scroll through). I hope you’ll consider doing something totally new to you this year, and pondering the lessons within the lesson too. – Beth
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 email@example.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
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.
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.
Would you like to win the bundle shown above? It’s three of our handcrafted soaps, two wool fat quarters, a beginner Moshimer hook, and 10% off any purchase in our Etsy shop or from our studios!
We are looking to reach 1000 “likes” on Facebook and will pick a name at random of those who newly “like” our page, or who “like” and/or “share” our post there that features this picture. You can head on over there now by clicking HERE.
Thanks so much and when we reach 1000 “likes” we’ll share who the lucky winner is!
One of the things we promised to do in 2015 was offer more educational classes in a variety of great crafts and skills. So here we go! Here are some brand new offerings for April. Space is limited for each class, so please contact me (Beth) at 207-890-8490 or at ParrisHouseWoolWorks@gmail.com to sign up!
Saturday, April 11th – MAKE A MAY BASKET WITH MASTER BASKET WEAVER KAREN ELLIS
10 am to 3 pm. Who doesn’t want to make an adorable May basket just in time for Spring!? This basket can be made in a variety of colors. Karen will bring many colored reeds to choose from!
The $30 class fee includes all materials needed. Just bring yourself and a bag lunch! Snacks and beverages will be provided. Space is limited to 12 students, so sign up soon!
Tuesday, April 14th – PENNY RUG/APPLIQUE WITH FIBER ARTIST MARY DELANO
Mary goes beyond the blanket stitch in this class suitable for beginners and also those who want to learn new stitches and techniques for penny rug making. Mary will provide her expertise, embroidery floss, ribbon, and other notions as well as some wool materials. Students need to bring the wool for the background and any scrap wool they might like to incorporate in to their design, and a pair of scissors. We also have plenty of wools and scraps at the Maine studio to choose from.
Class is $45. Please RSVP to secure your spot!
Saturday, April 18th – INTRODUCTION TO WOOL DYEING WITH BETH MILLER
9 am to 12 noon. We will introduce pot dyeing, microwave dyeing, and casserole dyeing in colors of your choice, and maybe make new recipes with experimentation! Class including materials, $32. Space is limited to four students. This one is almost full right now, so don’t hesitate!
I will continue to post class offerings here, but you can also always go to our Workshops & Classes tab to see what’s scheduled for the year. Hope to see many of you in the studio!