June 2019 Trip to Nova Scotia, Canada’s Rug Hooking Playground

My husband, Bill, and I took another trip to Nova Scotia in early June, just for a few days to help our son James move up there. His fiancee is Nova Scotian and they are starting their lives together. I’m a wee bit envious that he’ll be a permanent resident of Nova Scotia in the near future. I’ve thought about living there myself for reasons beyond the scope of this post.

Beach stones and beach roses on White Point Beach, NS

Anyone who’s seen a Nova Scotian car on the highway knows that the license plate says, “Canada’s Ocean Playground.” I have a lot of empathy for the people of Nova Scotia who may feel about that similarly to the way a lot of Mainers feel about our plates saying, “Vacationland.” There is so much more to Nova Scotia and Maine than our superlative tourist attractions, although we do welcome the income they generate. On this particular trip to Nova Scotia (and let’s face it, on many of my trips to Nova Scotia), for me the province seemed like Canada’s Rug Hooking Playground.

I was headed for the South Shore, specifically, Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. Most of the fiber art studios and a rug show I visited were there, but to get in to Nova Scotia via the route we generally take from Maine, you have to drive through or past Amherst. Amherst ring a bell for anyone?

The Deanne Fitzpatrick Studio, Amherst, NS

We arrived at the Deanne Fitzpatrick studio pretty late in the day, right around 4 PM. I planned to go in, browse, maybe have one of Deanne’s famous oatcakes, pick up some alternative fibers for some projects I have in mind for the fall, and be on my way. It didn’t quite work out that way.

It turned out that Deanne was hosting one of her amazing rug hooking spa retreats and she and the attendees were in the back area hooking. I told the lovely woman in the shop not to bother them, but she said, “Oh no! Come on back! We have a student here from Maine too.” So, I went back to see Deanne and one of my own students was there! It was so fun to see her in this context, learning a whole new approach to hooking in such a wonderful environment.

Deanne Fitzpatrick, Avril Murphy Roux, Beth Miller

We proceeded on to our Airbnb in Mahone Bay, which was still a few hours past Amherst, where Wyeth made a new friend.

Wyeth meets his first up-close horse.

The next morning we went down to Mahone Bay and got a great breakfast (the first of a couple while we were in NS) at The Biscuit Eater Cafe & Books.

Breakfast at The Biscuit Eater

Our next stop was my favorite hooking studio in Nova Scotia, Emcompassing Designs in Mahone Bay, owned by Christine Little, with whom I always love chatting. Her son, Shane, the “Dye Guy” was there as well, working his magic on some more wool, which is conveniently hung on an open roll overhead. In this arrangement the wool can just be rolled down, sliced off in yard increments, and soaked & dyed. This studio is a must see if you are in Nova Scotia on a rug hooking pilgrimage. The quality of everything is exceptional, there is a huge selection (including Christine’s beautiful and never ending array of patterns), and there is a wide variety of “extras” and accessories to choose from. It is no wonder that bus loads (literally…bus loads) of fiber tourists stop here on their tours of Nova Scotia.

Beth Miller, Christine Little at Encompassing Designs, Mahone Bay, NS
Shane, the Dye Guy, at Encompassing Designs, Mahone Bay, NS

We went on to a very different studio in Mahone Bay, Spruce Top Rug Hooking Studio owned by an absolute icon in North American rug hooking and fiber art, Carol Harvey Clark. Spruce Top is housed in a classic Nova Scotian antique home. The first floor is filled with not only beautiful rug hooking supplies, including Carol’s own patterns, but a dye kitchen and a wide selection of finished rugs created by artisans from the area. Take a foray upstairs, however, and you will find a meticulously curated museum of the history of our art. There is an extensive collection of historical artifacts related to rug hooking, each carefully explained on the display plaques. Especially if you are new to rug hooking, this is an enjoyable education in our heritage. If you are not new to rug hooking, you will love seeing the story again and the artifacts related to it. Carol is so very accomplished and so knowledgeable that I never leave Spruce Top without learning something new.

Spruce Top Rug Hooking Studio, Mahone Bay, NS

Next stop was the Heidi Wulfraat Wool Works Studio, also in Mahone Bay, where after years of admiring Heidi’s work online, I finally was able to meet her. She was warm and welcoming, as were her dogs! Heidi’s shop is a wonderland of fiber supplies. Fiber, tools, and accessories suitable for hooking, weaving, felting, knitting, and more are plentiful all in a bright, modern building that creates a cleanly styled backdrop for all that fibery color. Some of you may recall that Heidi used to be in New Brunswick, but when I saw she’d moved to Mahone Bay I knew her shop was going to be a necessary stop for me. As in the other shops, I picked up some cool things to bring home to Maine for future projects here.

Heidi Wulfraat and her pup at the Heidi Wulfraat Wool Works Studio, Mahone Bay, NS
My fiber haul from all the shops I visited.

Thus ended our day in Mahone Bay. Our next stop, the following day…my absolute favorite town in Nova Scotia…the one I love to go back to over and over again? Lunenburg.

Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home of the world famous schooner Bluenose II and also happens to be the home town of my son James’ fantabulous fiancee, Beth. (Yes, her name is also Beth.) So, our trip to Lunenburg served the purpose of having a nice dinner out with James, Beth, and Beth’s parents and also, well…more rug hooking and fiber sites.

We went to the Knaut-Rhuland House Museum, a historic home in Lunenburg that turned out to be a great place for more fiber education. As we were making our way through the house, we encountered Anne Morison, who is a weaver, period costume creator, and fiber artist who I hope to meet again. She was demonstrating weaving at the museum and is there on a regular basis, so if you visit, seek her out. Also, as you explore room to room at the museum, notice the many antique hooked rugs on the floors.

Anne Morison at the Knaut-Rhuland House Museum, Lunenburg, NS

We went next to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, where I knew there was a rug show going on, organized by the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia. What I did not know was that the docent for the show that day would be Heather Gordon. I had seen and heard of Heather Gordon’s work on line for quite some time, but I did not know her face. Therefore, until she introduced herself I was unaware that I was in the presence of such an accomplished rug hooker! She was incredibly welcoming and we chatted for a very long time. The rug show was wonderful and will be up at the Fisheries Museum through early October. The museum in and of itself is always worth a visit, but the rugs are icing on the cake.

You can see some of the rugs on display in the photo below, but I don’t want to spoil the show by showing too many of the rest. If you can get up to Lunenburg to see it, it’s so very worth the trip.

Heather Gordon next to her own entry in the show.
Beth Miller, Heather Gordon at the RHGNS show at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, Lunenburg, NS

One side trip we took was out to Lockeport, to not only look at the community, which is near Shelburne where our son and his fiancee are living, but to visit Becky’s Knit & Yarn Shop. This is a very small shop in a tiny seaside town, but it is packed full of beautiful yarns, including some by Briggs & Little in custom colors commissioned by Becky.

The rest of our trip was not rug hooking or fiber art related, but I’ll add a few pics here anyway for those of you who might be thinking of visiting Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Other places we visited were White Point Beach Resort (where we honeymooned in 1987), Ironworks Distillery (where my husband bought me some blackberry gin…), and the Ovens Natural Park. You will not be disappointed if you go.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this summary of my brief trip to Nova Scotia. I’ll be going back in the fall, and several times a year. Nova Scotia is getting to be a second home for us. Consider a visit! You’ll never forget its natural beauty and the hospitality of its people.

Happy travels and happy hooking! – Beth

2018 at the Parris House – A Visual Year in Review and a Pondering of Gratitude

We are in the last hours of 2018 and I find myself thinking about the psychological concept of negativity bias, explained on Wikipedia this way: “The negativity bias, also known as the negativity effect, is the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.”  I admit I fall victim to this.  If someone asked me “How as 2018?” I might respond with a long sigh…even a groan.  I mean, hey, I listen to a LOT of NPR.  My political and social proclivities are known to most of you.  No need to elaborate here.  But I’ve got a great antidote to our natural negativity bias.  Go back and look at your Facebook or Instagram photos from 2018.  Yes, it’s a known hazard of social media that we post our “highlight reels.”  This does have the effect of perhaps sugar coating things and, it is ever important to say, we should never judge our own real lives by the highlight reels of others.  But I am arguing here that these photos can also serve as a gratitude journal of sorts, assembled perhaps unintentionally but there nonetheless.

The working title of my upcoming book is A Year at the Parris House and that’s exactly what these photos, culled from the Parris House Wool Works Facebook page and posted during 2018 show. While these are highlights, and specifically highlights related to my fiber art and homesteading life, they also represent a good part of my personal reality and one that I enjoy sharing with others.  It doesn’t mean that nothing bad happened to me, my loved ones, my friends, or especially my country during 2018.  But these photos are one hundred and seventy five or so touchstones for gratitude.  They show in my professional life: a book contract, a successful gardening and beekeeping season, an article and project in Making Magazine, my first book advance, a writing and making trip to my beloved Nova Scotia, work on a major commissioned piece, my ongoing work with Beekman 1802, happy times teaching and demonstrating skills and arts (here, at Beekman 1802, and at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village), two hook-ins (Belfast & Paris Hill), and our remarkable Get Hooked at Sea trip aboard the Schooner J&E Riggin with so many other talented souls.

I shared some personal points of gratitude too, including another trip to Nova Scotia for the graduation of my son James’ girlfriend, Beth, from Dalhousie University, and the highlight of my entire year, the wedding of my son, Robert, to his beautiful bride, Tracy.  My relatively new Collie companion, Wyeth, has been at my side for all of this.

2019 is already shaping up to be another year of gratitude.  I am working on another magazine project and article, finishing up that major commissioned piece, finishing up my book manuscript, and starting the redecorating/sprucing up of the Parris House for its opening in 2020 as a fiber art/homesteading/heritage skills center, just in time for the publication of my book.  I am also in the beginning stages of a new teaching initiative I’m brainstorming with some cherished collaborators and, of course, Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking and I are already taking registrations for Get Hooked at Sea II.  I may even get to Rhinebeck this year (fingers crossed on the new vendor juried application) and I will definitely be back at the Sharon Springs Harvest Festival.  On a personal note, my two youngest sons, Peter and Paul, and Paul’s girlfriend, Gabi, are graduating from college in May.  I have reached an age where not knowing what else a year will bring is met with anticipation rather than anxiety, although, being no stranger to tragedy in my own life and in the lives of those I love, I am hoping all of us can avoid that unknown this year.

I would encourage you to look back at your own photos from the past year and linger over them long enough to remember the moments in which they were taken.  Most importantly, remember the people in your life who made that moment possible and take some time to thank them for their part in making the best of whatever 2018 dished out.  We do nothing, achieve nothing, are nothing, alone.  In my case I need to thank my family, my friends, my VA, Paul McCoy of Practically Arts Studio, my assistant, Heather Daggett, the Tuesday group, my online customers, and all of the makers, including Ron Adams of Bear Pond Wood Works and Edna Olmstead, who have helped stock the shop with good things since day one. I need also to thank Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Brent Ridge, and everyone at Team Beekman 1802 for continuing to afford me an opportunity to better make a living with my art and also spread the art to a wider audience than I would have on my own. To every venue and every publication that has ever hosted me for teaching or writing – including Beekman 1802, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Telstar Adult Ed, Stitchery in Rhode Island, Portfiber, Rug Hooking Magazine, Making Magazine, the Schooner J&E Riggin, and now my publishers at Down East Books/Rowman & Littlefield.   To mentors who have generously taught me so much: Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Designs, Susan Feller of Susan L. Feller, Artwools,  Eric Davis, Vanessa Rogers of Backwoods Bee Farm, Carol Cottrill, Lisa Steele of Fresh Eggs Daily, David Homa of Post Carbon Designs, Edna Olmstead, Mike Iamele and the incredible people in our Mastermind group, Britt Bolnick of In Arms Coaching, and more.  I know I am risking leaving someone out by name; there are just so many to thank as this year winds down.  If you tried to write a paragraph like this, who would you come up with?  Perhaps take some time in the next few weeks to privately and even publicly thank them.

I don’t expect all of you to look at my pictures.  I have compiled them here as much for my own future reference as for your possible enjoyment.  There are about one hundred and seventy five of them, so click through some, all, or none, but do click through your own and, if you feel called to, tell us what you were grateful for in 2018.  Sometimes gratitude is just the fuel and inspiration we need to go out in to the world and help right the things that are wrong in it.

Thank you to every single one of you for your support in 2018 and I wish you a very happy, prosperous, and beauty filled 2019.  – Beth

*Note on clicking through…be sure your cursor is pointed on the side arrow which will appear as you hover on either side of the photo.  The arrows tend to shift up or down a little bit as the photos appear.

 

A New Book Coming…and I’m Writing It! What It’s About and How to Pre-Order

So, I’m writing a book.  For over a year I have been shopping a proposal to publishers.  I knew that I could self publish at any point, but I have wanted to collaborate with a publisher for many reasons, not the least of which is to tap in to a professional editor’s expertise in helping to make the book  something that will best serve my audience and that will have a viable distribution channel.   One publisher told me that the proposed book was too broad for their niche.  Another publisher told me it was too niche for their broad audience.  Fortunately, like Goldilocks, I found a match that was just right in Down East Books, headquartered in Rockport, Maine (yes, I know the image says Camden, but trust me on this), which is an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield in Maryland.

This book is both in itself, and is about, the realization of dreams.  I learned to read when I was three.  My mother always said I was two but I’m adding a year to that to make up for a possible exaggeration on her part.  I mean, maybe?  But no matter.  I started writing stories at about age five, drawing pictures to go with them.  I remember one in particular was titled, “The Foggy Frog.”  I collected frogs, the toy and figurine type, although I played with real live toads on the regular outdoors on the edge of the southern NJ Pine Barrens where I grew up.  I remember the pictures I drew.  I could recreate them even today.  By the time I was twelve I knew I wanted to publish books of my own.  I was twelve over forty years ago.  In the intervening four decades I had stopped listening to the inner me who wanted to write, make art, play music, and have a creative career.  People who meet me today think I’ve been working in the creative economy my entire life, but it’s only been since 2014 that I’ve worked in fiber art full time.  By the time my new book is published it will be 2020.  I will turn fifty-five years old in 2020.  I want you to hear something loudly and clearly in this:  it is never too late to realize a dream.

The working title of this book is,  Seasons at the Parris House: Heritage Skills for a Contemporary Life.  I have no idea at this moment whether or not that will be the title on the front of my book when it is released in 2020 but it captures the essence of what it is about.  Let me take an excerpt from my proposal to explain the vantage point from which I approach this project:

“When I was thirty five, eighteen years ago, my husband and I moved ourselves and our four then-little sons from the urban/suburban Princeton, NJ area, a region in which we had spent our entire lives, to rural Western Maine.  We went from a 1950s mid century modern cape on a suburban lot to a two hundred year old Federal home and barn in a National Historic District. Our new neighbor across the street had a cow in the backyard, much to our young sons’ amusement.   I was a stay at home mother with a degree in Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Delaware. I had, prior to becoming an at-home mom, worked in market research and in procurement and project management for a large defense contracting company on busy Route 1 in NJ.  I didn’t garden, I didn’t hook rugs, I didn’t keep chickens or bees, I had no idea how to can food. Upon arriving to the Parris House, I noticed that our apple trees looked like they needed some attention, but I had no idea what to do. Sometimes I baked. But it seemed as though almost everyone around me in my new home was proficient in at least one heritage skill, whether they were my age or old timers, and I thought, “That’s amazing.  I need to learn these things too.” That was the beginning of my journey of bringing heritage skills into my own life, without a big farm, without a lot of formal training, but rather learning them the way the people around me had learned them: the passing on of knowledge, often inter-generationally, from one human being to another.”

That was my situation upon the realization of one of my most fervent dreams to that point, which had been to move to rural Maine and raise my sons here.  What I know now is that the desire to work with my hands, create something out of nothing, grow and preserve food, keep animals and insects, and “practice heritage skills,” was not unique to me.  In the nearly two decades I have lived here in Maine and collected a new skill set, the yearning for these skills among the general population has only increased, including among people living in urban areas and people with little to no land at all to work with.  I tell people all the time that none of this is rocket science, but they often seem skeptical.  They seem to believe that heritage skills are complicated, mysterious, or beyond their reach.  They are not, and this book is for anyone who wants to make a start toward learning them.

I have always enjoyed the juxtaposition in my own life of living in a two hundred year old home in a National Historic District while always embracing the newest technology I could afford.  At the Parris House we have smart phones, smart lights, and smart thermostats.  This laptop I’m writing on right now, not to mention the fact that I use it to run a business that’s about 90% online, is a technological godsend.  We also have centuries old windows with wavy glass and completely pesticide free growing practices.   I dye wool in pots on top of a vintage gas range…and then sell that wool to anyone literally in the world who wants it via the internet.  You don’t have to live like Laura Ingalls on the prairie to embrace heritage skills, and you don’t have to completely forsake the solid methods of our ancestors to live a contemporary life.  Mix it up.  Make some dreams come true with it all.

The book will take you through the four seasons at the Parris House.  It will take a look at the historical contexts of the place, people who went before us, and lifestyle behind what we do here today.  Each season will have fiber art projects, recipes, growing tips, fun things for you to try yourself.  You do not need a farm.  You do not even need a lawn for some of these projects.   They will require no super specialized equipment, impossible to source ingredients, or secret codes to unlock. They will be simple, but not insult your intelligence.  Each featured project or recipe will result in something valuable, beautiful, and/or delicious but without unnecessary complication.  Many will be starting points or stepping stones to get you on your way to a deeper study of whatever it is you find you are most interested in.

It will have beautiful pictures, because I’m a visual person and I’m going to be taking lots of beautiful pictures for this project.

It will be a working book.   While I hope to make it visually inviting, it is not meant to sit on the coffee table or the shelf.  It is meant to be out and open on your kitchen counter or table, in your craft area, or even outside with you, as a reference and companion for the projects it contains.  Get it dirty, dog ear the pages, use the hell out of it.

For me personally, this book will be a grateful acknowledgment of Maine, of Paris Hill, and of the Parris House.  Without this setting, I would be a different person living a very different life.  That aspect will be strongest to me alone, though, because this book is really written for and focused on you in your place and in your life, be it urban or rural, east coast or west or somewhere in between, in North America or well beyond.

By the time this book is published, we will be gearing up here to offer seasonal quarterly retreats at the Parris House which will provide hands on experiences in fiber art and heritage skills, which will provide more learning opportunities for those who want to expand their making and doing.

Sound interesting?  I was brand-new-author-thrilled when I saw that Rowman & Littlefield had already put up a pre-order page for the book.  You can click on that HERE.   Please remember that publication is not scheduled until 2020.  In the meantime, I’m working hard!

If you would like to keep up to date on everything that’s planned for the next chapter (pun intended), a sign up box for our newsletter is at the bottom of every page of the website.  You will never be spammed.  In fact, the newsletter needs to publish a bit more often (as time allows…or doesn’t…).

For a glimpse of the Parris House homestead, enjoy the pics in the slideshow below.

That’s the big news from here.  Thank you for reading.  – Beth

 

Hooking & Heritage Skills Lessons, On Your Terms

Want to learn to hook?  Already hook and want to learn more?  Or maybe you’d like to learn some other heritage skill?

I recently had a student call the studio and say, “I want to learn to hook, but I want to make my own pattern.  Can you teach me to do that all in one lesson?”  The answer was, “Of course!”  

We will be listing some new regularly scheduled courses for 2019, but maybe you’d like a custom experience too, scheduled at your convenience.  At the Parris House in the National Historic District of Paris Hill, Maine, we teach rug hooking (beginner and specialty topics), wool dyeing, needle felted sachet making, cold process soap making, beginner rug hooking design and pattern making, and more.  If there’s something you’d like to learn, get in touch with us and we’ll make it happen. 

Art, craft, and homesteading classes make great:

friends & family activities

holiday gifts

bridal party or groomsmen gathering activities

birthday celebrations

experiences for college and school students of all ages

special self care treats 

inter-generational learning opportunities

We can create a custom experience at the two century old historic Parris House just for you or your group where you can leave with a memento of the occasion, be it hand crafted soap, a beautiful sachet pillow, a hooked mug rug, plus a new shared pastime. 

To arrange a Parris House learning experience, contact us to get the process started.  We look forward to introducing you to something new!

 

An Informal Video Tour of the Work Studio at the Parris House

Something a little different for this post…

I haven’t gotten a lot done this week because I’ve been recovering from a very nasty ankle injury, but I had a friend suggest that a video tour of the work studio might be interesting to some people, especially the makers out there. I shot this with my cell phone, so it looks like a FB live, not wide screen. This is not a magazine shoot ready working space. In fact, it’s extremely functional. We’re planning to paint it this summer when I’ll probably be doing some beautifying for it, but right now it gets the job done. I hope this is an encouragement to those out there working out of spaces that do not look like a magazine spread (although I plan to have one some day!), and for people building viable businesses where they are with what they have. Oh, and Wyeth’s in it and he’s pretty cute.

I am just getting my feet wet in making video and populating our YouTube channel, but if you’d like to never miss a video (some of them are how-tos and instructional) you can subscribe to the channel HERE.  

Happy watching and happy hooking.  – Beth

Have You Signed up for the 2018 Belfast Hook In in Belfast, Maine? Read On for Details…

This is a reblog from www.207creatives.com.  If you don’t follow the blog over there, please do!

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We’ve been fielding a lot of questions about when this year’s Belfast Hook In would be and about how to sign up.  Here are the answers!

This year’s event will take place on Saturday, April 28th, 2018 from 9 am to 3 pm.  We will be gathering again at the First Church of Belfast, 8 Court Street, Belfast, Maine.

me and my hoopWe are so pleased to announce that this year’s guest speaker is Doreen Frost of Vermont Harvest Folk Art!  She will be speaking on The Art of Punch Needle Embroidery.

Doreen’s full bio can be found here, but she is an accomplished folk artist and author from Pawlet, VT who creates marvelous designs and finished pieces in punch needle embroidery.  This is a different art than punch needle rug hooking, instead using fine fiber threads and very fine punch needles.   We are looking forward to hearing her speak about her inspirations, her art, and her techniques.  She will also be available for questions and have materials for sale if you are already a maker in this craft or would like to become one!  Please visit her site at http://www.vermontharvestfolkart.com for more information and a look at her beautiful and original artwork.

As before, we will have an informal rug show and our breakfast and lunch will once more be provided by the friendly chefs of For the Love of Food and Drink.   We will have vendors and door prizes, and of course, lots of wonderful camaraderie as we gather again to celebrate our heritage craft.

Ready to sign up?  You can find and print the registration form here, or, contact us at 207creatives@gmail.com, or, call Beth Miller at 207-890-8490.   Need a flyer to rally your friends?  Click here.  In response to feedback from last year’s event we are capping attendance at 96 this year, so please register soon!  Registration is $38 before March 1st, $40 thereafter.  Registration deadline is April 21st.

 

An Idea for Coming Years

Here at the Parris House we are almost-empty-nesters.  All of our sons are grown, but our second son, James, is temporarily home teaching biology and environmental science at a nearby private school before he makes a big and permanent move to Canada.  Our oldest son, Robert, is getting married in September and has been living in the Philadelphia area for years now.  Our two undergrads, Peter and Paul, are always doing co-ops, internships, and research with profs during the summers and no longer come home except for holidays and short visits.  Upon graduation from college, they will have permanently flown the nest also.

As it has for many empty nesters living in old houses like ours, it has occurred to my husband, Bill, and I, that a five bedroom, four bath, approximately 5000 square foot, 200 year old house and barn – no matter how well loved and historic – is an awful lot for two people to wander around in.  The options become many.  Downsize?  Make the addition in to an apartment for visiting family and Airbnb guests?  Or something else?

There is a lot to be said for keeping the Parris House.  We like our neighborhood (most of the time…), we love the history of the house and we feel responsible for stewarding that.  We raised a pretty happy family here and would like to give our future grandchildren the benefit of visits to “where Dad grew up.”  It is a significant but not insurmountable thing that Parris House Wool Works is named for this location.  Both my public and private studios are in this complex of buildings, the former in the main house and the latter over the garage.  My husband’s pottery studio (Sunset Haven Pottery) is established in a finished, heated section of the barn, with the kilns conveniently next door in the garage.  We have very good locations for our chickens, bees, and organic garden.  We have enough apple trees to produce an abundant crop without so many that they are another big job to do.  We are not down a long driveway, nor are we secluded, which, for me at this stage of life are drawbacks, but perhaps when I am 80 or 90 could be beneficial.

Perhaps the biggest factor in favor of keeping it is that my husband is a very change averse human being by nature.  While I am always up for a move, an adventure, a big change, a “let’s chuck this all in and…,” he is decidedly not.  The move from his home state of NJ to Maine was a very big deal for him, and moving from our home now of eighteen years to another, even if smaller, easier to manage, much cheaper to heat, and closer to work for him (but probably not newer – just not a big fan of non-antique homes), does not seem to appeal.

We have had a great deal of success with Airbnb for our Little Sebago Lake cottage, Sunset Haven.  Several years ago I put together a small, exclusive hooking retreat there over a September weekend and I do believe a good time was had by all.  We had a guest teacher, we went on a nature walk, we hooked, we ate lobster, and we laughed a lot.  As Airbnb Superhosts, we get a lot of email from Airbnb.  Recently we learned that some hosts do Airbnb Experiences, which are value added stays at some of the destinations.  Hosts provide a class, an activity, a tour of the area, or something similar as part of the stay.  It’s an intriguing idea and not unlike ideas that have occurred to me in the past for both Sunset Haven and the Parris House.

When we first purchased the Parris House the most common exclamation from our friends back home was, “You could have a B&B!,” to which our most common answer was, “Hell, NO!”  But there’s a compromise solution in there somewhere between a full time B&B and a set of lovely rooms and bathrooms sitting empty and gathering dust.

Currently the upstairs at the Parris House looks like it houses four young men, because that’s what it’s been doing for the past eighteen years.  But with the application of fresh paint, some careful vintage furniture shopping (I’m looking at you, My Sister’s Garage), and a program of wonderful weekend activities along with home cooked meals (thank you, Parris House hens, bees, and gardens), a retreat center could easily take shape.   Bill and I are both Registered Maine Guides and beekeepers, he is a Reiki Master, soap maker, chicken keeper, and a potter (when he’s not at his professional job as the Controller for a Lewiston firm), and, obviously, I am a fiber artist, gardener, and hopefully by then, a published author.  Together we have a skill set that could keep guests entertained and relaxed for a weekend away, and it would also be imperative to bring in guest teachers for additional class offerings.  During non-class or activity hours, guests could assist with the daily tasks of gathering eggs and picking vegetables, take a turn in the beehives, pick apples, light the wood stoves, or, alternatively, they could do none of these things and simply knit, hook, read, or go out and sight see.   Click through the slideshow below to see some scenes from the Parris House and Paris Hill Village.

For skiing we are close to Sunday River, Shawnee Peak, and Mount Abram ski areas.  Hiking and trail walking/running are abundantly available, including at the Cornwall Preserve right down the street and the Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway.  Norway Downtown provides shopping and great restaurants including Norway Brewing Company, 76 Pleasant Street, Cafe Nomad, and more.  Also there for fiber enthusiasts and makers is Fiber & Vine and the Folk Art Studio there.   Within the National Historic District of Paris Hill, just a short walk, you can golf at the nine hole Paris Hill Country Club which also has a cafe, or explore the Hamlin Memorial Library & Museum and the Paris Hill Historical Society.   For those so inclined, the Oxford Casino is about ten miles away.  There is also public access to Norway Lake, about seven miles away.

At most, the Parris House will sleep seven.  There are three available bedrooms that will take two-person beds for couples (or singles to have more space!) and one, my favorite, that is a beautiful, vintage refuge for one.  There are two baths that would be shared between the four bedrooms, one with laundry facilities.  The fifth bedroom and bath would be for us and is with my work studio.  So full retreat weekends would be somewhat exclusive because of that space limitation, although there are possible options for lodging elsewhere in the village as well.  We are thinking these retreats could run, at first, once a quarter, and if they are well attended and in demand, perhaps more often, but that would be a lot to commit to from this time distance.

This is where you come in.  Give us your feedback.  Do you like the idea?  Is this something that you could realistically see yourself doing?  What classes and activities would you like to see offered? What seasons would be your favorites for a retreat?   How far would you travel for a weekend away at the Parris House?  Would you also like to see us run another retreat at Sunset Haven?

These retreats could not be offered before 2019, possibly even 2020, so this is some long range planning, but we were just interested to see what kind of response the idea brought.

In other news, I think there’s a football game or something on today.  If you are a football fan, enjoy the day, and happy hooking! – Beth

Wool Dyeing with Acorns – A Serendipitous Experiment

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.

Happy hooking!  – Beth

 

 

 

 

There’s Still a Short Time to Shop for the Holidays, Etsy Coupon Code!

Happy Holidays!  How is your gift shopping going?  Have you remembered to treat yourself to something nice too?  Here at Parris House Wool Works, we want to help.  First, be aware that between now and December 15th, we are running a coupon code in the Etsy shop.  You can save 15% off any order of $50 or more by simply using coupon code HOLIDAY2017 at check out.

Second, here are some great ideas for gifts, for you and your winter hooking/crafting, or for someone on your gift list.  While these are our top ten recommendations, remember that the coupon code is good for anything in the Etsy shop.

So let’s do our top ten!  Just click on the item title to find it in the Etsy shop.   Please note where quantities and time frames are limited.

Holiday Wool Fat Quarter Quad

Holiday colors, 1 fat quarter each, hand dyed, cut or uncut – your choice.  This is a great selection of wool to hook last minute ornaments for teachers’ gifts, hostess/party gifts, or just for your own tree.

Complete Beginner Rug Hooking Kit

We have two versions of this, so make sure you check the shop for both.  One comes with our 10 x 12 box frame and the other with our 12 x 12 folding frame.  Fantastic and economical way to get someone you love in to the craft you love.  You can also customize it with a different pattern if you so choose.  Limited number available.

 

Americana Baker’s Dozen Stash

Only one available! This stash is a great way to start off a new hooker or augment the stash of someone experienced!  Also works well for applique, felting, stitching, or other crafts.

10″ x 12″ Rug Hooking Lap Frame

This is a favorite frame of mine.  Almost everything I hook that is not really large is hooked on this frame.  I love its simplicity and portability.  This frame is hand crafted by Bear Pond Wood Works in Hartford, Maine in solid, quality, no-knot pine.  A great beginner frame, but also a great frame period.  Limited number available.

12″ x 12″ Folding Lap Frame

Another solid and super popular pine frame by Bear Pond Wood Works, this one folds nicely when you take the base off to fit in to your hooking tote.  Limited number available.

Hand Dyed Tie Dye Wool Scarf

Only one available! Need something for someone who doesn’t hook or craft but loves wool?  Hand dyed tie dye scarf with hand fringed ends.  Toasty warm and a good length to tuck in to a coat collar.

Reach for the Stars Snowman Pillow Kit

Great winter project!  Reach for the Stars snowman pillow (or wall hanging, table mat) with all the wool you need to hook it!

Gossip in the Pines Pattern

Gossiping cardinals.  We see them every winter.  Who says females are the biggest gossips?  These two gentlemen chatter away all winter long.

7″ Snowman Ornament Kit

Need to hook something quick?  This kit is for you.  Cute snowman can be easily finished by using fabric bonding material for the back.  No sewing required.

Antique Hair Receiver

Only one available!  I pick our local antique shops for the prettiest, most unusual Maine items I can find.  I love this antique hair receiver.  Originally used to hold hair from combs and brushes, this could also be a jewelry holder, contain small silk flowers, or whatever your imagination comes up with.

So those are our top ten recommendations, but again, HOLIDAY2017 gets you 15% off any order of $50 or more on ANYTHING in the Etsy shop.

Please note that this sale runs through Friday, December 15th.   Some of these items need to be made and/or assembled so anything ordered after the 15th is not guaranteed for holiday delivery.  If we have an unexpected number of orders on the frames, it may also be difficult to have those in time for holiday delivery as well, so if a frame or a kit that includes a frame looks like the thing for you, please order right away.   First come, first served.

Thank you and I hope you have a holiday filled with happy memories and  happy hooking!  – Beth

 

2017 Paris Hill Hook In – Thanks to All Who Made It a Great Day!

 

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.

Happy hooking! – Beth