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





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

Playing Catch Up – News and Important Dates

With Corgi Tru. She was the canine love of my life.

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.

Tovookan’s Honey

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…

Project for The Stitchery

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!

Learn to make soap with us!

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 Hook In 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.

Some of the garden harvest so far.

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.

Happy hooking and thanks for reading!




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

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

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


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

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

Happy hooking, and see you soon! – Beth

The Second Annual Paris Hill Hook-In, Paris Hill, Maine – November 15th, 2014


Our second annual Paris Hill Hook-In seems to have been a great success, thanks to both the attendees and all of the people who helped bring it together!  I am very grateful to everyone who was a part of this event.  I think it’s generally agreed that although our first hook-in last year was also great fun, this one was even better.

My husband, youngest son, and I worked with Reverend Mary Beth Caffey of the First Baptist Church of Paris to set up the venue.  This is a new venue for us.  Last year we used the 1853 Paris Hill Academy Building, but because of handicapped accessibility issues, we thought we’d try the church this year.  The church is situated at the very center of historic Paris Hill village, and commands fantastic views of the village “loop” and the White Mountains in the distance.  It’s beloved by us, and we think by the time Saturday was over, it was beloved by many more.

Our beautiful historic venue.  Some of the beams were left exposed in a recent restoration, and that rope to the far right of the bottom photo?  Well, that's the pull rope for the approximately 200 year old church bell that we had a little fun with.
Our beautiful historic venue. Some of the beams were left exposed in a recent restoration, and that rope to the far right of the bottom photo? Well, that’s the pull rope for the approximately 200 year old Paul Revere foundry church bell that we had a little fun with…
At what other hook-in do you find hookers ringing a historic church bell?  These are a couple of Parris House Hookers giving it their best.  On the left, Cindy Mitchell.  On the right, Irene Adams.
At what other hook-in do you find hookers ringing a historic church bell? These are a couple of Parris House Hookers giving it their best. On the left, Cindy Mitchell. On the right, Irene Adams.

Reverend Caffey gave the group a nice presentation on the history of this building.  If you are interested in a brief history, please click here.  This building requires a great deal of tender loving care to keep it as beautiful and intact as it is.  I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is a stewardship organization called Friends of the First Baptist Church.  If you, or anyone you know, would like to make a donation to its care, please contact the church on its contact page.

When we first set up the spaces the looked like this...this is Friday afternoon...
When we first set up the spaces they looked like this…this is Friday afternoon…
Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking cheerfully greeted our guests and provided the pretty fall themed nametags.  Connie is also my teacher, mentor, guru, and her assistance is incalculable.
but on Saturday morning…Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking cheerfully greeted our guests and provided the pretty fall themed nametags. Connie is also my teacher, mentor, guru, and the value of her assistance is incalculable.
The church hall is divided in to two sunny rooms.  I confess that when I first signed on with this venue I was concerned about the split, but it turned out to be a non-issue.  Here is the main hall at the entrance area filled with hookers!
The church hall is divided in to two sunny rooms. I confess that when I first signed on with this venue I was concerned about the split, but it turned out to be a non-issue. Here is the main hall at the entrance area filled with hookers!
The Parris House Hookers took up one of the long tables and then some!
These are the ladies in the second room, with some of their handiwork laid out on the round table.
These are the ladies in the second room, with some of their handiwork laid out on the round table.

We were so happy to have the same two wonderful vendors return this year for our hook-in.  Cherylyn Brubaker of Hooked Treasures in Brunswick and Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes in Gray.  So talented, so nice.  It is always a joy to work with them.

Cherylyn of Hooked Treasures on the left, Kim Dubay (far left of the photo) of Primitive Pastimes on the right.
Cherylyn of Hooked Treasures on the left, Kim (far left of the photo) of Primitive Pastimes on the right.

So, aside from beautiful scenery and tempting vendors, what else is important to (hungry) hookers?  The food!  This year we had Jennicakes Bake Shop of Norway cater our hook-in and wow…well deserved rave reviews all around.  Jennifer and her staff created and served wonderful pastries for breakfast and dessert, including gluten free options, and a savory lunch of pumpkin soup, vegetarian baked beans, turkey pot pie, salad, and fresh breads.  There was so much left over of the sweets that we donated some to the church’s coffee hour for Sunday morning!

The food!

And, of course, we had our annual rug show.  So much talent in one space.  Ellen Marshall off Two Cats and Dog Hooking kindly and ably coordinated our rug show, which was held in the upstairs sanctuary of the church.  Here is your virtual tour of our rug show…

Left: hooked by Edna Olmstead, designed by Brenda Sauro of the Painted Mermaid Studio. Center: hooked by Edna Olmstead, traditional scottie dog design. Right: hooked by Bob Galloup, designed by the Moshimer studio.
Top left: hooked and designed by Cindy Mitchell. Top right: hooked by Donna Lowe, must ask for designer’s name! Bottom left: left rug hooked by Kelly Hasselbach, right rug hooked by Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking, who also designed it. Bottom right: hooked by Edna Olmstead, designed by Maine Hooked Rugs.
Top left: hooked and designed by Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking.  Top right: hooked and design adapted by Cindy Mitchell.  Bottom left: hooked by Linda Rokowski, designed by Brenda Sauro of the Painted Mermaid Studio.  Bottom right:  hooked and designed by Cindy Mitchell.
Top left: hooked and designed by Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking. Top right: hooked and design adapted by Cindy Mitchell. Bottom left: hooked by Linda Rokowski, designed by Brenda Sauro of the Painted Mermaid Studio. Bottom right: hooked byCindy Mitchell and designed by Sally Van Nuys.
Top left: hooked and designed by Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes.  Top right and Bottom left: hooked and designed by Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking. Bottom right: hooked by Irene Adams, designed by Wooly Red Rug.
Top left: hooked and designed by Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes. Top right and Bottom left: hooked and designed by Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking. Bottom right: hooked by Irene Adams, designed by Wooly Red Rug.
Top left, Top right, and Bottom left:  hooked and designed by Beth Miller of Parris House Wool Works.  Bottom right: hooked and designed by Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes.
Top left, Top right, and Bottom left: hooked and designed by Beth Miller of Parris House Wool Works. Bottom right: hooked and designed by Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes.

I took a little climb up to the balcony space to photograph our attendees viewing the rug show…


One little surprise discovered by one of our rug show attendees…a hooked foot stool beneath a pew toward the front of the church.  It is very old, hooked on burlap and affixed with the kind of hand wrought hardware that is also displayed, albeit in much larger form, in a glass case from when the church was renovated.  Any guesses as to the age of this foot stool?  Insight welcome!


If you would like to view all of the photos in larger format, click here. 

Thanks again to all of our attendees and helpers!  We will definitely be doing this again next year.  Please watch our website and our Facebook page for details once I am able to come up with a date for next year.  Also, do come see us at the Maine studio on December 6th, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for our annual Holiday Open House.  We’ll have refreshments, a prize drawing, open hooking, and 10% off all wool purchases.  Hope to see you then and happy hooking!  – Beth

It’s PIE Season! Prepare Your Pumpkins! – A Guide to Making Fresh Pumpkin Puree & What To Do With Those Seeds Too

Well, Halloween is over, the big box stores are hauling out the Christmas merchandise, and this can only mean one thing:  it’s pie season.  Apple pie, pecan pie, lemon meringue pie, chocolate cream pie, shoofly pie (for you Pennsylvanians), and……….pumpkin pie!  To make pumpkin pie, you can resort to canned pumpkin, but honestly, there’s something a whole lot more heartwarming, and fresh tasting, about pumpkin pie made from fresh sugar pumpkins.

I am one son away from the empty nest.  My oldest three sons have all flown the coop and I have 17 year old Paul, my “baby,” in his senior year of high school at home.  So, one of our pumpkins got carved last week – in to Jake from the cartoon show Adventure Time.  That one ended up like this:


But…we had three more.  Two sugar pumpkins from Slattery’s farm in West Minot, Maine and a behemoth we have still not dispositioned.   Here they are in their full pumpkin-y glory.


So, the sugar pumpkins are the ones destined for pies.  Paul was happy to help.

Step one…wash and cut the pumpkin in half.

Cut the top with stem off the pumpkin. Then begin slicing in half. If you find it difficult, you can use a soft (wooden or rubber) mallet to tap on the protruding knife edge to help ease it through the pumpkin.

Step two…scoop out the interior seeds and stringy parts.

The pumpkin will be full of seeds and slimy goop. Take all of that out, either by hand or with a spoon as a scoop, but save the seeds! Paul is putting the seeds in a Ball jar for the time being.

Step three…roast the pumpkins.

Once the interiors of the pumpkins are well scooped out, place them cut side down on foil lined baking pans. Place them in the oven at 350 degrees F for about an hour, or until the flesh of the pumpkin is soft and scoopable with a spoon.

Optional step…feed the goop to your chickens.  Don’t have chickens?  Well, maybe you can compost it.  Throwing it away is a last resort.  Our chickens LOVED this fresh pumpkin treat.


Step four…boil and roast your seeds while you are waiting for the pumpkins to roast.

Prepare the water for boiling the seeds by adding a fair amount of sea salt. Bring the water to boil, add the seeds, and boil for ten minutes.
After boiling for ten minutes, drain the seeds and thoroughly pat dry on paper towels. Next, spread the seeds in a baking pan and drizzle a small amount of olive oil on to them. Stir them around to coat and roast in the oven with the pumpkins until just turning crispy and brown.
Yum! You can munch on these while you’re processing your pumpkins.

Step five…scoop out your roasted pumpkins.

OK, so your pumpkin is roasted and soft and scoopable. Scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin in to a large bowl. Really scrape the sides of the skins clean. The skins may then also be given to your chickens, or composted, or…you know…whatever. If you find that you have a little watery residue in the bottom of the bowl, you can drain the roasted pumpkin flesh in a colander.

Step six…puree and bag!

Spoon the roasted pumpkin in to a food processor or blender and process until very smooth. Then measure two cups of puree, because most fresh pie recipes call for two cups per pie, in to freezer bags. Label and freeze if you are not going to make the pies right away. See the next photo for a little tip on freezing.
I stack the bags horizontally like this in a flat pan and lay them in my freezer this way. After they are frozen I can bring the pan back out of the freezer, but the handy little bags of puree remain frozen in a flat shape that’s very convenient for freezer storage.

My two sugar pumpkins made enough puree for four pies.  Now, for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, all I will have to do is get one package out of the freezer per pie and defrost it on the counter.  It can also be defrosted in a warm water bath or in the microwave.  Since I also processed some of the apples from our trees and froze them in September, I am also ready to bake apple pies quickly and easily, just in time for those other three sons to be home as well for the holidays.   🙂

Happy holiday baking and happy hooking! – Beth

Hampden, Maine Hook-In, Sponsored by The Keeping Room – 2014

Once again, I was invited to be a vendor at Toni Philbrick’s beautiful hook-in in Hampden, Maine yesterday.  Toni is the owner of The Keeping Room, a gorgeous studio in the historic Hannibal Hamlin building in Hampden.  Toni always goes all out for this hook-in, providing a really nice light breakfast and a hearty lunch.  She adds a theme based swap, goody bags, coupons, and many, many door prizes to the mix, leaving everyone with great memories.  She also provides a short instructional period in which she shares her considerable knowledge and talent.  Last year it was about penny rugs.  This year she spoke a bit about finishing coasters.

To visit Toni’s shop, or take her classes, go to 56C Main Road North in Hampden. For her business hours, fiber art class schedule, or to express interest in attending next year’s hook-in, give her a call at 207-862-3181. Toni has wonderful hooking supplies, penny rug supplies & kits, artisanal lamp shades, and much more.

I was able to sneak a few pics from the hook-in yesterday in between a busy time selling goodies to the wonderful attendees.  It goes without saying that the rug designs are the intellectual property of their designers, and may not be copied without the express permission of the artist.  I was not able to take the time to write down the designers and hookers for all of these, but anyone who has that information may feel free to leave it on our comments.

Here is a view of the brightly lit space as the attendees were just getting ready to have a nice lunch of corn chowder, sandwiches, salad, and homemade carrot cake.
A customer peruses the booth of Al Jenkins of Wool & Ewe. Al’s hand dyes are really beautiful.
Toni assists a customer at her vending booth filled with all things wool.
My table. The most popular item of the day was the wool, and especially, to my delight, brightly colored hand dyes. Also seen in this photo are our popular Bear Pond Wood Works frames bedecked with Edna Olmstead’s super duper frame covers.
Loved the braided binding on this one, and the painstakingly shaded fruits and leaves.
Look at that wool on the sheep. Love, love, love.
The array of styles at hook-in rug shows is always so much fun to see. These fish were just stunning – I have no idea how many different wools are in that rug, and the two home scenes that flank it were beautifully done too.
The snowman rug at the center of this photo was voted “favorite” by the attendees, but as you can see, it was tough to choose just one! They were ALL gorgeous.
True confessions – although I loved them all, I voted for the two cats with the bunny border. It was hooked by Martha Whitehouse, who is one of the Hampden Hookers, based on a design on a quilt square.
I loved the colors, patterns, and asymmetrical buildings in this one!
This one reminded me of 18th century crewel work. I loved the warmth of the color combination in this.

I know I will see many of the ladies who were at Hampden at our 2nd Annual Paris Hill Hook-In in two weeks.  Can’t wait!  Til then, happy hooking!  🙂    – Beth

Halloween Coupon Code on Etsy Today!

Happy Halloween!  We have a coupon code up on Etsy for the following patterns, today only, 10% off!  The coupon code is BOO2014 and you can access our Etsy shop here.

Southern Elegy
Candy Corn Season
A Murder Among the Magnolias
Parris House Pumpkin
Candy Corn Season Trivet

Happy Halloween and happy hooking!

Virgil Parris Forest, Buckfield, Maine – by Beth

Trail head to the Packard Trail, Virgil Parris Forest, Buckfield, Maine.

My husband had off for Columbus Day, so we decided to go hiking.  It was unseasonably warm, and we had run a 5K race the day before, so we opted for a very easy trail.  The Virgil Parris Forest in Buckfield, Maine was the perfect choice.  The trail head is on the Sodom Road, which is off of Route 117 in Buckfield.  It’s easy to find, but the road does go to dirt and varies in condition depending on the time of year.  Four wheel drive would not be a bad idea in the winter or during spring mud season if you’re going to visit this trail.

This trail system has special meaning to me.  Virgil and Columbia Parris purchased our home in 1853, and it remained in the Parris family for nearly the next century, thus “the Parris House.”  Parris House Wool Works takes its name from this heritage.  While the web page for the Western Foothills Land Trust says zero about Virgil Parris and his family, the history is interesting.  Here is an excerpt from a previous blog post I did about our home:

“Located in the Paris Hill National Historic District, the Parris House dates back to 1818 and is named for its most well known owners, Virgil D. and Columbia Parris.  They purchased the home in 1853 and it remained in their family until the 1940s.  Virgil was a member of the United States Congress of 1840, a United States Marshall for Maine, and an acting Governor as well.  Perhaps even more interesting, however, is the story of a young man Virgil and Columbia adopted after Virgil prosecuted a slave ship, the Porpoise.  One young man aboard that ship had been abducted to be a slave from East Africa.  His African name was Tovookan, but he came to be known as Pedro Tovookan Parris.  Pedro came to live at the Parris House and became a very popular member of Paris Hill society.  He was a public speaker, a water color artist, a ventriloquist, and an inspiring survivor of his time as a slave.  There is much more information on Pedro and his life that I can share with anyone interested in his story.  Our stewardship of the Parris House has brought us in to close contact with this story and it has been a very moving experience.”

Here are some pics of the Parris family…

Virgil Delphini Parris
Columbia Parris, right, and her sister, Abigail Prentiss, when both ladies were at an advanced age. Columbia was past 100 years old when she passed away.
Pedro Tovookan Parris

What I have not been able to ascertain is specifically why this tract of forest preserve was named for Virgil Parris.  Virgil’s father, Josiah, was a Revolutionary War veteran and the family lived in Buckfield when Virgil was growing up.  Virgil also was the founder of the Buckfield Railroad in the 19th century.  However, whether this specific land had any connection to the Parris family, I do not know, and nothing I have been able to find on the web explains it.  I would have to (and probably will) contact the Western Foothills Land Trust to ask that very question.  Again, I find it odd that there is no explanation of this by the land trust, but then I have to think that sometimes the people who thankfully and very ably preserve land for our use are not always historians, or even that interested in history.   I will update this post if I find the answer.

On to the actual nature of the trail though.  The primary trail through the forest is called the Packard Trail.  At the trail head there is a nice box containing the trail map (although it is impossible to become lost on this very well marked trail) and a guest book.


It is a loop, with a very short additional trail, called the Cascade Trail, coming off at one end.  We did not do the Cascade Trail as we were running short on time, but will in the future.  The Cascade Trail has a falls on it, and there are other water falls on the trail as well.  On this particular day, the streams were on the dry side and the falls we saw were just a trickle, but it is not at all hard to imagine how they would be rushing in the spring and I look forward to going back and seeing them then.

A few things struck us about the trail.  The forest growth is generally very, very young.  Again, it would be interesting to know more about the history of this land that would explain why so much of the growth is so young.  As a result, the trail feels relatively open and sunny.  The foot path itself is nicely maintained, although there are many very small stumps sticking up from it which present a bit of a trip hazard in the fall when they are obscured beneath a little blanket of leaves.  I don’t know that I would recommend trail running this at this time of year for just that reason.  We opted to walk.  Really, it was such a gorgeous day, and the trail is so pleasant, that walking gave us more time to soak up the beauty of it all.

I could not help but think that this trail would be fantastic for snow shoeing in the winter, and it is meant to be used that way.  It is also open for cross country skiing.  I would not recommend the trail to inexperienced cross country skiers because there are areas where it would be pretty easy to slide down some steep side slopes toward South Pond if you were not in complete control of your skis and trajectory.  I do plan to visit again over the winter.

What follows are some photographs I took along the trail.  The trail runs right along the shore of South Pond, and as you will see, the pond was absolutely breathtaking on this day, the water reflecting the foliage like a mirror.

ParrisForest20 ParrisForest19 ParrisForest18 ParrisForest17 ParrisForest16 ParrisForest13 ParrisForest12 ParrisForest11 ParrisForest10 ParrisForest9 ParrisForest8 ParrisForest7 ParrisForest6 ParrisForest5 ParrisForest4 ParrisForest3 ParrisForest 15

Needless to say, it was just one more day in the paradise that is the great state of Maine.   From my husband, Bill, and me to you…happy hiking (and happy hooking!).


The Fryeburg Fair, 2014, Fryeburg, Maine – by Beth


In Maine, the Fryeburg Fair is the biggest and grandest of fairs.  People come from all over the country.  In fact, it’s estimated that 300,000 people come annually to attend the Fryeburg Fair, which began in 1851.  It is very common for Mainers to take a weekday off from work to go, because the crowds on the weekends are so intense that both parking and navigating the fair can be problematic.  My husband took last Thursday as a vacation day, and off we went.  Disclaimer:  It is absolutely impossible to capture the breadth of the Fryeburg Fair in a short blog, but what follows is a photo introduction.


First things first.  Edna Olmstead, who hooks with us on Tuesdays, and who makes our super popular flannel frame covers and felt snip containers, won two blue ribbons in the hooked rug category at the fair.  I had the privilege of seeing Edna working on both of these pieces, and photos can not do them justice.  Additionally, I had to shoot them through a glass case, but you get the idea.

Vintage style Scottie dog, hooked by Edna Olmstead. Traditional pattern.
Cows and ivy, hooked by Edna Olmstead, designed by Brenda Sauro of the Painted Mermaid Studio.

There were so many skills, handcrafts and trades represented at the fair it was mind boggling.  Here are some of the examples I found particularly interesting.

Top: Spinning and weaving. It turned out that the lady spinning was a good friend of a former neighbor of mine on Paris Hill, and we had a nice conversation about that. Bottom: Endless fleeces in the fiber building. I am not yet a spinner. Probably just as well right now!
Clockwise: 1) This is sea scene made via eggshell mosaic. I’ve never ever seen such a thing before. 2) The wall of quilts went on forever. 3) This is extremely fine cross stitch. You had to get right up on to it to determine that it was cross stitch at all. 4) Christening outfit in lace crochet/tatting.
Clockwise: 1) Peeling apples in the old fashioned kitchen 2) Blacksmithing demonstration 3) Making rice pudding on the wood fired cook stove 4) Sorting cranberries old school
Clockwise: 1) Making apple cider using an antique press 2) Getting corn off the husk with 19th century machine 3) Evaporating sap for maple syrup 4) Beekeeping
As the owner of a 200 year old home that has both antique clapboards on the house and had antique shingles (which regrettably we are now forced to replace) on the barn, this equipment fascinated me. The shingle making machinery is from the 1860s. Top: Jig and saw for carving tapered clapboards from a round log. Bottom left: Shingle cutter and finisher. Bottom right: Pile of finished clapboards.
Call me crazy, but I find color and pattern in almost anything, and I loved the variety of each in these tools of the trades displays. Top: vintage oil cans Bottom: chainsaws through the ages
The making of beanhole beans is an important New England skill. You dig a deep hole, and via either wood or hot coals build a fire in the bottom. A crock or Dutch oven of New England baked beans is then lowered in and slow cooked until they are done. My husband Bill enjoyed a sampling.

There are so many animals at the Fryeburg Fair.  The Wikipedia entry on this fair says that it may have the largest number of oxen, for example.  I did not photograph the oxen, I’m sorry to say.  Had I known of their claim to fame at this fair I might have.  However, I did photograph many of the other animals.

First, the cows…

I regard this as a practice cow…
Top: the milking parlor Bottom: my favorites, Belted Galloways
There were animals on the move everywhere, going to shows and events.

Sheep.  I love sheep.  After all, they are where our wool comes from.

The bottom left photo is actually of a “sheep show” that was going on. I have no idea why that one guy has his hand over the sheep’s tail area. Anyone else know?

Poultry.  Although we have twenty-one hens at the Parris House, I find that I am only partial to my own.  Not that crazy about a building full of others for some reason.

Top: cute chickens Bottom: not nearly as cute chickens; don’t even get me started about roosters

I know there are some of you who came to our page via also being fans of Beekman 1802.  Here are your goat pics.

Fair warning.
Goats seem to be like puppies that never grow up.

Let’s not forget the cool old vehicles…

Clockwise: 1) Stanley Steamer 2) this is how mail was delivered in winter in Lovell, Maine in the 1830s 3) an original military type Jeep – I coveted this 4) antique wagon belonging to the agricultural society

Before I end, I want to just throw a trivia question out here.  What are these two things, what do they have in common, and what are they each used for?  The Mainers will all know.


This is my last country fair post of the season.  I did not make the Common Ground Fair in September because we were at Harvest Festival in Sharon Springs, NY instead.  Common Ground would be the other contender for grandest fair in Maine, although with a decidedly different (and wonderful) character.

Foliage is at or near peak in many places in Maine right now, the air is crisp, and the scents of the outdoors are pretty intoxicating.  I hope if you haven’t already, some of you will share in fall and fair season in Maine.

Isn’t this what everyone does with their round bales?