This past weekend was another of Walker Homestead’s very hospitable open houses, a New England Christmas by the Hearthside. I managed to sneak away from the dyepots to spend an hour or so enjoying the scene which included many, many delicacies from the kitchen, warm fires, hosts in period costumes, Father Christmas and, of course, shopping opportunities.

Kris Casucci and her elves make wonderful seasonal garlands out of natural materials. Who can resist? And, this year, Pied Potter Hamelin and Garine Arakelian were on site with a roomful of their redware pottery. Yes, I succumbed to temptation. I thought you’d like to see a few pictures of the event. If you are in the area, it’s well worth putting it on your calendar for next year.


This year I finally made it to Stitches East! It’s been held in Hartford, CT, for several years now and this is my first visit. I’ve been to most of the sheep and wool festivals but never this retail knitting show sponsored by Knitting Universe/Knitters Magazine.

No surprise, it was a ton of fun. Here’s a peek at some of the floor.

A very creative skirt knit by the wearer with inserts of faux fur

The lovely Ashley Martineau getting ready to sign her newly published book. (BTW, great book with tons and tons of photos!)

Can’t forget the book cover so you can look it up.

Of course, I came home with a few bags of yarn, a knitter’s abacus bracelet and the book. Maybe a few other things. It’s a long year away until the next Stitches East!


This year’s Backroads Studio Tour was wonderful and I finally got to visit a couple of places I’d never been before. One of them was Great Rock Alpacas in Barre, MA. Oh, such temptation. Of course, I did not resist.

I thought you might like to see some of the farm and what I bought there on Sunday’s visit. I’ll also show you some of the process of sorting and preparing the fleece for handspinning.

Here’s a pile of the really black, black alpaca fleece prior to my sorting. I had to have it! Yes, there was a bit of VM (vegetable matter) in it, but don’t forget this is a natural product, fresh from the farm! Besides, the VM was minimal and so easy to see against the black, I thought I wouldn’t have too much trouble picking it through. I was right.

It pays to pick through any fleece by hand prior to washing or other processing, even if you are sending it out to a service. No fiber mill will take as much care with your fleece as you will, yourself. Remember that any VM or second cuts left in the fleece will be broken up into smaller pieces through the whole process of washing and carding, and that makes it harder to get out.

This image shows a bit of the fleece teased apart, revealing one of the few second cuts in it. You really do want to get these out, along with the bits of hay.

Some of the locks had visible sand at the tips so I used my flick card to get it out. A flick card and tweezers are a wool fanatic’s best friends! Notice the bits of dirt showing up so well on the white tabletop.

After all the work, about five or six hours over two days, I had a huge pile of gorgeous alpaca fleece and two, tiny piles of fleece, one with VM entangled and the other of hairy and short locks. Of the two pounds of original product, I lost less than two ounces of fleece. That is a great yield!

I had thought I would be washing the fleece at this point, but it seemed so darned clean I decided to try putting some through one of my drum carders, my Pat Green Big Batt. It fed through like butter, so I went ahead and carded more. It is being spun up now just as is and the finished yarn will be washed when it is plied, prior to using it. I plan on weaving something luscious with this.

So, how about some pics of the farm animals, you say? Why not?

And, what visit to a farm would be complete without the chickens?

If you are ever in the central Massachusetts area, please stop by and pay the Lathrops a visit at Great Rock Alpacas. They’d love to see you!


Yes, summer is coming to an end. Although it isn’t fall until the end of September, per the calendar, Labor Day marks it’s beginning in my mind. The good thing is that fall is my favorite time of year with so much beauty to see. It seems that there are so many activities and antique and fiber shows I cannot possibly take them all in.

We are kicking off the season by joining some fiber friends demonstrating various fiber crafts at the Spencer Fair this weekend. Running four days from Friday, August 30 through Monday, September 2 at the Spencer Fairgrounds in Spencer, MA, there is a midway and all sorts of agricultural exhibits, including our own fiber tent. You can find us next to the farm and fiber animal tent (but not the cow barn!), set up with demos of spinning, knitting, weaving and more.

There will also be sales of handmade and/or locally produced goods. I will be spinning on a Majacraft Suzie Pro, so any of you in the area who are curious about this wheel are welcome to come and see and try it out. I may also have some products for sale, including fiber and hand dyed wools. My demo days are Saturday and Sunday.

I’ve also been busy adding a few new products to the website. We have three new Woolart Samplers and more to come.

Wishing you a great end-of-summer weekend, however you choose to spend it!


Fiber-related finds at an antique show

Yesterday was this spring's version of the Walker Homestead Antique Show in Brookfield, Massachusetts. It's only a few miles from my home but, believe it or not, this was my first visit! Oh, boy! What a nice show.

I had pre-arranged with Pied Potter Hamelin, who was vending there, to pick up a custom order he'd made for me. It is a yarn holder which was fashioned after an antique redware string holder in his collection. I just loved the idea of a flat-bottomed yarn bowl, which struck me as being ever so much stabler than a regular yarn bowl, so Rick obliged by making it larger with a larger opening to accommodate an average size ball of yarn. BTW, I usually like to wind traditional cannon balls instead of the yarn cakes you get with modern "ball winders."

Rick also made my holder in yellow slip with green decoration called "spangles." Cool. I already had a soap dispenser in this color and similar pattern. Oh, and now I also have two redware plates in the same color and decoration. No pics of those, though. Here is my very wonderful yarn holder.

I also was lucky enough to find another fiber-related gem, but I'll post about that tomorrow.

A visit to Walker Homestead

A few weeks ago we paid a visit to Walker Homestead, a local primitives place featuring locally grown, natural decorations, antiques and the like in an 1698 house in Brookfield, MA. Kris and Paul Casucci are the proprietors and have the able Celeste as helper extraordinaire.

The weekend of November 16 through 18, 2012 is their annual New England Christmas by the Hearthside and you are kindly invited to visit. We thought you'd like a preview in the way of some pictures from my October visit. Please check their website for more information.

Yes, that's a chicken on her shoulder. Miss Chickie, to be exact. Ask them about her if you visit.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!

Autumn Activities in our area

Autumn is a busy time of year for craftspeople here in New England. One of the highly anticipated local events is the Backroads Studio Tour. The public is welcome into many area studios to see how the artisans work and to view a sampling of their crafts. The public also has the opportunity to purchase directly from the artisans. It's a win-win situation. This year's tour was blessed with gorgeous weather on Saturday. I took some pictures to share with you over the next few days. Today's are of Garine Arakelian of Kulina Folk Art/Pied Potter Hamelin. Garine and her husband Rick Hamelin make traditional American redware pottery, all either hand-thrown or drape-molded. All glazes are lead-free and suitable for the dinner table. You can read more about Garine and Rick and their pottery on their website, .


Getting to know you

Hello!  We have been wanting to get to know you better and what better way is there to accomplish that than for you to get to know us, too?  Doing business on the world wide web is great but lacks the satisfaction of the personal touch so we intend to fix that with some behind the scenes information.

I’m often asked if I teach rug hooking and the answer is “Yes,” although not as often as I used to or as often as I’d like.  Dyeing wool and running a family business demands lots of time, but I do fit in workshops from time to time.

A couple of months ago, DeeAnn, owner of KnitWitts in Brookfield, MA, had me in to teach a beginner class; we used strips of wool and some lovely yarns.  I will be posting some hints for hooking with yarns soon on the website.  In the meantime, here are a couple of shots of the KnitWitts class.

Me and Jean hard at work
Me and Jean hard at work
explaining technique
explaining technique