Woman's chaos produces fabric gems

November 02, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

BOONSBORO -- To many people, the second floor of Judy Williamson's home would look like a mess, with sewing project supplies strewn about, and stored in tubs, baskets and plastic carts.

To Williamson, it is controlled chaos.

One pile contains old wool sweaters. Two smaller piles are hat and mitten pieces already cut and waiting to be stitched together. Rolls of new fabrics and mounds of recycled fabrics are laid out so Williamson can see how they might go together.

Williamson, who lives west of Boonsboro, makes garments out of new fabrics, such as silk, and out of old clothes such as jeans and wool sweaters.

Williamson will sell her JRW Creations during the Valley Craft Network's 2009 Holiday Studio Tour, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 21 and 22. Williamson's stop on the studio tour is at Contentment Farm, 6924 Girl Scout Road, off Wheeler Road. For more information about the studio tour, go


The tour will feature 16 artists at nine studios in southern Washington and Frederick counties.

Williamson has been part of the tour for at least five years. She also sells her clothes at the Holiday Market Place at the War Memorial Building in downtown Shepherdstown, W.Va., on the four Saturdays after Thanksgiving.

During the tour, she will sell vests, jackets, mittens, hats, scarves and Christmas tree skirts. Some were made using repurposed materials and others were made with new fabrics. Her sisters, Joan Rohrer and Janet Rohrer, will sell homemade jams, tea breads, peanut brittle and cookies.

"I enjoy sewing and I can sew many, many hours a day. So that's how I spend a lot of time," said Williamson, who learned to sew when she was 8.

After earning a doctorate in adult education with a focus in textiles from the University of Maryland College Park, Williamson took a job with what is now known as the University of Maryland Extension, she said. She taught the selection, use and care of textiles and home furnishings, in addition to lessons about food and nutrition, before retiring in 1998. Then she returned from the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to her home county, Washington County.

During the 1970s, as an extension educator, Williamson taught a popular program about re-creating your wardrobe using what you have.

"I got back into that six, seven years ago," Williamson said.

She started by turning old wool sweaters into mittens.

"I do everything that you're not supposed to do with wool," Williamson said.

She washes the sweaters in hot water, then puts them in the dryer, and repeats the process several times. The pills fall off the wool. The sweaters shrink and the fiber mats, creating a smooth surface.

Then she cuts the felted wool into pieces to make mittens, hats and sweater vests.

"Every piece is different," Williamson said. "The whole goal is to blend your colors, not match them."

"Even if I use the same fabrics, I never combine (them) in the same way," she said.

A pair of mittens could be made of wool from up to eight sweaters and the hats from up to six sweaters, she said. She lines the hats with polar fleece. Hats typically cost $44 and a pair of mittens costs $49.

Williamson makes clothes for children and adults, including custom work.

Her scarves are made of batik fabrics, which have no right or wrong side.

Her projects give her a chance to use her collection of sergers and sewing machines, taking advantage of decorative stitching options.

Tour participants

Valley Craft Network's 2009 Holiday Studio Tour consists of:

o Kirke Martin's ceramics, 4803 Mount Briar Road, Keedysville.

o Steven and Laura Saville's functional wooden products, 5222 Mount Briar Road, Keedysville.

o Debbie Dickinson's pottery and Linda Minnick's fiber products such as shawls, scarves and Christmas stockings, 60 S. Main St., Keedysville.

o Judy Williamson's clothing and accessories, 6924 Girl Scout Road west of Boonsboro.

o Allison C. Severance's and Blair Meerfeld's pottery, 18839 Manor Church Road, Boonsboro.

o Catepetl Art Studio featuring "plein air" paintings with oils, acrylics or watercolors by Anne Gibson Snyder, 7701 Hollow Road, Middletown, Md.

o Kiparoo Farm Studio's yarn and textiles from the farm's sheep, wooden ware, 3511 Bussard Road, Middletown.

o Susan Hanson's pottery, and Chris Niles' and Carol Allen's jewelry, 3205 Poffenberger Road, Jefferson, Md.

o Bill van Gilder's pottery and Leah Howard's art jewelry, 20834 Townsend Road, Gapland, Md.

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