by Ivy Wigmore
In 1978, John and Carol MacLeod took up sheep farming on the land where they had settled the previous year. On 525 acres straddling the Valleyfield Road, the MacLeod's farm has been in the family since John's great-grandfather bought it from a representative of Queen Victoria in 1860. Before very long, the MacLeods learned to tan the lambskins taken from locally marketed lambs, which heralded the start of their craft business, Wooly Wares.
Since 1985, Wooly Wares has been housed in the building across the road from the MacLeod house, a building that has been there almost as long as the farm. Built in 1875 as a centre for the area Orangemen, the building was subsequently the Valleyfield community hall and now is one of very few craft shops in the country offering hand-made wool felt products. Felt-making (sometimes just called "felting") is an ancient craft, predating spinning. The MacLeods list felt hats, slippers, booties, hot mats, tea cozies and vests among the felt products that they make. Carol also makes beautiful felt wall hangings. The variegated and variously textured fibres make for interesting effects. A softly-coloured piece evokes a peaceful seaside scene, complete with blue heron, while a vibrantly coloured hanging of blues and greens offset with flashes of coral evokes underwater scenes from a New Zealand vacation a few years back. Carol teaches felting workshops in the summer months where the groups gather for an hour or two to learn a new (albeit ancient) craft and have some fun. At the end of the class, students get to take home the products of their labour.
Wooly Wares features all manner of items that you might expect to find, such as sheepskins, blankets, sweaters and slippers, as well as a variety of items that you might not think to find. The shop offers wooly footstools and flower vases made from felt as well as their most popular winter item, the sheepskin Father Christmas. Wooly Wares will be on view at upcoming craft show and sales at Orwell Corner and at the Murray Harbour Community Hall. Although the craft shop closes for the winter (the venerable building is not insulated) the MacLeods welcome inquiries and visitors to their home. If you'd like to see more about Wooly Wares, check out their web site at http://www3.pei.sympatico.ca/cjmacleod/index.html. To arrange a visit, call Carol at (902) 838-4821.