Variety of in-depth workshops planned at the Home Textile Tool Museum

Variety of in-depth workshops planned at the Home Textile Tool MuseumCarol Lukovich and a display of her Pine Needle baskets at Athens Artsfest in 2014. Provided photo.

A series of special in-depth workshops are scheduled throughout the summer starting June 6 at the Home Textile Tool Museum in Orwell, Pa. These are hands-on opportunities to learn unusual skills and gain rare knowledge about historical fiber and farm production methods. All instructors are enthusiastic practitioners of their art forms.

The workshops have a class fee to help cover instructors’ time (most one-day workshops are $25) as well as variable materials fees to be paid to the instructor. Some workshops also require participants to bring their own basic tools or materials. Registration is required and all classes have a maximum of eight or 12 participants. This allows for maximum attention to every student so deep learning can take place.

The Home Textile Tool Museum is located in the idyllic village of Orwell, Pa. and celebrates the many aspects of at-home fiber processing and cloth production in our region in the early 1800’s. In addition to workshop dates, the museum is open every Saturday during the summer from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts a variety of activities, demonstrations and programs.

The 2019 Workshop season will kicked off on June 6 with Soap Making with Laryssa Zahajkewycz. The workshops continue, with the next being on June 21. This workshop features Coiled Pine Needle Basket Making with Carol Lukovich. Carol is one of the premier practitioners of the Seminole art of Pine Needle Basket making. She learned from her mother, Kay Fisher, and together they created the book, Pine Needles Are Special. Many of Carol’s baskets combine her pottery pieces with the coiled needles. A resident of Vestal, N.Y., Carol has exhibited widely and taught numerous workshops for many years. 

The June 21 workshop will teach basic coiling technique and the stitching used to make a small bowl. It will begin at 10 a.m. and run until all participants have finished their bowls. Note that Carol will also be teaching an advanced workshop on July 26.

Charka Spinning will be featured on Saturday, June 22 with Tammy Fazzi and Suzanne Schwartz, the only two members of the Black Sheep Spinners Guild from Ithaca, N.Y. who do charka spinning. A charka is a small device designed in India for hand spinning cotton. Gandhi is often pictured with one and he promoted their use because he saw a better future for India if the fiber processing industry stayed at home. 

Previously, raw cotton had been shipped abroad for spinning and then shipped back to India for processing into fabric. Gandhi felt local communities could be more self-reliant and improve the overall economy if they interrupted that pattern. This workshop will present an introduction to the Indian charka and participants will learn to spin and ply cotton. 

Primary instructor, Tammy, will have approximately nine charka wheels for students to use and/or buy. One will probably be set up with wool, which has a longer staple than cotton and thus makes learning to use the charka easier. Tammy is the master charka spinner and Suzanne says, “She is a great teacher. She is kind and patient and very good at making people feel that they can learn this skill.”

Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13 features another two-day workshop titled “Felting a Bowl and Embellishing It” with Denise Tarbox of Newark Valley, N.Y. Denise has been a spinner for 40 years. About 25 years ago, a Finnish teacher, Riley Washburn, brought felting to the museum in Newark Valley and Denise fell in love with the process.  She has been doing it ever since.  

In the workshop, the first day will be spent making an 10” x 8” felted bowl / vessel and the second day will be spent needle felting a design onto it (also know as decorating).  

Needle felting is a dry felting technique using special barbed needles to poke pieces of wool roving (washed and dyed wool that has been combed into long strips) through the backing to create a design or picture. A thick piece of foam is placed under the backing while working in order to prevent fingers from being jabbed. Denise has given several felting workshops in the past at the HTTM.

On Thursday, July 18, Laryssa Zahajkewycz will be back to teach Colby Cheese Making. Students will learn how to make a basic stirred curd, hard cheddar weighing about two pounds. Students will need to bring a 2-gallon double boiler, a hot plate and extension cord, metal or wooden spoon and 2-gallons of whole milk (raw or pasteurized). Laryssa is a popular and well-known regional instructor of homesteading skills and has been making many types of cheese since 1997.

The following day, Friday July 19, Tracy Sayre will be presenting a Beginning Great Wheel Spinning workshop. Tracy has been a hand spinner for over 30 years and raises her own fiber animals for their fleeces. She enjoys learning about wool and sheep breeds.  

This one-day workshop will introduce students to spinning on the Great Wheel using a number of different fibers and fiber preparations. Set up and adjustment of the wheel will also be covered. Please note that this workshop is limited to five participants. Students can bring their own wheel or the museum can provide one.

An Advanced Pine Needle Basketry workshop with Carol Lukovich will be held on Friday, July 26. A follow-up to Carol’s class on June 21, this workshop will cover several additional techniques and patterns in the traditional art of coiled pine needle basketry. 

On Friday, Aug. 9, Tracy Sayre will be offering a Survey of Wool Types. In this workshop, students will discover the characteristics, uses and preparation techniques of primitive double coated, long wool, medium wool and fine wools. Spinning techniques most suited to each fiber and the use of combs to separate double-coated fleeces will also be explored. 

For further information on any of these workshops, contact registrar Eve Herrington at or call (570) 744-2653. You can also check their website,, for registration information for workshops. Be sure to check the HTTM website for regular Saturday programs throughout the summer as well!

The Home Textile Tool Museum is located at 1819 Orwell Hill Road on State Rte. 1036; and along with the special workshops it is open Saturdays through Aug. 25. Saturday admission is $5 for adults and free for children under the age of 12. The museum welcomes everyone and has ramps for all buildings. Activities are funded in part by the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency and the United Way of Bradford County.

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