December's Maker of the Month - Pamela Harwood
Meet this month's Maker, Pamela Harwood of Longwoods Alpacas!
It was the Winter of 2003 when Portland, Maine had the 5th coldest season in history. Anyone from New England knows our winters here can be bleak, frigid, freezing––a time to hunker down and find some hobbies!
It was also that Winter when Pamela Harwood (a California native) found her love for knitting while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. At the time, Pam, whose head was bare, began looking for a hat that not only kept her incredibly warm but also didn’t itch or wasn’t uncomfortable. It was then when a friend introduced her to Alpaca and she was happily hooked!
Shortly after in 2004, Pam, who was given a clean bill of health, her husband and two sons started a farm in Maine where they raised Alpaca for their beautiful fiber. The name, Longwoods Alpacas originated from the dense woods that bordered their long meadow. After taking some time to perfect the art of Alpaca fiber and farming––learning the ins and outs and how to create yarns that didn’t pill, shed or itch––Pam was selling her handmade products locally.
In late December 2017 with both sons grown and living out of state, Pam and her husband made the decision to move to Martha’s Vineyard. Although they had sold their home and farm in Maine, there was one thing Pam wouldn’t move without: her huge “stash” of yarn so she could continue dyeing, knitting, weaving and selling her Alpaca products on Island.
Like many Martha’s Vineyard Makers, Pam’s studio is in the comfort of her own home, between her kitchen and her living room where she dyes fibers by hand (in her crock pot and oven!) and knits her incredible creations.
When asked what inspires her the most, Pam replied with “The colors of theVineyard have inspired my recent yarn dyeing: quahogs, sunsets and sunrises, walking the paths along creeks, beaches, and ponds. The yarns I helped to create through our (recently closed) national fiber co-operative, Natural Fiber Producers, are as lovely to work with as they are to wear. Each of my hats, scarves, shawls, baby pants, etc is unique—I never want to get bored by “cranking out” the same thing over and over, so I’ll change colors, add a different design, or combine elements of several patterns to keep things interesting. Many of my hat patterns are in my head— often I have no idea what the end result will be when I cast stitches onto my needles. I am inspired by trial and error!”
While in Maine, Pam spent over 2 years learning to become a certified fiber sorter and joined the National Fiber Producers, a co-operative that collected, graded and sorted fiber from members across the US. As part of the production team, Pam worked with spinning, knitting, and weaving mills located mostly in New England, but all were US companies, to create the best possible yarns and finished goods.
As her craft expands, Pam has had a hand in production of most of the yarns which she dyes and uses in her knitting and weaving. “Best of all, my beloved alpacas contributed their fiber to these yarns, so they are still with me, even though we sold the farm,” she says with a smile.
It’s not quite spinning straw into gold, but it sure is beautiful and oh, so soft!
You can find Longwoods Alpacas products in-store and online at Martha’s Vineyard Made. We have a wonderful assortment of hats, scarves, blankets, baby items and more.
What better way to stay warm this winter than with locally made, handcrafted Alpaca products?
Shop the Longwoods Alpacas collection here!
- Jordan Lane